Hue is a city in Central Vietnam known for its many cultural attractions. It was the capital of Vietnam for more than a century under the Nguyen Dynasty, and remained as such until 1945, when the last emperor abdicated the throne just before a new form of government was established in Hanoi.
During the Nguyen rule, Hue was also the cultural hub of Vietnam. The era gave rise to many structures and monuments of immense historical, cultural, and religious importance. Presently, a few of these attractions in Hue are included in UNESCO’s esteemed list of world heritage sites.
Aside from the cultural and religious attractions, there are also a number of beautiful natural attractions located very near the former imperial city. Here is a concise list of the most beautiful attractions in and around Hue.
1. Imperial Citadel. The most popular attraction in this small but historically significant city is the Imperial Citadel, the official seat of Vietnam’s last ruling imperial dynasty for more than a hundred years. Housed and fortified by huge walls within the citadel is the Purple Forbidden City or Tu Cam Thanh, the royal residences. The Imperial Citadel is also protected by a moat estimated to be 10 kilometers in length.
By the time Emperor Bao Dai left the throne in 1945, many of the Imperial City’s rooms were already partially damaged by natural calamities and termite infestation. A sizeable chunk of the citadel’s structures were also damaged during the Vietnam War in 1968, and are now undergoing a restoration process.
To make the most of your visit to the Imperial Citadel, it is recommended that you join a guide tour and learn a lot about Hue’s history from a knowledgeable local guide.
2. Tombs of the Emperors. Another must-see historical attraction in Hue is the Tombs of the Emperors, the final resting place of the rulers of the Nguyen Dynasty. It is the custom at that time to have the imperial tombs elaborately designed and built during the rulers’ lifetime. There are a total of seven imperial tombs housing the remains of nine Nguyen emperors in Hue. The preserved tombs are located in different locations along the Perfume River or Song Huong.
You can reach the tombs via dragon boat or motorbike taxi.
3. Thien Mu Pagoda. One of the most iconic tourist attractions in Hue is the 7-storey Thien Mu Pagoda or The Pagoda of the Heavenly Lady. Offering a breathtaking view of the Perfume River, the Thien Mu Pagoda is the tallest building of religious importance in Vietnam. Build it 1601, it is located on Ha Khe Hill, just a few kilometers from the Imperial Citadel. And just like the Tombs of the Emperors, you can also reach the pagoda via dragon boat or motorbike.
4. Elephant Springs. If you are travelling from Hue to Danang or visa versa, don’t miss the opportunity to take a refreshing dip in Elephant Springs! Located about 53 kilometres south of Hue, the Elephant Springs boasts of a string of small waterfalls and natural pools in the middle of the jungle. A striking feature of Elephant Springs is the smattering of huge boulders in the area, and the most interesting of them is the one that’s shaped like an elephant, making it a big favourite among locals and tourists. If you plan to make the side trip to Elephant Springs, do so on a weekday to avoid the crowds.
5. Phong Na Cave. Located some two hours away from Hue, the Phong Na Cave is located within Phong Na Ke Bang National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. More than 7,700 metres long, the Phong Na Cave features 14 grottoes and a very long underground river. Once used for religious purposes by the Cham people in 9th and 10th centuries, the cave still has inscriptions, altars, and religious artifacts inside. Most reputable tour operators organize full day tours to Phong Na Cave, so be sure to sign up for an amazing experience.
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By: Brendelyn Balaga