Plan for 9 Days in Central Vietnam
Are 9 days enough to explore all the best things in the central part of Vietnam? Actually, it depends on how detailed your itinerary is. If it is the first time you come to Vietnam, here is our suggestion to you. We design this plan with the guidance of a local expert and hope that this itinerary will help you to explore the best tourist attractions in this ultimate region.
- Day 1: Da Nang arrival – Hoi An
- Day 2: Hoi An – Tra Que Village – Hoi An
- Day 3: Hoi An – My Son Sanctuary – Hoi An
- Day 4: Hoi An – Hue
- Day 5: Hue half day city tour
- Day 6: Hue – Quang Binh
- Day 7: Dong Hoi – DMZ – Dong Hoi
- Day 8: Dong Hoi – Phong Nha Cave – Paradise Cave – Dong Hoi
- Day 9: Quang Binh Departure
Day 1: Da Nang arrival – Hoi An
When arriving at the Da Nang international airport, the very first thing you have to do is to pick up and transfer to the hotel in Hoi An. As a foreigner, it might be challenging to find a prestigious hotel. So, it will be better to have your pick before. You can either ask your friends or relatives who had visited Hoi An for the best guidance or look for a good hotel on the Internet (remember to pay attention to the reviews, not only the advertisements).
After arriving at your hotel, the rest of the day is free for you. You can engage in any activities you want. If you feel tired after a long flight, maybe you should take a rest instead of trying to go around Hoi An. Just give yourself a rest to prepare so that the nest days you can fully explore this beautiful region of Vietnam.
Get your power up with Hoi An’s best dishes
If you are still energetic after the flight, it is time to power up with Hoi An’s best cuisines. Hoi An used to be an important Vietnamese trading port, which is the reason why its cuisines are heavily influenced by Chinese, French and Japanese cuisines.
Rice noodles with barbecued pork, greens, and croutons (Cao Lau)
Rice noodles with barbecued pork, greens and croutons is Hoi An’s definitive food. It includes udon-like rice noodles, barbecued pork, croutons, beansprouts, and fresh herbs. You can eat this dish in many restaurants across Vietnam. However, the most authentic taste only can be found in Hoi An. According to locals here, this dish is cooked with the water from hidden Cham wells and the fresh vegetables are from Tra Que Vegetable Village.
Best Cao Lau restaurants in Hoi An: Bon Restaurant (474 Cua Dai), Trung Bac Restaurant (87 Tran Phu Street, Quan An Ty Ty Restaurant (17/6 Hai Ba Trung), Cao Lau Khong Gian Xanh Restaurant (687 Hai Ba Trung), Thanh Cao Lau Restaurant (26 Thai Phien).
Vietnamese baguette (Banh Mi)
Vietnamese baguette is quick, tasty, and cheap. With about VND 10,000 to VND 20,000, you can enjoy this delicious food. Vietnamese baguette’s ingredients include bread, pate, mayo, sauces, vegetables, and herbs. Sound simple, right? But the combination of these ingredients brings a unique taste that will make you mouthwatering.
Do you want to find the best banh mi in Hoi An? Here are some suggestions: Banh Mi Phuong (2b Phan Chu Trinh), Phi Banh Mi (Cam Pho Tp), Madam Khanh (115 Tran Cao Van), Banh Mi Lanh (Cam Chau), Banh Mi Chay (Phan Chau Trinh and Nguyen Hue), Drunk Banh Mi Stand (An Hoi).
Day 2: Hoi An – Tra Que Village – Hoi An
On the morning of day 2, you will visit Tra Que village. The best way to explore any villages in Vietnam is to ride a bicycle. You can buy one in the bicycle shops or rent one. The rental cost of a bicycle is about VND 30,000 per day or lower. And for an electric bike, you have to pay about VND 70,000 per day.
Take a trip around Tra Que village
Then you will ride to a local farm in Tra Que village and take a trip around the vegetable garden. It is just about 3km to the north of Hoi An ancient town and it the main source of vegetables. You can ride around this village to enjoy the tranquil atmosphere while exploring the local’s lifestyle.
