After spending time in bustling cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Hoi An, it’s time to head to a place where the essence of Vietnam hasn’t been as strongly impacted by western influence and tourism. Phu Yen is the perfect place to experience just that. A quiet province on the coast, it offers everything you want from a tranquil seaside destination including delicious seafood, deserted white sand beaches and stunning backdrops of green rolling hills. If you are looking for an off-the-beaten-track place to explore in Vietnam, save a few days for Phu Yen. You will be amazed at its beauty and diversity.
Phu Yen – A Short History
Originally founded by the Champa people, Phu Yen developed into a prosperous coastal province. This special status made the region a coveted prize for Vietnamese forces who slowly took over the area in the early 1600s. In the 18th century, Phu Yen had become a strategically important trade center which the Nguyen and Tay Son dynasties regularly clashed over. With the unification of modern-day Vietnam, this province has become a hub for economic development. The fishing industry is thriving and the natural beauty of the beaches, hills and green plains is slowly attracting more visitors who want to experience the wonders of Vietnam without getting lost in crowds of tourists.
Best Time to Visit Phu Yen
Phu Yen has a tropical climate which means it’s rather warm and humid most of the year. To avoid the hottest season, come here between January and March. During this time, you’ll experience temperatures in their high twenties and there will not be a lot of rain. The closer your travel dates are to summer, the hotter it will get, but chances of rain are still low. If the heat doesn’t bother you, traveling in summer is great as you’ll be sharing the beaches with fewer people.
If you can, avoid the time between September and December. That’s Phu Yen’s rainy season and you risk getting caught in heavy downpours several times a day. You’ll still have your share of sun and warm weather but be ready to get the occasional free shower. Also, note that bad weather might make it impossible to go on boat trips during this time (in Phu Yen as well as neighboring provinces), as going out to sea wouldn’t be safe.
How to Get to Phu Yen
Phu Yen’s main airport in Tuy Hoa, the province’s capital, is serviced by major local airlines such as Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar Airways, and Vietjet Air coming from Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. There are only a few flights a week, usually just one or two a day, so don’t miss your plane as that could mess up your plans. The trip from either city is short. It only takes about an hour and since the airport is so small, you’ll be in and out quickly.
Note that the airport is outside the city so you will need a taxi to get to town or your hotel. When you get in, make sure the meter is running. That way you’ll be charged a fair price.
By North-South Express Train
If you want to see more of Vietnam’s landscape and are not in a hurry, why not take the train to Phu Yen? The famous North-South Express stops in Tuy Hoa and connects the city to hubs like Danang, Ho Chi Minh City (~11 hours), and Hanoi (~13 hours). To make the long journey go by faster and even get some rest, go for a berth. It’s quite comfortable and you’ll be rested enough to explore come morning. Check out Vietnam Railway’s website to find a train and book it directly.
Coaches are also a popular way of traveling in Vietnam and thanks to the many routes and bus companies available you’re spoilt for choice when booking your trip. Major cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City as well as smaller towns like Hue and Hoi An have regular departures for Phu Yen, both during the day and night.
For longer trips, it’s recommended you choose a sleeper bus. That gives you plenty of space to stretch out and get some rest and only costs a little more than the regular coach. Check out vexere.com where you can find and book buses to take you all around Vietnam. The website is in English you should have an easy time finding the best option for you.
If you’re traveling with a few friends or you simply want to be more flexible, you can hire a driver. That way you can travel as fast or a slowly as you like and even make some stops along the way. To find a reliable driver at a fair price, it’s best to ask your hotel’s front desk staff. They can recommend someone for you, put you in touch, and give you some recommendations on which route to take.
Getting Around in Phu Yen
Once you’re in Phu Yen, you’ll need transportation to get to all the beautiful sights. Since they are quite spread out, some as far as 50 kilometers from Tuy Hoa, walking or biking is not an option for most travelers. Below are some ideas on exploring the area and for more detailed information check this article dedicated to getting around Phu Yen.
If you’re traveling alone or with one other person, getting a motorbike is a good choice. You only need one and can take turns driving. Be aware though that long drives can be exhausting in the heat. Make sure to bring enough water, wear sunscreen or maybe even long sleeves and pants to protect yourself from the burning sun.
There are plenty of shops in town which rent motorbikes to tourists. Generally, they will charge between 80,000 – 100,000 VND per day and ask you to leave your driver’s license or passport as a guarantee that you’ll bring back the bike. Before you head out, make sure you get a helmet. It’s legally required to wear a helmet in Vietnam and of course, it’s safer. To find a good rental shop, ask your hotel’s or hostel’s front desk for recommendations.
As with getting to Phu Yen, if you’re traveling with a group or value flexibility, getting a car with a driver is a good idea. You can easily drive yourself in this area too as there is only light traffic and the roads are in good condition but the rules for driving cars in Vietnam are difficult to figure out. You can get a driver too if you prefer to marvel at the beautiful scenery rather than keeping your eyes glued to the road.
Renting a car should cost you about 700,000 VND per day and again, you will be required to leave your passport as a guarantee. To find a company which will rent you a good car, check with your front desk staff. They can connect you with a rental business and maybe help you negotiate a better rate if you decide to use the vehicle for more than one day.
