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With a gripping history and enchanting sights, Hue is a must-visit city in Vietnam. Twice serving as a capital city – first, during the mid-1700s as part of the Dang Trong Kingdom and, the second time, from 1802 until 1945 as the Imperial City of the Nguyen Dynasty – Hue is a fascinating city to see. Under the Nguyen Dynasty, the city reigned as the political, cultural and religious center of Vietnam.
Despite the 1968 Battle of Hue destroying many of the city’s historic structures, the Imperial City palace, many historic temples and magnificent shrines still stand. In 1993, the Complex of Hue Monuments was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can see the top city sights on a Hue City Tour; we visited the top city attractions (and more!) on a Hue day trip from Da Nang.
Hue Tours: Da Nang & Hoi An To Hue Day Trip
Because of the city’s close proximity to Da Nang and Hoi An, it is easy to see the city sights on a 1-Day Hue Tour from either city. In fact, most tour operators pick up from both Hoi An and Da Nang before traveling north to Hue. One of the best things about taking a Hue tour from DaNang or Hoi An is that other nearby sights are included – like the iconic Hai Van Pass.
There are several Hue day tour options – from bus tours to motorbike tours to private tours. We spent ample time carefully considering our options for the best Hue city tour that fit our style and budget. The affordable small-group bus tour we booked ticked all our boxes!
Small-Group Hoi An & Da Nang To Hue Day Trip by Van
We booked our Hue City Tour 1-Day trip through Viator. The full-day tour was limited to 14 participants and included all of the top Hue tourist attractions. The day was well organized; and our friendly, English-speaking and competent Hue tour guide was with us from beginning to end. Additionally, this tour is affordably priced. Book this tour now!
Hue City Tour from Da Nang & Hoi An: Our Hue Day Trip Itinerary
When we booked our Hue Day Trip, we were only provided with a brief outline of the tour. Other travelers who want to know more specifics of this Da Nang to Hue bus tour can read our review of the itinerary as a guideline of what to expect.
Morning Pick Up
Our Hue 1-Day Tour started bright and early! Pick up times were listed between 8:00 and 8:30am. Passengers in Hoi An are picked up first. As we were one of the last to be picked up in Da Nang, the van didn’t arrive until about 8:40am – but then we were quickly on our way.
As we left Da Nang City, our guide chatted with us about Da Nang and explained the events of the day. We were soon beginning our ascent along Hai Van Pass.
Hai Van Pass
Not all Hue sightseeing day tours travel through Hai Van Pass (most use the new Hai Van Tunnel), which is a shame because the views are absolutely gorgeous. In fact, one of the reasons we booked this specific tour is because it included Hai Van Pass on the way to Hue. Many people consider it to be the most beautiful – and the most dangerous – road in Vietnam. The name translates to Ocean Cloud. The narrow, curving mountain pass is just 22km long and is part of Vietnam’s National Route 1A. As the road climbs to the peak, the views over the sea are astounding.
Pro Tip: Visitors prone to motion sickness will want to come prepared. While I didn’t experience any issues, I did have my Sea Bands with me just in case.
At the peak, our driver stopped so that we could get out and explore. Remnants of structures – built by the Vietnamese, the French and the U.S. – stand at the top. The Annamite Mountain Range extends from the Cambodian border to the East Vietnam Sea. The mountain essentially cuts Vietnam into North and South – and the Hai Van Pass is what connects them.
Interesting Fact: Live pigs are often transported in big trucks from the south to the north on Hai Van Pass. Along the route, there are places where the drivers can pull off to have their pigs cooled down by hosing them with water; it’s quite a unique sight, even for Vietnam!
Lang Co Bay
After coming down the north side of the mountain, we pulled off the road to a Lang Co Bay viewing point. The old fishing village is a small jumble of houses – ringed by exquisite beaches. While taking in the scene, we learned how the shallow waters are used for farming oysters and snails – and how the town is also known for eucalyptus oil. The fishing season is too short to make a good living, our guide explained, but with the additional trades, the people in the village are able to work year-round.
After leaving Lang Co Bay, we continued our Hue Tour from Hoi An and Da Nang – and began the 1.5-hour drive to the Imperial City.
Pro Tip: The shoreline train tracks that follow the curve of Lang Co Bay are for the Da Nang-Hue Train, which we talk more about at the end of the post!
Hue Imperial City: A Hue Walking Tour
Of all Hue tourist attractions, the Imperial City of Hue is the most impressive. The walled (and moated) citadel, built in the early 1800s, was created as a massive complex that encircled the Emperor’s palace. The grounds featured spacious courtyards and ornate gardens.
Twice the Imperial City came under attack – once in 1947 by the Viet Minh and again in 1968 during the Battle of Hue. Much of the Imperial City was destroyed. However, the palace was left intact and other buildings have been restored.
Our guide led us through the vast complex, highlighting the sights with facts and tales. We visited the Royal Palace, the Royal Theater, lush gardens, an ornate temple, the historic gates and the cultural center (where we could sample tea, rest in the garden or buy souvenirs).
Pro Tip: All Hue, Vietnam tours include visiting the Imperial City. On our Hue day tour, the admission to the Imperial City – and all other sights – were included in the cost of our trip.
When we read that our Hue one-day tour included lunch, we didn’t give it much thought. We had been eating so much amazing food in Da Nang – and most tour-included-lunches are simple meals. Little did we know that we were in for an absolute treat with some of the best food in Hue, Vietnam! Our multi-course meal at a local Vietnamese restaurant was incredible.
