The South-Central Coasts and Highlands

We’ve compiled the best of the best in The South-Central Coasts and Highlands - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Quy Hoa Leper Colony

    This tiny commune is a true example of preserved architecture amid a stunning backdrop. The pristine Quy Hoa beach is right through the trees, just a short walk away from the center of the colorful village. Most of the actual lepers are elderly now, and it's mostly their descendants who populate the village, some of whom work in a small clothing factory or as crab fishermen. The residents are friendly and don't seem to mind foreigners wandering around. The village and its hospital is well-known among Vietnamese because one of the country's most famous poets, Han Mac Tu, died there in 1940 after contracting leprosy at age 38. The cemetery is interesting and colorful.

    Quy Hoa, Quy Nhon, Binh Dinh, Vietnam
  • 2. Rong Houses

    Each ethnic minority village in the region has its own rong house, which serves as a community hall. These tall stilted structures, with long pitched roofs, often thatched, are where meetings, weddings, and other community activities take place. The size of the rong house is an indication of how wealthy the village is—and the roofs can be as high as nearly 100 feet. The Bahnar people usually build their rong houses from wood and bamboo, with wooden stilts, while the Jarai people use corrugated iron for the roof and concrete for the supporting pillars. There are a few rong houses within easy reach of Kon Tum, including two near the suspension bridge in Konklor Village.

    Kon Tum, Kon Tum, Vietnam
  • 3. Vinh Hy Bay

    Located 90 km (55 miles) south of Nha Trang, along a seldom-used stretch of astonishing coastline between Cam Ranh and Phan Rang, Vinh Hy Bay is a real crown jewel of the South-Central Coast. The entire road, named DT702, loops around the fringes of Nui Chua National Park on the west, and the East Sea on the east. There's not much to do around Vinh Hy except appreciate its beauty, but its beauty alone is worth the trip. Along the way, there are quite a few places to stop and grab a cool drink, as well as many tiny, unspoiled beaches. Only two resorts of note have taken up residence here so far: the eponymous Vinh Hy resort, which offers very comfortable and clean bungalows at low prices, and the opulent Amanoi Resort, which is nestled among the surrounding forest with great subtlety—were it not for the gate by the road, you might not notice it.

    Ninh Thuan, Vietnam
  • 4. 100 Egg Mud Bath

    These egg-shape private bathing capsules each accommodate two to three people, and are a 15-minute taxi ride away from the main tourist area. There are larger tubs for groups and a range of hot- and cold-water pools, as well as saunas and steam rooms and also a dining area. The purported youth-bestowing quality of the mud baths may or may not be a gimmick, but it's still worth spending a few hours here for a fun, albeit strange and messy, pampering session.

    Nguyen That Thanh, Nha Trang, Khanh Hoa, Vietnam
  • 5. 100 Roof Bar

    Also known as the Maze Bar, this phantasmagorical labyrinth, featuring a popular bar at the top (if you can find it!), was designed by renowned architect Dang Viet Nga (designer of the Crazy House). It looks unremarkable from the outside, but upon entry you'll plunge down, up, and through winding corridors, paradoxical pathways, and dead ends; if in doubt, just follow the noise to find the bar. The entrance fee is the price of a drink (a glass of beer starts at 30,000d).

    57 Phan Boi Chau, Dalat, Lam Dong, Vietnam
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  • 6. Ba Ho Waterfalls and Cliff Jumping

    A stop often included in countryside motorbike tours, Ba Ho Waterfalls aren't the most impressive around, but the beautiful one-hour journey there can be quite an adventure. The entrance to the waterfalls is at the end of a long and bumpy dirt track, and the waterfalls themselves are at the end of long hike and short climb over large rocks (that requires sturdy shoes). You'll be hot, dusty, and perhaps a little tired after the journey and hike, so take a dip under the waterfalls to get reinvigorated. If you're in search of more of a thrill, you'll no doubt encounter tour groups flinging themselves from rock ledges into the deeper waters. To avoid injury, don't jump into areas not marshaled by tour guides.

    Ninh Ich, Nha Trang, Khanh Hoa, Vietnam

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 50,000d
  • 7. Bai Dai Beach

    Located 20 km (13 miles) south of Nha Trang center, Bai Dai Beach has fantastic sand and sea, but a deluge of luxury resort developments and bare-bones seafood shacks have damaged the aesthetic appeal. Another challenge is finding beach access without entering a seafood spot or resort, where you'll be expected to purchase food or leave. Some resorts might claim to own certain stretches of the beach, but they're actually open to the public (just don't enter through the resort itself). The best way to enjoy Bai Dai Beach is to go to one of the shacks and see what live seafood they have on offer, or indeed just have a few cold drinks between dips in the cool shallows. Jet Skis, surfboards, rafts, and kayaks are available for rent, and nearly every shack offers chairs, toilets, and showers with any food or drink purchase. This is one of the few spots where surfers can find waves through April. Bai Dai Beach continues 25 km (15½ miles) south to Cam Ranh Airport. The best section is on the north end at the protected bay.Amenities: food and drink; showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: surfing; swimming; walking.

