The Must-Dos and Optional Activities for Vietnam Cambodia Tour Planning
Visiting Vietnam and Cambodia together is a great way to experience a wide section of Southeast Asia. Both countries offer stunning natural beauty, rich cultural experiences, and enlightening historic attractions.
With so much to choose from, you’ll want to consider all the must-dos and other great options for spending any extra time. To get you started, here are the must-dos and best options for planning a tour of Cambodia and Vietnam.
Must-Do in Cambodia: Explore Siem Reap City, for at Least 4 Days
Siem Reap is renowned for being the gateway to the magnificent Angkor Wat temple complex. To enjoy its wealth of cultural, historical, and natural attractions, you should plan for at least 4 days there.
Angkor Wat, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, is worth a full day at minimum. You can explore the awe-inspiring temple complex along with other temples like Bayon and Ta Prohm. Siem Reap City itself is a vibrant destination with a thriving food scene and bustling markets. Take time to stroll through the charming Old Market and explore the various culinary delights of Cambodian cuisine.
Beyond the temples and city life, consider venturing into the surrounding countryside to experience the local area and witness the serene landscapes like the famous floating villages on Tonle Sap Lake. Siem Reap is not just about ancient history; it's about immersing yourself in the heart of Cambodian culture.
Option in Cambodia: Visit Phnom Penh of Capital City, for at Least 2 Days
Phnom Penh, the capital city, as one of the top Cambodia destinations, offers a different perspective on Cambodia’s rich culture and evolving identity. It is worth at least 2 days if you have the time. Located at the confluence of the Mekong, Tonle Sap, and Bassac rivers, is a city that bears witness to Cambodia's turbulent past and its ongoing renaissance.
Start your visit with a trip to the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum to gain a somber but essential understanding of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge history.
Balancing this, Phnom Penh offers glimpses of Cambodia's modernization and vitality. Explore the opulent Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, admire the colonial-era architecture, and enjoy the bustling markets like Central Market and Russian Market. Take a leisurely stroll along the scenic riverfront promenade, Sisowath Quay.
Visit Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda in Phnom Penh.
Option in Cambodia: Relax on Koh Rong Island for at Least 2 Days
A great option to escape the bustle of Cambodia’s cities is to head to the idyllic Koh Rong Island out of the best Cambodia islands to relax for a couple of days. This paradise in the Gulf of Thailand is renowned for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush tropical landscapes, making it the perfect place to unwind in peace.
Koh Rong offers a range of activities for nature enthusiasts and beach lovers. Spend your days lazing on the soft, powdery sands, swimming in the warm, turquoise sea, or exploring the underwater world through snorkeling or diving. The island is known for its vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life. For a little more adventure, you can hike to the island’s viewpoints, such as one on Long Beach, to be rewarded with breathtaking panoramas of the coastline.
Relax on Koh Rong Island.
Option in Cambodia: Ride on the Battambang Bamboo Train
Another fun option in Cambodia is to take a ride on the Battambang Bamboo Train. Usually a full-day tour, the traditional Bamboo train is a bamboo platform that runs over train tracks. In the past, it was used by farmers and villagers to transport goods between Battambang and Phnom Penh. Now, it is a special way to explore the beautiful countryside and see a traditional village where you can explore on foot before heading back.
You can make the short trek up 365 stairs to Wat Banan, an Angkor-era temple atop a small hill overlooking the Sanker River. The area also features the Killing Caves of Phnom Sampeau, a place of former tragedy, returned to its original beauty. The nearby mountains also hold the secret bat cave, where you can sit atop the mountain just before sunset to wait for the millions of bats inside the cave to awake.
Must-Do in Vietnam: Explore Hanoi, the Capital City of Vietnam, for at Least 2 Days
In Vietnam, 2 days in Hanoi is a must for all visitors. The vibrant capital is a beautiful city that weaves together a rich history, captivating culture, and modern dynamism. Start your Vietnam tour from the heart of the city, the Old Quarter, where narrow streets are lined with centuries-old architecture and bustling markets. Here, you can sample delicious street food, shop for traditional crafts, and soak in the local atmosphere.
Don’t miss Hanoi’s many historic landmarks, such as Hoan Kiem Lake with the iconic Turtle Tower, and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, which stands as a solemn memorial to the founding father of the modern nation. The Temple of Literature, as Vietnam's first university, is another significant site that provides insights into the country's scholarly heritage.
Vietnam Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
Must-Do in Vietnam: Halong Bay Cruise, 2 Days 1 Night
Two days and one night on a Halong Bay Cruise is a quintessential must-do experience when visiting Vietnam. This UNESCO World Heritage site is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty, characterized by thousands of limestone karsts and emerald waters, creating a surreal and ethereal seascape.
The cruise offers a chance to explore caves, grottoes, and hidden lagoons, where you can witness the bay's unique geological formations up close. Swimming, kayaking, and simply relaxing on the sundeck while enjoying the tranquil surroundings are part of the experience. The evening brings a chance to enjoy a delectable seafood feast on board, often accompanied by traditional music and entertainment.
