When’s the Best Time to Visit Vietnam?
The picture-perfect Vietnam trip usually involves great weather – sunny, hot days spent at the beach, crisp mountain air in the northern highlands, perhaps a mystical haze over Halong Bay, and cool days spent on the waterways of the Mekong Delta.
Shaped like a long “S”, Vietnam is about 1,650 km (1,030 mi) from north to south. The topography is also extremely varied, with mountains, hills, plains, and of course, thousands of kilometers of beaches.
All this makes it hard to come up with one answer to the question: When’s the Best Time to Visit Vietnam?
Chances are, when it’s cold and rainy in one place, it’s hot and sunny somewhere else.
Taking into consideration climate factors like wet/dry season as well as temperature and major festivals and events, here are our recommendations for when to visit Vietnam and when perhaps to prepare for less than ideal weather and other conditions.
- 1 1) Springtime: February, March, April
- 2 2) Summer: May, June, July, August
- 3 3) Autumn: September, October, Early November
- 4 4) Winter: Late November, December, January
1) Springtime: February, March, April
North of Danang, the weather in February can get a bit nippy, with winds from China leading to overcast skies. In March, skies remain grey and temperatures cool north of Hoi An in Central Vietnam.
Towards the end of March, temperatures across the country start to rise, making April one of the best months to visit Vietnam as there’s good overall weather throughout the country.
Where to visit in springtime:
- Ho Chi Minh City
- Buon Ma Thuot
- Hoi An
There are plenty of springtime festivals in Vietnam, including the Dong Da Festival in Quang Trung in February, celebrating the Vietnamese victory over Chinese Qing invaders in the late 1700s. Head to Dong Da Park in Hanoi for colorful processions and a host of cultural, artistic, and sporting events.
March in Ho Chi Minh City has pleasant weather, making it pleasant to walk around and explore. There’s also the annual Buon Ma Thuot Coffee Festival in Dak Lak Province, a celebration of Vietnamese coffee with performances, folk games, and coffee competitions.
If you’re visiting Vietnam in an even year, the six-day Hue Festival (usually in April) is organized every two years in Vietnam’s former imperial capital with elaborate performances set against the backdrop of ancient citadels and palaces. In addition, the festival typically includes parades, boat races, and food fairs.
Things to think about in springtime:
The whole country comes to a standstill during Tet (Lunar New Year) which occurs in late January or early February. Travel is difficult and more expensive (with flights, buses and hotels crowded or sold out) and many attractions are closed for a week or more.
However, in the weeks leading up to Tet, the whole country is in a festive mood and the streets literally bloom with red and yellow flowers, the colors of luck and prosperity.
Since the weather is cool without being cold, it’s a great time to see the entire country. Victoria Voyages’ 14-day / 13-night Ultimate Vietnam Experience (Hanoi, Sapa, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho, Chau Doc, Nui Sam), and the 12-day / 11-night Best of Vietnam itinerary (Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City, Phan Thiet) take visitors along the length of Vietnam, hitting all the major destinations and highlights.
2) Summer: May, June, July, August
Just before school lets out for the summer, May and June are excellent months to visit Vietnam. Central and Northern Vietnam enjoys clear skies and warm temperatures.
With rising temperatures comes increased humidity, so perhaps limit walking and more strenuous activities. July and August are hot all over the country, and peak season for both domestic and international tourists.
Where to visit in summer:
- Mui Ne & Phan Thiet
- Halong Bay
- Nha Trang
- Ninh Binh
Obviously, the best way to beat the heat and humidity is to head to the beach! Fortunately, Vietnam is blessed with thousands of kilometers of coastline. Divers will also enjoy the calmer conditions and excellent water visibility that summer brings to Vietnamese waters.
From Ho Chi Minh City, the sleepy fishing villages of Mui Ne and nearby Phan Thiet have great beaches and are just four hours away by road. Halong Bay is also a nice summer destination, with swimming from island beaches. Clear summer skies make for great photos of the Halong Bay islands from low-flying seaplane sightseeing flights operated by Hai Au Aviation.
Nha Trang is also Vietnam’s top beach destination and summer means high temperatures and little rain. The waters off the city beaches look particularly blue and inviting this time of year.
Early summer is also the rice harvest season so places known for their rice fields, like rural Ninh Binh in Northern Vietnam aka “Halong Bay on Land”, are especially photogenic.
Things to think about in summer:
Because of the heat and school holidays, beaches can get busy in the summer. Prices are also higher during this peak travel season, so factor that into your budget.
