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An itinerary for Central Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are both perennial favourites for getaways in Vietnam. While the north and south have been extensively explored, overshadowed Central Vietnam beckons to be discovered. From majestic mountain landscapes and cerulean coasts to ancient citadels and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Central Vietnam appeals to all types of travellers.

With direct flights from Singapore to Da Nang, this region is now even more accessible. You can revel in Hue’s rich culture and heritage, bask in Da Nang’s pristine beaches and immerse in Hoi An’s old-world charm — all comfortably within seven days. 

To cover these cities in just one trip, we’ve curated a one-week itinerary listing great places to visit in the central region of Vietnam. This itinerary can also be easily adapted if you have a shorter getaway in mind (annual leave is precious, we know). Brace yourself for a fun-filled trip packed with relaxation, great sight-seeing and vermillion sunsets!

Day 1: Da Nang

Kickstart your discovery of Central Vietnam at Da Nang, the country’s third-largest city. Boasting a coastline that’s over 30 kilometres long. Da Nang will allow you to embrace sun-kissed days by the beach. If you’re too spoilt for choice, start with My Khe Beach which is considered to be Vietnam’s most picturesque (and a surfers’ paradise). While you soak in the modern city’s laid-back vibes, try to spot the iconic Lady Buddha facing the sea.

A trip to Da Nang is incomplete without feasting on local seafood at the scores of seafront eateries. Remember, bargaining is de rigueur before you indulge in the coastal specialities. The street food scene here is also worth discovering. If you’re not too tired, marvel at Vietnam’s longest bridge — Dragon Bridge — which dazzles and illuminates the cityscape at night. Fun fact: on weekends, the dragon spits actual fire!

Day 2: Da Nang to Hue

Your adventure continues from Da Nang to the imperial city of Hue via a scenic hillside route, better known as the Hai Van Pass. With lush, verdant landscapes on one side and crystalline waters on the other, this two-hour drive will be a magical one. We actually recommend you take the three-hour train route where you can enjoy the sea views poetically. 

Upon arrival in Hue, spend time admiring the mossy pagodas, bustling markets and ancient palaces. Make a pit-stop at Hue Citadel, where the regal architectural remnants of Vietnam’s last royal dynastic family can be seen. Next, pay a visit to the Hue tombs of Tự Đức, Minh Mạng and Khải Định — former kings of the revered Nguyen Dynasty. After getting acquainted with the city’s rich history, turn your attention to witness the iconic seven-tiered Thiên Mụ Pagoda, symbolic of the city’s Buddhist roots. This grand city is also your gateway to the colossal caves at Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Should you have extra time, pay a visit to one of the world’s largest cave systems.

Day 3: Hue

Start your morning with a supremely satisfying bowl of bún thịt nướng (cold rice-vermicelli noodles topped with grilled meat). Hue is a foodie’s paradise where you can whet your appetite with well-loved snacks, such as bánh khoai (cassava cake) and bánh bèo (steamed rice flour cake), and savour bún bò huế (spicy Vietnamese beef noodle soup) in the city of its origin. After your food trail, hail a xích lô (bicycle rickshaw) for a leisurely tour of the city.

Hue is also a wonderland for casual cyclists. Spend some time exploring the photogenic streets and lush countryside on two wheels. We reckon the ride to Thanh Toán Bridge to be one of Hue’s most captivating. Alternatively, cycle along the tranquil Perfume River where you’ll notice more tombs and weather-worn temples sprinkled around. For travellers with an eye for architecture and who wish to revisit colonial history, don’t miss Trường Tiền Bridge, which is gracefully silhouetted on the Perfume River.

Tip: If you happen to visit Hue during the first week of April, don’t miss the highly-anticipated biennial Hue Festival that commemorates Vietnam’s culture and historical values.