If you have never done any farming activities, this will be a unique experience to join with friendly farmers to know how they produce vegetables. You can try preparing the land, fertilizing with seaweed, ranking the ground, sowing, watering, or picking greens. After these farming activities, you should get relaxed with a foot massage before having lunch with the host family with the local’s best dishes. Now, farewell to the host family and go back to Hoi An.
In the afternoon, you should spend time exploring the ancient town with narrow streets, old houses, and temples, wooden bridge. You should take a walk so that you can take a closer look at the life of Vietnamese people in the past with preserved houses. Go to the souvenir shop to get some gifts to your friends or family or get a new wardrobe with talented tailors. You can visit the Japanese Bridge, one of the most famous sites in the old town. The construction of the bridge was from the 17th century by the Japanese settlers. It later was restored by the Vietnamese and the Chinese. When the night comes, walk around the town to admire the extraordinary of the town with colorful lanterns hung on many houses.
Day 3: Hoi An – My Son Sanctuary – Hoi An
On the morning of your 3rd day, you should drive to My Son Sanctuary which is on Quang Nam province (about 45km to the west of Hoi An town). My Son Sanctuary is a collection of Champa ruins located amongst the mountains. My Son is one of the most highlight parts in the central region of Vietnam and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.
The vestige with over 70 temples and epitaphs will remind you of some world’s famous sites like the Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Following the tour guide and exploring the My Son Sanctuary, you will learn more about the history of Champa Kingdom. Champa was an ancient civilization that existed from the 2nd to the 17th century before being occupied by Vietnam. All the 70 structures in My Son Sanctuary were dedicated to Hindu gods and goddesses, including Shiva – the Champa’s King’s protector.
The complex was neglected for years before being re-explored and renovated by the French during their wars in Vietnam. During the America - Vietnam war, the sanctuary was even destroyed terribly as the Americans bombed the area after knowing that Viet Cong used this holy site as a hiding place. Only a few structures remained until nowadays and some have been rebuilt for tourism but despite that, the sanctuary still attracts many tourists who appreciate history. On the way back to your Hoi An, you should make a stop to visit Sa Huynh Champa Culture Museum in Tra Kieu. Then, have a free afternoon in the hotel.
Day 4: Hoi An – Hue
Take a cyclo trip to visit Dong Ba market
On your 4th day, let’s visit Hue. It is best to transfer to Hue by shuttle bus before exploring this attraction with a cyclo street tour. You should take a cyclo to cross over the Trang Tien Bridge to visit the Dong Ba market. Why we highly suggest you take a cyclo to visit the city? First, you do not have to walk on foot. Second, the speed of cyclo is slow enough for you to admire all the amazing places in Hue.
Dong Ba is the oldest market in Hue. There are hundreds of stalls selling different things at a reasonable price and vendors serving authentic Vietnamese dishes. For tourists who are looking to experience the local lifestyle and the local best dishes, the Dong Ba market is actually a potential candidate. Don’t stop at the market too long or you will have no time exploring the other sites. Continue your cycle tour to the royal palace and take pictures of Hue’s stunning sites and listen to the stories around them. You will find out that most things in Hue have a story about its existence.
Also, never miss a chance to visit the Ho Chi Minh memorial house at 112 Mai Thuc Loan Street where Ho Chi Minh, the greatest President of Vietnam, used to live with his family from 1895 to 1901. During the trip, remember to stop at famous street restaurants to enjoy the local dishes. We bet you have heard about the best dishes such as Hue pancake, Hue beef vermicelli soup, filtered tapioca dumplings, literally water fern cake, steamed shrimp rice cake, and sticky rice dumplings on a fried dumpling.
And once you arrive at Hue, don’t miss a chance to admire the breathtaking view of the Perfume River. The river length is about 80 kilometers, from the Truong Son Mountain through Hue City Centre and Bang Lang Fork. You can take a trip on a boat to appreciate the classical of Perfume River while enjoying live folk music and songs.
