Hoi An was one of my favourite destinations in Vietnam and that’s why I also recommend spending at least 3 days in Hoi An.
But in case you really in a time rush, I can give you some tips to get the most out of it on a 3-day trip.
In short: Spend an afternoon in Hue and get up early the next day to drive with a motorbike over the Hai van pass to Hoi An. In Hoi An you should spend at least 2 days to get to know this charming city Hoi An.
Spend your afternoon in Hue
The main place to visit in Hue is the Citadel. It’s a perfect place to get to know the history of this imperial city, what was once the capital of Nguyễn lords (Vietnam between 1558–1777). History enthusiasts will love it, others will be bored after walking around here for 10 minutes.
Besides the Citadel there are a few other places you could visit like a local market, Pagoda, Places or a boat trip. Can be good fun, but if you short of time, I advise spending your time wisely and use it to immerse in the culture of Hoi An.
2. Drive a motorbike over the Hai Van Pass from Hue to Hoi An
The Hai Van Pass is also called the Great Ocean Road of Vietnam. This scenic road got a lot of publicity after presenter Jereme drove along this road in the final episode of the 12th Top Gear series, broadcasted on BBC.
Many companies – who all name themselves – ‘Easy driver’ offer motorbike rental with luggage service and drop-off service in Hoi An. What this means, is that they take care of your luggage and bring it with a van to Hoi An. Once you arrive in Hoi An, your luggage will be waiting for you at their office in which you can also return the motorbike.
The decision is on you if you want to drive the bike yourself or preferer to hop on the back of one of their guides. If you decide to drive yourself, you can choose to go with guide who drives along and will show you the route or drive independently.
Main spots to visit are: Elephant rock, the newly opened Golden Bridge and the Marble mountains.
The latter two places are part of Danang. Once you visited them during one of your stops. There is no reason to go back. Just spend your time in Hoi An and enjoy it to the max!
I recommend leaving in the morning around 9am-10am, so you can fully enjoy the scenery and make all the stops you want. With the right planning you will arrive at the Marble mountains in the late afternoon, where you can witness a beautiful sunset from the viewpoint on top of the mountain.
In case you don’t want to travel this route by bike, you can also decide to go by train from Hue to DaNang and then take the bus to Hoi An. This railway goes through the mountains, next to the Hai Van pass so you can enjoy the same scenic views. I don’t recommend taking the bus, because the bus goes through a long tunnel, so you will miss the best part of the route
3. Wander around in the charming city of Hoi An
This charming city has a lot to offer. You can wander around the Ancient Old Town, visit the beach or learn how to cook a real Vietnamese dish. This place is a travellers favourite and should not be missed. You can read more about this charming city in this post about Hoi An.
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Based in Bali, Maarten’s passion for travel is undeniable. In 2016, he decided to quit his job as a stock analyst and started doing what he always dreamed of: travelling through South East Asia and helping other people plan their trips. When he is not working on Gecko Routes, you’ll find him surfing in the ocean or exploring the best gems of Indonesia.
Hey! If I’m taking night train from Ninh Binh to DaNang, will I see Hai Van Pass from the windows or this is not the same as Hue-DaNang? As we are going with kids we can forget about motorbikes
Hi Evita! The train from Ninh Binh to Da Nang takes the same tracks as trains from Hue, so yes! You will definitely see Hai Van Pass so long as you get there when the sun is already up! Hope you and your kids have a great trip! Safe travels!
What season did you do this in? I’ll be there at the end of July and am worried if I choose to do a motorbike it will rain.
Good that you ask this in advance. I did this tour in January, when the weather in Central Vietnam was really good. Hopefully the luck will be on your side in July, but it is hard to tell. After July the rainfall will increase, but you can never predict the weather with certainty of course.
I recommend to wait until the last days and see how the weather turns out. If it is too rainy, you can also take the train and still enjoy the view over the Hoi Van Pass. At least, if it is not too cloudy. And when it is raining a lot, do not even consider to do this trip by motorbike if you don’t need to. You won’t enjoy it as you cannot enjoy the views, it will be cold and it is also very dangerous. And not less important, most insurances don’t cover motor accidents in Vietnam. So better not take the risk of driving in bad weather.
This has been a great help! I take it that you preferred to drive than do the train as you get to stop off and see the sights?
Thanks for you message! If you know how to drive, I definitely recommend to rent a bike. If not, think of hiring a driver with a bike or taking the train. The bus goes through a tunnel, so you will miss the scenic views of the Hai van Pass.