Indoors or outdoors, city centre or rural retreat, by the seaside or high in the mountains, you’ll find fun things to do and see in Vietnam any time of the year.
Vietnam stretches for more than 3,000 kilometres from north to south, encompassing several distinctive climate zones.
Though spring and fall are glorious, the north can get chilly between December and February and temperatures hover in the high 30s C during the May through September summer season, while the southern Mekong Delta region is warm and steamy year-round.
A rugged spine of mountains and highlands extend along the western edge of the country. It can be cool here any time of the year.
Expect to have sunny days throughout the year wherever you are in Vietnam—all-day rains are the exception rather than the norm.
The rainy season comes at different times of the year depending on where you are. Most of the rain in Hanoi falls between May and September, which is also the hottest time of the year, while along the central coast, Da Nang and Hoi An’s rainy season doesn’t arrive until the cooler months of October and November.
In the mountains and highlands, the winter months see the most rain—and on occasion, there’s a dusting of snow in the far north. If you are visiting southern destinations, June through October are the wettest times, though temperature variations are minimal throughout the year.
Come to Vietnam between May and October to swim in the warm waters of the South China Sea. It’s also the perfect time to take a cruise among the towering islets of Halong Bay, go snorkelling in Nha Trang or spend lazy days on the southern beaches. Trekking in the mountains is best during the cooler months, while Vietnam’s amazing festivals will entertain you throughout the year.
Here are some ideas to help you plan your trip.
January / February
The most important holiday in Vietnam is Tết, the Lunar New Year. It’s Christmas, New Year’s and birthdays, all rolled into one—a joyous week of ceremonies and feasting. Extended families gather and special effort is made to visit friends, neighbours and teachers. It’s exciting to be in the city during this time, and immerse yourself in the kaleidoscope of sights, sounds and smells as people prepare for the New Year. Pagodas fill with devotees and every home is decorated with spring flowers and fruit. If you come to Vietnam during Tết, make your reservations early—arranging for last-minute transportation and lodging can be difficult and expensive.
The Perfume Festival is held at Chùa Hương, a vast centuries-old Buddhist temple complex two hours from Hanoi. Pilgrims from throughout Vietnam come to pray for good fortune and pay their respects to Buddha and the Goddess of Mercy, Quan Am. The complex can only be accessed by rowboat—a scenic trip along peaceful waters, stopping at minor temples along the way. The ultimate goal of the journey, the massive cavern housing the Huong Tich Cave Temple, is best reached by taking the cable car to the top of the mountain, though climbing the hundreds of stairs is a worthwhile route for the hardy or pious. Daily tours leave Hanoi in the morning and return in the early evening.
April to June
Go to the last home of Vietnam’s emperors, the north-central coast city of Hue, for the bi-annual Hue Festival. The traditional crafts, food and culture of the Imperial City are showcased in a week-long extravaganza. Kite flying, boat racing, art exhibitions and street performances are also featured. Hue Festival 2018 will take place from April 27 to May 2.
The dynamic central coast city of Da Nang hosts the Da Nang International Fireworks Festival. International teams compete for prestige and prizes with the stunning night-time canvas of the Han River as a backdrop for their fireworks displays. There are plenty of daytime events during this two-month festival to keep you busy, too.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is a special time for children, celebrated at the end of harvest time. One of the best places to experience it is in the ancient central coast city of Hoi An. You’ll see street performances, colourful lantern processions, art exhibitions and lion dances and you can try special foods such as mooncakes and traditional sticky rice confections.
September is also the month of the Hungry Ghost Festival. Many Vietnamese believe that on this day, the spirits of their ancestors visit their homes. Families flock to Buddhist temples to offer prayers, flowers and sweets. In the evening, paper replicas of everything from luxurious houses and clothes, to money and new cars are burned as gifts for the ancestors to take back to the spirit world.