Day 5: Hue half day city tour
On day 5 of Vietnam itinerary, spend your morning exploring the best highlights of Hue. Hue was Vietnam’s capital from 1802 to 1945 before the government decided to move the capital to Ha Noi. This is a reason why the city has a rich history which is reflected in its different tombs, the citadel.
Thien Mu Pagoda
Thien Mu Pagoda is perfect for a Buddhist lover
Start your day by visiting Thien Mu pagoda. Thien Mu is one of the most famous and ancient pagodas in Hue. Located on the north of Perfume River’s bank, Thien Mu pagoda has become an official symbol of Hue with its ancient architecture and its natural beauty. The first construction of the pagoda was in 1601 on the order of Nguyen Hoang - the first Nguyen lord who was the governor of Thuan Hoa (ancient name of Hue). The pagoda is not only famous for its breathtaking view but it is also famous for being the home monastery of the Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc. He burned himself to death in 1963 at a busy street to protest against the Diem government in the south of Vietnam.
And once visiting Thien Mu Pagoda, don’t skip your chance to come to see the Phuoc Duyen octagonal tower. It is a 21m-high tower which was built in 1884. Phuoc Duyen tower has 7 stories which are dedicated to 7 manushi-buddhas. Thien Mu Pagoda is actually a cannot-miss-attraction for Buddhist lovers.
Hue Imperial city
Hue Imperial city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the city of Hue. When visiting Hue Imperial city, the most impressive monuments you should not miss are Ngo Mon Gate, the tomb of Emperor Minh Mang and Tu Duc. Hue Imperial city is well-known for its unique architecture and incredible landscapes.
After exploring the highlights in Hue, spend your free afternoon and take a rest for the next day.
Day 6: Hue – Quang Binh
After having breakfast at your hotel, transfer to the train station to Dong Hoi city (Quang Binh Province). It is about 3 hours to travel from Hue to Quang Binh by train. You can spend that time getting into sleep or admiring the beautiful landscapes along the way. Drive to the hotel, check-in, and relax. For the rest of the day, let’s explore the province by the way you like.
If you are interested in Vietnam history, you should spend your day visiting Vung Chua – Dao Yen, the resting place of Vo Nguyen Giap, the general in the Vietnam People’s Army. He was one of the greatest military strategists of the 20th century. He was a crucial military commander in two wars, including the First Indochina War of 1946-1854 and the Vietnam War of 1955-1975. General Vo Nguyen Giap contributed greatly to the victory of the Vietnamese army and the independence of Vietnam. He died in October 2013 after a long time treating at the Central Military Hospital 108 in Hanoi. He was given a state funeral on the 12-13th of October in the deep respect and mournfulness of all Vietnamese people.
Day 7: Dong Hoi – DMZ – Dong Hoi
Quang Binh is a destination of historical sites which attracts many history lovers each year. As you come to this province, you should visit the Vinh Moc tunnel. From Dong Hoi, it is about 2.5 hours to drive to Vinh Moc tunnel.
Prepare history background before exploring the Vinh Moc tunnel
Your trip to Vinh Moc tunnel as well as any historical sites in Vietnam would be more meaningful if you have a proper historical background. Let’s get to know more about Vinh Moc before exploring it. Vinh Moc is a tunnel complex in Quang Tri, Vietnam – the province which had to endure most from the war between American forces and Vietnamese forces.
During the war, it was strategically located on the border of North Vietnam and South Vietnam. The American forces, with their attempt to block the food and armaments to the North Vietnamese garrison, dumped thousands of tonnes of bombs in the Vinh Linh district. They wanted to force the villagers to leave their homes. That was the reason why tunnels of Vinh Linh were built, not only to ensure the normal life for the locals but also to ensure the continuous supplies of war materials. The tunnel was constructed in several stages from 1965 to 1967 just with simple tools. The length of the tunnel is about 2000 meters, in which there are 780 meters of the main tunnel and 1220 meters for the small branches.
