Situated near the border of former North and South Vietnam, Hue has held an indisputable place in the nation’s most recent history. Here, travelers can spend their days learning as much about communist wars as reveling in the city’s ancient history or getting up-close with nature.
Day 1: Get Lost in Ancient History
Rent a bicycle or hire a motor taxi and explore the Imperial Enclosure, one of Hue’s most historic sites. Enter through the Ngo Mon Gate, once reserved exclusively for royalty, and climb to its highest level, where you can enjoy an expansive view of the complete citadel. Visit the nation’s tallest flag pole, then head to the massive Dynastic Urns that honor Nguyen kings. From there, head to the Forbidden Purple City, which sits at the center of the Imperial Enclosure, for a look at the life of an ancient ruler. Structures were damaged during war, but visitors can walk the numerous paths through overgrown gardens and admire iconic architecture that still remains. Meditate in the grass or enjoy a picnic in some shade, then walk to nearby Hue Monuments Conservation Center and enjoy a late afternoon traditional dance performance before returning to central city for dinner.
Day 2: Understand the More Recent Past
Hue is known for ornate temples and imperial structures that pay homage to late emperors and once-reigning royalty. However, travelers can also experience some of Vietnam’s more recent history while visiting this central city. Start your day with a strong and sweet cup of Vietnamese coffee at one of the many local cafes. From there, take part in a group tour to the Demilitarized Zone, about 100 kilometers outside of the city. The DMZ was established as a dividing line between North and South Vietnam. It plays a vital role in the country’s history. Experience the breathtaking green hillsides and thick bush as you hear stories about Agent Orange and American military invasion and modern-day post-war life. Tour the Khe Sanh Combat Base and see the Ho-Chi-Minh-Trail. Travel along the famous route 1A, alongside the Ben Hai River, and witness the most-bombed bridge in the nation, which still stands today. Finally, visit the Vinh Moc tunnels, a series of narrow underground passages where 60 families escaped the cross fires of war.
Day 3: Relax and Rejuvenate
Because wandering the Imperial Enclosure and bearing witness to relics of war can be exhausting, spend your final day in Hue unwinding with nature. Use the early hours to soak in Thanh Tan Hot Springs, where natural minerals like calcium and sulfur are said to have healing effects on the weary traveler. Move between hot springs and cooling wave pools, as well as a number of waterslides. Then grab lunch at the on-site restaurant before making your way to Thuan An beach. The ride through local villages and countryside is scenic, but the beach chairs, seafood stands and crystal clear waters are the ultimate destination. Spend the rest of the afternoon lazing under the sun or strolling the beach, then enjoy a glass of Chuon village wine as the sun sets before returning to Hue.