The bustling streets of Hanoi and the limestone peaks of Halong Bay are must-visit stops to include on the tour itinerary of a well-planned Vietnam private tour. But, the travellers that choose to get off the major tourist trail can experience picturesque villages, secluded bays and the raw beauty of the country.
Here are six of the hotspots travellers can be rewarded with by getting off-the-beaten track:
Bai Tu Long
Rather than taking a traditional cruise of Halong Bay on the Vietnam family tour, you really want to head in the direction of Bai Tu Long Bay. It is situated NE of Halong Bay and stretches for nearly 100 km. This is a great laid-back alternative to the more touristy areas nearby, but still has the same stunning geographical features, including the fantastic jungle-clad limestone karsts. Lounging around, kayaking and swimming are the most popular things to do. Forest reserves that shelter rare species may be possible to explore, and may include seeing a dugong swimming around. Read more: Vietnam family tours
Similar to its famous neighbour, Halong Bay, the best way to explore the stunning seascape is by cruising on a traditional junk-styled boat. Tours of Bai Tu Long are easily organized in Hanoi through a local Vietnam travel agent. Also, a trip to Quan Lan Island, which is one of the outlying islands is perfect for travellers wanting to experience the slow pace of island life. Read more: Vietnam Travel Agency
It is worth noting, the bay can start to get quite cold from December to February, while later in the year - August to October – there is the risk of sporadic typhoons.
Son Tra Peninsula
While in the great coastal getaway of Danang it is certain to be worthwhile visiting the nearby Son Tra Peninsula. This jungle covered peninsula is rich in protected fauna and flora, amazing beaches and fresh seafood. Son Tra has a conservation order in place to prevent the large development which is helping to maintain its natural scenery.
A popular tourist destination is Marble Mountains, while travellers looking to completely relax, get to enjoy one of the many beaches, including Buddha, North and South beach. For tourists interested in learning a little culture and history, there is a museum and several pagodas nearby.
The more adventurous travellers are certain to appreciate a motorbike tour of the local scenic roads that circle the entire area (nearly 40 km). A bike ride to the very top of Son Tra Mountains has the ability to give perfect views of the local surroundings.
Phu Quoc Island
With the increase in tourists in the beaches of Nha Trang, it may be worth looking at other resort destinations that give the opportunity to relax on the beach. A wonderful destination that is worth exploring is Phu Quoc Island, which is perfect for a little R&R and there is less risk of being bothered by vendors every few minutes.
Phu Quoc Island has long stretches of white-sand beaches and clear, turquoise waters. Beyond relaxing on the beach, the snorkelling sites in the local waters are quite stunning, while hiring a motorcycle is a great way to fully explore the island. With local fishing villages and dense forest to explore, a tour of the local trails is definitely going to entertain.
Tram Ton Pass
At 1900 metres, Tram Ton Pass (also referred to as Heaven’s Gate) is the highest mountain pass in the country for travellers to encounter on the motorbike tour. It has been popularized by nearly Sapa and gives perfect views of the surrounding mountains and rolling rice fields before reaching Lai Chau.
This is a popular route with motorbike riders and it is easy to organise a trip that includes this pass after arriving in the country on the Vietnam holiday. Also, there is a nearby waterfall, but with the high volume of tour groups passing by, it can get very busy at the height of the season.
Tram Ton Pass is just 15 km from Sapa so it may be worth combining the motorbike tour with an overnight stay in a local homestay. Also, a trekking tour of the rice paddy fields and local landscape is a further great adventure for the active travellers. Look to travel with an English-speaking guide for the most informative trek, but avoid the tour groups.
Ba Be Lake is located amidst a huge limestone mountainous region, and helps to create romantic and unspoilt beauty. It is among the largest freshwater lakes in the world and home to several different ethnic minority groups, including the Tay, Dzao and Hmong. The ethnic people gather on the lake shore to trade and sell their farm harvests, such as fruit, corn, rice and fish, as well as skillfully crafted local handicrafts.
One of the best ways to appreciate the nature beauty of Ba Be Lake is to take a tour on a traditional dugout canoe. This is a relatively quiet location and makes it easier to explore the thick tropical jungle, swim in the lake, or venture inside the bat cave.
Plus, there are plenty of clean and spacious homestay opportunities in Ba Be for the all-round authentic experience. A tour of the region is best experienced with an English-speaking guide who will make the trekking through the exciting and wild landscape that much more interesting.
Charming and small, Cham Island is rich in stunning seascapes and landscapes and boasts a striking underwater world that is wonderful for scuba diving and snorkelling. It is located about 18 km from the ancient town of Hoi An. The journey time to reach Cham Island is in the region of one hour by boat.
The best thing to do in Cham Island is soak up and explore the clear waters and coral reefs in this marine protected area. Plus, there are plenty of places for the tourist to stay overnight, including the homestays and relatively new guesthouses. However, there is also the popular option of camping on the beach, and easily organised with the local dive school.