Vietnam is hectic and ethereally beautiful.
The terraced rice fields sweeping down from mountains; karst scattered bays; endless rivers and enormous caves; deserted beaches; ancient cities and graceful pagodas and temples are more momentous in reality than you could possibly imagine.
But it’s an adventure and usually involves long distance travelling in quite a demanding climate.
So, unless you plan to spend your time lazing round luxury resorts on the Can Dao Archipelago, a family holiday here works best for older kids and teenagers.
Direct flights from the UK to Ho Chi Minh City take just over 12 hours.
Vietnam has eight UNESCO World Heritage sites including Ha Long Bay and awe-inspiring Trang An.
Much of the country’s astounding natural landscape is protected in 30 national parks and often very accessible.
Several UK travel companies specialise in experience-rich family holidays in Vietnam: worth considering if you want to visit both north and south.
Vietnam is a classic activity holiday for teenagers from sailing on the Mekong Delta to kayaking round Ka Long Bay, hillwalking in Sapa, cruising the Red River or caving in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.
Temperatures are c. 30˚ in North Vietnam from April to October. South Vietnam is c. 27˚ year round. Wettest months are June, July and August across the entire country.
Daily flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi take just over two hours.
The tallest building in Hanoi has an incredible view of the sprawling city. If heights aren’t an issue climb to the observation deck on the 65th floor and experience the Skywalk.
The home of the world’s largest cave, Han Song Doong, and another of the country’s stunning World Heritage sites, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park should be at the top of everyone’s Vietnamese must-see list.
About an hour’s drive outside Ho Chi Minh City, the Cu Chi Tunnels have become an symbol of the US Vietnam War. But the 250km warren was actually constructed at the start of the French Indochina wars in 1946. Guided tours allow visitors to crawl through certain sections – not for the claustrophobic.
Con Dao is the only place in Vietnam where Green Sea Turtles nest. It’s also an amazing diving and snorkelling destination, awash with rare wildlife and famous for fantastic beaches and lush rainforest.
Part enormous waterpark and part, equally immense, funfair and all themed on the ancient myths and legends of Vietnam. Great family day out and the place for colourful festivals all year round.
A UNESCO World Heritage complex of sites including 10th century Hoa Lu City and a remarkable landscape of waterways, caves, paddy fields and historical monuments. On the Red River Delta and an easy day trip from Hanoi.
One of the capital’s most exciting museums explores the role of women in Vietnam throughout history. The fascinating permanent collection’s enhanced by a year round programme of events and temporary exhibitions.
Vietnam’s oldest national park is a stunning and diverse landscape of mountain, river and forest. Home to sensational creatures like Clouded Leopards and Black Asian Bears, it’s also one of the few places in the world to see rare Delacour Langur primates.
Cruising on a traditional Chinese Junk round the karst strewn waters of Ha Long Bay is an iconic Vietnamese experience with kids.
Known as Vietnam’s Rice Bowl, the Mekong Delta is a perfect tour from Ho Chi Minh City: visit Cai Ran Floating Market; sail waterways on traditional sampan; explore Can Tho and Turtle Island.
Travelling around Vietnam depends on the type of holiday you’re planning. Domestic flights are the only way to manage a packed itinerary from north to south. If you’re touring within one region: trains are fun with older kids (especially sleepers) and cars with driver/guides are easy to arrange and inexpensive. Self-drive for a few days is manageable, but Vietnam isn’t the country for long, independent road trips. Public transport can feel a bit hectic in larger cities, acclimatise, and it’s surprisingly efficient and easy to use. And when you’re touring rural areas or smaller national parks, hire bikes: they’re a Vietnamese transport staple.