Three most famous Central Vietnam cities to tourists are Da Nang, Hoi An and Hue. Da Nang has mesmerizing palm-lined beaches, marvelous mountains and romantic river banks. Seaside hotels and seafood restaurants are many to choose from here, with a more affordable price. 30km to the south, Hoi An was a trading port from 15th to 19th century and has been a world heritage site since 1999. It boasts of its title as “Vietnam’s most colorful towns”. Towards the north, travelers can learn so much about history in Hue, the former capital of the country. Hue cuisine is unique, diverse and sophisticated, including a lot of recipes for vegans. Dong Hoi, Quy Nhon and Da Lat are other cities that are often in traveler’s itinerary when visiting the region. In this article, we outline what a first timer may know before flying to Central Vietnam.
- Central Vietnam Food
- Central Vietnam Weather
- Central Vietnam Floods
Going to travel Da Nang? Read our comprehensive travel guide to the city to design the easiest itenerary possible, in centralvietnamguide.com/da-nang-travel-guide.
Da Nang Introduction
Da Nang is the capital of Central Vietnam and also a well-known tourist city. Han river flows through its downtown, is crossed by nine bridges that run from the airport to the Pacific coast. Surrounded around the core, there are awe-inspiring mountains and hills, many of which are the best attractions of the whole region. This Central Vietnam city is also famous for being worth living, thanks to positive and magical transformation in recent decades. Today, it’s still one of the most happening ones and people often tag it as “the Little Singapore” to allude to its story. Because of being the base of the airport and other transportation hubs, travelers come here first. Packaged tours usually depart from Da Nang.
–Location: 1,5hrs fly from Ho Chi Minh city, 1hr and 15 minutes fly from Hanoi, 100 km south of Hue and 30 km north of Hoi An.
–Population: 1,1 millions (most populous in all Central Vietnam cities)
-Facilities (to serve tourists): Da Nang international airport, Da Nang railway station, central and southern bus stations, Tien Sa port.
Da Nang Tourist Attractions
-The Marble Mountains: a group of five spectacular marble hills emerging suddenly on the flat plain. Each hill has Buddhist temples and caves. The most visited one is Thuy Son where two of Da Nang’s oldest pagodas and best grottoes are located. Know further information in centralvietnamguide.com/marble-mountains-vietnam.
–Ba Na Hills: At an elevation of over 1,500 meters, world’s longest cable car, always-blooming flower gardens, a huge French village, a themed park, Linh Ung pagoda and outdoor performances are main interests. Know more details in centralvietnamguide.com/ba-na-hills.
–The Golden Bridge: Opened for tourists from 2018, this pedestrian bridge is located in the Ba Na hills. It’s holded by two giant hands and has gold-plated handrails. Instagrammers always have at least one picture here for social media. See further information in centralvietnamguide.com/golden-bridge-vietnam.
-Hai Van Pass: This 20km-long mountain pass provides breath-taking scenery from towering mountains to the sea. Riding a motorbike is the best way to explore it and it has become a favorite of many locals and tourists. Know more details in centralvietnamguide.com/hai-van-pass.
–Da Nang Museum of Cham Sculpture: Established in 1919 by French archeologists, this place is home of the largest collection of Champa kingdom’s sculptures in Vietnam now. Read details in centralvietnamguide.com/da-nang-museum-of-cham-sculpture.
–Dragon Bridge: Every Saturday and Sunday, this dragon breathes fire and water, making it a must-see place by night on the weekend. Read details in centralvietnamguide.com/dragon-bridge-da-nang.
–My Khe Beach: is a long stretch of sand in Da Nang’s east coastline, edged by clear waters and backed by coconut palms. Forbes magazine voted it as one of the world’s sexiest beaches. Plenty of hotels and restaurants line the boulevard nearby. Know more details in centralvietnamguide.com/my-khe-beach-da-nang.
–The Lady Buddha: this statue boasts of its 67 meters from the surroundings, the largest height for the kind in Vietnam. Facing the city, locals believe that she patronizes fisherman safety. See more details in centralvietnamguide.com/lady-buddha-da-nang.
–Son Tra Mountain: Rising up to 700 meters, this is also known as the Monkey mountain by the American soldiers in the Vietnam war. Its unspoiled forests are home of a wealthy wildlife, including red-shanked douc, one of world’s rarest primates. See further information in centralvietnamguide.com/son-tra-mountain.
