When taking a trip to Vietnam, you’re going to want to ensure that you pay the gorgeous coastal town of Hoi An a visit. And when you do, here are all the things to do in Hoi An.
First, be sure to check in to the best hotels in this historical town. And perhaps after you’ve spent a day (or two!) at some of the best golf courses in Vietnam, be sure to etch out some time for this outing. Don’t forget to bring your camera, shopping bags, and travel mugs along, as there is much photographing, shopping, and coffee-drinking to be done at all these spots.
For first-time travellers to Hoi An, here’s a brief introduction to the breathtaking coastal town. There is a wealth of cultural experiences to dive into here, and if there is one thing that you simply can’t miss, it’s the visit to the Ancient Town, which is a UNESCO-listed heritage site—and is simply a spectacle.
You are also in for a treat. For a taste of local life, head on over to Vegetable Village where they grow the lushest greens, or Sampan’s Distillerie d’Indochine to sample the one and only Vietnam-made rum.
Overall, Hoi An is a wonderful destination that offers something for everyone. Whether you have a penchant for culture or just want to laze on a pristine beach, you are sure to find something to love in this charming part of Vietnam.
Top to do in Hoi An, Vietnam to get the best out of your trip
Visit the Ancient Town
From the 15th to 19th century, the Ancient Town served as a trading port, easily the busiest one in Indochina. Now branded a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it welcomes tourists from all walks of life, with plenty to see, eat, and do.
Here, you will definitely want to hop on a boat ride on the Thu Bon River. Boats decorated with lanterns, and the bridge brought to life with bright lights serve as a perfect backdrop to any photos you plan on taking. And when you alight from the boat, you can also shop for lanterns and bring a slice of Vietnam home.
You also can’t miss a visit to the historical Japanese Bridge. Also known as Cau Pagoda, the bridge now serves as a beautiful reminder of the city’s past, when the Japanese community built the bridge to improve connectivity with their Chinese neighbours.
And when you’re tired from the walk, sneak away into one of the massage parlours to assuage any aches, or grab a bite at the many dining establishments here that cater to every palate.
Get boozy at Distillerie d’Indochine by Sampan
Get boozy under the sun at the Distillerie d’Indochine by Sampan, a multi-award-winning rum made of local sugarcane. Founded by Frenchman Antoine Poircuitte, it is the only rum distillery in the country. While the business is run by a non-Vietnam national, the rest of its operation fully utilises Vietnamese manpower from start to finish. Antoine also welcomes you to a tour of his distillery where he breaks down how a bottle of Sampan—which is served in over 20 countries—comes to be.
After getting an education from Antoine, it’s time to kick back and relax with his creations. Harvested by hand, fully organic, and without the use of nasty pesticides, you are in for some of the best (and refreshing) tipple of your trip. Smooth and lightly sweet, you can also request to sample their entire offerings.
Ride the iconic basket boats
As you will come to find, the Vietnamese use bamboo for almost everything, including boats. Called Thung Chai, these bamboo coracles are also seen across the world like Wales, Ireland, India, and Tibet. Because of the shape, it sits on the water as opposed to in the water, making navigating a near-impossible skill.
For the best experience, head down over to the Bay Mau Coconut Forest, where the guide will show you the surrounding villages, as well as take you through the coconut forest. Expect a performance or two too, on top of the fishing and crab-catching training that you will be in for.
Experience farm life at Tra Que Vegetable Village
Located at the edge of Hoi An, the Tra Que Vegetable Village is a wonderful experience for the entire family. If you’ve already sampled some of Vietnam’s most iconic cuisines, you will come to the conclusion that they love their greens. And why wouldn’t they, when it is abundant and is grown with the best practices? Here, the villagers specialise in growing specific vegetables: cabbage, lettuce, water spinach, and herbs such as coriander and basil.
Be prepared to get your hands dirty here, though, as you will be given a taste of a farmer’s life. Here, a local farmer will offer to teach you how to plant, fertilise, and grow produce. You can also learn how to grind rice flour and make rice pancakes.
It’s not all hard work here—the next experience is going to be a treat for many a tourist. After a long day’s work, you’re in for an amazing neck and foot massage that will take away all of the aches of working in the field. Finally, the visit will end with a hearty feast. If you stay a little bit longer, you might even catch the breathtaking sunset.
Check out the Lune Centre
This will be one for the books. Another one of the most important things to do in Hoi An is visiting the Lune Centre, which is the first and only bamboo theatre in the country. Home to the renowned Vietnamese Bamboo Circus, you’re going to want to make sure that you time your visit right to catch the show.
There, audiences will be taken on a dramatic journey of the many different lives of Vietnamese from different regions. Told through circus storytelling, the cast utilises bamboo props and live music to transport you to a world of cultured entertainment.
Both theatre enthusiasts and architecture lovers can revel at the Lune Centre. For the latter, they can bask in the glorious structure and its inspired build. The dome, which mimics the full moon, is fully crafted out of bamboo. Over at the reception area, yellow walls and red clay roofs add an air of antiquity. The local performance art centre is nestled between the rivers Thu Bon and Hoai that are lined with scenic and lit-up structures, creating a perfectly Instagrammable moment.
Get an education at the Hoi An Silk Village
In its heyday, the village housed the region’s best silk artisan, whose crafty handiwork travelled across Europe and Asia to be traded. But almost 100 years ago, it closed as the interest in artisanal silk products shrank and the business became unprofitable. Today, locals endeavour to revive this part of Hoi An’s history, with a dozen artisans employed to manufacture and weave silk into fashionable garments and ornate tapestries by using ancient looms.
Not only will you be privy to their complex method of silk weaving and unravelling, you will also get to visit a traditional Vietnamese mulberry garden, where you will learn how to get the best leaves, and even hand-feed the silkworms.
Tour the My Son Ruins
Prepared to be captivated by the ruins of My Son. Here, a series of immortalised tower temples remain to mark the spiritual past of the region. The UNESCO-listed site was the political and religious centre of the Champa Kingdom, built between the 4th and 14th centuries by its kings. Situated in a valley that is about two kilometres wide, the temple complex is regarded as one of the most prominent heritage sites of its nature in Southeast Asia and is often compared to other historical sites such as Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and Indonesia’s Borobudur.
What remains today are believed to be religious buildings, with sanctuaries housing Hindu deities, gate towers, and more. But from the not-so-distant past, you will also find craters that are the aftermath of the US aerial bombing during the Vietnam War. Surrounding areas are still considered dangerous due to the presence of unexploded land mines, so it’s best to stick close to your guide when exploring the ruins.
Pay a visit to Cu Lao Cham Marine Park
Recognised as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, a trip to Cu Lao Cham (or Cham Island) is simply a must when you are in Hoi An. Be prepared to make a full day out of it, though, as there is plenty to be done here.
For those who are into perfecting the art of doing nothing, sunbathing on the beach is totally on the table. The water is clear, and the sand is ultra-fine, so you can just laze all day here. However, if you’re fully set on getting the entire experience, you can start by checking out the fishing village and meeting some locals.
As one might expect of a marine park, its rich biodiversity is the main attraction. On land, you can catch sight of swallows. Its nests are a great source of income for the islanders. When you eventually head into the water to snorkel, be prepared to be enchanted by the sea creatures such as corals and shoals of colourful fish—some of which are super rare and are in the World’s Red Book of Endangered Species.
Featured image credit: Unsplash; Hero image credit: Klook