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Based upon our Apr-2016 visit to central Vietnam, below is the list of 6 Must-See Places in Da Nang that all visitors should explore! (Plus useful tips!)
- Getting Around Da Nang
- 6 Must-See Places in Hue (Central Vietnam)
- Best of Central Vietnam: 4-Days Itinerary
6 Must-See Places in Da Nang
Da Nang is a beautiful coastal city in central Vietnam; located midway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. It is the third largest city in the country and is within 100km of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Imperial City of Hue to its north and Hoi An Ancient Town to the south. Da Nang itself is best known for its sandy beaches and marble mountains, and is a popular base for tourist looking to explore the central regions of Vietnam.
#1: Hai Van Pass
Surely the most scenic site in Da Nang, Hai Van Pass [map] is an impressively picturesque 21km long mountain pass in Central Vietnam, approximately 25km north of the city. The pass crosses over a spur, which juts into the South China Sea. The strategically located pass was historically the frontier between two ancient kingdoms in the region. Given its difficult terrain, Hai Van Pass represented a major obstacle for ancient armies trying to passage between northern and central Vietnam.
Though long known to be panoramic, Hai Van Pass’s shot to worldwide fame came after being featured in BBC’s motoring show, Top Gear. In its “2008 Vietnam Special” episode, Jeremy Clarkson (presenter) hailed Hai Van Pass as “a deserted ribbon of perfection – one of the best coast roads in the world”. The pass has not seen a lack in tourist ever since.
- Visit for FREE: Hai Van Pass is located between Hue (~80km) and Da Nang (~25km). As such, many tourist buses (and catered taxis) ferrying travelers between Hue and Da Nang/Hoi An will throw in a short stop-over at Hai Van Pass for free.
- Best photo spot at the top of Hai Van Pass: Hai Van Pass’s main point of interest is the abandoned fort at the top of the pass [map]. Most tourist buses/taxis will have their pit stop here. From the parking area, climb up the hill (with abandoned structures) as far as you can. Once high enough, you could capture a panoramic photo of Hai Van Pass with both the northern/southern coastline clearly in view. (See below)
- Top Gear photo spot: On the northern end of the pass is a scenic spot where the Top Gear presenters famously stopped to admire its beauty [map]. There is no proper viewing point or parking area, but the short stretch of road offers picturesque view of Lang Co Beach, the neighbouring fishing village and an elevated highway across the sea (see below). If taking a catered taxi, be sure to inform your driver to have a brief stop at this rare beauty!
#2: Hoi An Ancient Town
Hoi An Ancient Town [map] is an UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Central Vietnam, approximately 30km south of Da Nang city. The coastal city is a thriving South-East Asian trading port during the 15th-19th centuries, resulting in a diverse range of architecture flavors from both local and foreign inspirations.
The well-preserved ancient town of Hoi An is extremely popular with visitors and has been developed into a tourist hub complete with numerous museums, chapels, temples, assembly halls, café/restaurants and shops. During the evenings, Hoi An comes alive with colorfully lit buildings/streets, lantern-filled river, cultural performances, street activities and a fascinating night market.
- It is a MUST to experience the evening festive atmosphere in Hoi An; no visit is ever complete without it!
- [Accommodation] Numerous B&Bs (various budgets) can be found within or very near to the ancient town. Definitely worth spending a night here!
- Officially, tickets are required for entry into the core areas of the ancient town. Tickets (as of Apr-2016) are priced at 120,000 VND (~5 USD). Each ticket comes with 5 coupons, which the visitor can use to visit 5 of the 22 sightseeing places in the ancient town.
#3: Marble Mountains
A short drive from Da Nang’s city centre is the famous Marble Mountains [map]. It is a cluster of five marble and limestone hills set distinctively against the backdrop of the surrounding plains, just slightly off the coastline. The five hills are named after the five elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth.
Numerous grottoes housing Buddhist and Hindu sanctuaries can be found on the top of the Marble Mountains, making them popular tourist destinations. There are also various pagodas and panoramic viewing points dotting the hilltops. Of the five, Water Mountain is the largest and clearly the most interesting, as evidenced by its number of visitors.
- An entry fee of 15,000 VND applies.
- To get to the Water Mountain hilltop, visitors need to climb a long flight of stairs.
- Alternatively, there is a glass elevator service (to the top of Water Mountain), which also offers a panoramic view of the surrounding plains. Fees are payable, a single trip (one way) on the elevator cost 15,000 VND.
- For a visit to Water Mountain, set aside 2-4 hours.