Northern Vietnam also experiences quite a bit of rain during this period, so factor that in if heading to any scenic viewpoints, like Mount Fansipan near Sapa. Hanoi can get muggy as well during the summer with high temperatures and humidity. Be sure to stay hydrated, but also enjoy low-season hotel bargains when domestic travelers tend to avoid hot Hanoi.
3) Autumn: September, October, Early November
Like April, September and October are excellent months to travel all over Vietnam. Fall temperatures and humidity levels are lower, and clear skies are often the norm. Kids are back in school, so hotels and resorts typically offer special rates during this shoulder season.
The country also celebrates Tet Trung Thu, or the Mid-Autumn Festival, traditionally a time to spend with the children as the harvest season concludes. The Mid-Autumn Festival is marked by moonlit celebrations involving kids and homemade lanterns, lion dancing, and tasty moon cakes.
Moving into early November, temperatures start to cool down and rains arrive in the north.
Where to visit in autumn:
- Halong Bay
- Mekong Delta
- Tra Su Forest in Chau Doc
If taking advantage of cool temperatures in the north and you find yourself in Hanoi in September, check out Hanoi Pride Week, the country’s first Pride event. Though more low-key than Pride events in some other countries, the Hanoi Pride festival nonetheless features colorful parties, film screenings, workshops, a bike ride and walking parade.
Pleasant temperatures also make walking a joy, like around West Lake and Hoan Kiem Lake. From Hanoi, Sapa in the highlands is an easy bus or train ride away, and the area is especially beautiful in the fall as its terraced rice fields turn golden before harvest. Cool temps and clear skies make for great trekking conditions as well.
Halong Bay is also very good during autumn with blue skies and calm seas. In the South, the rainy season starts, making places like the Mekong Delta extra green. An off-the-beaten-path highlight deep in Vietnam’s South is the Tra Su Forest, an easy day trip from Chau Doc near the border with Cambodia. The reserve is known for its submerged forests and abundance of birdlife which is especially active this time of year.
Things to think about in autumn:
In recent times, “rainy season” has been increasingly replaced with “green season”, especially as it applies to Vietnam’s South. Many first-time visitors have an impression of torrential rains all day when they hear “rainy season”, but in reality, rains are usually brief bursts where you can duck under cover and wait it out with a coffee.
If you’re at the beach, however, like in Phan Thiet (Mui Ne) or the islands in the Gulf of Thailand (Phu Quoc, Con Dao), rains may put a damper on your sun tanning time. Then again, resorts are often just a fraction of their peak season prices.
4) Winter: Late November, December, January
The rains come to an end in the South while temperatures get chilly in the North, with snow possible in the far north near the border with China.
Where to visit in December:
- Mui Ne
- Phu Quoc
- Ho Chi Minh City
With less rain and rising temperatures, the beaches of Southern Vietnam are a great choice in November, including Mui Ne and Phu Quoc which enjoys sunny days with reasonably cool temperatures. While Christmas isn’t an official holiday in Vietnam, there are many who celebrate it, both Christian and non-Christian.
However, Vietnam does have a sizeable Catholic community, so midnight mass is festive in places in Phat Diem Cathedral in northern Ninh Binh as well as the Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City. Nippy temperatures in the highlands of Dalat are especially refreshing (bring a jacket) which makes trekking or cycling a joy.
The possibility of sighting wild gibbons in Cat Tien National Park is simply a bonus! December also sees the annual Dalat Flower Festival where flower displays are set up all around town, including around scenic Xuan Huong Lake, as well as bonsai and vegetable exhibits. November through April is also ideal for surfing and kitesurfing in Danang and Mui Ne as wind and waves kick in.
If you find yourself in the Mekong Delta, check out the Khmer longboat festivals, typically in mid-November. Originating in Cambodia, the festivals together with their heart-stomping longboat races, are also celebrated by the sizeable ethnic Khmer community in certain towns in the Mekong Delta, namely Tra Vinh and Soc Trang.
Things to think about in winter:
While temperatures are cool in the South (sometimes cold to the locals, but for most Westerners, a pleasant spring-like 75F / 24C), they can get quite cold in the North.
If traveling, pack along a light jacket and something more substantial if headed to the highlands of Sapa (nights can get especially cold) or the more northern regions near the Chinese border.
Cold winds and foggy conditions prevail over Halong Bay which make swimming and kayaking slightly less pleasant, but on the other hand, early morning mist makes for some spectacularly moody photos and there will definitely be fewer domestic tourists around.
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