Central Vietnam is full of memorable destinations, from the beautiful beaches and fishing villages on the South Central Coast to the coffee plantations and stunning scenery of the Central Highlands. It also has a rich culture to explore, with more ethnic minorities in the area than any other part of Vietnam and plenty of ancient historical sites dotting the landscape.
Are you looking to explore Central Vietnam, but not sure where to start? Look no further! In this guide, we’ll show you seven must-visit destinations in the region. To make planning your trip easier, we’ve divided the destinations into areas, so you can map out your itinerary from north to south. Whether you’re a history buff or a nature lover, Central Vietnam has something for everyone.
Table of Contents
Northern Central Coast
The Northern Central Coast of Vietnam is a treasure trove of history. Starting with artifacts and relevant sites from the Vietnam War and stretching all the way back to the ancient history you’ll find in the largest cave in the world.
1. Hue: The Citadel & Perfume River
Hue used to be the capital of Vietnam during the days of the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 to 1945. Because of that, the Hue Citadel is one of Vietnam’s most majestic examples of pre-colonial architecture. The Citadel of the Ancient City is usually peaceful and serene. Still, the area around the imperial city is generally alive with historical and cultural experiences, from traditional music shows to museums. If you want to avoid the rainy season and try to catch some festivals in Hue, you can check out the best time to visit Hue here.
The area of Hue surrounding Central City is known for its romantic landscapes. The most famous is the Perfume River, which winds directly through the city and gets its name from the aromatic flowers from the orchards upstream that fall into the river during the autumn months. The Perfume River has great spiritual, cultural, and historical significance for the city, and a cruise on the Perfume River is the most scenic way to enjoy the vistas of romantic Hue. After a cruise down the Perfume River, head to the nearby Thien Mu Pagoda to enjoy the sunset. Or drive over the Hai Van Pass to Lang Co Beach.
2. Quang Binh Province: Phong Nha and Dong Hoi
The main attraction of Quang Binh province in Central Vietnam is Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. The UNESCO Heritage Site is home to the world’s largest cave, Son Doong Cave. Son Doong is part of a massive cave system that includes Paradise Cave, also known as Thien Duong Cave. Phong Nha-Ke Bang also contains unique karst landscapes, scenic waterways, and incredible biodiversity.
The most incredible experience in Phong Nha is exploring its caves, set amidst lush jungles and fresh rivers. For those keen on delving into this adventurer’s paradise and learning more about the caves and tours, check out ‘Phong Nha Cave Tours: Explore Central Vietnam’s UNESCO Wonders.’. But beyond the caves, there’s an untouched, rural beauty to be discovered in Phong Nha.
Dong Hoi is a small city beside Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park with an airport and train station that connects to other major cities in Vietnam. It’s certainly not a metropolis, but its small size only adds to its quaint charm. Dong Hoi is an ideal stopover and resting place before conquering trekking and caving expeditions in the nearby national park. Check out this link to Discover Dong Hoi Vietnam: The Sleepy Seaside City & Gateway to Phong Nha.
PRO TIP: If you’re looking for some beautiful hidden gems in the North Central Coast, head up to the mountains, rivers, and long coastline of Thanh Hoa Province to check out Pu Luong Nature Reserve, Cua Lo Beach, and Sam Son Beach.
The Central Coastal region of Vietnam may be the most popular part of the country for those trying to escape the intensity of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City because they are two of the top destinations in Vietnam.
3. Da Nang
Da Nang, the unofficial capital city of Central Vietnam, merges natural beauty with its cityscape in a way few other cities in the world do. The population of Da Nang City is over 1.1 million, but the town itself is built around beautiful beaches and forests. For example, My Khe Beach, often hailed as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, is located beside one of the city’s main strips of road.
Even though it’s a naturally beautiful city, Da Nang visitors can still find a strong dose of that excitement they can see in big cities. For example, Da Nang’s nightlife scene is booming. Check out some popular tours in Da Nang and the surrounding area.
The area around Da Nang is amazingly beautiful, too. For instance, the Marble Mountains, located about 45 minutes drive from Da Nang, are one of Central Vietnam’s greatest natural wonders and overlook Non Nuoc beach, a serene getaway for those looking for some sand and sea.
And then there’s Hai Van Pass, a world-famous mountain pass with perhaps one of Southeast Asia’s best panoramic views that displays Central Vietnam’s lush beauty. Hai Van is partly in Da Nang and partly in Hue.
4. Hoi An Ancient Town – UNESCO World Heritage Site
It’s not a controversial statement to say that Hoi An is one of the most beautiful towns in Asia, an idea reinforced by UNESCO’s decision to make it a World Heritage site in 1999. Situated in Quang Nam province, Da Nang’s neighbor.
The old town feels quaint and buzzing with energy, largely thanks to its well-preserved historical architecture that mixes indigenous and foreign influences, diverse cultural influences, and its unique heritage. An evening walk along the Thu Bon River in the center of the ancient town, while colored lanterns line both banks, is one of the quintessential Vietnamese activities you’ll find.
