October sees the gradual end of the wet season in North Vietnam. By month-end, the temperatures also drop sharply (averaging 77°F/25°C for the month) as the region edges towards the cool, dry winter. The weather in the popular mountainous regions of Sapa, Mu Cang Chai and Ha Giang is now mostly dry and sunny—perfect for trekking. And October and November are among the best months of the year for exploring Hanoi and Halong Bay.
In Central Vietnam, the northeast monsoon is at its peak, with heavy storms and prolonged rains and knee- or waist-high flooding, particularly in Hoi An. Expect temperatures to average around 75-81°F (24-27°C). Although there are sunny bright spots, this is far from the best time for a beach vacation. The rains (and possible typhoons) will continue to lash the coast through November, but in the Dalat and the Central Highlands, the heavy rains begin to break by month’s end, when active outdoor vacations again become viable.
South Vietnam is gradually easing out of its six-month monsoon season by month’s end, when the southern beach resorts bask again in increasing sunshine. It still rains on average 14 days out of the month, but rainfall is not as heavy as September and grows light as the month progresses. Temperatures hold steady throughout the month, averaging 81°F (27°C). This is a good time for visiting the Mekong Delta, and the beach resorts, including the islands of Con Dao and Phu Quoc.
Crowds & Costs
International visitors arrive in large numbers as October progresses, taking advantage of the sunny weather that increasingly becomes the norm towards the end of the month. Nonetheless, October and November are historically among the cheapest months to fly to Vietnam; conversely, October is actually the priciest month for hotels in Hanoi. Visitors are returning to the South Vietnam beaches, but not as yet in sufficient numbers to crowd you out.
Where to Go
In the far north, the weather is now perfect for trekking the mountains around Sapa, Mu Cang Chai, and Ha Giang, with their dramatic karst landscapes, and slopes terraced in rice—golden at this time of year, and ripe for harvest. For the best of karst formations, head to Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark, in Ha Giang province.
It’s hard to believe that the lush jungle of Cat Tien National Park (95 miles/150 km northeast of Ho Chi Minh City) was virtually deforested during the Vietnam War after being heavily sprayed with defoliants. Both the forest and its wildlife have made an astonishing comeback. Birdwatchers can check off as many as 348 species. And its mammal fauna includes elephants, monkeys, Siamese crocodile, and the endangered Javan rhinoceros. The best time to visit is late October, once the monsoon rains have diminished. Reservations are essential, as visitor numbers are limited.
For a fascinating insight into what the “American War” (what locals call the Vietnam War) meant for Vietnamese families, head to the former DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) to explore the Vinh Moc tunnels, about 50 miles (80 km) north of Hue. This vast labyrinthine of underground tunnels is the remains of a coastal village, whose 50 or so families went underground to survive prolonged U.S. bombing. Visit the museum, then hire a guide to lead you through the civilian complex, which is kept in its original form.
What to Do
October is a good month to hike to the summit of Mount Fansipan (Phan Xi Păng), in North Vietnam. Less adventurous travelers can take a cable car to the top of the country’s tallest peak (10,312 feet/3,143 m). Allow two to three days for the climb from Sapa. Most visitors now arrive by cable car, but hiking the trail is a far more invigorating, enriching, and personal experience. A guide is compulsory and can be hired in Hanoi or Sapa.
As the rains clear from the Central Highlands, Vietnam’s temperate and mist-shrouded mountainous midriff comes back online. Bordering Cambodia to the west, the region around off-the-beaten-track Buon Ma Thuot (the site, in March 1975, of a major battle between the North Vietnamese and South Vietnamese armies) is home to many ethnic minority group, and the town has a superb Ethnology Museum. Use the town as a base for sojourns to Yok Don National Park, local coffee plantations, the exquisite Dray Sap waterfall, and Lak Lake, with its villages of traditional thatched-roof houses on stilts.
Tet Trung Thu (Mid-Autumn Festival). This fun festival is held between the end-of-September and mid-October on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. It features lion dances and fanciful red lanterns to help a legendary moon-bound figure back to Earth. It’s popular with children, who get special entertainment, toys, and treats such as moon cakes.
Cham Kate Festival. Held in the coastal town of Thap Cham in South Vietnam, this festival commemorates ancestors, plus national heroes and deities such as Po Ino Naga, founder of the Cham peoples according to local legend.
Khmer Oc Bom Boc Festival. Colorful boat races are a highlight of this festival, celebrated by the Mekong Delta’s Khmer community in late October or November on the 15th day of the 10th moon of the lunar calendar. Good places to witness it are on the Soc Trang River and at Ba Dong Beach (in Tra Vinh province).
Traveling to Vietnam in October? Check out these great itineraries
Best of Northern Vietnam – 7 days. Enjoy a week full of North Vietnam highlights, from trekking in Sapa, visits to local ethnic communities, and a picturesque boat ride in Halong Bay.
Active Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho, & Phu Quoc – 11 days. Thrill to a mix of cultural, biking, and beach tours, including the Cu Chi tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City, bicycling and a boat ride in the Mekong Delta, plus the temples and markets of Phu Quoc.