Vietnam has a population of more than 80 million people, comprised of 54 different ethnic groups that possess historically rich cultural backgrounds and interesting folk arts. The country has more than 1,000 historical, cultural, and architectural sites which have been officially classified as “Heritage Sites”. Five of these sites have been recognized as world cultural heritage sites by UNESCO (United Nations Educational and Scientific Cultural Organization), including Halong Bay, Phong Nha – Ke Bang National park , the ancient capital of Hue, the ancient town Hoi An, and My Son Holy Land. It will become clear from excursions to these sites that Vietnam is a country with a long-established history.
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam, a sovereign and reunified independent country, has a high percentage of territorial waters. Looking at the map, Vietnam is located in the center of the Southeast Asia, and is shaped like the letter “S”. The country lies in the eastern part of the Indochina peninsula, bordered by China to the north, Laos and Cambodia to the west, and the East Sea and Pacific Ocean to the southeast. Vietnam’s coast line is 3,260 km long and its inland border measures 3,730 km.
The country’s total length, from the northernmost point to the southernmost point, is 1,650 km.
Its width, stretching from east to west, is 600 km at the widest point in the north, 400 km in the south, and 50 km at the narrowest part in the Quang Binh province on the central coast. Vietnam is also a transport junction from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.
Vietnam is located in both a tropical and a temperate zone. It is characterized by strong monsoon influences, but has a considerable amount of sun, a high rate of rainfall, and high humidity. Regions located near the tropics and in the mountainous regions are endowed with a temperate climate.
The annual average temperature ranges from 22ºC to 27ºC. In Hanoi, the average temperature is 23ºC, in Ho Chi Minh City it is 26ºC, and in Hue it is 25ºC.
There are two distinguishable seasons. The cold season occurs from November to April and the hot season from May to October. The difference in temperature between the two seasons in southern Vietnam is almost unnoticeable, averaging 3ºC. The most noticeable variations are found in the northern provinces where differences of 12ºC have been observed. There are essentially four distinct seasons, which are most evident in the northern provinces.
Three quarters of Vietnam’s territory consists of mountains and hills. Vietnam is divided into four distinct mountainous zones.
• The Northeastern Zone (Viet Bac)
This zone stretches from the Red River Valley to the Gulf of Tonkin. The mountainous area of Viet Bac is scattered with famous sights: Dong Nhat Grotto, Dong Nhi Grotto, and Tam Thanh Grotto in Lang Son Province; Bac Bo Grotto and Ban Gioc Waterfall in Cao Bang; Ba Be Lake in Bac Can; Yen Tu Mountain and Halong Bay in Quang Ninh; and Tay Con Linh, the highest mountain peak in the region reaching 2,341 meters above sea level.
• The Northwestern Zone
This zone is comprised of mountains that run from the north of the Sino-Vietnamese border to the west of Thanh Hoa Province. This magnificent mountain range is nationally known for its resort town of Sapa in Lao Cai Province, which is perched 1500 meters above sea level. Several ethnic groups, such as the H’mong, Dao, Kinh, Tay, Giay, Hoa, and Xa Pho, still reside in this region.
The northwestern zone is also famous for the historical site of Dien Bien Phu and Fansipan Mountain, which measures 3,143 meters above sea level at the peak.
• The North Truong Son Zone
This zone runs from the western part of Thanh Hoa Province to the Quang Nam-Da Nang Mountains. This region is known locally for its picturesque Phong Nha Grotto and its two breathtaking passes, the Ngang Pass and the Hai Van Pass. It is also known worldwide for being the location of the legendary Ho Chi Minh Trail constructed during the second great resistance war.
• The South Truong Son Zone
This zone is located to the west of the south central coast provinces. Behind these huge mountains is a vast area of red soil known locally as “Tay Nguyen” (the Central Highlands). There are numerous legendary accounts of the flora and fauna and of the lives of several different ethnic minorities living in the Central Highlands. Dalat, established during the 19th century, is a popular resort town in this part of Vietnam.
• Vietnam has two major deltas, including the Red River Delta in the north and the Mekong River Delta in the south.
The Red River Delta, or Northern Delta
This region stretches for 15,000 sq.km. Over time, deposits of alluvium carried from the Red River and Thai Binh River have accumulated to form the delta. The ancient Viet people settled at the junction of the two rivers . At that time, the wet rice civilization was established
• The Mekong River Delta, or Southern Delta
This region is approximately 36,000 sq. km. The land is very fertile and has favorable climate conditions for agriculture. As a result, it is the largest rice growing region in Vietnam.
Vietnam is crisscrossed by thousands of streams and rivers. There is a river discharging every 20 kilometers along Vietnam’s coastline. The waterways are a very convenient means of transport with major rivers like the Red River in the north and the Mekong River in the south.
Vietnam’s coastline is 3,260 km long. If you have a chance to travel along the coast of Vietnam, you will be able to enjoy the beautiful beaches of Tra Co, Sam Son, Lang Co, Non Nuoc, Nha Trang, Vung Tau, and Ha Tien. In some places, you will see mountains jutting out to the sea. One such magnificent site is Halong Bay, which has recently been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Vietnam’s coast has been awarded a series of large seaports, such as the ones at Haiphong, Danang, Qui Nhon, Cam Ranh, Vung Tau, and Saigon. There are thousands of islands and islets scattered offshore from north to south. Among the most popular tourist destinations are the Truong Sa and Hoang Sa Archipelagos.
The forests of Vietnam account for most of the total land area. National parks are preserved by the state and follow a steady development plan. Some of the more famous national parks located throughout the country include Ba Vi in Ha Tay, Cat Ba in Haiphong, Cuc Phuong in Ninh Binh, Bach Ma in Hue, and Cat Tien in Dong Nai.
Vietnam has a variety of mineral resources. Beneath the forests are valuable minerals such as tin, zinc, silver, gold, antimony, precious stones, and coal. Vietnam also has large deposits of oil and gas on its offshore islands and on the mainland.
Vietnam also has abundant subterranean mineral water sources. These are found at Quang Hanh in Quang Ninh, Hoi Van in Binh Dinh, Vinh Hao in Binh Thuan, Duc My in Nha Trang, Kim Boi in Hoa Binh, and Binh Chau in Vung Tau.