When you think of island getaways in Southeast Asia, you might first think first of Thailand’s Phuket or Indonesia’s Bali. You may not have heard of Cat Ba or the Cham Islands.
But they are more than worthy of a place on your bucket list!
Many seasoned adventures who seek more off the beaten track destinations rank Vietnam as one of the best parts of Southeast Asia to visit.
Its islands have been the film set of blockbuster movies and yet many of them are still relatively undiscovered. Tourism has grown significantly in recent years, however, Vietnam remains less touristy than some of its crowded Southeast Asian counterparts.
The locals are super friendly, getting around this part of the world is easy and accommodation in Vietnam is cheaper than in neighbouring Thailand. What’s not to love?
This infographic gives you a taste of what Vietnam’s islands have to offer travellers:
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The Vietnamese eVisa is valid for 30 days which gives you plenty of time to island-hop to your heart’s content. Visit there as soon you get the chance! You will not regret it.
How many islands are there in Vietnam? 🏝️
This S-shaped country has literally thousands of islands and islets. Some of these are inhabited, many are not.
The best island for you depends on your taste and what you fancy doing during your trip.
The country’s largest island is Phu Quoc (pronounced foo kwuc). Funnily enough, this island is actually closer to Cambodia than it is to Vietnam. Its crystal clear waters and dreamy beaches make it a popular tourist spot, however, if you heard to the northern part you can still find less crowded beaches to soak in the sun.
Phu Quoc is just a 1-hour flight from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s second most visited city.
How about Ha Long Bay?
Then there’s Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Asia’s largest limestone island ecosystem. Now there’s a claim!
In Vietnamese, its name means ‘The bay where dragons landed’, which sounds very Game of Thrones to us. While the Mother of Dragons may not have landed here, two James Bond films were set here.
Ha Long Bay alone is dotted with 1,969 different islands with all kinds of flora and fauna. Out of this number, only approximately 40 are inhabited.
The smaller islands may not have as many facilities, however, their beaches make them more than worth a visit with crystal clear waters and silky smooth sand.
Many of the islands are named after their shapes such as the Ga Choi (fighting cock) and the Mai Nha (a roof)!
It can easily be incorporated into your Vietnam travel itinerary as it is a popular day trip from the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi. There are a variety of different transport options available depending on your budget.
Wildlife on Vietnam’s islands
Vietnam is rich in natural beauty and a trip to the country’s islands provides travellers with a unique opportunity to see species you may never have set your eyes on before.
The country is home to 6 biosphere reserves. Among these is Cat Ba island, located 30 km from Hai Phong city centre and 25 km from Ha Long city. On Cat Ba, you can find the world’s only population of gorgeous golden-headed langurs. This animal is one of the world’s rarest primates, with under 70 remaining in the moist tropical forest on limestone karst hills of this nature reserve.
When it comes to marine life, don’t miss ‘Whale island’! This is a small island located in stunning Van Phong Bay. Each year around April to July, whale sharks (the planet’s largest type of fish) and whales flock here to feed. The island was also listed by Forbes as a must-visit diving destination.
If diving to see magical marine life is your thing, you’ll be spoiled for choice in Vietnam. If you head to Starfish Beach in Phu Quoc you may spot a spiky horned sea star. Meanwhile, on Con Son Island, you can take an organised tour to Con Dao to see the green sea turtles hatching their eggs. Get up close and personal with some of the planets most incredible creatures and learn more about Vietnam’s conservation efforts in the process!
Learn about Vietnam’s history
Vietnam’s islands offer visitors far more than just sunbathing and snorkelling.
If, like us, you like to delve into a country’s past when you’re travelling, to learn more about its present, you should visit Con Son prison.
This former penal colony used by French colonists and then later during the Vietnam War gives a sobering insight into the dark side of Vietnam’s history.
The preserved prison cell blocks and lifelike mannequins demonstrate the horrific conditions that prisoners endured. It may not be a place for children, however, it is a must-visit for anyone with an interest in contemporary history.
It is advised to do a guided visit with an English speaking guide who can give you a full account of the history of Con Son.
Many Vietnamese people make the pilgrimage to Con Son each year, to pay homage to those who suffered and lost their lives on the island during the nineteenth and twentieth century.
The sombre history provides a real contrast to modern-day Con Son with its laid back mood and relaxing resorts. A real eye-opener!
How to get to Vietnam’s islands
Planes, trains and automobiles, there are many ways to get to Vietnam’s islands!
One of the many great things about Vietnam is that it caters to budget backpackers as well as those looking to live the life of luxury on their holidays. Each mode of transport has its own charm too.
Local buses are the most economic option, however, of course, the journey is often much longer than taking a private car. If time is on your side, it can be a great insight into local life though.
If you’re splashing the cash, you could even take a seaplane to experience Vietnam’s islands from the sky.
Remember, if you’re passing through Ha Long Bay on a cruise you still require a Vietnamese visa.
Experience island life in Vietnam
Islands conjure images of paradise and Vietnam’s ones certainly give travellers a taste of this! If you like the feeling of sand between your toes and crystal clear water on the horizon, look no further than this Southeast Asian destination. Enjoy dramatic landscapes, delicious food and biodiversity at its best. Respect the surroundings and you’re sure to receive a warm welcome! Take advantage of the Vietnam eVisa today and discover the beauty of one of Southeast Asia’s most incredible countries.