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In the 15th century, Hoi An became a lucrative stop for merchants, turning it into one of the busiest trading ports in Southeast Asia. This dominance was halted in the 18th century by a combination of rebelling dynasties and a silting river mouth. While terrible for business, these events protected the town from further development and it’s now a well-preserved patch of Vietnam’s history — albeit selling goods to visitors rather than merchants.

Hoi An’s architecture gives an insight into the town’s mixed heritage, with Dutch and French colonial houses squeezed between Chinese tea warehouses and Japanese temples. Local cafés, museums and open-fronted shops run alongside old canals.

There’s so much to do in Hoi An: wander through the Old Quarter, see the Merchant's Houses, enjoy the local market and its street food (try Lao Cau and White Rose Dumpling), get some tailoring done, visit the art quarter, visit the My Son ruins out of town — the list is endless.

Vietnam specialist Alex

Things to see and do in Hoi An

Order a tailor-made suit

Hoi An was once a major port on the Silk Route, high-quality fabric was easily available to the tailors of Hoi An, and at very low cost. The town has become well-known for its quality tailors, many of whom have been trading for generations.

More than 400 shops custom-make dresses, suits, shirts and leather shoes. You’ll even find on sale fancy dress outfits from the latest films. It’s best to allow a few days for your item to be made as your tailor will expect to carry out multiple fittings to get the garment size just right.

Explore the old town: a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Japanese bridge, Hoi AnMany streets in Hoi An’s old town are car-free zones, making them ideal to explore on foot. Over 1,000 timber-frame buildings are still standing, topped with hand-carved tiles. The Chinese quarters are easy to spot for their wooden signboards gilded with Chinese characters — usually the name of the trading company. It’s possible to enter some of the meeting halls: there’s one for each Chinese province.

You enter the Japanese sector across a covered bridge: one of the few built outside Japan. Inside is a small temple to the Taoist god of weather, Tran Vo Bac De, an important figure to visiting sailors and merchants. There are a number of museums and homes open to visit, or you can simply enjoy ‘white roses’ (prawn dumplings) in one of the local cafés.

Go cycling in the surrounding countryside

The communities surrounding Hoi An profited from its importance as a trading town, selling a variety of local crafts to visiting merchants. These enterprises have bloomed into busy cottage industries, keeping Vietnamese handicraft skills alive. Cycling through the villages with an experienced guide, you can stop to visit the artisans along the way.

Along a leisurely 8 km (5 mile) route, you’ll ride past vivid green paddy fields and patches of farmland — usually tended by workers. Slow-flowing rivers weave across the landscape, often carrying small coracle boats — one of the most popular products made by hand here. Stopping to see traditional skills, such as wood carving and mat weaving, you’ll often be welcomed in by residents for a drink.

Visit the Cham ruins at My Son: a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The site of My Son lies in a geological basin surrounded by a ring of mountains, about an hour inland from Hoi An. The indigenous Cham tribes chose this easily defendable location to build the capital of their empire, which grew steadily between the 4th and 13th centuries. Used as a military base by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, My Son was heavily bombed, but many ruins remain standing.

When you arrive, it can take a moment to differentiate the temples’ towers from the surrounding rocks, which are all being gradually reclaimed by the jungle. Built from locally fired bricks, some temples have bent roofs, claimed by archaeologists to reflect the crooked peak of Cat’s Tooth Mountain in the distance. Walking around the site, it’s possible to spot some of the remaining sandstone bas-reliefs that would have once covered temples across the entire site.

Take a scenic drive up and over the Hai Van Pass

When driving around Hoi An, it’s worth taking a detour along the Hai Van Pass. Most traffic now bypasses the road through a 6.2 km (3.8 mile) tunnel, leaving the pass free for those who simply want to enjoy the views. The 19 km (12 mile) stretch of road climbs 3,000 ft (914 m) along the Annamite Range, which separates north and central Vietnam.

The road follows the Vietnamese coastline, with the South China Sea to the east and only jungle to the west. As you descend, the Lang Co Peninsula stretches right across the skyline. This beach-fringed headland is an ideal pit-stop, where you take a break at one of the few local bars selling juice and fruit.

Best time to visit Hoi An

February to May is usually a comfortable time to travel to Hoi An, when there’s plenty of sunshine, clear skies and warm temperatures. From June to August, skies remain clear but it can be quite hot with temperatures reaching 86°F (30°C). The rainy season runs from September through to January and floods can affect travel plans during this time.


Festivals, events and seasonal reasons to visit

  • Hoi An celebrates the rise of the full moon each month. The city lights are turned off and streets are illuminated with rows of bright paper lanterns. Vehicles are banned and local people spend the evening watching cultural performances and attending candlelit temple ceremonies.
  • Vietnamese New Year, known as Tet, usually falls in late January or early February. It’s celebrated across the country but festivities in Hoi An are particularly enthusiastic. Many visitors and Vietnamese wander the old town, which is lit with lanterns and lights floating on the canals. Country-wide, shops and restaurants tend to close for Tet, but some remain open in Hoi An, making it an ideal place to experience the festival.

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who's been there
Audley Travel specialist Natasha

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Suggested itineraries featuring Hoi An

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Map of Hoi An

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    Accommodation choices for Hoi An

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    Ideas for experiencing Hoi An

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Hoi An, and which use the best local guides.

    • My Son Ruins
      My Son ruins, near Hoi An

      My Son Ruins

      My Son Ruins

      My Son is Vietnam’s most important Cham site. The Cham civilization dominated the area that is now south Vietnam for many centuries before being crushed by the Vietnamese.

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    • Hands-on Rice Growing Tour
      Planting the rice

      Hands-on Rice Growing Tour

      Hands-on Rice Growing Tour

      You will be met at your hotel and transferred to the farm. On arrival you will meet the farmers and enjoy tea before donning traditional Vietnamese clothing (a conical hat and overalls) to prepare for getting into the paddy field.

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    • Hoi An Walking Tour
      Hoi An, Vietnam

      Hoi An Walking Tour

      Hoi An Walking Tour

      Hoi An's main sights of interest are all within the UNESCO-protected area adjacent to the river and your guide will escort you around the narrow winding streets on foot as cars are not allowed.

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    • Hoi An Countryside Cycling Tour
      Local with bike, Hoi An

      Hoi An Countryside Cycling Tour

      Hoi An Countryside Cycling Tour

      Pick up your bikes and begin a leisurely ride through the beautiful countryside with your guide, stopping for photographs and refreshments as you please.

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    • The fishermen of Hoi An
      Fisherman, Hoi An

      The fishermen of Hoi An

      The fishermen of Hoi An

      Explore a fishing village and learn about the fishermen and their daily lives.

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