With tropical climates, beautiful beaches and a scattering of action-packed cities, it's no wonder over 300,000 Brits flock to Vietnam every year. Although it's a favourite among gap year travellers and backpackers, for the more discerning holidayer, Vietnam is also a paradise full of exquisite hotels, delicious gourmet food and peaceful beaches.
Whether you're looking for a relaxing, no hassle holiday to soak up the sun or a city break packed with activities to experience a different culture (or both) Vietnam ticks all the boxes. When faced with so many options, where do you start?
From the best hotels, to the cities you can't miss and the restaurants you have to experience, we've put together the ultimate Central Vietnam guide for the luxury-loving vacationer, to ensure you make the most of your trip and skip on the holiday stress. You're welcome.
Where To Stay
Let's be honest, when you're looking for a relaxing, read 5-books-a-day type of holiday, anywhere that doesn't have a private pool just won't cut it. Enter the Banyan Tree, Lăng Cô. Situated in central Vietnam, nestled between the azure waters of the East Vietnam Sea and the Truong Son mountain range at Laguna Lăng Cô, Banyan Tree is a dream holiday hideaway. With incredible views (dare we say it - the type that Instagram dreams are made of) and villas inspired by Vietnamese architecture, the Lăng Cô resort feels miles away from civilisation.
With options of lagoon, beach or sea view villas, each one as mesmerising as the next, the only reason you'll need - or want - to leave your villa is to visit one of the resort's four restaurants, or maybe to get a massage at the award winning Banyan Tree spa - take your pick.
If you're jetting off in a bigger group, the Angsana resort is metres away and has a more family-friendly offering.
With one of the biggest pools in central Vietnam, located right on the beach, Angsana will give you all the fun in the sun you need. With water sports, beach clubs and a huge golf course you can have a packed schedule without even leaving the resort. Rooms also have their own private balcony pools so you can still live the life of luxury you deserve.
What To Do
Take a cooking class
Known for its delicious food, you can't visit Vietnam without taking a cooking class. Learn how to make tasty Vietnamese dishes like Bun Bo Hue, a regional noodle dish, or spring rolls. Most major 5* resorts will offer some form of cookery activity, which offers you the opportunity to roll off your sun lounger and straight into schoool. The Banyan Tree Resort offers such options. Not only is it a fun group activity (and of course you get to eat your own creation!), when the holiday blues hit after you've returned home it will be the perfect reminder of your trip away.
Take a trip in a basket boat
As well as cooking your own lunch, you can catch it yourself too. Take a morning to explore Lăng Cô's beautiful lagoons and local fishing villages, navigating the mangroves in a traditional basket boat. Silent, serene and tranquil, you'll travel around the grove in absolute peace and feel like you're in paradise. Fingers crossed you'll catch enough for your lunch!
Join a yoga group
We know, we know. Who goes on holiday to exercise? But let us stop you right there. Over the past few years, the practise of yoga has really taken off in Vietnam, so why not do what you don't have time for in your day-to-day life and take a couple of hours to relax and stretch with your own private yogi. Not only does it have health benefits, physical and mental, it's also a great way of getting over jet lag, so you've really got no excuse.
Road trip up the Hải Vân Pass
Hải Vân Pass, also known as Ocean Cloud Pass, is a biker favourite but if you're not feeling brave enough (or motorbikes are your worst nightmare) it can also be driven by car or coach. The 12 mile stretch between Da Nang and Hue winds through the Annamite Range above the South China Sea and the views are more than worth the journey.
The stretch can be driven in around six hours with enough time to stop off at various viewing points along the way to make sure you get those Insta-worthy snaps. (Side note - if you're scared of heights this maybe isn't the activity for you!)
Where To Visit
Yes sitting by your private pool is a great (read: excellent) way of spending your time in Vietnam but you have to venture into a city to soak up the culture, history and sites during your visit.
Hội An is an hour's drive from Lăng Cô and couldn't offer more. Located on Vietnam's central coast, it's famous for its Ancient Town cut through with canals and picturesque lanterns lining the streets. The city was once a major trading port and today it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a number of temples.
One of Hội An's many musts is it's Japanese covered bridge. The bridge was built by the Japanese community in the 1590s to link it with the Chinese quarters and today it remains intact and is emblematic of the city. Cameras at the ready.
After you've soaked up some of the history, Hội An old town's shopping is full of everything you'd want from a bustling South East Asian city. The market is full of spices and ingredients and it's rows of shops are the perfect place to pick up your coconut bowls and lanterns to take home as souvenirs. Colourful shirts (banana print is a a popular one!) are also on trend in Hội An and a tourist favourite - you'll often see big groups wearing matching prints!
A day walking the busy streets of Hội An can be tiring so give your legs a break. A great way to see the city is on a Cyclo, also known as a three-wheel bicycle taxi. Although now mainly used for tourists Cyclo's used to be the best way for locals to get around. Feeling the full force of the winds as you're driven through the streets of Hội An, it's the perfect way to keep cool and feel like you're part of the crazy street traffic. Add it to your list!
Once you've explored Hội An, Da Nang - central Vietnam's third biggest city - is your place to go for some relaxation. Known for its white sand and lines of coconut trees, My Khe beach is picture perfect. The four mile stretch has calm seas all year round so scuba diving and water skiing are option for the active types. If you'd prefer to skip on the water sports (we don't blame you) why not opt for a leisurely swim or a stroll along the beach?
Where To Eat
For a morning brew
Vietnam's coffee culture is up there with the Italians'. However, their traditional cup of coffee has a slight twist. Made with condensed milk, it's creamier and sweeter than your typical London morning caffeine fix, but by the end of your trip you'll be converted to the Vietnamese way of doing things, we can promise you. Try it out at Hội An's Mia Coffee or Well Coffee.
For street food
Street food is a huge part of Vietnamese life, so approach your stay like the locals do and grab some food on the go. The central food market is a good place to start. Full of traditional Vietnamese dishes, you can eat like a Queen for next to nothing. Pho (pronounced fur), a noodle soup which originated in the area is a safe and satisfying choice.
Back in Lăng Cô overlooking it's lagoon, 'floating restaurant' Làng Chài's dishes are caught from the waters you're seated above. With seafood you'll find hard to beat (you have to give the oysters and squid a try) you won't be surprised to find out it's a local favourite with families gathering in big groups for their lunch. The views of the surrounding hills are also a very welcome addition to your dining experience.
If you'd prefer something a little more up market, the Banyan Tree's signature restaurant Saffron sits on a hill top with a stunning sea view. Their traditional Thai menu is infused with a modern twist and their service is second to none. After a day by your private pool, what could be better than a delicious evening meal without having to leave the grounds of your hotel? Yes, you guessed it, nothing.
Rooms at Angsana Lang Co start from around £102 per night in a Garden Balcony King Grand room on a bed and breakfast basis.
Rooms at Banyan Tree Lang Co start from around £370 per night for a Lagoon Pool Villa on a bed and breakfast basis.
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