    Cam Hai Dong, Nha Trang, Khanh Hoa, Vietnam
  • 8. Bai Xep Beach

    Located 10 km (6 miles) south of Quy Nhon, via a beautiful stretch of coastline, Bai Xep village is a narrow, confusing warren of dwellings which intersect and descend until they eventually spit you out on a pristine little beach. The beach is now occupied by a handful of guesthouses and a resort, but this has barely taken away from the pristine feeling.

    Khu Vuc 1 Bai Xep, Quy Nhon, Binh Dinh, Vietnam
  • 9. Banh It Towers

    Around 30 minutes inland from Quy Nhon are the 11th-century Banh It Towers, yet another reminder of the Cham empire who ruled this land. Set high on a hill with incredible 360-degree views of the surrounding land, the three towers have had some extensive restorations, but fortunately there are still plenty of original carvings left.

    Dai Loc Hamlet, Quy Nhon, Binh Dinh, Vietnam

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 12,000d
  • 10. Bao Dai's Summer Palace

    Built in 1933, Bao Dai's Summer Palace, on the south side of Xuan Huong Lake, is a wonderfully preserved example of modernist architecture. The palace houses the original 1930s French furnishings of Emperor Bao Dai, the last emperor of the Nguyen dynasty, who ruled from 1926 to 1945 with the support of the French. With hundreds of visitors tramping through each week, the palace is showing its age. If you manage to avoid a big tour group, it's possible to find a quiet spot that feels like it's been suspended in time. For a kitsch souvenir, you can have your photo taken wearing a traditional royal getup.

    1 Trieu Viet Vuong, Dalat, Lam Dong, Vietnam

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 30,000d
  • 11. Cat Tien National Park

    The 72,000-hectare ruggedly beautiful Cat Tien National Park, one of nine biosphere reserves recognized by UNESCO in Vietnam, is home to hundreds of species of plants, birds, animals, and reptiles, including several species of endangered monkeys, Asian elephants, sun bears, and gaur. (Sadly, Vietnam's last Javan rhino was shot in the park by poachers in 2010.) The national park office has cars, bicycles, and boats available for hire and guests staying at the national park's hotel can book early-morning gibbon treks for 1,050,000d per person. The price includes breakfast at one of the two restaurants inside the park and a tour of the gibbon rehabilitation center. Accommodation within the park is basic, with small double rooms starting at 350,000d. There are nicer accommodation options outside the park, which can also arrange jungle excursions for you.

    Nam Cat Tien, Tan Phu, Dong Nai, Vietnam

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 60,000d
  • 12. Central Market

    Originally built in 1929 and rebuilt in 1937 after a fire, the Central Market is the heart of Dalat. Locals and tourists come to the indoor–outdoor market to buy and sell fruit, vegetables, and local specialties such as dried fruit, fruit candy, flowers, mulberry wine, and jam. It's also a great place to check out the crops introduced by the French that only grow in Dalat's cool climate, like strawberries and artichokes. Unlike markets in a lot of Vietnam's other major destinations, the sellers here aren't pushy in the slightest, allowing browsers to browse. The main part of the two-story market is open from before dawn until nightfall. At sundown, a food town springs up outside the market and down the steps beside it. The specialty is banh trang Dalat, almost like a pizza on rice paper, barbecued, rolled up, and wrapped in a piece of newspaper.

    4 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Dalat, Lam Dong, Vietnam
  • 13. Crémaillère Railway

    In 1933, 30 years after work started, a 105-km (65-mile) cog railway line was completed, linking Dalat to Nha Trang and Saigon. The line was closed in 1969 due to bomb attacks during the war, and the track ripped up sometime after the war ended in 1975. Twenty years later, a 7-km (4-mile) section of the track was restored and the wonderful art deco railway station renovated. Now it's possible to take the train (which now uses diesel traction) to the village of Trai Mat, home to the Linh Phuoc Pagoda. The round-trip takes two hours, although actually catching the train can prove tricky. It only departs once 25 people have bought tickets so it's best to get your hotel to call ahead to check the state of play. The railway station itself is architecturally interesting, with the three roofs representing the peaks of Lang Biang mountain while also paying tribute to the high pointed roofs of traditional Central Highlands communal houses. Vietnam's last steam locomotive sits at the station, serving as a basic coffee shop. The station and the locomotive are popular with wedding photographers, especially during the wedding "season" that runs from November to January.

    1 Quang Trung, Dalat, Lam Dong, Vietnam

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 5,000d to enter train station. Train tickets are 110,000d for nonresidents
  • 14. Dak Lak Museum

    This large, relatively modern museum highlights the history of Dak Lak Province with a focus on local ethnic minority people through its overall design and displays, which include artifacts from the 44 ethnic minority groups who live in the province. Exhibits are signed in Vietnamese, English, French, and Ede.

