So you already know that central Vietnam is the best, right? Hue, Danang and Hoi An is a route regularly traveled by visitors to Vietnam. But most people don’t realize that there is so much to visit outside the cities. The 120 kilometers between Danang to Hoi An offer plenty of opportunities to visit lagoons, beaches mountains and some interesting characters along the way.
We have included some locations of interest as well as some travel options at the bottom of the page. If we’ve missed something out, tell us in the comments below!
Hue to Danang: Lagoons, Mountains and Springs (Oh My!)
The distance between Hue to Danang is around 100 kilometers and takes between 2-3 hours. Most people head straight down highway one to Danang. What you should consider is everything on offer in between. Get up as early as possible and hit the road!
Thuan An Beach
beach, local food, fishing town
Lagoon at Thuan An Fishing VillageThe drive from Hue to Thuan An leads you east towards the coast. 15KM makes it a short drive to this sleepy beach town. If you’re keen on an early dip in the sea, stop off and strip down. Otherwise, Thuan An is also home to popular food banh ep. Which will make for a light breakfast or brunch. Thuan An has a few things going on with some other places to check out around here. Check our blogpost on Thuan An for more information. Once you are done, take the road south (road 49B) which meanders between farming land, lagoons and beaches. Certainly more scenic than the highway!
Google Maps Link: Thuan An Beach.
An Bang Cemetery: Valley of Tombs
Unique tombs combining old traditions and new money
Oriental graveyards may be nothing new if you’re travelling through South-East Asia but the Valley of Tombs (Nghĩa Trang An Bang in Vietnamese) in An Bang Village is especially unique. After the American-Vietnamese war, many families from this area were torn apart. Some family members left the country while others remained. As elder relatives passed away, family living abroad sent money back to support the construction of their tombs. Since Vietnam has a tradition of showing great respect to those who have passed on, it is not unusual for a lot of money to be spent on rituals and burial processes. The Valley of Tombs is possibly one of the most extravagant in the region. Tombs are more akin to small temples with immense detail on each one to emphasize their significance. Some cost as much as 2,000,000,000 VND (88,000USD) to construct. Note that many include influences of foreign decor, possibly from the countries that relatives now live in. If you explore thoroughly enough, you may find some empty graves at the cemetery. These are for ancestors that have yet to pass away. Spooky!
Google Maps Link: An Bang Cemetery
An Bang Beach
Local beach, local seafood
Opposite the City of Tombs is An Bang beach. Not to be confused with the An Bang beach in Hoi An. Very makeshift restaurants serving back-to-basics seafood. The newly-constructed beach shack/bar will provide a place for a quick swim in the sea and one of the best fish salads (gỏi cá) I’ve ever eaten. Don’t be disheartened by the term fish salad, these are sashimi-like strips of fish with mango and spices rolled up into a spring roll. Delicious and cheerfully-cheap.
Google Maps Link: An Bang Beach
Truc Lam Pagoda and Bach Ma National Park
Wildife and stunning landscapes. Beautiful pagoda.
Continue south around the beautiful Cau Hai lagoon and you’ll reach the Tu Hien bridge (Cau Tu Hien) where the lagoon meets the sea. There’s some discreet beaches around here if you have the time to spare. Continue further until the QL49B joins with the highway and backtrack to Bach Ma mountain. If you are an avid trekker and a wildlife enthusiast, a walk around Bach Ma mountain may be just for you. Boasting hundreds of unique flora and recently discovered species of monkeys and deer. It may be worth spending the night camping at Bach Ma mountain if you have the time. At the bottom of this article are links for companies that can organise this.
Bach Ma also has it’s own pagoda. 15 kilometers into the mountain is a monastery sitting on a hill at the foot of a lake. You’ll need to take a small bus to the lakethen take a boat to get to the pagoda. the Buddhist totem on the jungle-like islet in the centre of the lake is enchanting. The strand of Buddhism practiced at Truc Lam Bach Ma arrived from India via China 300 years ago and thus differs from the Buddhism more commonly practiced in Vietnam. The monastery happily takes in people who are looking to meditate. We don’t have any contact details for this but we are advised to just turn up and stay as long as you want.
Google Maps Link: Bach Ma National Park
Google Maps Link: Bach Ma Pagoda
Refreshing fresh-water pools. chill time.
Elephant Springs (Suối Voi in Vietnamese) is a popular location with tourists both domestic and international. Around halfway between Hue and Danang on highway 1, it features several pools of fresh water. Plenty of jumping points into the deep water too. Easy Riders often bring guests here on their ride between Hoi An and Hue. A lot of travelling Vietnamese also stop here for a boozy chicken lunch and a paddle in the springs. Really busy during the summer breaks, quieter in periods out of summer vacation. Both atmospheres are enjoyable providing how easy-going you are. A lot of huts serve food and drink but often charge for using the space. Clarify with the staff before getting comfortable.
