Vietnam’s Hidden Treasures: 11 Gems to Explore

Vietnam gets millions of visitors each year, and for good reason – it’s a beautiful country. 

But many tourists only visit famous spots like Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Ho Chi Minh City. While these are amazing destinations, the real magic of Vietnam is often found in the lesser-known areas. 

vietnam hidden treasures

If you feel you’d rather spend your time having a more authentic experience of Vietnamese culture and daily life, try exploring beyond the tourist hotspots.

You’ll be rewarded with stunning scenery and rich cultural experiences that give you a true taste of Vietnam. 

Treasures of North Vietnam

Northern Vietnam is a favorite for many travelers: you can find gorgeous beaches, rice fields, large mountains, peaceful lakes, and dense forests – it’s definitely got a little something for everyone.

Cao Bang – The Bordering Province

If you’re a fan of natural wonders, Cao Bang province in the northwest is a no-brainer.

vietnam hidden treasures

Here, you’ll be able to visit Ban Gioc – the largest waterfall in all of Southeast Asia, located on the Vietnam-China border. It’s a pretty incredible sight.

But Cao Bang offers more than just the waterfall. It’s also dotted with extensive cave systems, serene lakes, and traditional villages where ethnic minority groups live. 

Ba Be National Park

Ba Be National Park is home to Vietnam’s largest natural freshwater lake. This lake is surrounded by beautiful bamboo, growing all around the banks.

Most of the ground and surrounding mountains are made of limestone karst, which is typical of northern Vietnam.

It really is such a peaceful place to just relax and reconnect with nature. You can go boating, fishing, or hiking – it even offers many caves, some of which were only recently discovered.

And, speaking of hiking, why not trek to nearby Tay villages? Locals here still follow their traditions and ways of life, which can be seen in things like their farming practices and stilt wooden homes. 

If you want to visit natural wonders while still experiencing traditional Vietnamese life, Ba Be is a great way to tick both those items off the list.

Mu Cang Chai – Rice Fields and Mountains

When you picture Vietnam, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For many, it’s the beautiful rice fields, filled with workers in straw hats. 

vietnam hidden treasures

If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re in luck. In the remote northwestern region, there’s a hidden gem called Mu Cang Chai that shows off Vietnam’s stunning natural scenery. 

This rural district is home to those famous terraced rice fields that look like giant steps cascading down the mountainsides. 

During harvest season (September to October), the fields turn into a colorful patchwork of yellows and greens, while locals dressed in traditional clothes reap the fields.

The Central Highlands

The Central Highlands of Vietnam are a beautiful region with hills, forests, and traditional cultures that aren’t very well-known to tourists yet. 

It’s a great spot for travelers who want to explore places that aren’t overcrowded and are still really natural and unspoiled. 

It’s your chance to experience a different, unique side of Vietnam with its own special traditions and breathtaking scenery you can’t find elsewhere. 

Kon Tum – Vietnam’s Ethnic Culture Hotspot

Deep in the lush central highlands, the charming little town of Kon Tum makes a perfect base to really immerse yourself in the local ethnic minority cultures. 

Over 650 villages of ethnic minority groups surround this sleepy riverside town, warmly welcoming visitors to stay in their traditional bamboo stilt houses. 

You can wander through remote villages for a rare glimpse of customs and ways of life that have carried on for centuries, experiencing the warm hospitality of the locals firsthand. 

Kon Tum is also known for its Wooden Church built in 1913, with a clear mix of European and Central Highlands architectural styles. 

Dak Lak – Vietnam’s Coffee Region

Tucked away in the heart of the Central Highlands, Dak Lak is a hidden gem that is particularly beautiful in November, when the wild sunflowers bloom, painting the landscape in a blanket of color after the rainy season.

Dak Lak is one of Vietnam’s prime coffee production regions, but it’s also more than that – it’s got tons of natural beauty and rich cultural heritage to offer.

One of its unique attractions is Vietnam’s first ethical elephant experience at Yok Don National Park. It’s a special chance to interact with these majestic creatures in a responsible way.

Dak Lak is also a place where you can fully immerse yourself in remote ethnic minority villages. 

You’ll get a rare firsthand look at the traditional ways of life of the proud M’nong and Ede peoples who inhabit this enchanting region.

