Best Cultural Experiences in Vietnam: Lonely Planet Guide

Recently, the Lonely Planet website recommended three travel destinations where visitors can truly immerse themselves in local culture. These destinations include the Central Highlands, Mekong Delta, and South Central region.

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Chasing waterfalls and coffee in the Central Highlands: Buon Ma Thuot

If you love coffee, this is your paradise. Buon Ma Thuot, tucked away in the highlands of Central Vietnam, is famous for its coffee culture. Here, you can enjoy guided tours of lush coffee plantations, taking in the aroma of freshly roasted beans. You can even learn how to make your own cup of joe in the Vietnamese style. As the largest coffee-producing region in the country, Buon Ma Thuot is fiercely proud of its primary export and even hosts an annual coffee festival in mid-March.

Yet the wonders of Buon Ma Thuot extend far beyond its coffee culture. Mystical waterfalls like Dray Nur and Dray Sap evoke fairy tales. While swimming isn’t allowed, the lush greenery and the sound of cascading water create a scenery that’s breathtaking to experience from land.

Lonely Planet: Best Destinations To Experience Local Culture In Vietnam
As the largest coffee-producing region in the country, Buon Ma Thuot is fiercely proud of its primary export and even hosts an annual coffee festival in mid-March. Photo: Hidden Land Travel

To truly immerse yourself in the local culture, a visit to Lak Lake is a must. This serene oasis is surrounded by charming villages and inhabited by the welcoming M’Nong ethnic group, who reside in vibrant settlements of rattan and wooden stilt houses by the water’s edge. Many companies offer canoe tours of the lake, allowing you to interact with the M’Nong people and partake in their cultural traditions, including folk songs and drumming.

End your day with a fabulous meal at Quan Nem Nuong Thanh Loan, where you can enjoy nem nuong dak lak, one of Buon Ma Thuot’s signature foods. This dish features seasoned ground pork mixed with a medley of herbs and spices, all wrapped in fresh rice paper. The rolls are then grilled over hot coals, resulting in a flavorful and slightly smoky taste.

Holidays in “the kingdom of fish sauce”: Chau Doc

Close to the Cambodian border, Chau Doc is a city in the Mekong Delta that’s home to Chinese, Cham, and Khmer communities; the diversity of its residents is apparent across its architecture and cuisine. In addition to Mekong Delta cruises, visitors can stop by sacred sites like the Hang Pagoda or Ba Chuc Tomb, or immerse themselves in nature and wildlife at the Tra Su Bird Sanctuary.

Lonely Planet: Best Destinations To Experience Local Culture In Vietnam
Traditional fishing methods live on in beautiful Lang Co. Photo: Getty Images

Another must-visit destination in the region is the floating Tra Su Cajuput Forest, a conservation area and one of Vietnam’s most beautiful sites. The best time to visit this unique ecosystem is during and immediately after the monsoon season, which runs from June until November. This is when the floating forest wakes up and transforms into brilliant shades of green. Before your trek, pick up some hot sponge cakes made from palmyra sugar, a local specialty, that you can easily purchase from houses or stalls in the village.

A treasure trove of natural wonders in southern Central Vietnam: Lang Co

Lang Co Beach is located in Lang Co town, Phu Loc district, Thua Thien Hue province. It sits more than 60 kilometers from Hue city center and about 25 kilometers away from Da Nang city, right at the foot of the famous Hai Van Pass. Lang Co is considered “an all-in-one place” with majestic mountains, white sand banks, and pure seawater filled with warm sunshine.

The peak season of Lang Co Beach is from April to July. The rainy season is from August to December. It can also get cold between December and March with the breeze coming from the northwest.

Lonely Planet: Best Destinations To Experience Local Culture In Vietnam
Lang Co features a stunning and long stretch of beach in the shape of an arc, with the mountains of Bach Ma National Park in the background. Photo: Hue News

Lang Co features a stunning and long stretch of beach in the shape of an arc, with the mountains of Bach Ma National Park in the background. The 10-kilometer-long beach with its fine yellow and white sand looks very inviting. If you think that spending time at the beach is only about swimming, there’s a lot more that you’re missing out on, such as: enjoying the warm breeze, indulging in some magazines, or renting a boat to go around. A stroll along the beach in the evening will take you to a number of excellent seafood eateries.

Charlotte Pho