–Da Nang Cathedral: also known as the Pink church because of its pink color. This is only of the kind built during French colonial time. Know more details in centralvietnamguide.com/da-nang-tourist attractions.
Going to travel Hoi An? Read our comprehensive travel guide to the city to design the easiest itenerary possible, in centralvietnamguide.com/hoi-an-travel-guide.
Hoi An Introduction
30km south of Da Nang airport, Hoi An is one of the best-known Central Vietnam cities by international tourists. It has lots of things that mesmerize travelers at their first sight. In its center, the Old town with thousands of well-protected buildings was recognised by Unesco in 1999. Around lantern-lit streets there, remains left by different nationalities are visible, including the Japanese bridge or Chinese temples. Lively markets, restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops and tailors dot the quarters also. At night, measureless colorful lanterns light on, making Hoi An become such sparkling and glorious.
Short drive from this Unesco recognition, travelers can lounge on white-sandy beaches, explore maze-like palm forests by a basket boat or cycle around quaint rural villages. Reaching further, My Son sanctuary hidden away in the jungle and Cham islands marine park are other stunners. Hoi An is famous for diverse cuisine and its signature dish is cao lau, a bowl of chewy noodles topped with sliced char siu pork and raw vegetables.
–Location: 45mins drive from Da Nang (and its airport) and 2,5 to 3 hrs from Hue. 1,5hrs from Chu Lai airport with a few flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city.
–Population: 120,000 people
–Facilities (to serve tourists): Hoi An bus station, Cua Dai harbor (for Cham island speed boats)
Hoi An Tourist Attractions
–Hoi An Ancient Town: Served as a trading port from 15th to 19th centuries, nowadays this town has become the best-preserved of the kind. Its streets and yellow-wall houses are decorated by lanterns, and become very mind-blowing at night. Visitors love to stroll or cycle around, try local foods, get custom made suits and take pictures here. Read its ultimate guide in centralvietnamguide.com/hoi-an-old-town.
–An Bang Beach: 4km north of Hoi An old town, this stretch of white sand is the best choice for lounging on the beach and dine out with fresh seafood. Live music is available in some beachfront venues. Read more information in centralvietnamguide.com/hoi-an-beach.
–My Son Sanctuary: surrounded by a ring of forested mountains, this is a complex of Hindu temples dating back from 4th century. It’s recognized as a Unesco heritage in 1999. See details in centralvietnamguide.com/my-son-sanctuary.
–Cham Islands: a group of 8 islands off the Hoi An’s coast that is not a stranger to snorkelers and divers around the country. Its marine park is amid the earliest-established ones. Know more details in centralvietnamguide.com/cham-island-hoi-an.
–Tra Que vegetable village: between Hoi An old town and An Bang beach, farmers here still use organic techniques to produce the best quality vegetables for the market. Tra Que herbs are a must for several local foods. Tourists often visit to join “farming experience” and cooking class. See details in centralvietnamguide/tra-que-vegetable-village.
–The Precious Heritage by Rehann: a lively exhibition of art photos taken by Rehann, a French expat photographer and traditional costume of all Vietnam’s ethics. Read details in centralvietnamguide.com/hoi-an-art-galleries.
–Hoi An pottery village: by a river, this 400-years-old village produced potteries to export when the town was busy in trading. Now, potteries are still made and the techniques are taught to tourists. A terracotta museum is recently-built here. See more in centralvietnamguide.com/hoi-an-pottery-village.
Going to travel Hue? Read our comprehensive travel guide to the city to design the easiest itenerary possible, in centralvietnamguide.com/hue-travel-guide.
Some 100km to the north of Da Nang and Hoi An, Hue is cut into two parts by the Perfume river which flows from the Bach Ma national park. The left bank has the Citadel where the seat of power of the Nguyen emperors who ruled the country in 19th and 20th centuries, is based. Within this wall, there are two others, called the Imperial city and the Forbidden purple city respectively.
On the opposite bank, French buildings and modern residential areas are around, including the Walking streets (best nightlife spot). In the upstream of the river, religious temples and king mausoleums are built to serve spiritual life of the royal family. Hue is also known for the most sophisticated cuisine, compared to other Central Vietnam cities. Variety of food specialties and vegetarian dishes are the city’s prides.
-Location: 2hrs by bus and car from Da Nang and 2,5hrs from Hoi An. one hour and 15 minutes by airplane from Hanoi and 1,5hrs from Ho Chi Minh city airport.
