Things to do in Can Tho, Mekong Delta
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Vietnam’s Mekong Delta is one of the most vibrant and naturally beautiful areas of the country. Its tropical climate and year-round warm temperatures mean that a variety of amazing fruits can be grown here, and the city is Vietnam’s fifth-largest.
However, just a short ride from the city is gorgeous countryside where time seems to have stopped. Palm trees line the idyllic river, pinapple plants spring up from the earth, and boats wind past each other, driven by people who greet each other with a cheerful ‘xin chao’. Sailing past as a tourist means that children (and some adults) run up to the banks and happily shout ‘hello!’, and cackle with laughter once they get a wave in return.
There’s not a huge amount of things to do in Can Tho, but part of the experience of being here is just sitting back and taking all of this in. If you’re in the country for a relaxing holiday, it’s the perfect place, even if you’re just spending around 10 days in Vietnam.
Despite not being all that far away at all, it feels worlds away from the scooters and neon signs of Ho Chi Minh City, and its the perfect place to unwind, pause, and just enjoy the moment. It was one of my favourite places in Vietnam for just that reason.
That being said, there are some fun things to do in Can Tho city and in the surrounding nature, and some travel tips for visiting this southern Mekong paradise.
How to Get to Can Tho
Can Tho is located about 4 hours’ south of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and most travellers will venture to Can Tho from here. It’s not located on the train line, so you’ll need to get a bus. Buses are bookable here.
You can also travel to Can Tho from other cities in South Vietnam, like Da Lat and local buses in the Mekong Delta. I took a bus from the Cambodian border, which worked out well (albeit a bit long), and then took a sleeper bus to Da Lat. You can use Bookaway to search and book buses in South East Asia – click through to go to their website.
Things to do in Can Tho in the Mekong Delta
Cai Rang Floating Market
It’s an early wake up for this one – Cai Rang Floating Market is busiest at sunrise, so it’s recommended to get on board a boat just before.
I’m guessing that you haven’t reached Can Tho by sailing the Mekong, so you’ll need to find a local with a boat to take you to the market – your homestay or hotel will be able to set this up for you (more on the amazing homestay I stayed at below!).
The market is part authentic, part touristy – you will be able to see market vendors and purchase some food, but it’s also kind of touristy. Still, seeing the Mekong wake up with the sunrise is something pretty special.
The land market is more authentic, and it’s where a lot of locals shop for their food. The market is buzzing with conversation, with people marketing what they have to offer to the weaving crowds of people which are punctuated by the occasional motorbike. There are all sorts of food on offer here; I don’t eat meat so tried not to hang around that section for too long, but really enjoyed seeing all the fantastic tropical fruits on offer.
With my homestay owner, we got the chance to decide what we wanted for dinner and purchase it at the market, to be cooked by the chefs back at the homestay later.
Cycle Around the River
One of the best ways to take the Mekong Delta in is on two wheels. Not a scooter this time – Vietnam moves at a lightning-fast pace, but here on the Mekong it’s better to take it slow to take it all in. You can rent out bikes from most homestays and cycle up and down the river, through small villages, and smile and chat to locals you see on the way.
Some people can speak really good English in Can Tho, and you might find that they are keen to stop and make conversation with you. People around this area are incredibly friendly and will love to hear your stories and share theirs. So grab a bike, cycle around, and see who you meet.
Lam The Cuong’s Cacao Farm is a great spot to visit in the Mekong Delta – you can learn all about how cacao is made and transformed into chocolate through a walk through the plantation and a demonstration.
Chocolate and chocolate drinks are provided in a tour and you can purchase some to take home. The owner speaks excellent English and has spent time in the US, and in true Mekong style, is always down for a chat with his guests.
Taking a boat out for a sunset cruise is one of the best ways to take in Can Tho from the water. You’ll sail through the trees, enjoy the tropical scenes and eventually witness a spectacular sunset, accompanied by a cold can of Saigon Beer. It’s the perfect way to end a day on the Me Kong Delta.
Can Tho Prison
Most of the best things to do in Can Tho are centred around the lake, but Can Tho Prison is worth seeing – despite it being a decidedly more somber attraction. Can Tho Prison was used in the French and American War, and features 21 detention rooms where you can learn about the grim historic penal system in Vietnam.
Ninh Kieu Wharf
This area in the city is great for sunset, with grassy space to sit down at and one of the iconic statues of Ho Chi Minh himself. There are also plenty of places to eat and drink here.
Where to Stay in Can Tho
I highly recommend Can Tho Boutique Lodge Homestay. This is where I stayed when enjoying the best things to do in Can Tho, and it’s one of the only 10/10 reviews I’ve ever given on Booking.com.
The owner speaks perfect English and is on hand to help with anything – he has dinner and drinks with his guests and also guides them around the floating and dry markets. His chefs cook up delicious food every night, made from ingredients purchased at the dry market.
The rooms are beautifully decorated, with bathrooms with power showers and hot water and comfortable beds. Outside, there’s a chill-out area next to each room and a covered dining area by the river. All the activities I mentioned above can be arranged with the host.
I really would recommend booking this homestay to anyone, whether you’re a backpacker, solo traveller, family or couple – it’s great value (I paid around $24 per night – meals and activities aren’t included) and is a real slice of luxury for what you get. For budget backpackers, it might be a bit of a splurge – but it’s really worth it!
What to Do in Can Tho – A Complete List
I hope this list of what to do in Can Tho has helped you when planning your trip to the Mekong Delta! Don’t forget to check out my other Vietnam posts for more helpful travel tips to the country and to South East Asia.
Here’s my Vietnam YouTube video that features Can Tho