Deliberating on where to travel to next? Well, we have the perfect itinerary set up for you: a five-day, four-night escapade to the coastal city Da Nang and its neighboring historical UNESCO World Heritage site, Hoi An. Whether you are a nature-lover, heritage-enthusiast, food addict, or just a curious tourist, this itinerary will cater to your varied interests.
Day 1: Exploring Da Nang culture and delicacies
Day 2: Nature and folklore in Da Nang
Day 3: Must-see tourist hits in Da Nang
Day 4: A cultural immersion in the ancient village of Hoi An
Day 5: Uncovering Cham heritage in Hoi An & a countryside getaway
Pro-tip: While Grab is commonly used to get around in Da Nang, a more authentic experience through the countryside awaits if you’re comfortable with renting and riding a scooter.
Hoan nghênh, welcome to Da Nang – the gem of central Vietnam! Lace up your boots for a food tour filled with authentic local cuisine in this bustling town. Instead of hopping right into the tourist bubble, your first day is designed to walk you in the shoes of the local, to soak up the Da Nang streets, culture, and truly fascinating architectural designs. Since Da Nang was a port city, both Europeans and Asians have left their own vestiges in the intriguing architectural patterns of buildings in Da Nang.
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Depending on your time of arrival, visit the local market Cho Phuoc My, where you will find yourselves spoilt for choice amongst the array of food stalls. Untainted by the usual tourist vibe, this market is a looking glass into the daily lives of the locals. For more than a snack, the restaurant Quan Chay Tue Tam is a five-minute walk away, and they serve excellent Mi Quang Chay and Banh Beo Chay (both of which are vegetarian). Touted the Miami of Vietnam, Da Nang is THE place to go for seafood. There are plenty of small restaurants like the popular Oc Ha, which serve snails cooked in coconut milk on the sidewalk.
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Da Nang is littered with sacred pagodas that the locals visit. Although they visit different pagodas for different types of wishes (for example, Ba Na for security and Ngu Hanh Son for love), pagodas are an integral part of Vietnamese culture and life. Check out the lesser-known Chua My Khe Pagoda. While you are there, you can also see only museum of Buddhist artefacts in Chua Quan Am, housing relics more than 500 years old. Not only is the entrance to the museum free, but it also serves as a good spot to spare you from the afternoon heat.
Photo courtesy of hoianindochine
The Dragon Bridge will be the perfect way to end your day, with lights that illuminate and bring the dragons come alive in the evening. Located at the riverside, you will find yourself amid a diversity of riverfront bars, cafes and restaurants for dinner! Take a stroll, and soak yourself in the impressive night scenery and if lucky you might even catch a show featuring fire tricks by the dragons.
Surrounded by breathtaking mountains, Da Nang has a rich tapestry of culture and folklore, with mythical tales dating hundreds of years back. If you time your trip earlier in the year, you will also be able to catch the Buddhist Avalokitesvara Festival that takes place in the Marble Mountains, which takes place on the 19th day of the second month on the Chinese lunar calendar. If not, there is still plenty to explore in the mountains and caves!
Photo courtesy of Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels
Named after the five elements (metal, water, wood, fire, and earth), the Marble Mountains features many sculptures and sanctuaries as it has been inhabited by Buddhist and Hindu grottoes since ancient times. All the mountains have cave entrances and plenty of tunnels to explore, with the recommended one being the Hell Cave. Yes, you read that right…A recreation of Buddhist hell itself featuring both paradise and purgatory, so if you dare, step into the dark underworld where key messages ingrained are to remind one of Buddhism’s core belief: Every deed has its consequences.
Photo courtesy of Jet Dela Cruz on Unsplash
Next stop – the Non-Nuoc Stone sculpture village located at the foot of the Marble Mountains. Heralded as a national heritage, and an important place that showcases a traditional craft passed down generations, this historic village from the 18th century contains thousands of beautiful stone sculptures. If you have time, the Lady Buddha Pagoda is nearby. The iconic statue boasts 17 floors, each dedicated to a shrine housing a different Buddha.
As you are heading back to the city, hungry yet rejuvenated, the A La Carte Hotel balances your day with a satiating menu and ever-flowing beer on its top floor, where you’d get a perfect view of the city!
Photo courtesy of @alp_tugray on Instagram
Ba Na is one of the most impressive man-made tourist attractions in Vietnam, packaged with an experience that takes you into a fairytale. Cross between a French resort and religious retreat on the 500-foot Golden Bridge, is an extraordinary giant stone hand. The pathway to get there is just as exhilarating. A 20-minute journey well past the cloud line, with the view of a vast expanse of greens up a mountain, and you’ll find yourself in a Gothic-style French village, home to French restaurants and the Danang French Village Hotel. Have your little ones? The indoor amusement park will entertain with their variety of rides and arcade games.
Photo courtesy of Annam on Pexels
Enjoy the rest of your evening at the My Khe beach. Known as one of the most attractive beaches on the planet, you will be able to catch beautiful sunsets here!
Celebrated by UNESCO as a world heritage site, Hoi An is a well-preserved ancient town that started life in the 15th century. Still vibrant with locals and visitors, you’ll see various architectural influences come together here. There are art shows, folk games, and street performances in this little town for you daily, so don’t miss out on them!
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Pass the Hoai River as you stroll through many fascinating cultural constructions like the Quan Cong Temples, ancient houses like the Phung Hung ancient house, churches, and museums. In the afternoon, you can also catch a ride to the Tam Thanh fishing village. It is 500 years old and one of the oldest pottery villages where you can get souvenirs and handicrafts and marvel at the Tam Thanh Mural street art.
Photo courtesy of Quang Nguyen Vinh on Unsplash
Sights aside, the Hoi An Lune Center Dome – designed to look like a full moon – is where you can catch performances in the evening. The Vietnamese Bamboo Circus is a must-see, where amongst impressive tricks and spectacles, you will be taken through a bittersweet story of missing the peaceful life of the countryside in the modern city – a sentiment that is honest and deeply felt by many locals.
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As the sky darkens, a different part of the village comes to life: the Night Market. Located at the heart of the town near the Japanese ancient bridge, you will come across vendors lined up with the tastiest local delicacies! Visit the markets on streets like Bach Dang and Tieu La as well.
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The last day is no less magical, starting with an early morning trip to My Son Sanctuary along the mountainous border of Quang Nam Province. One of the most precious heritage sites in Southeast Asia, My Son is built by a largely forgotten Champa Kingdom and stands as a salient reminder of Cham culture today. You will see many ruins of tombs and temples (built between the 4th and 14th centuries) of the Cham kings. The resilience of these archaic structures is something truly fascinating given how they were plotted to be destroyed multiple times during the bombing in the Vietnamese war.
Pro-Tip: Catch the Champa dance performance at the Sanctuary. If you rented a scooter, the route will take you through the countryside peppered with many small villages.
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Top Image: Hoach Le Dinh on Unsplash