Coastal Highlights

For sea and water lovers, Vietnam’s lesser-visited coastal areas offer many hidden seaside gems. 

Apart from the famous beach destinations, these peaceful coastal havens provide a quieter, more authentic taste of Vietnam’s natural scenery and local life.

Quy Nhon – Seaside Serenity  

Moving on to Vietnam’s central coast, the coastal city of Quy Nhon still retains that sleepy seaside fishing town vibe.

Here, you’ll be able to spend your days relaxing on practically empty beaches and strolling by harbors filled with gently swaying boats – it’s extremely picturesque.

You can also explore the Cham ruins or have a spa day at a luxury resort, but for an even more authentic experience, try an overnight stay in Bai Xep: a small, car-free fishing village located just 12km from the center.

And don’t worry – despite its cozy and authentic atmosphere, Bai Xep offers some hostels and resorts for tourists.

Bai Tu Long Bay – The Quieter Ha Long  

Ha Long Bay is famous, but nearby Bai Tu Long has the same beautiful scenery minus the hordes of tourists.

Take a ferry ride over to the remote island of Quan Lan to see what rural life was like decades ago. Not many people live on this quiet island – just 8 small villages.

You can bike through rice farms and relax on Quan Lan’s lovely white sandy beaches. All that fine white sand is also what led to the island’s glassmaking tradition.

Quan Lan is a real getaway from the busy world. You can just unwind and enjoy the simple charms of an island life that hasn’t changed much over time.

Special Mentions

Lastly, we want to share a few more places that we believe will be worth your time. 

These are particularly good choices for those looking to spend time in nature and discovering the diversity of Vietnam’s landscapes.

Pu Luong Nature Reserve

One of Vietnam’s most pristine areas, Pu Luong Nature Reserve encompasses over 17,000 hectares of forests, rice terraces, and ethnic minority villages. 

The charming bamboo water wheels, which are central to the irrigation practices here, are a fascinating watch. 

Pu Luong, with its limited amenities, is a perfect way to experience untouched rural beauty in the countryside.

Remember: while traveling to remote nature reserves, it’s important to stay connected. You’ll likely have bought an eSIM, so make sure you reserve some data for this part of your trip.

Phong Nha – An Underground Wonder

Not many people had heard about Phong Nha before the Son Doong cave was discovered – it was very much a well-kept secret.

vietnam hidden treasures

Today, however, it’s a popular spot for adventure-seekers who are all about hiking through thick jungles and exploring underground caves with rivers running through them.

You can take a bike ride around cozy farms and come across small hostels owned by local families. 

They’ve got fantastic amenities like pools to swim in, where you can relax and soak in the beautiful views of the nearby lands. 

Just be weary of using public Wi-Fi in hostels and restaurants – use Surfshark to avoid any unwanted surprises.

When you visit Phong Nha, you’ll feel as though you’re walking into a peaceful, unspoiled spot where the beauty of nature is the real star of the show.

Mekong Delta

Take a relaxing journey through Vietnam’s gentle river region. It offers a peaceful pace of life, lush islets, and beautiful views of everyday activity on the waterways.

vietnam hidden treasures

Start your journey in Cai Be. Here, welcoming homestays provide comfort, and leisurely bicycle tours through the rural landscape offer pleasant views of orchards.

In Sa Dec, savor traditional noodle soup in the ambiance of historic French colonial houses, adding a touch of past elegance.

Continue to Chau Doc, which presents a rich blend of cultural influences, inviting you to experience its impressive temples and the unique heritage of the local communities.

Con Dao – Islands of Untouched Beauty

A short flight from frenzied Ho Chi Minh City lands you in the Con Dao archipelago – a chain of 15 remarkably undeveloped islands. 

Spend days motorbiking through jungles, dining on fresh seafood, and strolling long beaches with not another soul in sight. Con Dao remains a hidden coastal paradise.

Exploring Vietnam

From the remote northern mountain enclaves and lush coffee plantations of the highlands to the untouched islands and islets along the coast, Vietnam is a truly enriching country. 

Immerse yourself in local cultures, surreal landscapes, and the warm hospitality that makes traveling here so special.