The complex had wells, kitchens, rooms for each family, function rooms for meeting, and health care. There were about 60 families which lived in the tunnels. 17 babies were born in poor conditions inside the tunnel from 1965 to 1972.
When exploring the complex, an English-speaking guide will lead you and point out the 12 entrances. You also will walk past huge bomb craters and deep trench. Explore the tiny rooms of the tunnel as well as the Hoang Cam stoves (the stove produced no smoke when cooking to prevent aerial detection of smoke by American military planes.
You are also recommended to take a visit to a small church that shows the signs of the fight between 2 forces and visit US Bases. Add to that, you will go through the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone). It is an area of 5km to either side of the demarcation line which occurred some of the bloodiest battles in the war.
Day 8: Dong Hoi – Phong Nha Cave – Paradise Cave – Dong Hoi
The thing that makes most tourists excited about Quang Binh province is exploring its natural sites: En Cave, Jumping Rocks, Nuoc Mooc Stream, Chay River – Toi Cave, Nhat Le Beach, Quang Phu Dunes, Phong Nha Cave, Paradise Cave, Tien Cave, Bang Mineral Hot Spring, Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, Tien Son Grotto,…
You should arrive at Dong Hoi Train Station early in the morning to have enough time to visit some of the most imposing natural sites in Quang Binh. While heading to Phong Nha, take a stop at a local restaurant for breakfast. You will need lots of energy on this day. It is a wonderful chance to enjoy the beauty of the real wilderness of Vietnam. As your time is limited, we recommend you to visit Phong Nha Cave and Paradise Cave this time. Maybe, you will go back to explore all these natural sites we have listed, but for one day, two caves are enough.
Phong Nha Cave
Phong Nha cave makes you feel like you are in the Elysian field
You will have to go 25 minutes on a boat to arrive at Phong Nha Cave. Spend a couple of hours in the morning to explore this water cave. Phong Nha, World Natural Heritage, is one of the major attractions of Quang Binh province thanks to its magical and stunning beauty. To get to Phong Nha cave, you will travel through Son River which is about 35-40 meters wide enlightened with the crystal-clear water. The view and the atmosphere are so peaceful, promising to help you get relaxed.
When taking your first step into the cave, you will be surprised greatly by the landscapes inside. There are two words that you can use to describe it: magical and majestic. The cave is shaped by the forces of water and the formation of limestone stalactites and stalagmites with various sizes and shapes. The cool temperature inside the cave, the shapes of limestones and the light systems installed professionally will make any tourist feel like they are in the Elysian field.
Paradise is another wonder which belongs to Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park. This cave is also recognized by UNESCO as a World’s Natural Heritage in 2003. Once exploring this cave, you will be extremely impressed by the spectacular ecosystems and the scenery which is described as “never-seen-before”. Paradise cave was discovered in 2005 by explorers from the British Cave Research Association. With the length of up to 31 km, Paradise cave had been considered as the longest cave in Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park.
Admire the beauty of stalactites and stalagmites
After walking through the small entry which is hidden inside the cliffs and forest, you will see a large cave divided into many different areas. The cave locates at 360m above the sea level, thus the temperature inside the cave is normally lower than the outside about 10 degrees Celsius. Due to several reasons, there are only 2 main tours that are exploited for tourism including 1 km sightseeing on the wooden staircase system and 7km discovering experience. You will get a once-in-a-lifetime chance to admire the mysterious beauty of stalactites and stalagmites in the cave, sail through underground streams and wade through cool springs to get to Gieng Troi. If you are a nature lover, never miss this chance.
Day 9: Quang Binh Departure
After spending a day exploring the breathtaking caves in Quang Binh, let’s drive to the hotel in town. After breakfast, you will be free at leisure until being picked up and transferred to the airport for flight.
For the one who has never been to the Central region of Vietnam, don’t overlook this region. The incredible central part can bring the most authentic and unique experience that you cannot have no matter where you go. With this itinerary, your trip will be able to cover all the best highlights of this amazing part of Vietnam. We hope you enjoy your trip.
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