It seems Da Nang in central Vietam doesn’t get the attention as it’s northern neighbors, Hue or Hoi An, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. From conversations with other travelers and researching about my first trip to Vietnam, the message was clear: there were better places to visit in Vietnam. With such consistent piece of travel advice, I added Da Nang to my Vietnam itinerary and decided to explore Da Nang for myself. I was only in Da Nang 2 days but I had a great time. Below are my highlights of my visit with 5 Things to Do in Da Nang Vietnam.
The peak tourist season starts around May and lasts until August. That is also the time when a lot of Vietnamese travel to Da Nang. I visited in early March during the shoulder season. So it wasn’t overcrowded which is probably why I really enjoyed my time there.
5 Things to Do in Da Nang Vietnam
1. The Beaches
Da Nang is a coastal city with long stretches of some of the most beautiful beaches in Southeast Asia. With three main areas (North Da Nang, South Da Nang, and Son Tra), there are plenty of choices to soak in some sun, go parasailing, and even surf.
South Da Nang is the most popular area with 20+ miles (~32 km) of beach and includes two big ones: My Khe Beach and Non Nuoc Beach.
My Khe Beach
My Khe Beach is about a mile long and is the popular spot for both visitors and locals alike. The beach was nicknamed China Beach by American troops who received R&R during the Vietnam War. Today, this part of the beach is undergoing a lot of new development and all along the coast, brand new hotels and resorts dot the skyline.
I spent a good portion of my morning walking along the beach with almost no one around finally settling for a relaxing morning reading and listening to the waves.
Non Nuoc Beach
Non Nuoc Beach is known for it idyllic soft white sands and amazing seafood restaurants. It’s about 20 miles south of the city center and is a nice motorbike drive along the coast. From the beach you can easily get to Marble Mountains, another place to visit while in Da Nang.
2. Marble Mountains
I didn’t visit Marble Mountains when I was in Da Nang but after when I took a motobike trip from Hue to Hoi An (which I’ll be writing about in a later post). Marble Mountains is an easy 10 minute walk from Non Nuoc Beach making this a nice day trip idea.
The Marble Mountains are a cluster of 5 limestone and marble hills. Each one is named after the elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth. Make sure to climb the 150 limestone stepsto the top. It’s a worthy trek for a reward of some great views of the coast and surrounding countryside.
The main “mountain” is Thuỷ Sơn or Mountain of Water. This hill has pagodas and structures that date back to the 17th century. It also includes many important Buddhist sites in the caves of the hill and has become an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists.
This areas is also well-known for its stone-cutting and sculpture-making tradition. There are plenty of shops and galleries to visit to see some great works of art.
The Marble Mountains are open daily until 5:30 pm and admission is about $4 USD.
3. Museum of Cham Sculpture
f you’re like me and geek out learning about ancient cultures and history, add a visit to the Musuem of Cham Sculpture. The Champa Empire was an ancient kingdom that lasted from the 2nd century to the 17th century. The Chams and its rule covered pretty much all of the central and southern coastal region of Vietnam. Today, there are about 100,000 Chams living in Vietnam today.
Museum of Cham Sculpture is the world’s largest collection of Champa artifacts. There are about 300 terracotta pieces and stone sculptures from the 7th to the 15th centuries housed in the museum.
The museum was created in 1915 during the French colonial era. It’s the only museum in the world that focuses on this period of history which probably isn’t known to many people.
The museum is open daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is about $3 USD.
4. Dragon Bridge
Da Nang is a city of bridges. There are six bridges but none are as famous as the Dragon Bridge. It was created by an American engineer design firm and opened in 2013. It spans the Han River and is 666 meters long (half a mile).
If you visit Da Nang on the weekend there’s a special event that draws colossal crowds. The bridge was designed to breath fire and water.
Don’t be the unknowingly bunch of people vying for a spot upclose near Dragon’s head. The show starts fire, those underneath it get blasted with some intense heat. But then of course you can cool down afterwards for a cooling soak. Find a spot along the river bank for the best views.
