Northern Vietnam gets fewer visitors than Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and the coastal cities in the south, but it's full of culture. Historically, and to this day, it has been significantly poorer than the southern part of the country. Cultural and political differences remain strong - the language is pronounced differently in some ways, and there's definitely a more authoritarian feel in the cities.
The largest city in northern Vietnam is the capital of Hanoi, and it's the only attractive one. But there are numerous other sites, such as Ha Long Bay, the mountain resort of Sapa, the limestone karst scenery around Ninh Binh and the historical battlefield of Dien Bien Phu.
- 2 Cao Bang
- 3 Co Loa
- 4 Haiphong
- 5 Ha Giang
- 6 Hanoi
- Lai Chau
- 7 Lao Cai
- Lang Son
- 8 Ninh Binh - unremarkable city with Tam Coc area nearby, which is famous for Ha Long Bay-like karst scenery along the river
- 9 Tam Dao - a town on mountain in Vinh Phuc province
- 10 Thái Nguyên
- Vinh Phuc
- Phu Tho
- Yen Bai
- Tuyen Quang
- Bac Giang
- Hung Yen
- Ba Be National Park - sceneric mountains and lakes
- Bac Ha - hilltribe markets near the Chinese border
- Bắc Kạn - place of the beautiful Ba Bể Lake, meaning three combined lakes.
- Co To Island
- Cuc Phuong National Park
- Dien Bien Phu - site of the French defeat in 1954
- Dong Dang - on the border with China
- Dong Van - Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark
- Bai Tu Long Bay
- Sa Pa - popular site for visiting indigenous tribes
- Tuan Chau Island
Cycling is a niche but growing activity in Northern Vietnam, progressively getting more challenging the farther you venture out of Hanoi. During your ride, you will be distracted by dense jungle, misty hills and mountains and gorgeous rice terraces. But to explore the region to its fullest, you ought to be an experienced peddler. If you are skilled and brave enough, make sure to ride along the jaw-dropping Mã Pí Lèng Pass between the towns of Dong Van and Meo Vac.
- Most local markets in the north of Vietnam take place on a particular day each week. For example, Dong Van Market and Can Cau Markets take place on Saturday or Sunday. The markets open at 5AM and close at 3 to 4PM. Ethnic peoples, such as the Hmong, Dzao, Tay, Lo Lo and Tu Di, go to the market from the early morning on by foot, horse and motorbike. They travel in families and groups of young girls and boys in their most colorful clothes. Even if don't sell all of their products, they still meet their old friends and have a chance to drink, chat or share their life stories. Some other markets are exceptional: They are “backward markets”! They take place every 6 days, calculated by the Lunar Calendar.
If you visit the wild nature next to the Chinese border, not many animals are dangerous. But a few wild cats are seen now and then in the nature reserves, like the Asian Golden Cat.