History lovers flock to this 2,000-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site, where Hindu, Arab and Chinese influences are reflected in breathtaking architecture, eclectic food and rich culture.
Naturalists will appreciate the quiet beaches just a short bike ride from the city center, while wanderers will love the pedestrian-only streets of Ancient Town lined with quaint shops and bustling vendors.
Urban skyscrapers and big-city development have yet to touch this former shipping port, which means travelers can enjoy a taste of what Hoi An once was and what Vietnam used to be.
Constructed in 1804, this massive fortress designed for the Gia Long Emperor, is surrounded by a zigzag moat and defensive barrier that’s 21 meters thick. But visitors to this citadel-in-a-citadel-in-a-citadel won’t need to swim across rivers or scale towering walls to get a look inside. The Imperial Enclosure is accessible by crossing one of the 10 pedestrian bridges into the once royal land. Pass through Ngo Mon (Noon) Gate, once reserved for those in power, then wander through Flag Tower (Cot Co) and stare up at the nation’s tallest flagpole before weaving through the Nine Dynastic Urns representing different Nguyen kings.
The Perfume River may have gotten its fame from the film Full Metal Jacket, but visitors to Hue traveled on this scenic body of water even before the movie’s 1987 debut. Each fall, blossoms from nearby orchards drop into the river, producing the unique fragrance that gives this river its name. The unpolluted waters offer cooling breezes for cyclists riding along the winding banks of local rice fields, and breathtaking views of Ngu Binh Mountain. Watch the sun go down and the city light up while you enjoy a cool beer on a late-afternoon dragon boat ride through Hue.
Tourists flock both day and night to this small bridge at the center of Hoi An, known as the Japanese Covered Bridge (Chua Cau), because of its picturesque beauty. As a result, attempting to cross the 12-meter structure will likely be faced with a labyrinth of kissing couples posing for photographs and backpackers loitering in its cool shade. Still detailed Japanese carvings, as well as monkey and dog statues—a nod to the years its construction began and finished—are worth the congestion and guaranteed headache of a trip to this Hoi An landmark.
The Cham Islands are a group of 8 small islands of Quang Nam that make up the Cu Lao Cham Marine Park and that are a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
This island offers visitors sandy beaches, rocky cliffs and crystal-clear waters. Hikers will appreciate the scenic views from forested trail heads and basic amenities of tropical campsites. Scuba divers will find coral, tiger shrimp and mollusk unique to this region, while lucky birders can peep Salanganes -- made famous in the country's bird's nest soup -- these islands are known for.
This royal structure, which sits at the center of Hue’s Imperial Enclosure, was once reserved for exclusive use by the emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty. Only eunuchs passed through its halls, since even his most trusted servants weren’t allowed beyond the gates. Today, this historic citadel sits mostly in ruins, destroyed during several wars throughout the nation’s history.
Despite some recent rebuilding efforts, travelers can easily spend a long afternoon wandering paths that crisscross the grounds, exploring portions of the foundation, now overgrown with foliage, and examining the painting, woodwork and architecture that still remains. A 10 kilometer moat surrounds what was created to resemble the Forbidden City of Beijing, and 10 gates protect these once royal grounds.
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