The heart of Vietnam is also the country`s soul, stuffed with astonishing historic sites and cultural heritage. For those who don`t fancy visiting the chaotic megalopolises of Saigon and Hanoi the imperial city of Hue and the merchant town of Hoi An will definitely be their favourites. Both places offer a wonderful insight into ancient Vietnam. And just to make the travel package more dazzling, a tour through Da Nang will please with an illuminated skyline of skyscrapers, riverside promenade, fine-dining restaurants and some of the finest beaches in Vietnam. 

The Imperial Royal Palace of the Nguyen dynasty in Hue


Once the capital of Vietnam, and today a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the imperial city of Hue has a distinguished history and a long tradition. Despite the bitter battles during the Vietnam War, it has kept its air of romance, refinement and spirituality.

On the north bank of the Perfume River, Emperor Gia Long built a huge citadel in the Chinese style that hides the ‘Forbidden City’ at its heart. The tombs of the Nguyen Dynasty are why UNESCO named Hue an “adorable architectural poem. Built to strict rules of geomancy and depicting personality elements of each individual ruler – the tombs are a sight to behold.

The Ngo Mon Gate and the Thai Hoa Palace are the highlights of the city, along with many other monuments such as ancestral altars, pagodas, temples, royal mausolea and interesting museums to be visited.

The Forbidden City of Hue

The Forbidden City of Hue


  • Set out on a big educational, self-guided sightseeing tour around the city of Hue to learn more about the history of Vietnam
  • Imperial Citadel – Hue’s major attraction and a huge ancient complex filled with moats, temples, walls, gates, museums, and galleries – this is a good half a day excursion!
  • Ancient Emperor Tombs – take a tour to the other important historic site at the Perfume River where you will spend a day to search around the tombs
  • Sightseeing – pay a visit to the Forbidden Purple City, Truong Sanh Palace, Thai Hoa Coronation Palace and Ngo Mon city wall
  • Rent or buy a motorcycle in Hanoi and ride along the staggering coastline of Central Vietnam to the royal city of Hue (this is the best way how to get to Hue without having to take an organized tour)
  • Stop by at the majestic Son Doong Cave on the way to Hue, with a fast-flowing river inside. It has got the largest cave passage cross-section in the world

Thien Dinh Palace, Hue


The modern city of Da Nang is the beach hub of Central Coast; mostly for the Vietnamese tourists, however. Westerners often overlook this place but there is a great potential for tourism, and Da Nang is slowly but surely becoming a new vacation spot, and the rapidly growing development speaks for it. With sparkling skyscrapers and a lovely riverfront promenade the city reminiscent of a subdued version of Shanghai`s Bund.

Sitting on the banks of the Han River, Da Nang boasts riverside dining and entertainment, but also fine palm-fringed beaches, including pretty My Khe Beach, known as China Beach for American G.I.’s. This is the place to unwind and recharge your batteries. Moreover, the nearby off-shore islands are home to the abundant underwater world and marine life – so, scuba divers and snorkellers are welcome, too!

Da Nang`s hinterland provides fabulous opportunities for trekking, caving and camping – the well-known Marble Mountains is the perfect sanctuary for all nature lovers.

Da Nang City

Da Nang City


  • Beach Time – spend the whole day lazying on the My Khe Beach, appreciating their laid-back atmosphere, white sands, and emerald waters
  • Dragon Bridge – have a stroll to the Ferris wheel on the Han River, there is a bridge with a giant metal dragon built into it. At night it changes colours, and sometimes even blows fire and water – great for photographers!
  • Hire a scooter and drive to the summit of the Monkey Mountain in the south and the Marble Mountains in the north, which offer magnificent views of the city and the stunning coastline. There are several caves with incorporated Buddhist temples, e.g. Am Phu Cave
  • Ba Na Hill Station – not far from the city there is an old French mountain resort. Popular with the Vietnamese elite, the area features temperate climate, unspoiled forest, and spectacular views over the South China Sea  (It is suitable for a day trip from Da Nang as the accommodation is extremely overpriced)
  • Cham Island – take a boat tour of the gorgeous group of 8 islands in the Cu Lao Cham Marine Park – a UNESCO recognized Biosphere Reserve, the archipelago offers fantastic snorkelling!

Monkey Mountain in the Marble Mountains, Da Nang


Strap on your walking shoes – Hoi An is a town best explored on foot. The large community of foreign merchants living here between the 16th and 18th centuries left a heady mix of architecture, which combines Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese cultures.

At that time ships from Europe brought weapons, sulphur and lead, and left, with silks, porcelain and exotic oils and spices from the Far East. Many Chinese and Japanese settled here due to the great trading opportunities and their heritage is visible literally everywhere around.

Today, this UNESCO-listed town of Hoi An features well-preserved architecture, old cobbled streets, lined with large, attractive merchant houses and pagodas and picturesque riverside promenades spotted with art stalls, markets, pretty restaurants and tailor-shops.

Hoi An

Hoi An


  • Explore the Old Town – it requires purchasing a ticket to enter the town, though. The ticket usually includes five attractions, e.g. museums, old houses, assembly halls, the handicraft workshop, traditional music show, the traditional theatre, the Japanese Covered Bridge and the Quan Cong Temple
  • Book one of the myriads tours – sunset dinner cruise, snorkelling, diving, kayaking, fishing villages, cooking classes, culture tours (pottery village, silk village) and others. There is really something for everyone
  • Custom-made suit – select an outfit from the latest fashion catalogues and having it tailor-made on the spot
  • Take a city stroll by night – it is absolutely spectacular!
  • Celebrate a full moon lantern festival in Hoi An and enjoy the spellbinding spectacle of hundreds of sparkling lights sailing down the river and lightening up in the sky, it truly is magical..

Lantern Festival, Hoi An


The best way to travel the Vietnamese coastline is by motorbike, car or a train. You can either land in Hanoi and travel by train down the coast, stopping by at the main points of interest and have an outward flight from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) or do it the other way around.

Many travellers land in Hanoi, buy an old motorcycle (prices starting at $100 USD+), travel down the coast and re-sell in Saigon, where they have an outward flight ticket from. Otherwise, it is possible to do the same route, starting in Saigon, riding up the coast and leaving the country from Hanoi. The motorbike market is great in Vietnam and travellers typically buy-sell-swap the vehicles through their hostels, guesthouses or online. It is a unique once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Suggested time for such a coastal road/train trip is 10-14 days 

Local people enjoying the lantern festive season, Hoi An


The dry season generally runs from May till August, however, it gets extremely hot at this time of year when the temperatures reach 40 degrees Celsius.

During the winter months, October-January, the rainfall increases and it is also the typhoon season.


Fly directly to Danang and get to Hue and Hoi An by train/car or motorbike.

For all international flights check out or

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Eva Bodova

Sunday 13 May 2018

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