Landmarks of Vietnam

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Early morning and fog over a valley in Bắc Son, Vietnam
Early morning and fog over a valley in Bắc Son / Hoang Giang Hai, / CC BY 2.0

Most interesting landmarks of Vietnam

Below are listed the most amazing natural and man made landmarks of Vietnam.

Natural landmarks of Vietnam

Rock formations

Hạ Long Bay, Vietnam
Hạ Long Bay / Brian Fagan, / CC BY 2.0
  • Bam Ha lake in Dau Be Island (Bo Ham Lake) – Northeast, Quảng Ninh province, Ha Long Bay. Unusual lake – a system of three basins which are connected with large cave. Lake is surrounded by steep cliffs and can be accessed through the cave.
  • Hạ Long Bay – Northeast, Quảng Ninh province. Site of unusual beauty – sea bay with approximately 2,000 tower-like islands formed by karst processes. Tallest islands are 100 m tall. Area contains many endemic species of plants and animals. Some islands have impressive caves (such as Hang Đầu Gỗ Cave). Local fisherman live in exotic-looking floating villages.

Caves

Entrance in Phong Nha cave, Vietnam
Entrance in Phong Nha cave / Bang Nguyen, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Ca Xai cave – North Central Coast, Quang Binh province. Deep cave with a lake which is more than 200 m deep.
  • Paradise cave (Dong Thien Duong, Thiên Đường) – North Central Coast, Quang Binh province. 31.4 km long cave with some of most beautiful cave formations, cave rooms are up to 150 m high. Endemic scorpion Vietbocap thienduongensis lives in the cave.
  • Phong Nha cave (Hang Khe Ry) – North Central Coast, Quang Binh province. 44.5 km long cave with a very long underground river (13,969 m) with sandy beaches. Cave contains valuable archaeological artifacts of Champa culture including beautiful ceramic vases.
  • Si Leng Chai cave – Northwest, Lai Châu province. Impressive cave, explored part is 1,162 m long and 286 m deep, with impressive waterfalls. Especially beautiful are the gorgeous, white gours with crystal clear water in them.
  • Son Doong cave (Hang Sơn Đoòng) – North Central Coast, Quang Binh province. Biggest known cave in the world. Especially impressive is the more than 4 km long passage, which is continuously 90 m wide and up to 200 m high. Total known length of this cave is 9 km. Powerful stream flows through the cave. Here are found unique cave pearls as large as baseballs, as well as green, algae covered gours.

Waterfalls

Bản Giốc Falls, Vietnam side
Bản Giốc Falls, Vietnam side / M.Williams, Wikimedia Commons. CC-BY-SA-2.5
  • Bản Giốc Falls and Detian Falls – Northeast, Cao Bang province and Guangxi, China. One of the most picturesque waterfalls, it is around 60 meters high and 200 meters wide.
  • Pongua Falls (Pongour waterfall) – Central Highlands, Lâm Đồng province. Spectacular, wide waterfall, approximately 40 m tall. Waterfall forms many smaller steps.

Ecosystems

  • Hoàn Kiếm Lake and turtles – Red River Delta, Hanoi. Lake in the historical centre of Hanoi. In the lake lives (or lived as it is critically endangered or extinct) unique soft-shell turtles which may belong to separate species Rafetus leloii. The existence of this legendary animal was proved only in 1998.
  • Suoi Giang tea forest (Suối Giàng) – Northeast, Yên Bái province. Here grow possibly world’s oldest tea trees which are up to 3,000 years old. In total in this forest grow more than 85,000 old tea trees. This could be one of the oldest tea plantations in the world.
  • Vũ Quang – North Central Coast. Remote, forested region where numerous new species of animals and plants have been found over the last decades and several more are reported but their existence has not been proved yet. One of the most intriguing ones is batutut (Nguoi Rung) – a human like creature, which is approximately 1.8 m tall and covered with hair.

