Located in Southeast Asia – a tropical region, but some parts of Vietnam, specifically the Northern region, go through four seasons a year: winter, spring, summer, and autumn. Winter in Vietnam starts around mid-December, stretching until late March. If you seek a respite from the heat in Southeast Asia during this period, look no further than destinations like Hanoi, Sapa, and Ninh Binh.
So if you’re going in the cold season, here’s a list of activities to conquer in Northern Vietnam:
Enjoy the bustling vibe of Hanoi’s Old Quarters
If there’s a place list which I can never forget, “Hanoi in the winter” will be at the top of it. It is hard to describe the “one-and-only” beauty of Vietnam’s sweetheart. Its beauty comes from daily life fractions, the cracks, the dirty walls, the noises, the smells; the chaotic complexity of the streets, the bumpy sidewalks, the electric wires growing around buildings like ivy. One hundred years of French colonization in Hanoi led to the local architecture having a distinctly European look, and this can especially be seen in the Old Quarter, or “French Quarter”. Take a walk around; everywhere you look, you’ll catch a glimpse of the country’s rich history. Whether you’re there to enjoy the cold Vietnam air or to take pictures, you can be sure you will take home some picturesque memories!
Trekking in Sapa
Sapa is well known for its verdant rice terraces, terrific hiking trails and ancient village tribes in the mountains. And it is also the favorite destination for anyone who misses the cold weather back home. This mountainous town is heaven for explorers and adventurers. Especially in the winter, don’t forget to summit Fansipan Mountain by foot or on a cable car (a very cool experience!), then enjoy the feeling of floating above the clouds, the peak (where the picture above was taken) is at 3,143 meters above sea level! For the highest chance of having your dream snowball fight, plan your trip between late December to late January when temperatures can go as low as -3 deg. Celcius.
Discover another world inside the caves in Ninh Binh
Right in your Vietnam vacation, you can find an “Inland Halong Bay”, which is really beautiful and charming in its own way. The limestone karst formations that make-up Halong Bay continue inland for hundreds of miles into the region of Ninh Binh, which is located on the southern end of the Red River Delta. The region is blessed with a mesmerizing natural landscape and rich history. And in the winter, don’t miss the scenic boat ride along Trang An. Enjoy a boat ride along the river with one of the Vietnamese boat paddlers. Usually, a lady rower will row the boat for you… using her feet! Along the way, you will find gorgeous monumental temples, dozens of grand-looking valleys and as many as 50 different caves! Being paddled along the river on a tiny boat while surrounded by huge mountains on every side is an experience that you cannot miss.
Vietnam is renowned as one of the world’s biggest Robusta coffee producers. The taste of Vietnamese coffee is obliviously amazing, and the most wonderful thing is that you can also get your caffeine mix with a yogurt coffee or the Hanoian specialty, egg coffee, made with whipped egg yolk (which is lovely in Hanoi’s winter). It is said that you aren’t a true coffee connoisseur until you’ve tried the Vietnamese coffee. Served just about anywhere in the country, Vietnamese coffee can be indulged hot or cold. In a country that takes its coffee VERY seriously, your first sip of joe will make your soul sing throughout the winter!
Try out the street foods
This doesn’t mean you’ll have to throw that diet away when you’re traveling in Vietnam. Vietnamese cuisine is one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. Order any meal on the street and you will see fresh ingredients, minimal use of dairy and oil, and a selective array of fragrant herbs and meats. And in the winter of northern Vietnam, you just need one word: Phở! Phở (or pho) is an enticing rich blend of soft noodles in a simply delicious piping hot soup broth. You can choose for it to be served either with chicken or beef and it comes with an intoxicating mix of fresh mint, bean sprouts, sliced lime, and chili peppers. This flavourful dish is particularly sought after during winter because of the soulful warmth it provides during cold days. In fact, you will be able to find this at nearly every restaurant in Vietnam.
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