Vietnam’s natural beauty and lush landscapes provide some of the best scenic views in the world. This Southeast Asian gem is home to lush jungles, deep valleys, expansive green rice fields, vibrant cities, and incredible beaches.
To add to the natural appeal of Vietnam are the 2000 or so rivers that flow throughout the nation’s long, skinny countryside. There are a total of 41,900km of wild and flowing rivers that penetrate the landscape, providing beauty, livelihood, and a means of transportation to the entire country.
Here are among Vietnam’s most famous major rivers, in no particular order:
The grand Mekong River is well-known as the largest river in all of Southeast Asia. Running wild for a total of 2703 miles from the Tibetan plateau of China, this mighty river winds its way through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, discharging into the South China Sea.
The Mekong has long served as an important route for trade and movement throughout Asia, making it a unique landmark worth visiting on your next trip to southern Vietnam. The region of the Mekong Delta that is the backbone of many Vietnamese people’s livelihood lies to the west of Ho Chi Minh City.
Its rivers and canals provide great capacity for fishing, while the surrounding flat terrain provides a large space, perfect for rice production and other agricultural farming.
Life in the Mekong Delta revolves around the river and is full of hard-working people who produce an average of 10% of Vietnam’s gross income from tending and working the land. Although based on a slower-paced way of living, this area has not been industrialized, allowing those who call the Mekong their home to use its waters to its fullest.
The Red River has many different names including the Hong (pink) River, the Hồng Hà and Sông Cái in Vietnamese, and the Yuan River in Chinese. This 1,149-kilometer-long jewel begins its flow in the southwest China area of Yunnan province and makes its way into northern Vietnam.
Before reaching Vietnam’s capital city, the Red River flows through Lao Cai, Yen Bai, Phu Tho, and Vinh Phuc provinces. It then touches Hanoi, ending in the Gulf of Tonkin. The reddish-brown heavily silt-laden water gives the river its name.
Those living in the capital city of Hanoi are reliant on the Red River, whose names come from the reddish-brown heavily silt-laden color of the water, for trade, agriculture, fishing, and as a source of life. It flows into the city center and feeds famous lakes such as Hoan Kiem Lake in the city’s historical district, making itself well-known and world-famous.
Once a trade route by French explorers between Vietnam and China, the Red River still flows bold and red today, continuing to contribute to the capital city’s long prosperity. From Hanoi, this imposing river continues through Hung Yen, Ha Nam, Nam Dinh, and Thai Binh province before dispensing into the East Sea, its final destination.
Dong Nai River
The Dong Nai River, formerly known as Phuoc Long, originates in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. This 586km body of water, is known for having many waterfalls, which is why many tourists add this river to their itinerary.
Named after the Dong Nai Province, this river flows through eleven separate provinces and joins with the mighty Saigon River just north of Ho Chi Minh City.
Flowing from southern Cambodia and the southeast of Vietnam, the Saigon River travels directly into Ho Chi Minh City where it joins the Dong Nai. Anyone visiting the bustling city of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) will see its splendor as it flows past skyscrapers, villages, and ancient houses that dot the riverbanks.
You may enjoy taking a boat ride down the Saigon River where viewers can observe the city from the water while experiencing tunnels, bridges, and canals that connect Ho Chi Minh City to the outside villages and communities.
This is a working river and all along the banks, you will experience a great view of common daily life in Vietnam. On your next trip, pay close attention to the beauty of the Saigon River, which acts as both Ho Chi Minh City’s great port and main water supply.
Until 1945, Hue City was the capital city of Vietnam. The Citadel, which contains the Imperial City and the Emperor’s private residence, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and well worth an intentional visit. There, you will be wise to spend time floating on the Perfume River, which is full of beauty that is unique to the rest of Vietnam.
Bordering the city and only 80km long, the Perfume River decorates the landscape. Its name comes from the autumn flowers blooming in orchards, that fall into the river and float down, releasing an enjoyable perfume-like aroma. The Perfume River is perfect for long boat rides where you can enjoy the splendid riverside landscape.
The romantic Hoai River is quite popular for its scenic landscapes and meandering streams. Flowing through the old town of Hoi An, the Hoai River provides a calm atmosphere, as well as a lively one in the evenings, as Hoi An residents and visitors frequent its riverbanks.
Hoi An, with its illuminated, lantern-covered streets, is a lovely place to spend a holiday. Take a riverboat at night to view the lights dancing on the water and throughout the village. Sunsets and sunrises provide epic beauty on this river and a stop at Cua Dai Beach rounds out an exceptional holiday experience.
The Son River runs through Quang Bình Province and leads to the entrance of the Phong Nha caves. Much of this river actually flows underground in the limestone mountain range of the area. While floating along the Son River, travelers will see numerous cornfields and banana gardens dotting the beautiful landscape as it eventually empties into the South China Sea.
The river and caves can be discovered within the Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The caves are is 7,729 meters in length and contain 14 grottoes, as well as the underground Son River.
The Black River begins in China and flows into Northwestern Vietnam. The river is best known for being the home of the three largest hydroelectric plants in the entire country, producing 1920 megawatts of the country’s electricity requirement annually. One major city located on the banks of the river is Hoa Binh City.
The river’s total length is 910 km, with approximately 527km actually located within Vietnam. As the Black River continues along towards its later stage, it unites with the Red River and flows mightily into the capital city of Hanoi.
The Srepok River originates in the Central Highlands of Vietnam and flows into Cambodia. It’s a major tributary of the Mekong River and is over 252 total miles in length. With more than 11,000 people living alongside the river, fishing and rice-growing is the main source of life and revenue for most inhabitants.
In the late 1800s, when road infrastructure was basically non-existent in this region, the Srepok River was a critical water transport route between the Central Highlands of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.
Today, visitors can still enjoy floating down the river to observe everyday Vietnamese life in the waterfront villages. A favorite tourist stops along the river includes visiting three scenic waterfalls: Dray Nu, Gia, and Virgin.
Located in the South Central Coast Region of Vietnam, the Han River flows directly through the heart of Da Nang City and eventually empties into the South China Sea. Altogether, it flows at a calm, steady pace and is approximately 4 miles in length.
Most of this lovely river is dotted with skyscrapers, restaurants, and bars, and from a riverboat, the Han provides a glorious view of the big city. The main attraction of the Han River is definitely the Han River Bridge, which was completed in 2000 and is the only swing-bridge in the country.
Daily, the bridge will swing one time for approximately 15-20 minutes. All visitors to Da Nang flock to the bridge at this time to watch the performance. Though there are many bridges over the Han, none is more popular or creates more emotion than the Han River Bridge.