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Guide to UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Vietnam

The only bad thing about Vietnam holidays is knowing where to start. Should you travel to sandy beaches or dusty ruins? Which landmarks are worth the journey, and which will leave you colder than the air on the Marble Mountains?

The good news is that UNESCO World Heritage Sites has already done some of the work for you, marking several places as for their historical and cultural significance. Here are just a few worth visiting.

Ha Long Bay

According to legend, Ha Long Bay (literally “Descending Dragon Bay”) was created when the gods sent a family of dragons to protect the early citizens of Vietnam from invaders. The dragons spit jade and limestone, which eventually transformed into mountains and islets, and Ha Long Bay was born.

These days you’re more likely to find tourists and fisherman than gem-spitting dragons, but Ha Long Bay still serves as a geological and archaeological wonder for anyone curious enough to visit. You’ll see all kinds of cliffs, caves and creatures among its 3000 islets, and that’s just above sea level! If you’re looking for Vietnam holidays unlike any others you’ve taken before, Ha Long Bay should be your first stop.

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

These ruins date all the way back to the 11th century, when Vietnam was still known as Đại Việt and the Ly Dynasty was experimenting with bronze and terracotta. It was raised by a temple orphan who later became an emperor, eventually expanded by the hundred of rulers who came after; with halls, gates and flag towers rising from the dust until the entire structure was one of the grandest symbols of ancient Vietnamese rule. You can still enjoy it today, though many areas are under UNESCO protection and therefore prohibited to visitors. Just take your camera and appreciate the glimpses you’re offered of this old, proud citadel.

Hoi An

A multicultural marvel, the city of Hoi An has been welcoming visitors since its creation as a trading port in the 15th century. It’s seen travellers from Japan, explorers from China and settlers from Dutch and India, all of whom left their influence on the city, and that isn’t even counting the lingering marks from its French colonization.
As far as Vietnam holidays are concerned, if you’re looking for an exotic, utterly unique destination, you won’t find anywhere better than Hoi An.

Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary

Once an extensive series of Hindu temples, the ruins of Mỹ Sơn are now crumbling and only partially excavated due to extreme weathering and wartime bombing. This sad fact is made even sadder when you realize that they were originally created as a place of worship for the king. If you’d like to walk along the path of an ancient ruler, this is the place to be – and if you’re at all interested in Vietnamese culture and history, the time to visit is now, before Mỹ Sơn is gone forever.

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