Vietnam is a country of tropical lowlands, hills, and densely forested highlands, with level land covering no more than 20 percent of the area. The country is divided into the highlands and the Red River Delta in the north, and the Giai Truong Son (Central mountains, or the Chaîne Annamitique, sometimes referred to simply as the Chaîne), the coastal lowlands, and the Mekong River Delta in the south. The highest point in Vietnam is Fan Si Pan, at 3,143 meters above sea level, in the northwest.
Vietnam is a long narrow country—a sort of Southeast Asian Chile—with a coastal plain and 1,400 mile coastline on the east side of the country along the South China Sea. The south is wider than the north. The S-shaped country has a north-to-south distance of 1,650 kilometers and is about 50 kilometers wide at the narrowest point.With exception of the area around Hanoi and the Red River, northern Vietnam is dominated by beautiful, green, misty mountains. Although three quarters of Vietnam is mountainous or hilly, the vast majority of people live in the lowland plains. About 28 percent of Vietnam is covered by tropical forests and woodlands, and 21 percent of the country is good for agriculture (compared to 21 percent in the United States). Most of this arable land is along the Red River and other river valleys in the north, in the Mekong Delta in the south, and along the coastal plains in the center of the country. Much of Vietnam's agricultural land produces two or three crops of rice a year, and Vietnam is the world's third largest exporter of rice.