January is the heart of dry season, and you can expect plenty of sunshine and gorgeous blue skies. However, Hanoi and the north can be quite chilly (averaging 64°F/18°C) and even foggy, particularly at night, with lingering showers.
Temperatures in the north can drop below 50°F (18°C), and mountainous areas like Sapa, Mau Son (Lang Son) and Ha Giang can even get snow. And spectacular Halong Bay is renowned for being quite hazy at this time of year—not the best time for photographing. You’ll need to pack some warm clothing and a rainproof against damp, foggy weather.
Things warm up as you head south, and the beach resorts of central and southern Vietnam bask in sunshine with average temperatures fluctuating between 68°F (20°C) and a balmy 86°F (30°C), respectively. Things will be cooler in the Central Highlands, however. There’s little need for raingear in January, but be sure to bring your swimwear and appropriately light clothing. And do bring some warm clothing for evenings and early mornings, which are much cooler than daytime.
Crowds & Costs
January is definitely a high tourist season month in Vietnam, especially in the beach areas of Central Vietnam, plus the top-draw destinations of the south, where Mekong Delta river travel is at its peak. However, the still-cool far north of Vietnam is far from crowded this month, even at such popular destinations as Sapa, Ha Giang, and Halong Bay. If you want to avoid the crowds at this time of year, this is one of the best times to visit the north.
The Lunar New Year—Tet, the biggest festival of the year—falls between late January and mid-February (varying by year). Celebrations typically last a full week, with many Vietnamese returning to their ancestral homes, so this is one of the busiest times for travel for both locals and visitors. Make reservations well in advance. Many shops and markets, plus all government offices, close for the duration of the Tet celebrations, as do many tourist sites. And transportation options will be significantly reduced.
Expect to pay peak-season prices for airfare and hotels—on average about 25 percent more than the annual average, and as much as double the cost of mid-summer.
Where to Go
Sure, you won’t be the only one to cotton on to January being a prime time to visit the Mekong Delta, but this is still a fantastic time to take a Mekong cruise from Ho Chi Minh City. The weather will be mostly dry and relatively cool, and the water will be calm for exploring by boat. Plus, flowers will be in bloom, adding to the sensational colors of the floating markets.
January’s “Goldilocks” weather is perfect for a beach vacation: sunny and warm, but not hot and humid. The beach resorts of Hoi An, Danang, and Nha Trang, in Central Vietnam, are top choices and extremely popular at this time of year with good reason. For the very best beach experience head to Phu Quoc Island, in the Gulf of Thailand at the very extreme southwest of Vietnam, where the temperatures at this time of year average 77-82°F (25-28°C).
In the north, this is a great time to explore Hanoi. Pack some warm clothing against the often chilly weather and hop on a bicycle to explore like a local, perhaps focusing your senses on the delights of Hanoi street food. If you’ve set your sites on Halong Bay, note that it can be hazy at this time of year.
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What to Do
Sapa is rightly acclaimed as one of Vietnam’s most exquisite settings, and is a top draw for photographers. Whether you’re an amateur aficionado or professional, grab your camera and head into the hills. Sapa is especially beautiful in winter, when fog in the valley bottoms adds allure and the Fansipan Mountain—snow-capped at this time of year—add drama in the distance. Sapa is also a favorite of hikers.
If you prefer sun and warmth, head south to the coastal resort city of Nha Trang, with its many beaches, offshore islands, and great dive sites. The crystal-clear waters of Hon Mun Marine Park abound with coral reefs and abundant colorful fish, including sea horses and rays. Novices can train at Moray Beach, and snorkeling is fun right off the beach.
In late January, don’t miss Tet—the Lunar New Year celebration. The whole country celebrates, but for the best experience, you can’t beat Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, and especially Hanoi. At the stroke of midnight on Tet eve, fireworks will let fly across Hanoi, launching a full week of festivals and festivities.
Tet, Vietnamese New Year. This six-day, nationwide celebration usually falls between late January and mid-February, drawing Vietnamese back to their ancestral homes for non-stop festivities.
Da Lat Flower Festival. Held in early January, this biennial festival features elaborate and mammoth floral displays, plus live music, fashion shows, and more.
Traveling to Vietnam in January? Check out these great itineraries
Cycle the Highlands & Coast of Vietnam – 14 days. Dry sunny weather that’s not too hot and humid is ideal for cycling, so spin your way around Vietnam on this tour that combines the central coast and the northern highlands.
Highlights of Vietnam – 9 days. From Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, there’s a lot to see. This itinerary is perfect for first-time visitors who want to discover the highlights, including Ha Long Bay, plus time for hiking in Pu Luong.