Do you long for a once–in–a–lifetime travel experience where you can live every moment of adventure to the fullest? Then why not join a grand, exotic local cultural festival in Vietnam for a change? Vietnam culture celebrates the values of life, the bond of family, and the uniqueness of national characteristics. From North to South, with more than 50 ethnics practicing and promoting their own culture and way of life, you can literally see the change of culture in different places you go to. We share in our list of top 15 most unique and must-see Vietnam festivals for you to choose from. Get your bucket list ready for the update!
15 Best Vietnam Festivals for a Local Experience
Major of Vietnam festivals happen in spring which is considered the most sacred time of the lunar year. Spring is also the best time to travel to Vietnam when the weather is almost perfect – dry and not too cold. During this time, many kinds of flowers are also in bloom throughout the country, creating beautiful sceneries.
Take a look at our list of top 15 Vietnam festivals before going in detail for each.
1. Spring Festivals in Ha Giang
The Spring festivals in Ha Giang feature two main festivals: Long Tong (or Going to Field Festival) and Gau Tao Festival. These two festivals play a crucial role in the culture of the minority community in Northern Vietnam.
- Long Tong Festival
Long Tong festival in Ha Giang takes place at Lang Nung hamlet, Dao Duc commune, Vi Xuyen district, the northern province of Ha Giang. The festival has three parts: an offering ritual which includes a water procession, a plowing ceremony, and folk game playing.
The festival plays an important role in the cultural life of Tay ethnic, held on the occasion of Lunar New Year, the festival expresses the prays of the people for a good harvest in the upcoming year, good weather and happiness. During the 3 days of the festival, you’ll have a chance to enjoy the wide range of activities as well as the local food, especially the five-colored sticky rice which is a specialty of Ha Giang.
- Gau Tao Festival
Gau Tao, one of the most important festivals of H’mong minority, is held in spring, from 1st to 5th day of the first lunar month, to wish for happiness and longevity, give thanks to the gods and ancestors for health and wealth, or to ask for prosperity, children, and love.
The event consists of two parts – the ritual and the festival. H’mong family will prepare a meal on the altar and the shaman will help them connect to the ancestors, all upon the soul to return. The second part is for the guests and visitors with many traditional activities like wrestling or crow bow shooting, dancing and singing is also a part where young girls and boys can meet and find love.
2. Yen Tu Pagoda Festival – Quang Ninh
Yen Tu Pagoda Festival is one of the major festivals during Spring Festival which is held at the famous Yen Tu Mountain, Quang Ninh. This festival will be a great addition to your trip to Ha Long Bay.
The festival starts from the 10th day of the first lunar month to the end of the third lunar month. To many Vietnamese, this festival is a perfect time to make a pilgrimage to the center of Buddhism of Vietnam in the 11th century, which comprises 11 pagodas and several accommodated structures (including hundreds of shrines and towers). Yen Tu is also home to the Buddhist sect of Truc Lam.
Coming here during this festival, you’ll have a chance to see how Vietnamese people practice their religion which also includes the taxing task of climbing to the highest peak of the mountain – Dong Pagoda, 1100m above the sea level. Visitors coming to Yen Tu during Tet to pray for lucks and health for themselves and family in the new year.
You’ll also have the chance to enjoy the scenery here and clear your mind.
3. Buffalo-fighting festival – Hai Phong
Buffalo fighting is one of the most famous and exciting festivals in Vietnam, often held in Northeast region and Central Highlands. Do Son Buffalo Fighting Festival is the longest standing and often taken as an example of this kind of activity. Organized on the 9th day of the 8th lunar month, Do Son Buffalo Fighting Festival is aired on local television as one of the regional cultural activities.
The type of festival celebrates the bravery, chivalry, and risk-taking spirit of the residents of the people. It has been held since the 18th century, the locals also view the festival as an enjoyable pastime for the guardian gods of the land. Before the fight, buffalos were chosen, trained, and prepared for up to a year. After the winner is decided, all buffalos will be killed and their meat will be sold to the audience and locals as a celebration.
4. Hung King Temple Festival – Phu Tho
As one of the most sacred countrywide festivals, Hung King Temple Festival celebrates the origins and legends of Vietnam’s very first kings – Hung Kings – during Hong Bang period. The legendary birth of Hung Kings remains as the birth of the country as well: the Hung Kings came from a hundred sons hatched from a hundred eggs, born from the union of a mountain princess and a sea dragon.