Man made landmarks of Vietnam

Prehistoric monuments

  • Con Moong Cave – North Central Coast, Thanh Hóa province. Cave with two large entrances, site of prehistoric settlement of the late Paleolithic and Neolithic Sơn Vi and Hoa Binh cultures, more than 10 thousand years old.
  • Nam Dan petroglyphs and megaliths (Nấm Dần) – Northeast, Hà Giang province. Group of stones with carved symbols and stone settings. Most stone carvings are rings and weird spiral patterns, but there are depicted also humans.
  • Sa Pa Ancient Rock Field – Northwest, Lào Cai province. Here, in Muong Hoa Valley are found volcanic boulders which are covered with hundreds of petroglyphs. Many petroglyphs are lines – it is possible that here is a kind of "archive" of land borders from the 15th century. There are also other theories about the origin of these petroglyphs as well as many other petroglyphs showing people, home utensils.

Historical cities and towns

Hội An (Hoi An) in Vietnam
Hội An (Hoi An) / Jean-Pierre Dalbéra, / CC BY 2.0
  • Đồng Văn – Northeast, Hà Giang province. Exceptionally well preserved historical town of montane people in spectacular hilly area. Most buildings here are approximately 200 – 100 years old. These houses are built from clay, have two – three floors and tiled roofs.
  • Hang Rục Caroòng (Ruc Caroong) – North Central Coast, Quang Binh province. Large cave in spectacular karst region. This cave serves as a habitat to Arem people who live in the caves and are hunting and harvesting.
  • Historical center of Huế – North Central Coast, Thua Thien-Huế. A planned city, capital of Vietnam in 1802 – 1945. The geography of the city was made with great scale, creating huge rectangular systems of canals and well planned urban districts inside fortification walls. City has numerous valuable monuments of architecture and art.
  • Hội An – South Central Coast, Quảng Nam province. Unusually well preserved medieval city – trading port which flourished in the 15th – 19th century. Former economical center of Champa Empire.
  • Old Hanoi – Red River Delta, Hanoi province. Well preserved part of the historical Hanoi city next to Hoàn Kiếm Lake, with narrow streets and architecture from the 19th – early 20th century.

Fortifications

Ngo Mon gate leading into Hue Imperial City, Vietnam
Ngo Mon gate leading into Hue Imperial City / Francisco Anzola, / CC BY 2.0
  • Citadel of the Hồ Dynasty – North Central, Thanh Hóa province. Ruins of a large castle and fortification built in the early 15th century by Hồ Dynasty. Fortification walls enclose rectangular area, outer side of walls is 870.5 by 883.5 m large. Complex was built according to feng-shui (geomantic) principles – one of the first applications of this philosophy in the city planning in this part of Asia.
  • Cổ Loa Citadel – Red River Delta, Hanoi province. Oldest fortification in Hanoi, fortified citadel 20 km north from the center of present day Hanoi. Development of this fortress started around 400 – 350 BC, outer walls have a perimeter of 8 km. Remaining ramparts are up to 12 m high. Cổ Loa town is located inside the ramparts up to this day.
  • Diên Khánh Citadel – South Central Coast, Khánh Hòa province. Well preserved fortification, built by French in 1793 in Vauban military architecture style.
  • Hoa Lư Citadel – Red River Delta, Ninh Bình province. Citadel of the medieval capital of Vietnam, founded in the 10th century AD. Citadel was located among steep limestone pinnacles and was protected by some 10 m tall and up to 15 m thick earthen ramparts. Nowadays some parts of these ramparts and some temples remain.
  • Hanoi Citadel – Red River Delta, Hanoi province. Former residence of Vietnamese monarchs, developed since the 1010 AD (Citadel of Thang Long) in the site of older fortress. Most of historical buildings were destroyed by the French in the late 19th century but some parts of the medieval Vietnamese architecture remain.
  • Huế Imperial City – North Central Coast, Thua Thien-Huế. Well preserved fortified citadel of Huế city. Fortress is surrounded by massive walls which form 2 by 2 km large rectangle with the imperial palace – Purple Forbidden City inside. Construction of the fortress and palace was started in 1804, later were added many more palaces and other ornate buildings. Most of buildings perished during the Vietnam War but some 10 remain.
  • Long Wall of Quảng Ngãi – South Central Coast, Bình Định and Quảng Ngãi provinces. 127.4 km long rampart, most likely built in the early 16th century and reinforced in 1819 as ordered by Nguyễn emperors. Wall is up to 4 m high and 2.5 m wide, mostly built from rocks. Wall is parallel to an ancient trade route.

