As Southeast Asia continues to gain traction in the tourism scene, Vietnam maintains a satisfying balance of popular attractions, charming villages and remote landscapes. Quiet beaches and rice fields are countered by vibrant cities and historic sights, giving the nation a wide appeal to a variety of travelers. Less touristy than Thailand yet more frequented than Laos or Burma, Vietnam offers scenery and cultural experiences that are hard to beat. With outdoor adventures, wildlife viewings and cultural events in mind, there are quite a few things to consider as you plan this once-in-a-lifetime trip!
Weather in Vietnam
(All temperatures quoted are in Fahrenheit.)
February through April are some of the best months to visit Vietnam. During this time, rainfall is minimal, and the heat is not yet oppressive. March and April see some of the lowest rainfall of the year, making it the perfect time to visit some of the northern cities, such as Sapa and Hanoi.
Few travelers choose to visit in the summer months because temperatures average around 85 to 100 degrees. If, however, the heat doesn’t bother you or you’re planning a multiple-country trip, consider spending most of your time in the southern region. Throughout the year, the weather here tends to be milder.
October and November are popular months for tourists to visit. If you’re planning active travel, the fall lends itself to milder temperatures and less rainfall. Abundant greenery from the summer storms serves as an additional perk.
Similar to fall and spring, the winter months tend to bring fairly mild weather throughout the country. If you’re planning a holiday vacation, Vietnam isn’t a bad destination choice, especially if you have a few weeks to spare.
Backroads Pro Tip
Vietnam is more than 600 miles long and experiences a lot of regional diversity, meaning it’s important to look up the weather of specific destinations before you visit. Though October and November are some of the more popular times to travel, certain areas experience heavy rainfall this time of year due to opposing monsoon seasons. This includes the central region surrounding Hue. While there is no perfect time to visit every Vietnamese city, some part of the country will always be experiencing high season!
Nesting Turtles (Ongoing)
Schedule a trip to Con Dao National Park off the southern coast of Vietnam to catch a glimpse of nesting sea turtles. A number of conservation stations exist on the islands for both green and hawksbill turtles, and several of these host trips for visitors interested in their conservation efforts. The nesting period of the turtles ranges from February to November, and the egg laying period ranges from May to November.
Though it’s possible to see exotic birds throughout the year in Vietnam, the ideal time for bird-watching is when the country is at its driest. Great hornbills, sooty babblers and limestone warblers are just a few birds to look out for. Most species are easiest to locate from January through May, which is after the breeding season begins. Cuc Phuong National Park, Tam Dao National Park and Cat Ba National Park are all popular birding destinations.
Whether you’re seeking spiritual, cultural or historical insight, Vietnam’s annual events offer visitors a diverse range of experiences.
Tet Nguyen Dan: Lunar New Year (January/February)
One of the largest celebrations in the country, Tet (also known as Vietnamese New Year) consists of a week of events, rituals and family visits. The holiday usually falls around late January or early February, which is the same time as Chinese New Year. Most people return home to their families for the celebrations, causing an influx of travel throughout the country.
Perfume Pagoda Festival (February/March)
Each year on the 15th day of the first lunar month, visitors are drawn to Hanoi’s Perfume Pagoda to pay their respects to Buddha and to pray for a prosperous year ahead. The pilgrimage site is about two hours from Hanoi by car and is surrounded by mountains, rice fields and limestone caves. Visitors can witness a “dragon dance,” as well as a number of other celebrations and rituals.
Biennial Hue Festival (April–June)
Though it only takes place every other year (currently on even-numbered years), the Hue Festival is an important Vietnamese cultural event. Located in Hue City, the festival offers theater performances, games and music accompanied by entertainers and models dressed in traditional grab.
Ghost Festival (August/September)
Also known as “Hungry Ghost Month” or “Wandering Souls Day,” this annual festival is meant to acknowledge ancestors and to allow the spirits of the deceased to roam the earth. Though it carries a more eerie aura than some of Vietnam’s other festivals, it’s a one-of-a-kind glimpse into the country’s culture.
Mid-Autumn Festival (September)
Meant to celebrate the harvest, Vietnam’s Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated with worship, a lion dance parade and time spent with loved ones. Primarily for children, the festival features lanterns, moon cakes and costumed dancers.
Backroads Pro Tip
Though Tet is a popular holiday for those in Vietnam (and, therefore, might appeal to some travelers), it’s a difficult celebration to partake in. Both transportation and accommodations are usually booked well in advance. If you hope to visit Vietnam during Tet, make sure to book everything early, and avoid the crowded roads once there. Remember, many popular tourist spots are also closed during Tet.
Unlike some other Southeast Asian countries, parts of Vietnam remain relatively light on tourists throughout the year. Large cities, such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, are inevitably subject to crowds, but more remote areas, such as Sapa and Mui Ne, often remain free of bustling groups, even during the peak travel seasons.
In order to experience Vietnam’s caves and awe-inspiring islands in full, kayaking is a must. Ha Long Bay and Phong Nha Cave are two of the most popular paddling destinations for tourists. Ho Tay (West Lake) near Hanoi is an ideal beginner-friendly kayaking destination, while paddling along the Cai River in Nha Trang is a great way to see some of the country’s smaller villages.
There’s no better way to experience Vietnam’s temples, rice fields and hilly landscapes than by biking the country’s backroads. From its lush jungles to its bustling markets, most of Vietnam can be explored by bike. Just be ready for a variety of terrain that ranges from dirt roads and narrow trails to heavily trafficked streets.
One of the lesser-known (yet entirely thrilling) adventures in Vietnam is sandboarding. Located in the Mui Ne Hills about 215 kilometers (roughly 133 miles) from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s sand dunes are a refreshing contrast to the country’s dense forests and crystal-clear waters. The Red Sand Dunes (Doi Hong) and White Sand Dunes (Doi Cat Trang) are both fit for boarding. For the best experience possible, go in the early morning. That’s when the dunes are virtually untouched.
Canyoning and Rappelling
For the adrenaline inclined, Vietnam offers a number of canyoning opportunities to tourists. Located in the central highlands and home to a number of waterfalls and cliffsides, Dalat is the country’s most well-known canyoning destination. Be prepared for lots of rappelling, swimming and riding down natural waterslides.
Travel to Vietnam with Backroads
Backroads offers numerous ways to experience the very best of Vietnam on our award-winning active travel adventures. Explore this country in the best and most genuine way possible—away from the crowds, buses and tourist hot spots. We hope you'll join us! Check out our full list of Vietnam adventures here.
Want to learn more about Vietnam, including its history, travel tips, highlights and insider info?
Check out our full Vietnam Travel Guide!