For starters, we ate pumpkin soup, Hue-style crispy spring rolls and Banh Khoai – the Hue version of Banh Xeo crispy, filled pancakes. Then, for the main course, we indulged in whole fried fish and a sweet-and-savory stuffed roasted eggplant. For dessert, we had fresh fruit – the perfect ending to a fabulous meal.
Pro Tip: We did need to purchase our own drinks, but they were offered at fair prices and included a variety of choices – from Coca Cola to refreshing teas and cold juices. Also note, restaurant locations and menus may vary!
Thien Mu Pagoda
With full, happy stomachs, our Hue tour group boarded the van for the short ride to Thien Mu Pagoda. The famous temple was built in 1601 – and the complex comprises much more than the towering riverside pagoda. Our guide led us on a tour of the manicured grounds, passing gardens and ponds to the back of the complex where few other visitors were. There we visited a monk’s tomb; although it is not customary for monk’s to be buried on the grounds, no one knew where this monk was from…so they buried him in the place he called home.
Pro Tip: One of the most interesting sights at Thien Mu Pagoda is the car of monk Thich Quang Duc. In 1963, in protest of the South Vietnamese government, Thich Quang Duc drove the car to Saigon, got out and set himself on fire. A memorial to the monk is now one of the sights in Ho Chi Minh City.
Perfume River Tour Hue
The activity on our Hue Day Tour from DaNang was a riverboat cruise on the Perfume River. We descended the steps of the Pagoda to the riverbank where there was a traditional Dragon Boat waiting for us. The Hue boat tour was short, but a fantastic opportunity to rest our feet and take in the scenery. Seats were set up along both sides of the covered boat and we slowly motored our way east to a pick up spot where our air-conditioned van was waiting for us.
Royal Tomb of Khai Dinh: Hue Tomb Tour
The last stop on our Da Nang-Hue Tour was the final resting place of King Khai Dinh, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although Khai Dinh was not a popular Emperor (he was actually quite disliked by the people for his close relationship with France), his tomb reigns as the most elaborate and decorative. The tomb complex is one of the top Hue, Vietnam tourist attractions.
Our guide led us through the on-site monuments, which feature a blend of Eastern and Western architectural styles. The complex and tomb took 11 years to complete – and, during that time, the Emperor raised taxes in order to fund the project. The intricate design of colorful mosaic tiles, however, is a truly incredible sight.
Bus from Hue To DaNang
Our small tour group was back in the van by 4:15pm for the ride from Hue to Da Nang. After the full day Hue sightseeing tour, most tour participants spent the ride resting with their eyes closed. We, however, reveled in the passing scenery. Under the soft light of the setting sun, the countryside scene was mesmerizing.
Pro Tip: For a quicker route back – and because it was already getting dark, the driver utilized the Hai Van Tunnel…and had us back in Da Nang in time for dinner!
Other Options for Hue City Tours
Although we chose to join a small-group Hue City Tour via mini-van, there are other options for travelers looking for something different.
Hue Private Tour
Travelers who would rather join a private guide on a full-day Hue City Tour from Da Nang should read the reviews of this tour. The advantage of having a private tour guide is that you can adjust the schedule to your specific interests and timeline.
Hue Motorbike Tour
Hue motorbike tours are an adventurous way to visit the Imperial City from Da Nang and Hoi An. The Da Nang and Hoi An to Hue motorbike tour is not advised for novice motorbike drivers, but interested visitors can check out top rated motorbike tours on Viator.
More Ways to Tour Hue
An organized Hoi An and Da Nang to Hue Tour is not the only way to visit Hue. Visitors can book their own transportation to the city. However, it’s important to understand that Hue tourist attractions are spread out across the city and not easy to access without a vehicle or some sort of organized city tour in Hue.
Getting To Hue Without a Tour
We considered traveling from Da Nang to Hue on our own and researched the different ways of getting between the two cities. In the end, however, we were happy that we booked the all-inclusive Da Nang to Hue tour so that we could simply sit back and enjoy the sights.
Da Nang to Hue Train
There are multiple daily departures for the DaNang to Hue train (and vice versa). The ride takes 2.5 to 3.5 hours depending on route and seats cost as little as $6 USD. Note: There is no Hoi An to Hue Train; visitors departing from Hoi An who want to take the train will need to get themselves to Da Nang.
Da Nang to Hue Bus
For cheap transport between the two cities, the Da Nang-Hue bus is an ideal option. There are several bus companies that offer the route – including VIP buses that make the ride a little more comfortable. However, the bus route always utilizes the Hai Van Tunnel, which eliminates the Hai Van Pass and some of the best scenery from the trip.
Pro Tip: Visitors traveling from Hoi An can also book a direct Hoi An to Hue Bus. There are multiple journeys a day and tickets start at $6 USD.
Da Nang to Hue Taxi and Private Transfers
Getting a taxi from Da Nang to Hue is, by far, the most expensive option. However, traveling with a personal driver is the quickest way to get to Hue from Da Nang. Visitors can book a private driver – with or without sightseeing stops – in advance on Viator.
Hue City Tours
Visitors who travel to Hue on their own will likely still want to join one of the tours in Hue to see the sights.
Hue Bike Tour
Hue cycling tours are a popular way to see more of the region. This half-day Hue Biking Tour takes participants into the countryside to small farming villages and ends with an included lunch. Check out the reviews!
Hue Food Tour
Feast on the best food in Hue on a cyclo tour. The small-group tour visits a market; it includes multiple stops for Hue cuisine and an introduction to Vietnamese food! Reserve your spot!
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