Hue, Hoi An & Central Vietnam
The cultural heart of the nation, central Vietnam is fully loaded with historical sights and cultural interest, and blessed with ravishing beaches and outstanding national parks. Marvel at Hue and its imperial citadel and royal tombs. Savour the unique grace of riverside jewel Hoi An. Tour the military sites of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ).
Vietnam has an incredibly curvaceous coastline, and it is in this region that it is at its most alluring with vast tracts of coastline backed by towering sand dunes and cliffs. More and more of the voluptuous beaches along this stretch are being set aside for large tourism projects, but there are still untouched bays where you can play Robinson Crusoe for the day.
Northern Vietnam’s top ticket is the wildly popular Halong Bay, and nearby Cat Ba Island offers excellent hiking, biking and rock climbing. The karst connection continues into Cao Bang province – an essential detour are the sublime lakes of Ba Be National Park – and then west into Ha Giang, Vietnam's emerging destination for travellers, which hugs the Chinese border.
Graceful, historic Hoi An is Vietnam’s most atmospheric and delightful town. Once a major port, it boasts the grand architecture and beguiling riverside setting that befits its heritage, but the 21st-century curses of traffic and pollution are almost entirely absent. Whether you’ve as little as a day or as long as a month in the town, it’ll be time well spent.
There’s a rugged charm to this distinctly rural region, with pine-studded hilltops soaring over intensively farmed fields and remote, bumpy roads meandering through coffee plantations. The scenery lacks the immediate appeal of Vietnam's far north, but the hill-tribe villages here are less-visited than the heavily touristed areas around Sapa.
For most visitors, the northeast is all about Halong Bay. The sublime seascape at this World Heritage site is undoubtedly one of Vietnam’s most enchanting experiences. But high up in the rugged mountains of the interior are some of the country’s most intriguing destinations and far fewer tourists than in the coastal clusters.
Welcome to the roof of Vietnam, where the mountains of the Tonkinese Alps (Hoang Lien Mountains) soar skyward, their long shadows concealing some of the country’s best-kept secrets. The landscape is a rich palette that provides some of the most spectacular scenery in Vietnam.
Palaces and pagodas, tombs and temples, culture and cuisine, history and heartbreak – there’s no shortage of poetic pairings to describe Hue (pronounced ‘hway’). A Unesco World Heritage site, this deeply evocative capital of the Nguyen emperors still resonates with the glories of imperial Vietnam, even though many of its finest buildings were destroyed during the American War.