Hội An is one of the lesser-known gems of Vietnam. Its old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the sight of its many lanterns reflected in the Thu Bồn River makes for the perfect postcard image. With no airport or railway station, however, many people may wonder how to travel to Hội An.
This guide to Hội An provides useful traveling information about how to get to Hội An, what to see, and when is the best time to go.
What to See in Hội An
Visiting Hội An is a unique experience. Formerly known as Fai-Fo, it was one of the most influential trading ports in the Western Pacific between the 15th and 19th centuries.
When the focus of trade shifted to nearby Da Nang, Hội An experienced a rapid decline, becoming somewhat isolated. This meant that it was largely unaffected by the changes that occurred in other parts of Vietnam over the next 200 years.
The result is that the old town is a well-preserved 19th-century Southeast Asian trading port. It is one of Vietnam’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Far smaller than Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, Hội An is known for its laid-back atmosphere — in fact, the name “Hội An” means “peaceful meeting place”. From the yellow buildings of the old town to the nearby Cham islands, there are many things to do and see.
The Japanese Covered Bridge of Hội An
The Japanese Covered Bridge is Hội An’s most famous landmark. The ornate structure, whose architecture bears the Japanese style, is unique in that is has a Buddhist Temple built on one side.
The Japanese Bridge dates back to a time when Hội An was one of the most important trading centers in the region. Many people from countries as varied as Japan, China, India, Portugal, and the Netherlands came to settle in the city. During the 1590s, the Japanese of Hội An constructed the bridge to connect their neighborhood with the Chinese quarter.
The Japanese Bridge is located in the old town and is open at all times. During the day, the intricacies of the design can be appreciated, while at night, the bridge transforms, illuminated by lights and lanterns.
Hội An at Night: City of Lanterns
Hội An at night is something to behold. When it goes dark, the thousands of colorful lanterns that line its streets come on, reflected in the Thu Bồn River. This has earned it the moniker “the City of Lanterns”.
This is even more impressive when the Full Moon Festival comes around. Once a month, under the full moon, the electric lights of the old town are all switched off for a night, leaving only the lanterns to light the way.
The tradition is that you must take a lit lantern, place in on the river, and make a wish. There are many shops in the city with lanterns on sale, so tourists are more than welcome to join in.
Discover a Fallen Kingdom at the Mỹ Sơn Ruins
Mỹ Sơn is an impressive Hindu temple complex dating back to between the 4th and 14th centuries.
Built by the Champa culture that once ruled the region, the temples have long since been abandoned and fallen into ruins. Sadly, some of the structures were damaged during the Vietnam War. However, most of the ruins can still be explored, and in its lush jungle setting in the shadow of Cat’s Tooth Mountain, Mỹ Sơn is an atmospheric excursion from Hội An.
It is around 55km from the city and easy to drive to. Alternatively, there are minibus tours.
The Best Time to Travel to Hội An
Hội An has 2 seasons:
- The dry season (approximately March-September)
- The wet season (approximately October-February)
The heavy rains of the wet season can cause floods, especially in the event of a typhoon. Surprisingly, this is also peak season for tourism. Even more surprisingly, Hội An is generally fairly quiet from May to July.
The best time to visit Hội An really depends on what the visitor plans to do.
People who are more interested in walking, hiking, and seeing the sights might prefer to visit between February and April, when temperatures are comfortable with low humidity and little rainfall.
June, July, and August are perhaps the best months for beach weather and clear waters for diving and snorkeling. At this time, the region is very hot, with temperatures reaching as high as 38°C.
It is also worth checking what festivals are taking place. The Full Moon Festival occurs on the 14th day of any lunar month.
Tet (Vietnamese New Year), celebrated in January or February, is also an amazing experience but tends to be incredibly busy. Luckily, half-Tet is also celebrated in Hội An in June and is equally exciting, with dragon boat races and thousands of lanterns released onto the river.
If Hội An is not the only destination you plan to visit, it is worth reading about the weather and the best time to visit Vietnam as a whole.
How to Travel to Hội An
Although it has no airport or train station of its own, Hội An is easy to reach by road from the nearby city of Da Nang. There are flights from most major Vietnamese cities to Da Nang Airport, including from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Must-know Tip: Before visiting Hội An, it is essential to obtain the correct documentation to enter Vietnam. Most nationalities need a visa to visit the country. Those eligible can now apply online for a visa for Vietnam. Learn more about the Vietnam eVisa before booking your trip to Hội An and save time and hassle when procuring the required documentation.