Imbued with tradition and rituals, festivals provide an authentic way to see the “real” Vietnam. The calendar is peppered with events, but here are 7 of the best.
Dates for each can vary year on year (in accordance with the lunar calendar), so it’s worth checking in advance to avoid disappointment. For a full list of festivals and events, as well as monthly weather overviews, visit When to Travel.
1. Tet (New Year)
Let’s start at the top. Tet (New Year) is the largest, most celebrated festival in Vietnam; think Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year all rolled into one and you’re getting close. Like many of Vietnam’s festivals, Tet honours ancestors so many return home to celebrate with their families.
During the day it’s common to see gentle rituals such as the handing out of flowers and lighting candles at the temple. But in the evening celebrations become livelier with fireworks, colourful performances and lots of street food stalls.
Unsurprisingly, domestic travel routes get extremely busy and many shops, restaurants and attractions close for the whole week. Book as early as possible and keep travel down to a minimum.
2. Hue Arts Festival
If you consider yourself somewhat of a culture vulture, Hue Arts Festival is a must. As a celebration of customs practised during the Nguyen dynasty, it’s a great insight into the vibrant art scene and fascinating heritage of this historical town. There are impressive showcases – from theatre and live music to film screenings and street performances – as well as activities including boat races, kite flying and human chess games. Note: The festival takes place every two years.
3. Hoi An Lantern Festival
As perhaps Vietnam’s most famous festival, the Hoi An Lantern Festival draws huge numbers of visitors. This charming town is a firm favourite amongst visitors anyway, but when the lights go out, and those twinkly lanterns are sent down the river it’s particularly special.
Join the crowds on the banks, or find your way to a sampan boat to see the best of it. For more information about the festival, including top tips and 2019 dates visit here.
4. Wandering Souls Day/Ghost Festival (Trung Nguyen)
The story behind Wandering Souls Day, the second largest festival after Tet, is one of the most interesting of Vietnam’s festivals. This Buddhist celebration is built on the belief that a person’s soul is sent to heaven or hell when they die.
On Wandering Souls Day (or Trung Nguyen), those sinful souls who find themselves in the latter may return to their mortal homes for absolution. The day before the celebration, families travel to the temples to make offerings of flowers and food for those souls without relatives, and alters are set up in each home with food offerings to guide ancestral spirits home.
5. Dalat Flower Festival
How many things can you really make out of flowers? There’s no limit if the Dalat Flower Festival is anything to go by. In previous years, highlights have included a horse and cart, Egyptian sphinx, a giant peacock, and even a temple! Don’t miss the opening ceremony; an array of colourful costumes, fireworks, and spectacular performances.
6. Perfume Pagoda Festival
Every year, thousands of Buddhist pilgrims travel by boat across the Yen Vi River to the caves of the Huong Tich Mountain. Take on the hundreds of stone steps to the top to see colourful parades, traditional performances, long-practiced rituals and to try local food – fortunately there are plenty of shrines to rest your feet at on the way up.
7. Mid-Autumn Festival
The mid-autumn festival was originally conceived as an opportunity for parents to spend time with their children following the harvest season. As a celebration of children, the streets are normally filled with kids singing and taking part in lantern parades. Don’t miss the chance to try a mooncake during the festival (an ode to the full moon); this sweet dessert (normally containing red bean paste and salted egg yolk) is a treat.