Central — Central Vietnam, or Trung Bo, flanks the long line of the Trung Son Mountain range, also called the Annamese Cordillera. In this volume, I divide the center into the north center, where you’ll find the cities of Vinh, Hue, Danang, and historic Hoi An, and the south center, where you’ll find the beach community of Nha Trang, as well as the temperate, hilly Central Highlands region, with small towns like Pleiku and the city of Dalat.
Traveling south from Hanoi, visitors trace the central coastline, location of major cities Hue, Danang, and Hoi An. The small town of Vinh, birthplace of Ho Chi Minh, is just halfway between Hanoi and Hue. And Hue (pronounced Hway), a name familiar from the war years for its strategic location near the 17th Parallel, is Vietnam’s former capital and imperial city (1802-1945). Going south from Hue, crossing over the high Hai Van Pass before dropping back to the coast and the small beach area of Lang Co and nearby Bach Ma National Park, is Danang, Vietnam’s fourth-largest city and a port town whose major attractions include the museum of Cham antiquities and nearby China Beach. Nearby Hoi An, a major trading center from the mid-16th century, shows the architectural influences of Chinese and Japanese traders who passed through and settled here, leaving perfectly preserved buildings. It is now once again a center of cultural exchange and commerce, but is tourist-focused with souvenir centers and tailor shops (also lots of new resorts on nearby Cua Dai Beach).
Tracing the coast farther south from Hoi An, pass through the small port city of Quy Nhon, uninteresting but for a few nice new resort offerings, and then on to Nha Trang, Vietnam’s preeminent sea resort, where new upmarket offerings are popping up like mushrooms on a log. Just inland from the south-central coast area, you’ll find the Central Highlands area, a temperate, hilly region occupied by many of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities. Most popular and developed for tourists is historic Dalat, a resort town nestled in the Lang Bien Plateau, established by the French at the turn of the 20th century as a recreation and convalescence center. The scenery looks something like Switzerland in summer, with high hills studded with tall pines and peppered with quaint, French contemporary villas, most in a sad state of decay. North of Dalat, the Annamese Cordillera mountain range hosts the little hill town of Buon Ma Thuot, Pleiku, and Kontum, all names familiar from the war era and home to some of the hottest fighting at that time.
Best time to visit Central Vietnam
Best time to visit Central Vietnam is spring months, from February to May. It is not recommended to visit Central Vietnam between September and December, as severe rain storms and typhoons may occur around the coast of Central Vietnam at this time of the year.
Summer months, between May and August, are relatively hot, even compared to other regions of Vietnam, especially on the coastal plains in Central provinces of the country.