Every year, Hung King Temple Festival displays as the most vivid example of Vietnamese culture and national pride. People from all regions come to Phu Tho where the temples are located to pay tribute to their ancestors’ altars. Lavish feasts, processions, an elephant march, and performances of Vietnamese music and songs are all part of the festivities.
5. Lim festival – Bac Ninh
Here comes a musical festival you’re waiting for. Lim festival is a very special festival where you can enjoy both Vietnam’s traditional music Quan Ho and local religious practice.
Quan Ho is a very enjoyable style of singing which is held a very precious place in the heart of every Vietnamese. The festival is meant to showcase the locals’ unique vocal stylings through Quan Ho folk songs. Best singers from two villages are to compete in singing dialogues (exchange singing), most iconic when they’re all on dragon boats.
The songs touch many topics but mostly exchanging love sentiments of the singers for each other. This is also why Quan Ho folk songs are loved by many. Other than singing, the festival also has many games and activities to entertain visitors, creating such a bustling and exciting atmosphere all day long.
The Lim Festival takes place on the 13th day of the first lunar month of the lunar calendar.
6. Giong Festival – Ha Noi
Giong Festival is celebrated in many parts of Hanoi to commemorate Saint Giong who is one of the four mighty immortals of Vietnam’s culture. The mythology of Saint Giong tells the story of a national hero who defended the country against foreign enemies.
Giong Festival is held at two temples – Phu Dong temple (where Giong was born) and Soc temple (where he ascended to heaven) at different times. The festival at Phu Dong temple is held from 6th – 8thday of the first lunar month while the festival at Soc temple is held from 8th -9th day of 4th lunar month.
Like many other traditional Vietnamese festivals, Giong festival also has two main parts: the ceremonies with rituals like cleaning Saint Giong’s statue, processions, incense offerings, resembling Giong’s battle and the festival part with many folk games and activities like singing, cooking, etc.
7. Long Tong Festival (Hội xuống đồng) – Lao Cai
Long Tong festival or Going to Field Festival is one of the most iconic cultural activities of ethnic minorities in the Northern region of Vietnam. This festival is held in springtime, the beginning of the year to wish for a new year of good weather, bumper crops, good health, and happiness.
Even though this kind of cultural activity can vary area to area due to cultural and living conditions, Long Tong festival has been seen in several ethnic groups in the mountainous area in North Vietnam. The festival in Sapa, Lao Cai is organized by Tay people annually, is considered the biggest Long Tong festival, gathering large crowds of local visitors and foreign tourists.
The most exciting part of the festival must be the famous game of ‘con’ throwing, which can be participated by both locals and visitors. A 20m tall bamboo pole is erected in the center of the main yard, on top of it is a 50cm diameter circle which is beautifully decorated. This circle has two sides, Nhat and Nguyet, which represent the Sun and the Moon respectively. Players will throw the “con” inside the circle and go through the paper, which requires both strength and skillfulness.
8. Cau Ngu Festival – Thua Thien Hue
In Central Vietnam, Cau Ngu festival or Fish-worshipping festival is the cultural highlight of fishermen in every region of central provinces. Cau Ngu festival in Thuan An, Thua Thien Hue is also the largest Cau Ngu festival where visitors can easily find and join.
Held on the 12th day of the first lunar month, the event is a chance to show respect to the predecessors and ancestors who claimed the land and taught the local fishing, to pray for good weather, peaceful sea and good catches in the upcoming harvest.
In the second part of the festival, you’ll have the chance to enjoy ‘Boi’ singing – a traditional local style of singing and a traditional boat race on Tam Giang lagoon which creates an incredibly exciting atmosphere for the audience. Don’t miss this festival out of your bucket list!
9. Da Lat Flower Festival
Here comes the flower festival you’re waiting for! As one of the few flower festivals and the largest one in Vietnam, Da Lat Flower Festival won’t disappoint you.
This festival has been organized every two years since 2005 to boost Dalat’s tourism. Yet the festival earned its reputation thanks to its many kinds of flowers and beautiful scenery of Dalat. Come to Dalat Flower Festival will have the chance to feast your eyes on the endless colorful flower fields arranged around the beautiful Xuan Huong Lake.
Why not come to Da Lat this December to enjoy the sight of flower and a whole range of activities in this 5-day festival?
10. Boat Racing Festival – Da Nang
Traditional Boat Racing Festival is another feature of fishermen culture which has become one of the most common cultural activities in Central Vietnam. Held annually from 2th – 7th day of the first lunar month at Lien Chieu, Da Nang, this boat racing festival attracts large crowds of both locals and tourists to come and cheer for their favorite teams!
