Vietnam’s Goldilocks month, March offers a delicious near-guarantee of clear blue skies and heaps of sunshine. With temperatures now rising in the northern mountains, conditions for hiking around Sapa, Ha Giang, and Mu Cang Chai are at their best, and Hanoi is mild and dry. Central Vietnam is much warmer, and also dry.
The beaches are in full summer mode, and there’s no better month for basking in near-constant sunshine. Likewise, while southern Vietnam is now getting hot (temperatures average 84°F/29°C), the weather is still dry—wet season is at least one month away—and perfect for sampling the beaches along the coast. Pack plenty of light, summer clothing, plus a jacket for cool days and nights in the mountains and northern Vietnam.
Crowds & Costs
The gorgeous spring weather still draws a flood of international visitors, although fewer than in January or February, and relatively few Vietnamese will be traveling. For foreigners, the beaches of central and southern Vietnam are popular destinations at this time of year, as are the highlands of Northern Vietnam, where hotel prices peak at this time of year.
With more than 700 miles (1,130 km) separating Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City as the crow flies, there’s significant difference in climate and visitor experiences. Not least, flying to Ho Chi Minh City is usually cheaper than Hanoi, where hotel costs tend to be highest at this time of year. But, in general, the cost of international flights are among the lowest of the year.
Where to Go
With its sensational limestone stacks rising from turquoise waters, Halong Bay, in far northern Vietnam, draws legions of visitors and can be crowded at this time of year with hundreds of sightseeing boats. Instead, head to nearby Bai Tu Long Bay. It has the same jaw-dropping scenery but far fewer visitors. Plus, you can explore its many lovely little beaches and caves.
March is the perfect to visit the Tay Nguyen coffee country, as the bushes are in full blossom and the air fragrant. Base yourself in the off-the-beaten-track town of Buon Ma Thuot, Vietnam’s “capital of coffee” deep in the Central Highlands. Combine a visit to a coffee estate with a wildlife adventure in nearby Yok Don National Park and the many villages of minority ethnic groups.
The fabulous weather of the central Vietnamese coast in March will tempt you to lay your towel on the sands. One of the best beaches is An Bang, immediately north of the ancient city of Hoi An. Twin time for sunbathing and calm ocean swimming with in-town sightseeing of this magnificent history town.
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What to Do
With calm waters and great visibility, the 16 remote islands and islets of Con Dao are considered one of Vietnam’s top snorkeling and scuba sites, especially in March after the occasional high winds of January and February have died down.
Don masks and flippers and kick off in search of turtles, moray eels, stingrays, and a kaleidoscope of polka-dotted, zebra-striped, candy-colored fish whose names you may forget but whose beauty you will remember forever. Plus, you can take time to hike the forest trails and explore the various museums recalling a time when Con Dao was a French penal colony (and American prison during the Vietnam War).
While exploring coffee country around Buon Ma Thuot, be sure to visit the Trung Nguyen Coffee Village to learn about kopi luwak (civet, or weasel, coffee). Then head to nearby Ban Don to experience life among to learn about the M’nong peoples who have traditional tamed and cared for the wild elephants of nearby Yok Don National Park. Since 2018, elephant rides have given way to a more ethical treatment of elephants; visitors now view elephants from a distance as they are reintegrating back to the wild.
Step up your adventure activities by heading to the UNESCO-listed Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, in jungly Quang Binh province, in Central Vietnam. The limestone upland region close to the Laos border is riddled with caverns, including Hang Son Doong. Considered to be the largest cavern in the world, it soars more than 600 feet (200 m)—tall enough to erect a skyscraper inside. Caving guides and tours can be arranged in the small town of Phong Nha. Combine it with trekking to waterfalls, and wildlife adventures in search of monkeys.
Elephant Racing Festival. Held in Ban Don in the third lunar month, this annual festival pits the elephants of adjacent villages in races, swimming, and games of football and tug of war. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without plenty of feasting and dancing to the boisterous sound of gongs and drums.
Phu Giay Festival. Taking place on the third to eighth day of the third month of the Vietnamese lunar calendar, the festival draws pilgrims to Phu Giay Temple (in Nam Dinh province) to pay tribute to Lieu Hanh, one of the Vietnamese "four immortal gods." It features folk singing and dance, plus other traditional diversions.
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's Pagoda, about 20 miles (32 km) southwest of Hanoi, on the fifth to seventh days of the third month of the lunar calendar.
Traveling to Vietnam in March? Check out these great itineraries
Impressions of Vietnam – 14 days. Enjoy two full weeks exploring Vietnam’s major highlights, plus some off-the-beaten-track gems, from Hue and Hoi An to Hanoi.
Cycling Vietnam’s Highland and Coast – 6 days. Take advantage of March’s dry sunny weather as you wheel through pine forests and past coffee plantations then head along the picturesque coast to Hoi An.