(CNN) - When it comes to variety, Vietnam is in a league of its own.
From can’t-miss essentials to adventurous side trips, we’ve shortlisted a few of the most memorable experiences in Vietnam:
1. Light a lantern in Hoi An
As one of the most beautiful destinations in Asia, Hoi An (Quang Nam province) promises no shortage of photogenic scenes. But none is more mesmerizing than the Full Moon Lantern Festival.
At this monthly festival, the city shuts off its electric lights to let thousands of rainbow-hued lanterns glow against an inky black sky -- both throughout the little lanes of Old Town as well as on the Thu Bon river.
Held to honor the full moon, the festival takes place along Old Town's waterfront promenade, where music, games and entertainment energize the atmosphere.
Alternatively, travelers can hire a sampan boat to glide along the water for a quieter experience.
Either way, it's easy to take part: You'll simply need to purchase a paper lantern and candle for a couple of dollars -- depending on your bargaining skills -- light the candle, set it inside, then send it down stream accompanied by wishes for happiness and luck. Photo: AFP
2. Search for the best pho in Hanoi
A taste of pho is a must on every journey, whether it's your first time or your 50th.
3. Trace history in Ho Chi Minh City
4. Ride the Reunification Express
The Reunification Express offers a unique opportunity to experience Vietnam's wonderful diversity.
This 1,072-mile rail line chugs from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, passing countless landscapes and landmarks along the 35-hour journey. Photo: lonelyplanet
5. Take an aerial tour of Halong Bay
Halong Bay is considered one of the most breathtaking destinations in Vietnam. The jade-toned bay is home to thousands of limestone islands, mysterious caves and wildlife.
6.Beach hop in Phu Quoc
7. Cruise down the Mekong
8. Explore the world's largest cave
9. Take a motorbike ride through the majestic north
10. Soak up tea culture in Sapa
11. Go crazy for coffee in Dalat
12. Make vermicelli noodles in Cu Da village
13. Cycle around Hue’s ancient ruins