#4: My Khe Beach (China Beach)
My Khe Beach (aka China Beach) [map] is widely considered Vietnam’s most famous and picturesque beach. It obtained its worldwide fame and popularity during the Vietnam War years when American troops visit it during their time offs. Such is its prominence, My Khe Beach has amongst its accolades, listed in Forbes (2005) “World’s Most Luxurious Beaches” and Australia Herald Sun’s (2007) “Asia’s Top 10 Best Beaches”.
Stretching approximately 10km from the base of Son Tra Peninsula to the Marble Mountains, My Khe Beach is a short distance from Da Nang city centre. Reasons for My Khe Beach’s intense popularity with locals/tourists includes its pristine white sand, wide beachfront, gentle slope and its calm, clear and warm waters during most seasons.
- [Accommodation] Many hotels and resorts (serving various budgets) can be found along My Khe’s entire beachfront. Imagine waking up to the sights and sounds of the South China Sea, simply incredible!
- [Safety] Lifeguards are regularly on duty. Be sure to swim in the areas close to them and follow their instructions!
#5: Lady Buddha
The most prominent man-made structure in Da Nang city is without doubt the statue of the Bodhisattva of Mercy (commonly known as Lady Buddha) [map] located at Linh Ung Pagoda, on Monkey Mountain in the Son Tra Peninsula. From Da Nang city, one could easily see the 67m statue against the backdrop of Monkey Mountain, gazing into the expanse of the South China Sea.
This Lady Buddha statue is the highest in Vietnam, and is made of a single slab of marble. From the temple grounds beside Lady Buddha, one could have a sweeping view of My Khe Beach and Da Nang city in the distance.
- [How to get there] Other than self-drive, the best way to reach Lady Buddha is via taxi. Get your hotel reception to make a booking and provide an estimate quote. Normally, the taxi driver will fetch you to Lady Buddha and wait while you tour the grounds; sending you back once you’re done. The rates are reasonable as you’ll only pay for the metered fare of the to/fro journey. (Do have a confirmation of this fare arrangement before the trip.)
- Set aside approx. 1 to 1.5 hours to tour the grounds.
#6: Dragon Bridge (River Han)
Since its completion in 2013, the Dragon Bridge [map] in Da Nang city has grown into becoming the undisputed icon of the rapidly developing city. Built at a cost of US$88 million, the 666m long Dragon Bridge crosses over River Han, which separates Da Nang city from the coastal areas (e.g. My Khe Beach) to the east.
As its name suggest, Dragon Bridge is modelled after the shape of a dragon, visually resembling a dragon flying over River Han. The fascinating aspect of the bridge is that the dragon mouth will spit out fire! Little wonder why the Dragon Bridge has been a tourist magnet since its inception.
- Plan ahead for the visit! The “fire breathing” only occurs on Saturdays and Sundays at 9pm. If your travel schedule allows, make plans to be in Da Nang city during the weekends to catch this spectacular scene. Do not repeat the mistake made by this author.
- The “dragon head” of the bridge is on its eastern end, while the “tail end” of the bridge is on the western end. Make a good guess which end of the bridge you have to be to see the fire breathing? LOL!
Getting around Da Nang
Da Nang city is relatively large and most tourist sites are not within walking distance of each other. One exception is the area next to the Dragon Bridge (Han River), where the riverside promenade, Han Market and Da Nang Cathedral are in close proximity to each other.
Motorbikes are a cheap and convenient way to get around in Vietnam. The plus point of riding one in Da Nang is that traffic is not as congested as larger cities like Ho Chi Minh, while its streets are spacious. Numerous motorbike-renting establishments can be found throughout the city.
However, it is important to know that in legal terms, a local motorbike license is required. In reality, a fair number of foreign tourists flout this rule, fueled by the fact that it is seldom enforced. Having said, caution is recommended. Problems can arise when accidents occur, as the rider is without license and insurance cover.
Taxis are aplenty in major Vietnamese cities and Da Nang is no exception. All taxis are equipped with meters, and the rates are reasonable.
However, it is common to hear about tourist complaining of rogue taxi drivers that does not charge according to the meter. To be safe, take only taxis from reputable companies (Vinasun being one of them; Google for more) and stay alert during the journey (e.g. track the route using GPS). You could also talk to your hotel receptionist to enquire about the approximate fare between locations that you plan to visit.
2016 Vietnam VLOG (Hue, Hoi An, Da Nang)
Below is the VLOG on our Apr-2016 Central Vietnam adventure.
- Best of Central Vietnam: 4-Days Itinerary
- 6 Must-See Places in Hue (Central Vietnam)
- Best of Hanoi and Ha Long Bay: 6 Days Itinerary
- Places to see in Hanoi, Vietnam
- Guide to Ha Long Bay and Cat Ba Island, Vietnam
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