With stunning beaches, fantastic street food, the fabled Hai Van Pass coastal road on the doorstep and a growing collection of cafes, restaurants and bars, it’s no wonder the residents of Danang sport some of the broadest smiles in the country.
Danang is a true beach city, with the golden sands of My Khe sweeping south from the mountainous Son Tra Peninsula, dividing the city’s two distinct bays. The southern section of My Khe is now home to a host of upscale resorts, but much of the sand still belongs to the people who make it their playground, gym and source of livelihood fishing the waters.
In the early morning there is a palpable sense of positive energy. It’s impossible not to feel the buzz of Danang life and be swept along with it, so be sure to set the alarm clock early at least once on your stay.
Along the shore, fishermen sell the day’s catch, their beautifully crafted traditional coracle fishing boats lending added romance to the scene. Football and volleyball matches strike up all around and people jog, stroll or simply relax with an iced Vietnamese coffee as the morning breeze kicks up and waves lap the sands.
Danang is a dream destination for foodies. Banh mi—the Vietnamese baguette—is taken to a new level here, with seemingly every street-side vendor out-doing the next. Mi quang is another delight and every Danang local will offer an opinion on where to find the best. Each bowl of goodness features yellow rice noodles, pork, shrimp and a flavour-infused broth topped off with chopped peanuts, quails eggs and plenty of fresh herbs. Grilled and steamed seafood is another highlight, with scores of seafront eateries serving every night of the week.
Wine and dine
Alongside Danang’s hundreds of no-nonsense beer joints, there is no shortage of places to enjoy a more sophisticated drink, with modern resto-bars including Fat Fish which has several craft beers homegrown in Vietnam on tap.
For knockout views head up to the Sky 36 in the Novotel for a panorama across the city’s riverfront and bridges, including the Dragon Bridge (Cau Rong) which breathes fire on Saturday and Sunday nights.
The Son Tra Peninsula
Visible from both of Danang’s beaches, the Son Tra Peninsula strikes out into the ocean; its densely forested hillsides are home to rhesus macaques, long-tailed macaques, pygmy lorises, and the endangered red-shanked douc langur.
The red shanked douc langur is a marvel of nature and one of the world’s most striking primates. Although rare in number, with its crimson legs, bright white forearms and a golden face, they are relatively easy to spot if they do decide to hangout in the trees near the roads. Grab some binoculars, hire a motorbike or bicycle, and head out for a day of adventure and wildlife spotting.
Cham culture and relics
A couple of hours from downtown lies Vietnam’s answer to Angkor Wat—My Son Sanctuary, a UNESCO-listed complex of abandoned temples dating from the 4th to the 14th century.
Hidden among the jungle, some towers are overgrown and many are in various states of ruin, but more than enough remains to whisk visitors back in time. A trip here at sunrise or sunset is pure magic with the temples silhouetted against the mountain backdrop.
For a much less-visited site seek out Bang An temple in Dien Ban where a finely preserved linga-shaped tower stands proud next to a little cafe where visitors can buy a ticket and enjoy a coffee with the local farmers.
To learn more about Cham culture and to put My Son in context, visit the superb Cham Museum of Sculpture in Danang, home to the largest collection of Cham sculpture in the world. The graceful building that houses the collection is a delight in itself.
Ba Na Hills
While Sapa is the country’s most famed former French hill station retreat, Ba Na has made a comeback in recent years thanks to the construction of a record breaking cable car that rises almost 1,300m over the course of its 5km length.
The view across the mountain and jungles from the cable car is spectacular and warrants the journey in itself, but for kids and big kids alike, the fun begins at the top with an alpine coaster, funicular railway, 18-hole golf course and much more.
Hai Van Pass and Lang Co
The Hai Van Pass is one of the very finest stretches of coastal road anywhere in the world. Climbing for 9km out of Danang, it rewards with vistas of deserted beaches at the foot of its tree-clad slopes. The descent down to the other side leads to the Lang Co lagoon where floating restaurants serve the freshest of fresh seafood, making this a great day-trip for visitors to Danang.
24 hours in Danang
Rise early and enjoy the buzz of My Khe beach before a ride out onto the Son Tra peninsula in search of primates. Escape the afternoon sun at the Museum of Cham Sculpture then head for a sundowner at Sky 36.
48 hours in Danang
With an extra 24 hours choose from a trip out to the UNESCO-listed My Son Sanctuary, a road trip to remember over the stunning Hai Van Pass coastal road, or a ride in a record breaking 5km long cable car up to the fantasy theme park of Ba Na Hills.
When To Go
Danang is a great destination nearly year round. The best months to visit are from March to May and September to October, when the weather is warm and crowds minimal. June - August is prime time for local tourists; it’s very hot then but very little rain and the sea is clear and calm.
How To Get There
The Danang International Airport has a number of daily connections from Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, as well as other major cities in Vietnam. There are also a growing number of International connecting flights from Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, China, Bangkok and Singapore.