Introduction to Vietnam's Weather
Although it’s not much bigger than the state of California in the United States, Vietnam holds three distinct regions, each with their own unique weather. The especially mountainous geography of Vietnam influences the weather felt within even a single area, depending on something as seemingly small as to what side of the mountain a city is built on.
Regardless, Vietnam possesses a wealth of destinations to experience all year round, whether its deep in the mountains near the Chinese border or basking on the beaches of Phu Quoc in the Gulf of Thailand. With just a little bit of planning and knowledge of these intricate weather patterns, your holiday to the land of the ascending dragon can go from ordinary to extraordinary in a flash.
Best Time to Visit Northern Vietnam
Northern Vietnam is truly a magical place. Here, the mountains are taller, the weather harsher. The people too reflect these truths, standing firm and proud of their history and heritage, whether they are Vietnamese or part of a small ethnic minority. Surprising to many travelers who view Vietnam as a tropical Southeast Asian country, the north has 4 distinct seasons similar to that of European countries; a chilly winter, pleasant spring, hot summer, and crisp autumn.
Each season brings with it something special, however, our favorite time of year to explore this cultural heartland is from the end of March until mid-May or September through November.
These times not only offer the most agreeable weather but also coincide with the quintessential imagery of Vietnam—the spring rice-planting season and the golden harvests of autumn.
Spring: Northern Vietnam in February, March, and April
Spring officially begins during the all-consuming national holiday of Tet, which runs from late-January to mid-February depending on the lunar calendar. This time of year is characterized by dry sunny days punctuated with cloudy, misty mornings. Additionally, humidity is at its highest during the spring, making the temperature feel cooler than it really is.
The temperature rises slowly but surely from March and April, where you can expect the first whispers of the summer heat and thunderstorms towards the end of the month.
These months are ideal for trekking in the mountainous regions of Ha Giang, Mu Cang Chai, and Sapa, as well as places nearer to Hanoi such as Mai Chau, Pu Luong, and Ninh Binh.
Summer: Northern Vietnam in May, June, July, and August
The heat rises around mid-May and the first major thunderstorms of the year hit, usually in the late afternoon for an hour or two or during the night. By June, summer is in full-swing, with hot sunny weather and sudden thunderstorms. July and August, the hottest months of the year, are coincidentally also the wettest.
Care should be taken when travelling during these months to the mountains as flooding, mudslides, and avalanches may occur without warning. Some flexibility with booking Lan Ha Bay cruises as well is advised because in the off-chance of a storm, cruises can be cancelled.
Autumn: Northern Vietnam in September, October, and November
The last of the summer showers subside by mid-September, bringing beautiful weather to the north in the form of pleasant breezes, sunny days, and cooler temperatures. Harvest season also showcases some of the most picturesque imagery of rice fields and terraces turning from green to gold.
These months are perfect for cruising Lan Ha and Bai Tu Long Bay and trekking anywhere from Ninh Binh to Sapa.