    12 Le Duan, Buon Ma Thuot, Dac Lak, Vietnam

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 30,000d, Closed Mon.
  • 15. Dalat Crazy House

    This psychedelic flight of architectural whimsy will probably be the wackiest thing you see in Vietnam, which is saying something, given the local penchant for quirkiness. Free-form stairs and tunnels wend their way through multistory Dr. Seuss–like concrete trees that contain 10 hotel rooms, unexpected sitting areas, and concrete animals. Its owner and designer, Dr. Dang Viet Nga, who studied architecture in Russia, built the structure to remind people of the importance of nature and the environment. Some of the staircases are very steep and the railings quite low. People who are unsteady on their feet or in charge of small children should be very careful.

    3 Huynh Thuc Khang, Dalat, Lam Dong, Vietnam

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 60,000d
  • 16. Dambri Falls

    The biggest waterfall in Lam Dong Province, the thundering Dambri Falls are 130 km (80 miles) southwest of Dalat and 19 km (12 miles) from the village of Bao Loc, near Cat Tien National Park. Like most of the falls in the area, they are surrounded by tasteless local "eco" tourism development, including trinket shops and a mini roller coaster. The 70-meter-high falls are still impressive, whether viewed from the paths in front of the waterfall, or from behind. According to local legend, the waterfalls are the tears of a girl called Bri who cried as she sat and waited for her love to return from the forest. The boy, Kdam, never did and when Bri died, her body turned to stone but her tears kept flowing. Avoid Dambri Falls on weekends and public holidays when it's very crowded.

    Ly Thai Tho, Bao Loc, Lam Dong, Vietnam

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 200,000d including rides and attractions
  • 17. Datanla Falls

    One of Dalat's more easily accessible waterfalls, Datanla Falls is 5 km (3 miles) south of the city. The entrance is near the top of the falls and an easy 15-minute walk takes you down to the bottom. The more adventurous can reach the bottom by riding a toboggan through the trees down the valley (80,000d per person).

    Deo Prenn, Dalat, Lam Dong, Vietnam

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 30,000d
  • 18. Dinh An Village (Chicken Village)

    A K'Ho ethnic minority village, Dinh An has found itself on the tourist radar mainly because of its proximity to the highway and its giant concrete chicken. The village is often included in easy rider tours, and is only really worth visiting as one stop on a day-long exploration of the countryside surrounding Dalat. The village itself is quite spread out, with most families involved in small-scale farming of vegetables and flowers. The villagers don't wear their traditional dress, which disappoints some visitors, but keep in mind that they receive minimal benefit from tourists trooping through. There's a couple of small handicraft shops and a tiny grocery store across from the chicken statue. The chicken itself, which in its glory days was a fountain but is now propped up with an extra concrete leg, is from the local Romeo and Juliet legend for which the Langbian Mountain is named. Her Bian was a girl from a southern highlands village who fell in love with K'Lang, a boy from a northern highlands village. The villages were at war so the parents of the love-struck couple would not allow them to marry. Her Bian's parents finally relented, telling K'Lang he could marry their daughter if he found a chicken with nine spurs as the dowry. K'Lang went to the forest but he could not find a chicken with nine spurs (the rear-facing claw). So the couple eloped and lived in the forest until they died, cut off from their families. Dinh An Village is 9 km (5½ miles) from the airport and can be visited en route to Dalat rather than by making the 18 km (11 mile) trip from Dalat.

    Dinh An, Dalat, Lam Dong, Vietnam
  • 19. Doc Let Beach

    About 45 km (25 miles) north of Nha Trang is the picture-postcard Doc Let Beach, a beautiful 10-km (6-mile) stretch of casuarina-lined fine white sand and azure water that welcomes few tourists. Like most beachfronts in Vietnam, it's seen a rise in development in recent years but fortunately, it's very low key, even the resorts themselves are much more humble and quaint than in many parts. Many of them are glad to welcome day guests for a very small fee. Overall, it's a great location for a laid-back beachy day trip from Nha Trang. It will take about an hour to get here from Nha Trang by taxi, which will cost around 500,000d. A much cheaper alternative is the local bus (No. 3), which will only set you back around 25,000d. Amenities: food and drink; water sports. Best for: walking; swimming; sunsets.

    Bai Doc Let, Ninh Hoa, Khanh Hoa, Vietnam
  • 20. Doi Duong Beach

    The narrow Doi Duong Beach, at the end of Nguyen Tat Thanh Street, is not the prettiest in the country, but it is well maintained and is loved by the locals anyway. It has a fantastic view of the bay and Mui Ne in the distance to the north. Crowds descend in the early morning and late afternoons, when the weather is not so hot. Couples stroll along the paved beachside walkway, families picnic in the adjacent park, and everyone eats snacks from the many itinerant food vendors. Amenities: food and drink. Best for: walking.

    Nguyen Tat Thanh, Phan Thiet, Binh Thuan, Vietnam

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