Central Vietnam may be the narrowest part of the country, but it more than makes up for its small size with a dense grouping of must-see destinations. From historic sites including the famed Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and the serene citadel of Hue, Vietnam’s imperial capital in the nineteenth century, to the sunny beach city of Danang and nearby Hoi An’s photogenic Ancient Town, Central Vietnam has something for everyone.
The imperial capital of Vietnam from 1802-1945 under the Nguyen Dynasty, Hue’s scenic pagodas, colorful royal tombs and ancient Citadel ensure a rich cultural experience. Travel back in time with a stroll through the UNESCO-listed Complex of Hue Monuments, highlighted by the Hue Citadel, all set on the banks of the Perfume River, so named for the fragrant blossoms that fall into its waters in autumn. Other must-see sites include the seven-storey Thien Mu Pagoda, one of Vietnam’s most recognizable buildings, and the many royal mausoleums dedicated to the emperors of old.
Named one of the hottest destinations in recent years, the seaside city of Danang boasts calm, turquoise seas and a long 30km (19mi) stretch of beach all the way down to Hoi An. When you’ve had enough of sand and sea, visit the Marble Mountains named for five natural elements, topped with a series of cave pagodas, or the Museum of Cham Sculpture, the world’s finest collection of artifacts from the ancient Champa Kingdom. Danang also makes an ideal base from which to explore the nearby scenic Hai Van Pass, the colonial hill resort of Ba Na and China Beach made popular by American GIs looking for some R&R.
An exceptionally well-preserved example of a traditional Asian trading port, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hoi An showcases a spectacular fusion of cultures throughout its quaint Ancient Town. Highlights include the 400-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge, a host of Chinese assembly halls and clay tile-roofed merchant houses. Single-craft villages surrounding Hoi An also abound, preserving ancient crafts including pottery and woodworking. Shoppers will love Hoi An for its very skilled tailors and craftsmen, able to turn out custom-made clothing and shoes in just a few days.