The northern part of Vietnam is a very popular place for tourists thanks to the variety of sites it can offer. The absolute highlight of the region is the buzzing and very fascinating city of Hanoi and the Natural Wonder of the World Halong Bay. Pictures of both places can be easily seen on many brochures, and are worthy advocates for a visit to Vietnam.
North of Hanoi is the popular mountain town of Sapa. It is famous for the scenery, its location next to Indochina’s highest mountain Fansipan and the amount of different hill tribes. Most visitors come to Sapa for trekking and to experience a homestay in one of the minority villages.
Gaining on popularity is Ninh Binh province west of Hanoi – with its capital Ninh Binh and the popular caves Tam Coc and Trang An. It is also the gateway to the Pu Luong National Park. The area becomes more and more popular thanks to the beautiful surrounding, and it is called Halong Bay on land for a reason.
Far less visited but turning up on the radar of tourist is the province of Ha Giang in the far north of Vietnam. The dramatic landscape, the non-touristy feel to it and the little village everywhere makes it a fantastic place to visit. Due to the limited public buses exploring the area on the back of a bike is the best way, and most tourist head there to complete the Ha Giang Loop.
Even less visited is the Cao Bang province, though this area also offers fantastic scenery and with the Ban Gioc waterfall and the Pak Bo cave it can offer two famous and interesting sites, which makes the province a popular place for Vietnamese tourists, and only limited number of foreigners make the way up to the far north-east.
There are other interesting areas in the north like Cat Ba island, but I have not visited these places (yet!!!) and cannot say anything about them.
With all these destinations you could easily spend a few weeks in the north of Vietnam alone, and like most places it shouldn’t be rushed. This area really deserves time.