Must-Do in Vietnam: Relax in Hoi An, the Traditional Town, for at Least 2 Days
Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is famous for its well-preserved ancient architecture, lantern-lit streets, and a tranquil atmosphere that evokes a sense of nostalgia. With two days in Hoi An, you can spend time strolling through the Old Town where you'll encounter centuries-old buildings, traditional shop houses, and wooden bridges that reflect the town's cultural melting pot.
Hoi An's markets and street food stalls offer an array of local dishes, from Cao Lau to White Rose dumplings, providing a delectable journey through Vietnamese cuisine. The town is also renowned for its tailor shops, where you can have custom-made clothing created with exceptional craftsmanship.
Vietnam Hoi An.
Must-Do in Vietnam: Explore Saigon, the Second Largest City in Vietnam for at Least 2 Days
Exploring Saigon, officially known as Ho Chi Minh City, the bustling and vibrant metropolis in Southern Vietnam, offers a dynamic immersion into the country's modern and historical dimensions.
There are lots of things to do in Saigon. For example, you can start your exploration with a visit to historic landmarks like the War Remnants Museum and the Cu Chi Tunnels, which provide insights into the city's wartime past. The Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon and the Central Post Office are exquisite examples of colonial-era architecture.
Saigon also showcases its modern side with its bustling streets, high-rise buildings, and lively nightlife. Take a stroll along the Saigon River promenade or explore the city's entertainment and shopping districts.
Option in Vietnam: Take a Hiking Tour to Sapa
Sapa is a remote and enchanting destination in Vietnam’s northern highlands, well worth a visit if you have the time. The region is celebrated for its breathtaking scenery and vibrant local cultures.
Sapa trekking is a mesmerizing experience particularly during the rice planting and harvesting seasons when the fields burst with color, hiking through the terraced landscapes, often referred to as the "rice terraces of Muong Hoa Valley," . The sweeping vistas of the Fansipan, Vietnam's highest peak, and the surrounding peaks add to the area's allure.
There, you'll encounter various ethnic minority communities, such as the Hmong, Red Dao, and Tay. Visiting their villages allows you to learn about their unique customs, traditions, and way of life.
Hiking through the Sapa terraced landscapes.
Option in Vietnam: Take a Mekong River Cruise
A Mekong River Cruise is a great way to see the heart of Vietnam's southern region and explore its intricate network of waterways, lush landscapes, and traditional lifestyles. The Mekong Delta, often referred to as the "Rice Bowl" of Vietnam, is a thriving, watery world with a unique charm.
A Mekong River cruise provides the opportunity to visit local villages, where you can interact with friendly residents, learn about their daily routines, and appreciate their artisanal crafts. It is also a place to sample delicious regional specialties like fresh fruits, coconut candies, and fish-based dishes. The delta's food is a testament to its vibrant and varied flavors.
Option in Vietnam: Discover the Wonders of the Ancient Capital Hue!
The historic city of Hue, located in central Vietnam, served as the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 to 1945, and it's known for its well-preserved imperial architecture, majestic palaces, and tranquil gardens.
One of the key attractions is the Imperial City, a vast and awe-inspiring citadel that served as the royal residence. Inside, you'll find the Forbidden Purple City, a private enclosure of the emperor, and numerous temples, halls, and gates. The complex is a UNESCO World Heritage site and offers a glimpse into the country's regal past.
Hue is also celebrated for its picturesque tombs and mausoleums, including the Tomb of Minh Mang and the Tomb of Khai Dinh. These elaborate structures are set against a backdrop of lush, landscaped gardens and reflect the architectural grandeur of their respective eras.
Vietnam ancient capital Hue.
Option in Vietnam: Choose an Island to Relax, like Phu Quoc Island, Da Nang, etc.
There are a range of stunning islands to visit in Vietnam, that offer a great chance to unwind and soak in the natural beauty of the country's coastline. Phu Quoc is one of the gems of southern Vietnam, with miles of white sand beaches, blue waters, coral reefs, and dense tropical forests.
It’s a popular destination for both nature lovers and people looking for a tranquil getaway. Apart from swimming, snorkeling, and diving, Phu Quoc National Park is a top attraction. Covering more than half of the island, the park is home to many rare and endangered animals, such as the silver langur.
Cham Island, located off the coast of central Vietnam, is a UNESCO-listed biosphere reserve known for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and diverse marine life, making it a popular destination for snorkeling and diving. Accessible by speedboat from Da Nang or Hoi An, visitors can explore the colorful coral reefs and underwater ecosystems. The largest island, Hon Lao, is home to a small fishing village, and it offers a glimpse into the local way of life.
In northern Vietnam, Cat Ba Island, the largest island in Ha Long Bay, is another popular choice. Known for its stunning limestone karsts and pristine beaches. It's a gateway to exploring the Halong Bay region. Visitors can take boat trips to witness the bay's iconic rock formations, go kayaking in the emerald waters, and explore hidden caves and grottoes.
Seeing the must-dos in Vietnam and Cambodia will take you to cultural wonders like Angkor Wat, bustling, vibrant cities like Siem Reap and Hanoi, and to places of breathtaking natural beauty such as Halong Bay.
Already a great experience, with any additional time, you can choose between great options such as relaxing on a beach, or deep cultural immersion in remote locations. Whatever kind of trip you are looking for, these two countries have much to offer. Contact us for more information, and start planning the perfect getaway.
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