A tiny archipelago off the southern coast of Vietnam, Con Dao is made up of 16 craggy islands and islets covered in tropical jungle, fringed by sandy beaches and surrounded by coral reef. A modern-day tourist paradise, for over a century it served as a brutal penal colony for thousands of political prisoners and was known across Vietnam as “hell on Earth.”
Established by the French in 1861 and only closed after the American War, the prisons are still standing but now house museums documenting Con Dao’s dark history. While many domestic visitors come to pay their respects to national heroes incarcerated and buried on Con Son, the largest island of the archipelago, international tourists are drawn to Con Dao by its stunning natural beauty and world-class diving opportunities.
With a small local population, a limited number of visitors and much of the archipelago protected as a national park, Con Dao is a superb destination for island-hopping, wildlife-watching and riding your motorbike along deserted coastal roads. If Marco Polo popped over once, we figure you might too?