THE FAIRYTALE OF HOI AN
If its lantern-lined, bougainvillea-draped streets could speak, how many stories could the charming old town of Hoi An tell? Countless. Then it’s no wonder that with its gorgeous architectural blend, mouth-watering cuisine, and intoxicating mix of cultures that Hoi An is Vietnam’s most popular, must-see tourist destination, recently voted by Travel + Leisure as the world’s best city.
Hoi An is like a fairytale – its charms extend beyond the imagination. Designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, this ancient trading port that sports European, Vietnamese, Japanese, Dutch, and Chinese architecture peeking out between boutique artisanal shops, vintage historic houses, and picturesque cafes. In the evening, hanging lanterns illuminate the streets while floating paper baskets holding candlelight drift down the river. Since Hoi An is just one of a few port cities that survived the Second Indochinese War unscathed, it has become a unique gem in Vietnam’s tourism crown, allowing visitors to glimpse at Vietnam from another time period.
While the old town is a dream, Hoi An has plenty more to offer visitors, from funky beaches and exceptional food to vibrant countryside and artistic traditions. Check out our collection of tailor-made Hoi An itineraries here, or keep reading for more Hoi An travel inspiration below.
Beach culture has taken on a life of its own in Hoi An, so much so that it’s even starting to steal a few beams of spotlight from the old town. Those that come for a weekend and stay for a month have often been seduced by the beaches, which welcome a quiet reprieve from city touring in addition to featuring laid-back beach resorts and atmospheric boutique hotels.
These are not remote wild beaches that look perfect in a photo but lack facilities and easy access. Instead, Hoi An’s hidden beaches are easy strips of sand with fun beach bars, great restaurants, and warm, shallow waters.
Choose to stay at the beach and visit the old town or stay in the old town and visit the beach—either way you won’t be disappointed.
Hoi An’s 500 year-old-history ensures it remains a haven for foodies. Firstly, there’s the indigenous food, specialties that you won’t find anywhere else in the country or indeed the world. And with many culinary influences from the French, Chinese, and Portuguese occurring over time, the unique result includes fragrant noodle soups, crispy wontons, and delicious “white rose” dumpling dishes.
Then there’s the wider central Vietnamese food, which has a distinct flavor of its own. It’s sweet, spicy, and addictive – many say that the food in central Vietnam is the best in the country. Classic local dishes include chicken with rice and white flat noodles, while aspiring chefs from all over the world set up shop hawking contemporary international fare. Go ahead and mix the best of central Vietnamese food with traveling the coast between Hoi An and Hue in our Central Vietnam Cultural Explorer package.
There’s something about the light in central Vietnam – especially in the summer months – that makes everything pop. The rice terraces are greener. The sky is bluer. And the fireball sunrises and sunsets burn a florescent orange that you’ll rarely see anywhere else. The countryside is magnificent across the region, but Hoi An, one of the world’s most romantic towns, is one of the best places to take it all in.
Why? Because a steady stream of intrepid travelers eager to get off the beaten track means an array of establishments dotted around the area to draw them in. That includes charming organic farms, boutique homestays, idyllic cafes, and cozy family restaurants.
The old town in Hoi An stretches back half a millennium, but that pales in comparison to the cultures that came before. Hoi An is home to My Son, another UNESCO World Heritage Site with similar motifs to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and Myanmar’s Bagan.
The temples may not be as grand as their rivals in other parts of Southeast Asia, but they reflect a civilization that was equally as sophisticated.
Likewise, just a two-hour drive north along the Hai Van Ocean Cloud Mountain Pass from Hoi An will bring you to the ancient imperial capital of Hue, now filled with numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites. For the most dedicated historian or anthropologist, combine Vietnam’s best tours in one incredible itinerary, like this one here.
Don’t disregard Da Nang, especially if you’re a fan of world-class beach resorts nestled between exceptional settings. Da Nang might not have the imperial splendor of Hue or old-world charm of Hoi An, but it’s still one of central Vietnam’s highlight destinations.
From any point in Danang you can see the mountains or the sea (sometimes both at once, resulting in phenomenal natural vistas that contrast with the city’s modern skyline).
At night the city really ramps things up, with Vietnam’s most decorated river, home to a fire-breathing dragon (no joke). And when you’ve had enough of history lessons, rice terrace trekking, and spelunking in the world’s biggest caves, spend time in Da Nang to soak up the sun and listen to the call of the sea.
Dive deep into Vietnam’s magnificent landscapes and warm culture with these destination-focused itineraries designed to take you further into the country. Or mix and match to create the adventure of a lifetime.
Our Hoi An Tours
7 days | Active From VND
Get off-the-beaten track in Central Vietnam with this 7-day adventure to Hoi An and Quy Nhon. Cycle through quiet farming villages, learning about the local way of life before hopping into a jeep for a sunrise tour through the ancient My Son Cham ruins. Then, board a train headed south to Quy Nhon, a pristine beach getaway with access to more ancient ruins and a stylish stay at Avani Quy Nhon.
8 days | Culture From VND
Gain a deeper perspective of Vietnam on this 8-day escape to Hue and Hoi An, two of Central Vietnam’s most popular destinations. In addition to sampling some of Vietnam’s best culinary delights, you’ll join artist workshops and explore historical attractions as well as spend a night in a Co Tu ethnic minority mountain village, getting to know one of the most remote tribes in the country directly from the source.
4 days | Active From VND
Get off-the-beaten track in Hoi An with this quick 4-day adventure through countryside and ruins. Cycle through quiet farming villages, learning about the local way of life before hopping into a jeep for a sunrise tour through the ancient My Son Cham ruins.
4 days | Culture From VND
Gain a deeper perspective of Vietnam on this 4-day escape to Hoi An, a fairytale-like town in Central Vietnam. Browse private artist collections and join different workshops while strolling down the bougainvillea covered streets, catching glimpses of Chinese, French, Vietnamese, Japanese and Dutch influences in the architecture. In addition, this package includes many opportunities to taste different varieties of Central Vietnamese fare.
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