Hoi An is also a hub for upscale shopping, cultural experiences like pottery-making, finding unique street food, and more. There are many fascinating day trips from Hanoi, like the My Son Sanctuary, another World Heritage Site, or Cua Dai Beach, a seaside sanctuary just minutes from Hoi An known for its soft sand and peaceful atmosphere. Really, this town has everything you could want as a traveler in Vietnam. Experience it all with the Hoi An Sunset Tour and more popular Hoi An activities.
Pro Tip: Alongside Cua Dai Beach’s soft sands and clear waters, Hoi An boasts other stunning beaches. An Bang Beach is known for its calm vibe and beachside cafes, while Ha My Beach offers secluded serenity. The Cham Islands are perfect for snorkeling enthusiasts, and Bai Rang Beach presents a rustic charm. For sunsets and seafood, Tan Thanh Beach is a must-visit. Each beach around Hoi An enhances its appeal as a destination of natural beauty and cultural richness.
Southern Central Coast
As you travel further south down the coast of Vietnam, you’ll encounter some beautiful beach towns.
5. Nha Trang Beach – Khanh Hoa Province
Nha Trang is Vietnam’s premier beach city. It brings together the laid-back and traditionally more liberal culture of Southern Vietnam with the more conservative culture of Central Vietnam. It’s also great for sun-kissed days, snorkeling, diving, and other watersports. Nha Trang Beach, located at the center of the city, is probably the epicenter for the endless amount of aquatically-based attractions in the city, such as:
- VinWonders, a huge waterpark.
- Multiple aquariums, the most popular of which is Vinpearl Aquarium.
- Hon Mun Marine Protected Area.
- Thap Ba Hotsprings.
- Local fishing villages.
Nha Trang is also known for having some of Vietnam’s tastiest seafood. For an optimal experience, look up some of the best restaurants in Nha Trang with a sea view here.
6. Quy Nhon Beachside City
Quy Nhon is a peaceful getaway for those who want to soak up as much relaxation vibes as possible, as it’s not a bustling tourist destination like Nha Trang. The town’s architectural style is traditional Vietnamese through and through, and the locals tend to exude an atmosphere of Southern hospitality that most travelers love. The town’s biggest assets, though, are its beautiful beaches. Ky Co Beach, Bai Xep Beach, and Quy Hoa Beach are a few of the most popular, boasting pristine sands and crystal-clear water.
PRO TIP: After Quy Nhon, head south to Phu Yen, where you can explore hidden gem attractions like Ghenh Da Dia, a stretch of basalt columns resembling stacked plates along the coastline. With its tranquil beaches and charming rural areas, this province offers a refreshing retreat for travelers seeking a serene and authentic Vietnamese experience.
The Central Highlands
The Highlands lie on the inland side of the Annamite Mountains, so they’re an opportunity for travelers to trade in the ocean breezes of the coastal regions for some mountain air.
The Highlands are home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in Central Vietnam due to the rolling hills that characterize the area. The extreme ethnic diversity of the region, fronted by the hill tribes dotting the countryside, also helps give it a rugged feel that the parts of Vietnam that are closer to sea level do not offer. The Highlands also have a pleasantly cool climate for much of the year that is more similar to what travelers might expect from a visit to the Swiss Alps than what they usually get in tropical Vietnam.
7. Da Lat
Da Lat is the only big city in Central Vietnam’s Highlands. Even though the population is only 425,000, the city gets around 7 million tourists most years.
It’s easy to see why, too: it’s got the same cool climate as the rest of the Highlands, beautiful vistas, natural beauty nestled right into the city, and some of the most flavorful yet distinct cuisine in any part of Vietnam. Check out this article to discover the must-try local dishes in Dalat before you visit.
Da Lat offers many activities for visitors to indulge in. You could sip coffee while enjoying the stunning natural beauty, kayaking or trekking in the mountains, visit waterfalls and pagodas, or even experience glamping.
The city also boasts several luxurious activity centers like golf courses, shopping malls, and well-manicured gardens and parks.
Hidden Gems in Central Vietnam
Besides the must-visit destinations mentioned here, there’s a lot to explore in Central Vietnam. For those who have time, renting a mountain bike or a motorbike and wandering around the highways and byways of Quang Nam Province, Khanh Hoa Province, Phu Yen Province, and Thanh Hoa Province is an amazing way to experience what authentic Central Vietnam is really about. And who knows, you may stumble upon some romantic scenery or hidden gems that make your experience in Central Vietnam even more memorable.
Central Vietnam is Waiting
Central Vietnam beautifully merges ancient cities, stunning coastlines, and the lush highlands, offering a perfect mix of nature, history, and culture. As you plan your journey, consider venturing both to popular tourist spots and off-the-beaten-path hidden gems. This region has something special for every traveler.
Nature and trekking lovers should not miss Phong Nha and Dalat, each offering unique landscapes and adventures. For a touch of historical magic, Hoi An’s ancient town is a must-see, while Hue’s ancient citadel is a treasure trove for culture and history enthusiasts. And for those who long for sandy shores, Da Nang, Nha Trang, and Quy Nhon are ideal beach destinations. In Central Vietnam, every destination promises an unforgettable experience. From ancient cities to stunning coastlines and hidden gems along the way.
Credits and Community Contributions: Share Your Vietnam Story
This content was curated by Lauren Tracy Pienaar, reflecting 8+ years of experience exploring Vietnam and bringing an authentic perspective to the country’s unique destinations.
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