Winter temperatures can be bitterly cold in the far north, with snow possible. The further south you go, the milder the weather. Tet occurs at the end of the month (or in February).
Dalat Flower Festival
Held early in the month, this is always a wonderful occasion, with huge elaborate displays and the whole town involved. It’s become an international event, with music and fashion shows and a wine festival.
North of Danang, chilly ‘Chinese winds’ usually mean grey, overcast conditions. Conversely, sunny hot days are the norm in the southern provinces.
Tet (Tet Nguyen Dan)
The Big One! Falling in late January or early February, Vietnamese Lunar New Year is like Christmas, New Year and birthdays all rolled into one. Travel is difficult at this time, as transport is booked up and many businesses close.
Grey skies and cool temperatures can affect anywhere north of Hoi An, but towards the end of the month the thermometer starts to rise. Down south, the dry season is ending.
Buon Ma Thuot Coffee Festival
Caffeine cravers should make for the highlands during March, as Buon Ma Thuot plays host to an annual coffee festival. Growers, grinders, blenders and addicts rub shoulders in the city’s main park, and local entertainment is provided.
Saigon Cyclo Challenge
On your marks… get pedaling. Ho Chi Minh City’s fastest rickshaw drivers battle it out in their three-wheeled chariots to raise funds for charity. Takes place in mid-March every year.
Generally an excellent time to cover the nation, as the winter monsoon rains should have subsided and there are some excellent festivals. Flights are usually moderately priced (unless Easter falls in this month).
Holiday of the Dead (Thanh Minh)
It’s time to honor the ancestors with a visit too graves of deceased relatives to tidy up and sweep tombstones. Offerings of flowers, food and paper are presented. It’s held on the first three days of the third moon.
Hue Festival (Biennial)
Vietnam’s biggest cultural event is held every two years, with events in 2014 and 2016. Most of the art, theatre, music, circus and dance performances are held inside Hue’s Citadel.
Danang Fireworks Festival
Danang’s riverside explodes with sound, light and color during this spectacular event, which features competing pyro-technic teams from the USA, China, Europe and Vietnam. Held in the last week of the month.
A fine time to tour the centre and north, with a good chance of clear skies and warm days. Sea temperatures are warming up nicely and it’s a pretty quiet month for tourism.
Buddha’s Birth, Enlightenment and Death (Phong Sinh)
A big celebration at Buddhist temples with lively street processions and lanterns used to decorate pagodas. Complexes including Chua Bai Dinh near Ninh Binh and HCMC’s Jade Emperor Pagoda host lavish celebrations. Fifteenth day of the fourth lunar month.
Nha Trang Sea Festival
Falls at the end of May (and the beginning of June) and includes a street festival, photography exhibitions, embroidery displays and kite-flying competitions.
A great time to tour Vietnam as it’s just before the peak domestic season. Humidity can be punishing at this time of year, so plan to spend some time by the coast.
Summer Solstice Day (Tet Doan Ngo)
Keep epidemics at bay with offerings to the spirits, ghosts and the God of Death on the fifth day of the fifth moon. Sticky rice wine (ruou nep) is consumed in industrial quantities.
The peak month for tourism with domestic and international tourists. Book flights and accommodation well ahead. Weather-wise it’s hot, hot, hot.
Wandering Souls Day (Trung Nguyen)
Second in the pecking order to Tet is this ancient Vietnamese tradition. Huge spreads of food are left out for lost spirits who, it’s believed, wander the earth on this day. Held on the 15th day of the seventh moon.
Children’s (or Mid-Autumn) Festival, Hoi An
This is a big event in Hoi An when citizens celebrate the full moon, eat moon cakes and beat drums. The lion, unicorn and dragon dance processions are enacted, and children are fully involved in the celebrations.
A good time to visit the far north, with a strong chance of clear skies and mild temperatures. Winter winds and rain begin to affect the centre, but down south it’s often dry.
Mid-Autumn Festival (Trung Thu)
A fine time for foodies with moon cakes of sticky rice filled with lotus seeds, watermelon seeds, peanuts, the yolks of duck eggs, raisins and other treats. It’s celebrated across the nation on the 15th day of the eighth moon and can fall in September or October.
CAMA Festival, Hanoi
Hanoi’s Club for Art and Music Appreciation (www.camavietnam.org) promotes this annual one-day festival. It’s an excellent opportunity to experience the best of Hanoi’s emerging music scene.
Cham New Year (Kate)
This is celebrated at Po Klong Garai Cham Towers in Thap Cham on seventh month of the Cham calendar. The festival commemorates ancestors, Cham national heroes and deities, such as the farmers’goddess Po Ino Nagar.
Khmer Oc Bom Boc Festival
The Mekong Delta’s Khmer community celebrates on 15th day of the 10th moon of the lunar calendar (late October or November) with colorful boat races at Ba Dong Beach in Tra Vinh Province and on the Soc Trang River
The month begins quietly, but from mid-December the popular tourist resorts get increasingly busy and you should book well ahead to secure a room over the Christmas break. It’s still steamy in the south but can get chilly up north.
Chirstmas Day (Giang Sinh)
This is not a national holiday, but it is celebrated throughout Vietnam, particularly by the sizeable Catholic population. It’s a special time to be in places like Phat Diem and HCMC where thousands attend midnight Mass.