In our series of travel itineraries, we recommend Đà Nẵng as the #1 choice for time-strapped travellers in Vietnam. We’ve curated a list of the best things to do in Da Nang, strung together as our ideal one-week itinerary. The trip includes beaches, awe-inspiring cave-temples, a lush mountain-hike, historical old-towns, and cool night-markets.
Pre-Arrival: Orientation to Đà Nẵng
A quick overview of Da Nang landmarks and surrounding towns.
Đà Nẵng is the third largest city in Vietnam. It is located in central Vietnam, approximately 800 km south of Hanoi, and 850km north of Ho Chi Minh City. The city is famous for oceans, mountains, some of the best cuisine, and a laid-back attitude.
The city is divided by the Han River: the lively downtown sits on Western-bank/inland-side of the river, while the more touristy strip of land is to the east of the Han River, nestled in-between the river and the ocean (see close-up map of down-town)
The Duy Tân International Airport is only 3km from the downtown Da Nang, and has a few public buses to travel to the tourist area (e.g., bus #12).
Nearby Đà Nẵng are two famous towns with many cultural attractions:
- Hội An – which boosts of a delightfully preserved old-town, and
- Huế – the royal capital of the last Vietnamese Empire.
Day 1: Arrival and Check-in
Introduction to Da Nang Cuisine
For Day 1, upon your arrival, set a modest initial goal: get acquainted with some famous Đà Nẵng food (see our top recommended Đà Nẵng meal list). Đà Nẵng has excellent local cuisine, so making eating your #1 priority on Day 1, when you are still jetlagged, is tactically smart.
- The downtown restaurant/pub-strip has an large number of authentic Vietnamese options. To get there, go to Bạch Đằng Street along the eastern bank of the Han River.
- For international & Western-style touristy restaurants, go to the Tourist strip along Võ Nguyên Giáp
- For restaurants specializing in Vietnamese sea food, walk along the beach-strip at My Khe Beach
For getting around, use the Grab app, or find a “Xe Om” motor-tai (read our post about xe om’s and their cost)
Day 2: Beach and Night Market
Mỹ Khê beach
Sơn Trà Night Market
Cầu Rồng Bridge
Morning Day 2
- Recover from jetlag by relaxing and swimming at Mỹ Khê city beach.
- Have lunch at the beach-side seafood restaurants — go to the intersection of Võ Văn Kiệt and Võ Nguyên Giáp ; or, walk to the intersection of Châu Thị Vĩnh Tế and Ung Văn Khiêm to explore a maze of awesome authentic local-food at afforable prices.
Afternoon Day 2
- Retreat back to hotel to hide from the heat.
Evening Day 2
- Dragon Bridge: stroll along the Han River and watch the fire-breathing bridge called Cầu Rồng . The fire display is at 9:00pm. Cầu Rồng is more than just a bridge: the local hotspot will have beers and sweets and entertainment during busy weekend nights.
- Explore the Sơn Trà Night Market (Chợ Đêm Sơn Trà). The market has lots of awsome food-stalls, so you can sample finger-foods and hors d’oeuvres. Shop for lots of cheap fast-fashion clothing and fun souvenirs.
- if you want to party with expats, go to the Tourist Strip on Võ Nguyên Giáp.
- Recommeded: keep an eye open for motorbike rental shops; rent a motorcycle in preparation for Day 3’s drive to Marble Mountain.
Day 3: Marble Mountain
Thủy Sơn Temples
Marble Mountain is a short 11km drive from Đà Nẵng city. The (mini) mountain has a incredible network of caves with shrines and hidden temples. If you get there early in the morning, you can explore the jungle cave-temples alone; the best way to describe it like being Indian Jones. It’s both adventurous and quasi-spiritual.
Morning Day 3
- Wake up early and drive to the Marble Mountain. The earlier you arrive, the more solemn and spiritual experience you’ll have (we try to arrive before 7am).
- Pack extremely lightly because you’ll a lot of walking and modest hiking.
- Explore all the caves and temples (approximately 3 hours).
Afternoon Day 3
- Explore the local Non Nuoc Fine Arts Market at the base of Marble Mountain, for fun marble souvenirs and/or giant buddhist statues.
- Spend some time at the lightly-populated Bãi tắm Tân Trà beach.
Evening Day 3
- Return to hotel and prepare for Day 4: a longer motorbike journey and snorkelling adventure.
Day 4: Sơn Trà Peninsula
Mountains, Snorkelling, and Monkeys
Chùa Linh Ứng Pagoda
Sơn Trà Mountain
Day 4 consists of a motor-bike excursion through the Sơn Trà Mountain and Peninsula. The route has lush rocky shores, hidden hikes, snorkelling, and monkey-watching at the massive pagoda known as “Chùa Linh Ứng” (visible form Đà Nẵng). The route is simple and unambiguous as it travels along coast; it only becomes confusing once you reach the radiating paths at the Intercontinental Hotel (free to enter and park) from which many excursions are possible.
Morning Day 4
- Head to Mỹ Khê beach and travel north along the coastal street Võ Nguyên Giáp.
