Central Coast and Caves
The Central Coast doesn’t have the country’s top destinations, but fewer tourists mean a better chance of experiencing authentic Vietnamese culture. This is also where modern-day Vietnam got its start, and there are a few towns where you can get a glimpse of Vietnam’s ancient history.
The Best of Central Coast and Caves
For every Vietnamese city that races headlong into the future, there’s one that’s just as firmly rooted in past. Hue is a historical destination and a fantastic stop for travelers who want to plunge into Vietnamese culture. This city isn’t completely frozen in time — Apple stores, large hotels, and sleek pubs have begun pop up just beyond historic district — but Hue is still largely a city where life drifts along with the leisurely current of the Perfume River.
Vietnam’s 12th Nguyen Emperor broke from many of the traditions set in stone by his predecessors’ tombs. Instead of separating his crypt and temple, Khai Dinh housed both in Thien Dinh Palace — a single structure built into the side of a steep hill on the outskirts of Hue. The overall area of the tomb occupies a much smaller parcel of land than many of the other tombs, but it is easily the most opulent and flamboyant.
The land on Vietnam’s Central Coast is made largely of limestone — a malleable material that can be shaped into magnificent caves over time. Visit the vast expanse of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park to see some of the world’s largest and most striking caves. Son Doong Cave is the largest cave in the world, and the Tu Lan Cave System has a series of caves and an underground river to explore. Both these attractions are worth multi-day treks.
The Central Coast is home to the Marble Mountain range. For years, locals chipped away at it to make fine art. Now, the marble mountains are largely sealed off, although there are still peaks you climb and shops in the area with lots of marble carvings for you to browse.
Visit the rural town of Ninh Binh to see the remains of Hoa Lu, which is Vietnam’s first capital. Hoi An’s Ancient Town is a UNESCO Heritage Site and has streets lined with well-preserved historic homes. Hue served as the capital for Vietnam’s last royal family, the Nguyen dynasty. Today, you can take a tour of the once sealed-off royal citadel.
- Key Attractions