With the hot, wet summer months just around the corner, temperatures continue to rise. In northern Vietnam, the temperatures are now delightfully warm and perfect for hiking such mountain regions as Ha Giang, Mu Cang Chai, and Sapa.
The rest of the country also still basks in sunshine, with temperatures rising as you move southward. The beach resort weather is still at its best, but further south Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta already average a very sultry 88°F (31°C)—in fact, April is the hottest month of the year in Ho Chi Minh City, and temperatures and humidity levels can be suffocating. And you can expect a few rainy days towards month’s end as the wet season approaches, especially in South Vietnam.
In sum, April is a great time to visit if you wish to avoid the chilling cold of northern Vietnam winter, the extreme heat of southern Vietnam in summer, or the risk of typhoons in the autumn months. Pack your sunscreen and a shade hat with your shorts and swimwear, and a light rainproof and/or umbrella is de rigueur towards the end of April.
Crowds & Costs
April sees a slight shoulder-season spike in arrivals following the high-volume tourism of late winter and early spring. But for the most part, the beaches, cities, and countryside are uncrowded and you gain the advantage of great weather (especially in early April) without jostling shoulder to shoulder with other visitors.
The exception comes at month’s end for the celebration of unification (April 30) and, the following day, International Labor Day: then, half the country seems to head to the beaches and most popular tourist sites for a mini-vacation, and prices for certain services are hiked. Note, however, that while certain parts of Vietnam are relatively quiet, others such as Sapa and Halong Bay show a peak in visitation in April.
Where to Go
April is a perfect time to visit Hanoi, with just-right Goldilocks weather at this time of year. Your not-to-miss wish-list should include Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, the colonial Old Quarter, the iconic (and 1,000-year-old) One-Pillar Pagoda shaped like a lotus blossom, plus a show at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater. Then head to Halong Bay. In April, the haze of earlier months typically gives way to clear blue skies perfect for photography. Plus, the sea temperature has risen to an average of 75°F (24°C)—warm enough for swimming.
Speaking of northern Vietnam, there’s no better time for hiking the terraced hillsides of Sapa. Not only has the weather warmed by April, but the fields are full of wildflower blossoms. And the hill-tribes that farm the fields will be preparing for a new season with plows drawn by water buffalo. No surprise, since Sapa is at its most photogenic, it welcomes a huge number of visitors at this time of year.
Tiny Ly Son Island, off the coast of Central Vietnam, is justifiably popular in April for ocean swimming and scuba diving. This off-the-beaten-track gem is actually twin volcanic islands—Lon Island and Be Island—ringed by coral reefs. Geologically fascinating, they feature dramatic cliffs rising sheer from crystal-clear, jade-colored ocean waters. Getting there is easy via a fast-ferry from Sa Ky, in Quang Ngai province.
What to Do
Ninh Binh—about 55 miles (95 km) south of Hanoi—resembles Ha Long Bay, but on land. It’s far less well-known, yet is a Nirvana for adventure-oriented activities. To get here, hop aboard the “Reunification Express” for the 3-hour train ride.
Then, after checking off a sightseeing wish-list (including the Gothic Phat Diem Cathedral and various pagodas, including Bai Dinh, the largest pagoda in South East Asia), explore by boat through the rice paddies and cave-riddled mountains of Trang An and Tam Coc. April is the perfect month to visit, as cabbage white butterflies flock seasonally to Cuc Phuong National Park.
Take to the sky in a hot-air balloon during the Hot-air Balloon Festival in Hue, at the end of April. The event sees dozens of balloons from around the world competing and offering tourist rides. The lovely April weather is also amenable for sightseeing in this ancient and evocative UNESCO World Heritage Site city, with its many pagodas, Imperial Citadel, and Emperors’ tombs. Hire a cyclo for a half-day or full-day city tour.
Hung Festival. Held each 8th to the 11th day of the third lunar month, this festival honors the ancient Hung Vuong dynasty born, according to legend, from the union of a princess and a sea dragon, resulting in a hundred sons hatched from eggs laid by the princess... inspiration for Game of Thrones’ Daenerys Targaryan, perhaps? It’s held at the Hung Temple near Viet Tri, in Phu Tho province, some 50 miles (30 km) northwest of Hanoi.
Thay Pagoda Festival. This celebration honors Tu Dao Hanh, a wise religious sage and inventor commemorated for inventing Vietnamese water puppetry. Such puppetry shows are a highlight of the festival, held at the Tu Dao Hanh Pagoda, about 20 miles (32 km) southwest of Hanoi, on the fifth to seventh days of the third month of the lunar calendar.
Xen Xo Phon Festival. An invocation for rains, this festival in Mai Chau features nighttime singing by torchlight by youngsters of the White Thai indigenous tribe. According to tradition, the bigger the festival the more abundant will be the rains to feed their rice paddies.
Reunification Day. The last day of the month--the Day of Southern Liberation for National Reunification—sees a nationwide celebration of reunification following the fall of Saigon in 1976, marking the end of the Vietnam War. The Danang International Fireworks Festival (April 30–May 1) is an integral part of the festivities,
Traveling to Vietnam in April? Check out these great itineraries
Active Trip Through Vietnam – 12 days. Travel from the mountains of the north and through the history of Vietnam down to the Mekong River delta on this 12-day itinerary, which includes cycling, hiking, and kayaking.
Head Off the Beaten Path in Vietnam – 7 days. A boat tour through caves filled with stalactites, an exploration of the Vinh Moc tunnel, and a visit to the Imperial Citadel of Hue are a few highlights of this fabulous week-long program.