- The first stop is at Chùa Linh Ứng Pagoda (you can’t miss the giant Buddha). Watch for monkeys under the fig-trees. Don’t linger.
- Second stop is Koh Raung to relax under private thatch-huts and swim on the small beach.
- There are many snorkel-boat operators who use Koh Raung as their impromptu business address. You’ll have to wing-it and ask the restaurant staff when/where to meet the boat operators. These operators can be hit or miss: be sure to inspect the snorkel equipment before you go. The price should be ~300-400k VND for a 1/2 day trip. Or, snorkel along the Koh Raung rocky headlands, at your own caution.
Afternoon Day 4
- Continue on the coastal highway to the end of the road to the Intercontinental Resort, and ask staff for directions to smaller half-day hikes, such as the “Cây Đa Ngàn Năm” Banyan Tree
Evening Day 4
- On the way back to Da Nang, take a deserved rest at the unofficial “Hồ Xanh” (Green Lake) picnic area, with forest hammocks, refreshments, and fresh BBQ and xôi (spicy sticky rice).
- Preparation: ensure you have a motorbike rented for your longer drive to Hội An (or Huế) the next day.
Day 5/6: Overnight in Hội An
UNESCO heritage site
Bảy Mẫu Coconut Forest
Trà Quế Herb Village
Days 5/6 are to visit the culturally iconic town of Hội An (or, alternatively Huế ). Hội An was once a significant trading port, dating back to the 16-century. The old-town is well-preserved and has UNESCO-inscribed heritage buildings.
We have divided opinions about Hội An. While many people like it, many things about it are overrated and over-touristed. You may be overwhelmed by the huge number of underwhelming tourist-activities. Unless you like 2-for-1 shots and partying with expats, then Hội An is unambiguously fun.
Here, we try to curate some of the better options for skeptical travellers.
(see below for our recommended alternative, in Huế ).
Afternoon Day 5
- Self-guided tour of Old-Town: pick up the day-pass (120k VND) and entry-coupons that allows you access to your choice of 5 heritage buildings and/or cultural-centres. We recommend visiting the old Chinese medicine-house Duc An, and the other “old-houses”). Expect large crowds and salty guides who are tired of tourists. Tickets must be purchased in-person at the Tourist Information Centre (6 Le Lxoi)
- Bảy Mẫu Coconut Forest river shows: these campy but one-of-a-kind fishermen-themed river performance include music, dancing, and funny boat-acrobatics. Very unique and memorable. Find tickets at any local tourism vendor.
- the Precious Heritage Museum: a private museum and gallery featuring clothing, accesssories and a photographic-study of 30 different Vietnamese ethnic minorities. The collector built an intimate bound between the objects and people over a multiple decades of acquisition.
Evening Day 5
- For younger expats, you can have a blast doing a downtown pubs-crawl: cheap beer, shots and raging expat-parties. Look on the south-side of river in the downtown core for the wild expat pubs.
- For mature travellers, we recommend the A 0 Bamboo show, a tasteful bamboo-and-whicker-themed circus with traditional-instruments and jaw-dropping acrobatics. The eerie musical arrangements alone are worth your attention.
Morning Day 6
- Escape to the Trà Quế Herb Village . Learn about traditional and high-end herb cultivation, as you “be a farmer for a half-day”. The town is about 3.5 km north of Hội An.
- In the afternoon, return to Da Nang
Day 5/6 Alternative: Huế
Country bike rides
If you have a little more time, we definitely recommend Huế as an alternative to Hội An for the iterary on Days 5/6. Huế is a less-touristy, high-culture alternative to the over-crowded, over-hyped Hội An. It has interesting historical landmarks (hundreds of Tombs), and the local culture is famous for its manners (unlike the staff at Hội An). Huế is 91km from Đà Nẵng, which may take 3-4 hours to get to, depending on traffic.
Activities in Hue
- Nguyễn Imperial Citadel, Thang Long (30k VND). Dating back to the Ly Dynasty of 1010, the once-royal enclosure has suffered disrepair, war, and is much diminished compared to its once-great regal status. While this is a must-do, it isn’t the highlight of Huế.
- Bicycle tour of regional Tombs (see path-map above): our favourite way to experience Huế is to rent a bicycle and following the bikeable foot-paths between tombs on the outskirts of Huế. Travelling in-between the most popular tombs (e.g., Minh Mạng, Tự Đức, and Khải Định), the bikable circuit allows you to experience a lot of lovely rural scenery. Consider the tombs to be the skeleton of a trip, while the real fun is to bike along old muddy pathways, rice-fields, small villages, and perhaps happen-upon old hidden tombs along the way. If you are unable to bicycle, then the alternative is to go by motorbike to the tombs — albeit it will be less peaceful and less satisfying.
- Evenings in Huế: consider the 1 hour rural motorbike trip to the coast, and have dinner and drinks among the small restaurant-and-pubs on the beach. Savour the cool ocean breeze and Da Nang local beers.
