Vietnam is located on the eastern Indochina Peninsula between the latitudes 8° and 24°N, and the longitudes 102° and 110°E. It covers a total area of approximately 331,210 km2 (127,881 sq mi), excluding the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa islands, making it almost the size of Germany. The combined length of the country's land boundaries is 4,639 km (2,883 mi), and its coastline is 3,444 km (2,140 mi) long. Vietnam's land is mostly hilly and densely forested, with level land covering no more than 20%. Mountains account for 40% of the country's land area, and tropical forests cover around 42%.
The northern part of the country consists mostly of highlands and the Red River Delta. Phan Xi Păng, located in Lào Cai province, is the highest mountain in Vietnam, standing 3,143 m (10,312 ft) high. Southern Vietnam is divided into coastal lowlands, Annamite Chain peaks, and extensive forests. Comprising five relatively flat plateaus of basalt soil, the highlands account for 16% of the country's arable land and 22% of its total forested land. The soil in much of southern Vietnam is relatively poor in nutrients.
Countryside around Cái Mon in the Mekong Delta.
The Red River Delta (also known as the Sông Hồng), a flat, roughly triangular region covering 15,000 km2 (5,792 sq mi), is smaller but more intensely developed and more densely populated than the Mekong River Delta. Once an inlet of the Gulf of Tonkin, it has been filled in over the millennia by riverine alluvial deposits, and it advances 100 meters (328.1 ft) into the Gulf annually. The Mekong delta, covering about 40,000 km2 (15,444 sq mi), is a low-level plain no more than 3 meters (9.8 ft) above sea level at any point. It is criss-crossed by a maze of rivers and canals, which carry so much sediment that the delta advances 60 to 80 meters (196.9 to 262.5 ft) into the sea every year.
Vietnam is a country of tropical lowlands, rolling green hills, and densely forested mountains. Low-level land covers about 20% of the country. The Red River delta is fronted by hills that rise gently into the high mountains of the northwest; the Annam Highlands cover much of the central landscape, and in the southern areas, the coastal lowlands and Mekong River Delta merge. A fertile and narrow coastal lowland extends south from the Red River Delta to the Mekong Delta.
The Mekong Delta is a low-level plain, one inundated by hundreds of small rivers and canals. Thick jungles and mangrove swamps cover the far-southern areas of land. The Red River (Song Hong), and the Mekong are the most significant rivers; both have numerous tributaries, and the latter is certainly among the great rivers of the world.