Vietnamese tourist hotspots that glowed on the global map this year

 Despite the severe pandemic impacts, Vietnam’s manifold attractions continued to catch the eye of international media and win top prizes at global travel awards in 2021.

In January, the New York Times included Con Dao, the 16-island archipelago in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau, in its list of "52 places to love in 2021."

The newspaper releases an annual list of 52 best travel destinations every year. However, due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, it termed this year's version "52 places to love in 2021" and instead of using recommendations from travel writers, asked readers to write about a place of special significance. The paper then chose 52 destinations to highlight from a list of more than 2,000.

Con Dao, notorious once as "hell on earth" by virtue of inhuman treatment of prisoners in a prison built by the French colonialists, continued its notoriety under the American-backed regime during the Vietnam War.

The archipelago has become an increasingly popular tourist in recent years, prompting authorities to expand the local airport to cater to growing travel demand. Photo by VnExpress/Tam Linh

In February, Phong Nha-Ke Bang, a UNESCO heritage site, was chosen among the world's 25 best national parks by TripAdvisor readers.

"The karst formation of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park has evolved since the Paleozoic some 400 million years ago and so is the oldest major karst area in Asia," the world's most popular travel guide and review website said.

The Phong Nha-Ke Bang Park was recognized as a global heritage site by the UNESCO in 2003. With over 3,000 caves and grottoes, it is often called the "Kingdom of Caves."

However, only 30 caves, including Son Doong, the world’s largest cave, are now open to visitors. The province is limiting tourism activities in the area to avoid commercial overexploitation. Photo courtesy of Ryan Deboodt

In March, Hanoi and Da Lat were included in a list of 14 best Asian spots to watch spring flowers by Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.

"The Nhat Tan Village in the northwest of Hanoi has a unique dark pink shade of cherry blossom trees curated by local gardeners," the SCMP noted, introducing the once famous flower village that enters its busiest season early January.

Located in Tay Ho District’s Nhat Tan Ward, the village, Hanoi’s peach tree hub, has become a cultural and tourism hotspot of Tet, the Lunar New Year festival. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

SCMP also mentioned the Central Highlands town of Da Lat as "being exceptionally beautiful in spring."

Da Lat has long been known as 'a city of flowers' for its horticultural industry. Photo by VnExpress/Tran Quang Anh

In April, Dam Trau on Con Dao Island was named among 25 best beaches in the world by U.S. travel site Travel+Leisure.

The American site said that due to its proximity to the airport, commercial flights fly thrillingly close, giving swimmers a chance to watch planes take off and land at close quarters.

Dam Trau Beach is situated at the edge of the Con Dao National Park and near the Co Ong Airport, four kilometers from Con Dao's downtown area in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province. Photo by Shutterstock/Jimmy Tran

Also in April, Phu Quoc Island in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang was named among the world's 15 best islands to retire this year by Irish publication International Living, which based its choice on beautiful beaches, low cost of living and rich culture.

Phu Quoc, dubbed the 'Pearl Island', became the country's first island city early this year. The once sleepy island shot to global fame after building an international airport in 2012 and rolling out a 30-day visa-free policy for foreigners in 2014. Photo by VnExpress/Khanh Tran

In May, Hai Van mountain pass between Thua Thien-Hue Province and Da Nang City in central Vietnam was listed as the world's fourth most beautiful drive by American site Travel+Leisure.

With over 55,000 pictures tagged #HaiVanPass on Instagram, the world's largest photo sharing network, the pass ranked behind the Great Ocean Road (Australia), Big Sur (California) and Jebel Hafeet (United Arab Emirates).

Crossing over a spur in the Truong Son mountain range, it lies 500 m above sea level. Its name, which literally means "cloud sea", refers to the mist that frequently rises from the ocean, reducing visibility. Photo by Shutterstock/Jimmy Tran

In June, the old Hoi An Town was ranked eighth in the annual list of 10 cheapest tourist destinations in the world drawn up by the Post Office, the U.K.’s leading currency exchange agency.

The ranking was based on the minimum required budget for eight staple items that holidaymakers are likely to purchase – a cup of coffee, a pint of beer, a can/bottle of Coca-Cola, a bottle of water, sun cream, insect repellent, and a three-course dinner for two with a bottle of wine at 46 tourist destinations worldwide.

The average cost in Hoi An for these items was s £58.39 ($80.51) per day, the agency said. Photo by VnExpress/Do Anh Vu

In July, HCMC was named among the world’s 100 greatest places by the Time magazine. The list also featured Hanoi and Phu Quoc.

The magazine said its third annual World’s Greatest Places list was "curated from editor and expert nominations from around the world" and that "the list recognizes 100 unique destinations that are offering visitors an extraordinary experience that's unlike any other." Photo by VnExpress/Tran Ngoc Dung

In August, British travel publication Rough Guides listed the Cai Rang floating market in Mekong Delta's Can Tho City among the world's 19 must-visit food hubs.

Cai Rang is about five kilometers from downtown Can Tho and 30 minutes by boat from Ninh Kieu Wharf. From very early in the morning, traders gather to buy fresh vegetables and fruit to resell elsewhere. The most crowded time is from 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. when many boats clog the waterway. Photo by VnExpress/Le Dang

In September, American new site BuzzFeed included the UNESCO-recognized Cat Ba biosphere reserve in the northern port city of Hai Phong on its list of 11 must-visit national parks.

Located 45 kilometers to the east of Hai Phong and just 25 kilometers from world-famous Ha Long Bay, the Cat Ba National Park, established in 1986, is home to a diverse flora and fauna that has won it increasing tourism popularity in recent years.

In 2003, the Cat Ba National Park was recognized by UNESCO as a world biosphere reserve in order to protect the multiple terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems as well the diverse plant and animal life found on the island. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen The Hung

In October, Cuc Phuong, a popular trekking destination near Hanoi, was named Asia's leading national park at the 2021 World Travel Awards.

It beat competitors like the Chitwan National Park in Nepal, Kinabalu and Taman Negara National Park in Malaysia, Komodo National Park in Indonesia, and Minneriya National Park in Sri Lanka to claim the honors.

Cuc Phuong, Vietnam's first national park, is located in the Tam Diep mountain range that runs across the provinces of Ninh Binh, Hoa Binh and Thanh Hoa.

The park stretches 22,408 hectares and is mainly covered by tropical rainforests. Photo by VnExpress/Kieu Duong

In November, Travel+Leisure mentioned Ban Gioc in Cao Bang Province in its list of 21 most beautiful waterfalls in the world.

"In a stunning show of power and grandeur, water flows endlessly through pools, down tiers, and over cliffs in a unique horseshoe shape," it said.

Ban Gioc encompasses a series of waterfalls on the Quay Son River in Trung Khanh District and is part of the UNESCO-recognized Non Nuoc Cao Bang geopark whose fossils, sediments, volcanic rocks, and karst landscapes are believed to be 500 million years old. Photo by VnExpress/Tran Bao Hoa

In December, Mui Ne, a popular resort town in the south central province of Binh Thuan, ranked ninth on the list of the world's 100 best beach destinations, thanks to cheap hotel rates and sunny weather.

The list was compiled by London-based luggage storage company Bounce, which analyzed the world's 250 most popular beach destinations from a variety of travel sources.

Each spot was evaluated based on a number of factors including water temperature, weather, average hotel price, number of restaurants and bars, and number of Instagram hashtags. Photo by Shutterstock/Jimmy Tran

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