What didn’t make our cut, but still worth your consideration
Here is a list of good activities that didn’t make our cut of the best things to do on a 7 day itinerary. But they are seriously worth considering, especially if you have more time
- Chàm Islands Snorkelling (Cù lao Chàm): the archipelago of 7 islands are a designated UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. They are accessible from Hội An with a 16km speed-boat ride. The go-to activity is to do (crowded) snorkelling in waters that are much clearer than on the Son Tuy peninisula. Travellers can take a speedboat from Chua Dai Beach for about 300k VND. Accodommations on the island are often booked but still reasonable ( Click to see accommodations for Cham Islands)
- Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary – Chàm ruins The Chàm were (and stll are) a major ethnic group whose empire comprised of much of Central-Vietnam. They were distinct from Vietnamese in both appearance and culture: this is hinted at in their exotic Indian-like exotic temples and ruins, such as that at Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary. The Sanctuary has some of the most visually splendid ruins – however, if you have been to similar cham ruins in, e.g., Tuy Hoa, they may not have as high novelty-factor.
Finally, we have our Forgettable Mentions: The following are highly ranked tourist attractions (according to TripAdvisor) but we think they are over-hyped. These kinds of big-infrastructure, unnatural attractions seem, to us, divorced from normal Vietnamese culture — like going to Italy and then eating at Dominos Pizza.
However, lots of reviews on TripAdivsor say otherwise. So, use your own discretion
- Ba Na Hills and Gondola Trip Ride (link to TripAdvisor) – after travelling all the way Vietnam, do you fancy a Gondola ride, a dinosoaur park, and strolling through faux-Alpine architecture? If yes, well, the Ba Na Hills amusement park has been built for people like you.
- Golden Bridge/Cầu Vàng (link to TripAdvisor) – A giant hand-sculpture reaching out from the hill-side, supporting a small rbridge in a shear hill-side. It is unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else, if you can bare the thick crows. Perhaps more interesting than the scutpture, bridge, and views are all the Vietnamese couples and wedding-photographers.
- Street Food Tour (link to TripAdvisor)- Đà Nẵng has a delicious culinary reputation. So, we don’t mean to disparage all of the many food-tours, specifically. But, instead of paying for a tour, consider using our guide of the top 6 meals in Đà Nẵng. Try to sample each-one, like a Đà Nẵng-wide treasure-hunt!
Read more on Trip Advisor…
Day 7: Final Half-Day
A few last things to do on your final day
If you are not occupied by packing and check-out, here are some final things to consider doing and/or purchasing on your last half-day
- Da Nang Cuisine: get a final meal and strike-off our list of top Da Nang culinary specialties (see more here )
- Hàn Market Do some last minute shopping for snacks, clothing and cheap household goods (maybe you need 10 pairs of cheaps slippers, or cocounut candy)?
- Marble Mountain Fine Arts Village did you get a good enough look at the cheap and expensive handicrafts at the base of Marble Mountain? This may be the last time you encounter such jewelry, idols, statues and other marble art pieces.
Top 7 Đà Nẵng Culinary Specialties
Da Nang is famous for its cuisine. You can shamelessly make food-sampling one of your top tourist activities while visiting Da Nang, Hoi An and Hue.
- Bánh mì Hội An – Savory Vietnamese sandwich with a distinctive a Hội An touch (read more about what is Bánh mì here). Every tourist coming to Hoi An must try its particular banh mi at least once. There are a variety of ingredients: pork liver pate, pork floss, boiled shredded chicken, pork belly, ham, tomato, cucumber, herbs, and much more.
- Mỳ quảng – (Quang noodle) – a flat yellow noodles served with chicken, pork, shrimp, fish, quail egg, tofu, with vegetables and topped with peanuts and rice cracker. Its name refers to its geographic origins: Quảng Nam province.
- Cao lầu – a mixture of noodle, barbecued pork, hearbs and vegetables, topped with deep-fried rice crackers. In the past, this dish was considered a kind of delicacy — so much so that people would eat it on the top floors of restaurants. This is why it has the name “cao lương mỹ vị” which literally translates to “delicacies eaten upstairs.” The name originates from Chinese: cao.
- Hoành thánh – a type of specialty egg noodle from the Da Nang region, not unlike Wonton
- Bánh ướt cuốn thịt nướng – Vietnamese Grilled Pork Taco (Pork wrapped in soft & hard rice paper). The grilled pork and vegies come wrapped in two layers of rice paper: one layer is wet rice paper and the other one is dry. The dipping sauce is a special peanut sauce made from pork liver pate and sesame. The taste is rounded-out and amplified with a wild mixture of lettuce, mint, cilantro, basil, cucumber, mango, young banana, and more.
- Cơm gà – A type of chicken rice that is famous in Hội An. The rice is yellow because it is cooked with chicken broth and turmeric powder. It is served with shredded boiled chicken topped with papaya and onion salad.
- Chè Hội An – Sweet Chè for dessert. Every region’s Chè is different. Chè is like a pudding of random fruit, corns, taro, kidney beans, green bean, red bean, lotus seed, banana. Surprisingly good.