Buddhist shrines

One Pillar Pagoda, Vietnam
One Pillar Pagoda / An Mai, / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Bút Tháp Temple – Red River Delta, Bắc Ninh province. Best example of classic Vietnamese Buddhist architecture and art. This temple was built in the 17th century and has 10 buildings with numerous masterpieces of art.
  • Dâu Pagoda – Red River Delta, Bắc Ninh province. Oldest Buddhist pagoda in Vietnam, built between 187 and 226. Pagoda has unique architecture and has influenced the later development of Vietnamese architecture.
  • One Pillar Pagoda – Red River Delta, Hanoi province. Small, unusual pagoda, built in the first half of the 11th century. Pagoda stands on a large pillar in the middle of pond.
  • Perfume Temple (Perfume Pagoda) – Red River Delta, Hanoi province. Group of rock-cut temples. One of most important and beautiful Buddhist pilgrimage sites in country, it was developed in harmony with the picturesque landscape of the region. The first temple was built here in the 1400ies. Its main attractions are the enormous Huong Tich Cave with Chua Trong (Perfume Temple) and the Thien Tru Pagoda.

Hindu temples

Po Klong Garai, Vietnam
Po Klong Garai / rajkumar1220, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Dương Long towers – South Central Coast, Bình Định province. Tallest historical Hindu temple in Vietnam, built by Cham culture in the 12th century. Towers are located in the site of the abandoned and ruined Vijaya city. Ruins consist of three towers, the central one is 24 m tall and two others – 22 m tall. Walls of towers are adorned with beautiful stone carvings.
  • Mỹ Sơn – South Central Coast, Quảng Nam province. Ruins of a group of more than 70 Hindu temples built in the times of Champa Empire between the 4th and 14th century AD. This site serves as a kind of religious capital of Champa. Most of the heritage was destroyed by US bombing during the Vietnam War. Buildings in this temple city were very ornate and ruins provide rich knowledge about the art and architecture in Champa Empire.
  • Po Klong Garai – South Central Coast, Ninh Thuận province. Impressive, very ornate Cham temple. Build time is unknown but most likely the temple was built in the 11th century.
  • Po Nagar – South Central Coast, Khánh Hòa province. Ornate Hindu temple built by Cham people before 781 AD. Main tower is some 25 m high. Site of legends about the goddess of this temple.

Other religious architecture

Cao Đài Holy See, Vietnam
Cao Đài Holy See, Vietnam / Nguyễn Thanh Quang, Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0
  • Phát Diệm Cathedral – Red River Delta, Ninh Bình province. Ornate cathedral, built in 1891 in traditional Vietnamese style borrowing some elements from the European churches.
  • Tay Ninh Holy See – Southeast, Tây Ninh. Center of Cao Đài religion, ornate building built in 1933 – 1955.
  • Temple of Literature – Red River Delta, Hanoi. Temple of Confucius, the first national university in Vietnam, constructed in 1070. Temple contains many precious relics.