Google Maps Link: Elephant Springs
Lang Co Village
Seaside. Beach. Lagoons. Views.
An optical precursor to the famous Hai Van Pass. Lang Co Village is idyllic. A stretch of land no wider than a kilometer wedged between lagoon and sea. The Lagoon is calming at points away from the highway. It’s idle waters only interrupted by the tug of a fishing-boat engine. Lang Co is beautiful, no matter the time or season.
Lang Co also has a fantastic range of seafood restaurants. I guess bad seafood is hard to come by around these parts. There are a few restaurants such as Viet Long Lang Co which extend into the lagoon on stilted huts. However, we prefer the gritty integrity of Susu restaurant. A local family-owned restaurant favoured by truck drivers driving up and down the country. Susu restaurant really know how to put on a feast. Their fried squid and claypot fish is a must. Susu first. Lagoon instagram after.
Google Maps Link: Lang Co
Hai Van Pass
Winding roads, top panoramics, mountain meets sea.
Racist homophobe Jeremy Clarkson and cronies came to Vietnam and proclaimed Hai Van Pass to be one of the most beautiful roads in the world. Kind of like Anthony Bordain saying that the best banh my is in Hoi An. Henceforth, Vietnam gained another entry on the flashbacker bucket list. Don’t let a cynical bald man like me put you off. The pass’s fame has generated a lot of money and local authorities have take extra care in maintaining the roads. Hai Van Pass is a stunner. Higher points provide fascinating panoramic views of both Lang Co and Danang.
Most people don’t take time to explore the mountain. There are a few hidden roads that lead off to more exclusive viewpoints. The easiest trail to find lies right at the top of the highway behind the old war bunker. While this path is incredibly steep it takes you to several view points where Danang and Lang Co can be seen from great heights. If you’re travelling through twice and haven’t got the energy to do the Hai Van pass again, there is a shuttle bus that can take you and a motorbike through the mountain.
Google Maps Link: Hai Van Pass
Leper Beach (Bãi Xoan)
desolate settlement, secluded beach, cove.
Nestled into a cove on Hai Van’s southside is a small beach that used to be home to Danang’s leper colony. Resettlement of the colony happened in the 2000’s to make way for a resort but for now owns the beach is empty and hardly visited. Definitely for the most adventurous of travelers looking for secluded beaches with an ominous past.
Google Maps Link: Leper Beach
Nam O Beach and Nguyen Tat Tan Street
the road easier traveled.
As you approach Danang, it’s worth turning off the highway and taking the quieter and more spacious beach road towards Danang named Nguyen Tat Thanh. It’s seldom used by anyone other than those desperate to escape the traffic in and out of Danang. The nearest corner of Nguyen Tat Tan street from Danang is Nam O beach. Nam O was where the American ground troops first landed into central Vietnam. Unsurprisingly, like those infamous opening scenes from the film Apocalypse Now (which was based on an area in the Mekong Delta), Nam O is considered by many of Danang’s residents to be the city’s finest surf break. Once more, this beach is now in the possession of developers and will eventually be off limits.
Google Maps Link: Nguyen Tat Thanh Street
Danang to Hoi An: The Route Well-Traveled
Danang to Hoi An is around 30KM as the crow flies. While there isn’t as much as you might expect between Danang and Hoi An, there are still some places of interest.
the Dragon Bridge and Danang’s Other Bridges.
modern engineering and architectural landmarks
Danang has a total of five bridges over the Han River. Some old. Some new. Others minor works of stylistic architecture. Completed in 2014, The dragon bridge has become the city’s lead mascot over recent years. Every Saturday and Sunday around 8PM the dragon’s head breathes fire and sprays water. It’s not the most spectacular display of pyrotechnics but still impressive considering it serves as a bridge.
Son Tra Pensisula
Adventures on monkey mountain
Son Tra Peninsula is a day trip in itself. Firstly, Linh Ung pagoda where Lady Buddha (67ft tall) looks over Danang akin to Christ the Redeemer does in Rio Di Janeiro. There’s also numerous beaches dotted around the peninsula which host bamboo huts and restaurants selling seafood. A steep drive to the top of Son Tra and you’ll find Ban Co peak which delivers a breathtaking panoramic view. The Son Tra Peninsula hosts the city’s Intercontinental Resort. If you’ve got the money to splurge, treat yourself. Known to foreign visitors as monkey mountain, Son Tra has garnered international attention for being the residence of a rare breed monkey called the Red Shanked Douc. Some people have seen the monkey, others haven’t. If you’re a budding Steve Irwin, then let the search begin! I forgot to mention there’s a 1,000 year old banyan tree too.