-Population: 650,000 people, 90% of which live in urban areas.
-Facilities (to serve tourists): Phu Bai international airport, Hue railway station, Hue bus stations and Chan May port (55km from the center).
Hue Tourist Attractions
– Hue Imperial City (the Citadel): near Perfume river, this is the second wall of the Citadel where the Nguyen dynasty’s kings ruled Vietnam from 1802 to 1945. Accessed by four gates, royal palaces, ancestor temples, residences, theater, lakes and gardens are built inside. The Forbidden purple city stands in its middle. Read details in centralvietnamguide.com/hue-imperial-city.
– Royal tombs: including 7 mausoleums for emperor of Gia Long (the 1st), Minh Mang (the 2nd), Thieu Tri (the 3rd), Tu Duc (the 4th), Duc Duc (the 5th), Dong Khanh (the 9th) and Khai Dinh (the 12nd). All have grand architecture and are included in the Unesco list. Read more information in centralvietnamguide.com/hue-tombs.
– Thien Mu pagoda: this Hue’s oldest Buddhist temple takes its name from a local story about a celestial lady who usually appears on its hilltop. Commissoned by the emperor and his wifes, its architecture is imposing, including a tall octagonal brick tower. Read more in centralvietnamguide.com/thien-mu-pagoda.
– Dong Ba market: Being the biggest market of the city, this draws plenty of tourists to visit, admire delicious local foods and buy souvenirs at a moderate price. See details in centralvietnamguide.com/hue-tourist-attractions.
– The Abandoned water park: Recently mentioned by some magazines as one of the world’s scariest places, this forgotten water park has a huge dragon in Thuy Tien lake. See further information in centralvietnamguide.com/hue-tourist-attractions.
– Thanh Toan bridge: built in 1776, this tiled-roof bridge is the icon of Hue’s peaceful countryside. Near it, there is an agricultural tools museum, good to know about local farming. Read more in centralvietnamguide.com/hue-tourist-attractions.
– Bach Ma national park: a meeting place between northern and southern ecoregions, this intact forest is the richest wildlife in Central Vietnam. It has a waterfall flowing down from the top of a 300-meters-high cliff. See further information in centralvietnamguide.com/bach-ma-national-park.
By both river and the sea, Dong Hoi is the provincial capital of Quang Binh, hometown of Phong Nha-Ke Bang national park (known as the Kingdom of cave”). Because of owning an airport, almost all cave explorers come here before starting their expedition into the world’s largest caverns. Its beaches are quieter than many others in Central Vietnam cities to the south. During the most recent war, American air forces dropped bombs around it and destroyed buildings, as its near-DMZ location. The ruined church Tam Toa in the riverside promenade, is the best reminder.
-Dong Hoi tourist attractions: Dong Hoi citadel, Quang Binh Quan gate, Nhat Le beach, Ham Ninh beach, Quang Phu sand dunes, Nhat Le river.
Surrounded by pretty mountains, Quy Nhon is over 320 km south of Da Nang and Hoi An. It’s famous for a long urban beach, lots of yummy local foods (especially banh xeo pancake), martial arts and ancient Cham towers. In its southern margin, Bai Xep beach is a popular spot to relax for jet setters and frequently visited by expats and foreign tourists. With a population of nearly 500,000 residents, this is one of the biggest Central Vietnam cities.
-Quy Nhon tourist attractions: the Twin towers, Ghenh Rang (the Queen beach), Ky Co beach, the Wind waist (Eo gio), Banh It towers, Thi Nai lagoon, Ong Nui pagoda, FLC safari park, Hon Kho island, Cu Lao Xanh island.
Amongst Central Vietnam cities, Da Lat is located in the largest elevation, over 1,500 meters above sea level. It’s discovered by Alexandre Yersin, a swiss doctor living in Vietnam and became a leisure city in last years of the 19th century. Travelers love its mild weather all year round, always-blooming flower gardents, hills with endless pine forests, white-water waterfalls, trekking trails and more. Today, this mountain city is home of around 500,000 people and visited by at least 5 million of tourists yearly.
-Da Lat tourist attractions: Datanla waterfall, Lang Biang mountain, the Crazy house, Linh Phuoc pagoda, Dalat flower park, Thien Vien Truc Lam, Elephant falls, Da Lat railway station, the Valley of love, Tuyen Lam lake, Da Lat market, Xuan Huong lake, Bidoup-Nui Ba national park.
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