Tunnels

One of entrances in Củ Chi tunnels, Vietnam
One of entrances in Củ Chi tunnels / Michael Coghlan, / CC BY 2.0
  • Củ Chi tunnels – Southeast, Ho Chi Minh City. 121 km long system of tunnels and underground rooms created for defensive purposes in the late 1960ies – 1970ies.
  • Vịnh Mốc tunnels – North Central Coast, Quảng Trị province. Some 2 km long system of tunnels in the depth of some 30 m where approximately 60 families lived during the Vietnam War in 1967 – 1972.

Bridges

  • Chùa cầu – South Central Coast, Quảng Nam province. Historical covered bridge with a Buddhist temple at one end of the bridge. Bridge was constructed by a local Japanese community in 1593.
  • Dragon Bridge in Da Nang – South Central Coast, Da Nang. Landmark bridge, constructed in 2012. Bridge is adorned with giant sculpture of dragon which every evening at 9 PM spews fire.

Tombs

Central part of Khai Dinh Tomb, Vietnam
Central part of Khai Dinh Tomb / Clay Gilliland, / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Khai Dinh Tomb – North Central Coast, Thừa Thiên–Huế province. Ornate imperial tomb, built on a hill in 1920 – 1931 for the unpopular emperor Khải Định. This ornate structure blends Eastern and Western traditions in architecture and art. Site contains the biggest sculptures of dragons in Vietnam.
  • Tu Duc Tomb – North Central Coast, Thừa Thiên–Huế province. Large and ornate imperial tomb (in fact – complex of many buildings), built in 1864–1867 for emperor Tự Đức. Emperor used this structure as his residence long before his death and finally was buried elsewhere.

Other man made landmarks of Vietnam

  • Hằng Nga Guesthouse – Central Highlands, Lâm Đồng province. Unusual hotel building which resembles a giant tree with many other elements in expressionist forms. Guesthouse was designed by Đặng Việt Nga and built in 1990.

Described landmarks of Vietnam

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Son Doong Cave (Hang Sơn Đoòng): 17.457468, 106.287092

Vietnam is surprisingly diverse. Here are found giant contemporary cities, traces of ancient cultures and pristine, little explored nature. Among the huge diversity of heritage stand out:

  • Giant caves. In Vietnam are located world’s largest known caves – an eerie world incomparable to the narrow caves known elsewhere. Largest among them is Hang Son Doong.
  • Other karst formations. World famous is Ha Long Bay with some 2,000 islands which rise like towers up to 100 m high above the sea level. There are other amazing karst formations in the country.
  • Ancient cities and citadels. Several cultures have left ruins of exciting cities and towns. There are cases when local people live even in large caves.

Featured: Son Doong Cave (Hang Sơn Đoòng)

Walking over the giant gours in Son Doong cave, Vietnam
Walking over the giant gours in Son Doong cave / Dough Knuth, / CC BY-SA 2.0

The largest known cave in the world by volume is Son Doong Cave in Vietnam. This cave is one of the great natural wonders of the world.

Recommended books

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Vietnam and Angkor Wat


DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Vietnam and Angkor Wat is your indispensable guide to this beautiful part of the world. The fully updated guide includes unique cutaways, floor plans and reconstructions of the must-see sites, plus street-by-street maps of all the fascinating cities and towns. The new-look guide is also packed with photographs and illustrations leading you straight to the best attractions on offer, from the floating markets of the Mekong Delta in the south to the hill towns in the north, and all the best beaches to be found in between.

National Geographic Traveler: Vietnam, 3rd Edition


In this completely updated and revised guide to Vietnam, James Sullivan’s enthusiasm for his adopted country is clear in his coverage of all of major sites, along with some lesser known surprises as well. The book begins in the ancient capital of Hanoi, moving on to surrounding sites including fabled Ha Long Bay and hilltribe villages tucked away in the jungle-covered mountains; North-Central Vietnam, including visits to Vietnamese tunnels related to the Vietnam War; the ancient cities of Hue and Hoi An; the Southern Central Highlands, featuring wildlife-filled Cat Tien National Park; bustling Ho Chi Minh City; and the vast Mekong Delta.

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