Day 4: Hue to Ba Na Hills

A three-hour drive from Hue will take you to Ba Na Hills in Da Nang, also known as Vietnam’s hidden mountain resort complex. Along the way, visit Lang Co Beach where you can dip in the lagoon’s inviting turquoise waters. Continue your journey back on the Hai Van Pass until you reach your destination: The Golden Bridge at Ba Na Hills. Nestled over 1,400 metres above sea level, this impressive 150-metre-long pedestrian bridge offers jaw-dropping views and links you to the cable car station.

Sitting atop the Truong Son Mountains, Ba Na Hills is an ideal entertainment destination for all. Indulge your inner kid by taking various exhilarating rides at Fantasy Park — a three-storey arcade tucked inside a cave. You can also try your hand at over 90 arcade games and experience interactive shows. Since Ba Na was built by French colonists in 1919, it’s no surprise that this leisure destination has a lot of French influences (a French village, French castles, gorgeous courtyards and cobblestone streets). 

Also, do spend time wandering around the Jardin d’Amour Flower Garden and snap a portrait for memories’ sake. Try to spot the Linh Ung Pagoda and enjoy the serene atmosphere and unparalleled panoramas.

Day 5: Ba Na Hills to Hoi An

After experiencing the magical Ba Na Hills, the enchanting city of Hoi An awaits. A two-hour drive will take you to this well-preserved ancient town. With a charming blend of European and Asian architecture style, Hoi An is best experienced by sauntering around the mango-coloured alleys. Cross the Japanese Covered Bridge, which boasts a poignant history, and later explore the narrow streets of the Ancient Town — that’s where the city’s allure is distilled. 

Feeling peckish? Hoi An is a magnet for foodies and chefs itching to learn the art of Vietnamese cuisine. Take a class at Red Bridge Restaurant & Cooking School, where you’ll also get a chance to visit the bustling Hoi An Market. There’s nothing more fulfilling than whipping up quintessential Vietnamese dishes with robust flavours. Besides the tantalising food scene, Hoi An’s countryside also deserves special mention. Hop on a unique basket boat tour through Cam Thanh Village and marvel at the lush landscapes. Photo opportunities are aplenty from the verdant rice paddies to the colourful boats and the stunning panoramas.

Day 6: Hoi An

Spend your morning discovering the quaint cafes and tea houses along the lantern-lit streets of this port town. The vibrancy of Hoi An is difficult to find elsewhere. Sun worshippers might prefer basking along the pristine shores of An Bang Beach instead for a day of sand and surf. Alternatively, hitch a ferry ride to Cham Islands just off the coast of Hoi An; it’s a haven for those who wish to snorkel, dive and immerse in the beautiful marine life.

If you’re hankering for an adventure, take a day trip to Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary, a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site and one of Southeast Asia’s greatest archaeological sites. This is the perfect opportunity to delve into the history of ancient civilisations. The cluster of 18 surviving Hindu temples (originally, there were about 70) was built by the Cham people, who established a thriving spice trade in Central Vietnam. The historical ruins, juxtaposed against the tropical jungle, have astoundingly withstood the test of time, since the 13th century, and remain unscathed.

Day 7: Hoi An to Da Nang

From Hoi An, it’s a 45-minute drive back to Da Nang. As you approach the city, try to spot the iconic Marble Mountain. The cluster of marble and limestone mountains are named after the various elements. Wrap up your trip by sampling a comforting bowl of pho (Vietnamese beef noodles) and Rau Cau Trai Dua (coconut jelly), a Da Nang speciality. For those who wish to purchase some last-minute snacks and souvenirs, make a pit-stop at Lotte Mart Da Nang before heading back to the airport. 

Central Vietnam is home to a dizzying array of fun things to do and places to visit. The well-preserved historical sites, amicable locals and soothing natural beauty will keep you coming back for more. Whether you’re soaking in the gentle lapping waves in Da Nang or sauntering around the streets of Hoi An aglow with colourful lanterns, you’ll bear only one thought in mind — Central Vietnam is truly one of a kind.