You can see a show that starts around 9 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday.
5. Son Tra Peninsula
Son Tra Peninsula makes a great day trip. It’s located at the north end of the city overlooking Da Nang Harbor and the East Sea. Rent a motorbike for about 150,000 Dong or $6 USD. There is plenty to do and see to fill a day of exploration.
Goddess of Mercy and Ling Un Pagoda
Ling Un Pagoda is often the first stop of the day since it sits at the base of the mountain. What has become a symbol of Da Nang, the Goddess of Mercy, also known as the Lady Buddha protects the fisherman and the city.
It has become an important Buddhist site for many Vietnamese. The temple buildings are a mix of modern and traditional Vietnamese pagoda styles creating a peaceful balance throughout the complex. Take some time to stroll through the courtyard garden. You will be greeted with 18 white stone Arhat statues created by Vietnamese artist, Nguyen Viet Minh.
Of course the prominent feature is the Goddess of Mercy. She stands at 67 meters (220 feet) and is the tallest Buddha statue in Vietnam. From most points in and around Da Nang, you can see her overlooking the city and surronding area.
The complex is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and there is no admission fee. If you take a motorbike parking is a few Dongs. Depending on the time of the year, it can get pretty hot so it might be worth a visit during the later part of the day where you could be rewarded with an amazing sunset view over Da Nang.
But Beach is a popular local spot where you can rent a bamboo hut. This is a rocky beach with several boulder size formations that can soak in some sun on. This is lively place mostly with locals drinking and eating under the huts. If you want to intermingle with the locals, join one of the many huts where you can try your voice at some Vietnamese karokee. And don’t worry if you’re singing is horrible.
Ban Co Peak (Chessboard Peak)
Ban Co Peak is the highest point on Son Tra Penisula at about 700 meters above sea level. It’s a windy way to the top while driving on a mix of paved and dirt roads. The jungle tapestry hugs some narrow paths and the chorus of the jungle forest really comes alive. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the Red Shanked Douc, an endangered monkey species that lives in the forest.
Ban Co Peak is also known as the Chessboard Peak. This was a nice suprise when I arrived. There’s a legend that tells the story of two gods who were playing chess for several days with no clear winner. Then one of the deities became distracted when he saw some fairies playing in the ocean. In a fit of anger, the diety kicked the chessboard into the ocean. The local people then carved a large chess board on the rock where the two were playing chess. They built a statue of the deity named De Thich. He sits alone in front of the chess board thinking carefully about his next moves, a good lesson to contemplate.
There’s plenty more to see and do on Son Tra Penisula that I didn’t get the chance to visit. There’s the 1,000 year old Banyan Tree, the nature reserve, and the Son Tra View Tower & Army Radar Station all things I’ll definitely want to visit for next time.
Special Mention -Da Nang Noodles
It would be absolutely wrong not to mention food in this list of 5 things to do in Da Nang. Da Nang is a foodie’s paradise especially if you love seafood. There are countless number of seafood restuarants along the beachfront. And there are plenty of picks for amazing Vietnamese street food. Da Nang’s Con Market is a great place to sample a variety of Vietnamese dishes and for some good shopping deals.
My favorite thing to eat was Da Nang’s Famous Mi Quang Noodles. It’s usually served for breakfast. However, it was my choice pretty much for every meal. The noodles are called Mi Quang. It’s made with a mixture of white and turmeric rice noodles, pork or chicken, and herbs often topped with a quail egg, lettuce, and some bean sprouts.
Just writing about this noodle dish is making me want to visit my local Vietnamese grocery store and try to make some for myself.
Da Nang was definitely one of my favorite places to visit in Vietnam. There’s a lot of tourism development occuring. The next few years should be an interesting time for Da Nang.
There are plenty of cities to visit especially as a new visitor to Vietnam. Since Da Nang sits between Hue and Hoi An, two popular cities, it’s a great base with plenty to offer visitors. So make sure to add it to your it your itinerary.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, check out Hi Da Nang Beach Hostel in my review post.