Boat racing is considered an activity to please the mountain and water gods in giving favorable weather and peaceful sea. Weeks before the race, each village will choose their best racers who are often young men from age 18-35 to participate. Each team will have 30 racers and the winner is often crowned as the pride of their village.
The race will take place at Cu De river. On the festival day, you’ll see locals will crowd up the two sides of the river. Once the signal for the start of the race, cheers will burst from the audience as the boats rush ahead.
11. Hue Festival (Festival Huế)
Hue Festival has gained its reputation as of one the most famous cultural festivals in Vietnam aimed for a tourism boost. Organized every two years, the festival aims to honor and celebrate Hue’s cultural heritage as well as Vietnam’s identity. Since its first festival since 1992, Hue Festival never fails to create a cultural sensation and draw the attention of millions of visitors.
Come to Hue Festival, you’ll have the chance to enjoy a wide range of traditional Vietnamese activities such as calligraphy exhibition, kites playing and human chest playing. There are also the re-enact of Nguyen Hue’s enthronement and Nguyen Dynasty’s Doctoral examinations.
Art performance, firework show, exhibitions, fairs and competitions, Hue festival is not only a national activity but also a global cultural experience wherewith the participant of 40 art companies from Vietnam and all around the world. If you’re a culture lover, Hue Festival shouldn’t anyway be missed on your list of top things to do in Vietnam.
12. Ok Om Bok Festival – Soc Trang
Ok Om Bok Festival is the most renowned cultural festival of Khmer people in Mekong delta region and always make the list of top Vietnam festivals, you will have a great time enjoying the atmosphere and cultural activities of this festival.
Ok Om Bok, or known as Worshipping of the Moon is annually held on the 14th day of the 10th lunar month among Khmer community in Soc Trang. In the 10th month, it’s then ending of harvest, people gathering to show gratitude toward the moon, which protects them from harmful weather, bring bumper crops and peaceful life.
Many traditional Khmer dishes and a bamboo gate will be prepared. On the 14th night when the moon rises highest, people will gather at the pagoda and their courtyard to participate in the ritual and enjoy the food. A lantern festival and a boat race will also be held on the next day of the festival.
13. Dong Ky Firecracker Festival – Bac Ninh
This festival takes place on the 4th day of the first lunar month and can go on as many as twenty days. The most highlighted feature of the festival is the firecracker procession. Dong Ky festival honors General Thien Cuong who helped Hung Kings fight against invaders. After the battle, the general celebrated the victory with two huge firecrackers. Later he was considered the tutelary god of the village.
However, in the festival, instead of setting off a firecracker, locals parade in the procession with a giant firecracker which is decorated lavishly. If you’re keen on off-the-beaten-track experience, joining this festival will a wonderful chance!
14. Elephant Racing Festival – Central Highlands
Another festival which involve animals, Elephant Racing Festival in Central Highlands is held annually on the third month of the lunar year, at Don village, or in forests near the Sevepoi River.
Like Buffalo Fighting Festival in Do Son, the elephants also are taken care of before the day of the race. Besides grass, villagers give them bananas, papayas, sugar cane, corn, sweet potatoes. All hard work will be suspended for the elephants to preserve their strength for the race.
On the festival day, elephants from different villages will gather on the 2-kilometer race track, preferably wide enough to 10 elephants to stand simultaneously in a line.
On top of each elephant are two handlers, dressed in their traditional costumes while the audience stands on the sides of the track. After the race, elephants also participate in swimming competition, tug-of-war, throwing ball or playing football…
15. International Kite Festival – Vung Tau
This a festival that can excite any kid, no doubt. As one of the rare kite festivals in Vietnam, Vung Tau Kite Festival is a must if you’re a kite lover, or you have kids!
Held every year since 2009, Vung Tau Kite Festival attracts several kite clubs and associations all over the world. On the sky of Vung Tau’s beach, you can see many colors, styles, sizes and shapes of the kites made by kite lovers all around the world, representing the culture of where they’re from.
Each year, there’ll be a theme of the competition with the first named “The Dance of the East Sea”. The festival is often held for three days, besides flying kites, the kite artisans also have activities like teaching how to make kites to several secondary schools in the province.
Whew! What a list! Have any of the festivals we introduced caught your eye yet? Or do you have a specific Vietnam festival you particularly want to participate in? Let our local travel consultants who are truly in love with and knowledgeable of the land and its culture know your preference and help you plan your trip to join that special event!
Xin Chao Locals promises a trip to Vietnam like no other!