Google Maps Link: Son Tra Mountain
Burgers and old tales
Tam has been a Danang institution since the 1990’s. She spent her childhood and teenage years living through the American-Vietnamese war. Her tales of survival and working with the US army have captured the hearts and attention of Danang residents and travelers alike throughout the years. The endless amounts of photos that decorate the wall are testament to her popularity. There’s even a few of Jimmy Buffet! Speaking of burgers, there was once a time when Tam could claim to have the best burgers in town and the only surfboards available to rent. Nowadays, competition has grown rapidly and Tam’s inability to keep up with the market has left her receiving less customers and generally ignored by travel guides. Sadly, Tam lost some of her pizzazz when she suffered a stroke in early 2018. Nevertheless, she’s more than keen to show you old photos of Danang and Hue before and during the war. She can still crack a good story too.
Google Maps Link: Tam’s Pub
Hoa’s Place and Ngu Hanh Son
marble mountain and beach side hostel
Heading further south towards Hoi An on Vo Nguyen Gap street is Ngu Hanh Son. a small collection of marble and limestone mountains. This area was once a primary resource for marble-related creations around Vietnam, most famously Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum in Hanoi. Today, the collection of mountains serve less as a source of marble and more for tourists to hike around it’s caves and peaks. There are a few pagodas nesteld into the mountain too. Ngu Hanh Son isn’t peaceful; it’s usually crowded with tour buses and hawkers. Needless to say, it’s amusing to be on top of the mountains knowing that once stood American GI’s while their enemy hid in the caves below.
Beach side of the road opposite Ngu Hanh Son is Hoa’s place. Hoa was a marine with the American’s during the war and his chilled out demeanor makes him popular with his guests. Hoa and his wife run a homestay which doubles up as a restaurant and a bar. His homestay was relocated in 2013 to make space for the mass resort development in the area. His new location stands a stone’s throw from the beach but what was once a quiet retreat outside the city is now surrounded by resorts and other businesses. Nevertheless, Hoa is a charming host and he has kept prices to a minimum in order to continue attracting the Bedouin travelers that have always frequented his business.
Google Maps Link: Hoa’s Place & the Marble Mountains
An Bang Beach (Hoi An)
The beach road to Hoi An was once relatively quiet and ran through a couple of tiny villages. While the villages remain, the road encompasses several resorts and multiplexes. Furthermore, most tourist transportation has opted to take this route rather than the highway.
While there isn’t really anything of note between Ngu Hanh Son and Hoi An, there are a few beaches. The most popular one now being An Bang beach which usurped Cua Dai of it’s title of being Hoi An’s number one beach location. An Bang has grown so much since I first visited. From being a few seafood restaurants and scanty beach bars, An Bang has received overwhelming investment from private businesses that sell everything from luxury ice cream to fusion tacos. It’s far from being anything like the other beaches mentioned in this article but excels in lavishness and decadence.
Google Maps Link: https://goo.gl/maps/A1YjX7RYEqK2
Beyond Hoi An
the adventure resumes!
There’s a lot more on offer beyond Hoi An as you head further south. The new and stunning Cửa Đại bridge, Vietnam’s heroic mother monument and Tam Thanh graffiti village. They are all worth a day trip if you’re planning a few days or more in Hoi An.
How to Travel Central Vietnam
Motorbike Purchase and Rental
Despite the dangers and risks involved with driving your own bike in Vietnam, there isn’t really any substitute for the autonomy you get with your own motorbike. Travel is truly best served in your own time. Please consider the risks involved, especially if driving for the first time.
Motorbike purchase in Hue
Motorbike rental between Hoi An and Hue
Easy riders are available in abundance throughout Hue, Danang and Hoi An. Most are flexible in their itineraries and give an extra touch as local tour guides. Sometimes can be annoying in their demeanour but sit down and have a beer with one to see if he or she is the right fit for you.
Easy Riders between Hoi An, Danang and Hue:
Amazing Easy Riders
Private Transport Hire
Depending on your group size, there are a a variety of transports available. There are cars, vans, jeeps and people carriers available. Once again, many are available to provide a custom-fit package to suit your needs. One negative of private transport hire is the limit a roof can have when so much of central Vietnam’s charms come in it’s landscapes. Consider this when booking your transport.
Private Transport hire between Hoi An, Danang and Hue:
Tours From Hue
Obviously, the train is very restricted in what you can experience on this route. One upside is that the tracks meander around the Hai Van pass and give a unique perspective to the set of mountains. Unfortunately, the train only serves Danang and Hue which means you will require another means of transport if you’re planning on heading to Hoi An. Check times and book tickets at least a few hours before you plan to leave. Cheaper to buy at office than online.
Hue Train Station
Danang Train Station
travel in luxury with HAV travel. between 6am and 6pm, the company offer shuttle buses between Danang and Hue that take no longer than 2 hours. Comfortable reclining seats are great for sleeping through the journey. Wifi included. The bus goes through Hai Pass rather than over meaning you’ll miss the majority of spectacles on your trip.
Photos in this article by Ana Fortuna