Where to Stay in Phu Yen
As more people are discovering Phu Yen, more hotels, hostels, and homestays are popping up. This gives you several places to choose from in categories ranging from luxury to budget.
Want to surprise your partner with a nice room? Then you can splurge on the Vietstar Resort & Spa, a five-star property close to the city with a beautiful pool and sweeping views of the ocean.
If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly place to stay which is also closer to the beach, have a look at the Sala Tuy Hoa Beach Hotel. This newly opened hotel is only a four-minute walk from the sea and offers great amenities and even an airport shuttle.
Apart from these two places, there are many more options in Tuy Hoa. To provide you with some more inspiration and tell you what to look out for, we’ve put together an article with everything there is to know about where to stay in Phu Yen.
What to See and Do in Phu Yen
From beautiful sandy beaches to rocky cliffs and green hills, Phu Yen is a wonderfully diverse province. Make sure you plan your days well, so you get to see as much as possible!
Explore Tuy Hoa
The capital of Phu Yen province, Tuy Hoa is the center of cultural and economic life in the area. It is also home to some great historical spots such as the Ngoc Lang temple and the Nhan tower built by the Champa people. Take a few hours to check out the city before heading out into the countryside, it’s well worth it.
You can start with the Nhan tower which was built in the 12th century and is a reminder of the city’s original founders, the Champa people. It’s perched on top of the Nhan mountain which offers a beautiful view of the city and coastline. If you want to save your energy, you can drive both cars and motorbikes all the way up the hill.
After that, go to the southern part of Tuy Hoa, to a commune called Ngoc Lang. It’s home to endless fields of vegetables which makes the area look like it’s covered in a silky green carpet. From lettuce and cabbage to coriander and other herbs you can find all your favorite veggies here. Apart from the lush greenery, you can also find the historic Ngoc Lang temple. Its intricate design and cultural importance make this a great place to see before heading out into the countryside.
Visit The Beaches
Tuy Hoa Beach
Don’t feel like going far but still want to lay out and enjoy the sun? If you’re staying in Tuy Hoa, simply spend the morning or afternoon at the town’s beach. The soft sand invites you to rest and take in the sound of the waves while you sip on fresh coconut water. And when you get hungry, there are plenty of great seafood restaurants nearby.
Xep Beach is a tranquil stretch of coastline and a perfect getaway if you’re looking to leave stress and crowds behind. Relax here in the morning or the late afternoon (midday is way too hot) and enjoy the views of the sea and the black stone cliffs surrounding the beach.
When visiting Mui Dien, stop at Mon Beach. Leave your motorbike in the guarded parking and head towards the two hills. You will see the lighthouse to your right. Keep going and walk between the two hills in the direction of stunning yellow dunes and a small channel. There you can already see fish swimming in the clear water and just a little further you’ll find the serene Bai Mon Beach.
Try Local Food
Since Phu Yen is right on the coast, it won’t surprise you to hear this area has amazing seafood. From clams and fish to spiny lobster and crab you will find everything your heart desires here. Stop at one of the many eateries by the water and check out their catch of the day or buy fresh fish directly at the market. The vendors will often even prepare it for you in a steam pot or on a barbecue and you can eat overlooking the sea.
While you’re in Phu Yen, make sure to try the local specialties: blood oysters and salted anchovies. Both are caught locally and prepared in unique ways so if you’re a curious foodie, you need to taste them.
Ganh Da Dia
As you explore Phu Yen and its beautiful natural sights, Ganh Da Dia is a place you don’t want to miss. Right on the coast, you will find this area full of curiously shaped black stones forming an intricate, puzzle-like design. Some of the rocks stand tall like pillars and others are shorter, creating a fascinating mosaic. Although there’s no official count, estimates suggest there are around 35,000 individual pieces to this puzzle. Even today researchers are not sure how Ganh Da Dia came to be, but everyone agrees it’s a fascinating place.
After marveling at this unique site, head down to the nearby beach for a refreshing swim. It’s a beautiful stretch of soft sand which few other visitors find so you’ll probably be sharing it only with a few local kids playing in the surf. Now if that isn’t paradise…
O Loan Lagoon
On the way to Ganh Da Dia you will come by O Loan Lagoon. It’s a beautiful spot to take a break and stretch your legs after sitting on the motorbike for a long time. To find a good lookout, you might have to drive along the lagoon for a bit. It’s quite long and good viewpoints are a bit spread out. Once you find one, sit back and take in your surroundings.
The best time to stop by here is at sunrise or sunset as during the day it can get extremely hot. At daybreak, you will see fishermen casting their nets and getting ready for the day. It’s a wonderful sight with the sun slowly coming up in the background.
Mui Dien Cape and Lighthouse
You might be wondering why this little spot with its lighthouse is so special. Here’s why: Mui Dien Cape is the easternmost point of Vietnam!
Climb up the hill over the boulders for around thirty minutes to get to the foot of the lighthouse. It’s hard work but totally worth it as this place offers impressive views of the ocean, the nearby cliffs, and the green hills.
Note: When you explore this area be careful on the trails. They are rocky and uneven, so you should wear good shoes. Some climbing is also involved, making a basic level of fitness necessary.
Taste Seafood in Vung Ro
After visiting Mui Dien you’re probably hungry. What better time to go to a nearby fishing village to sample the catch of the day? Just a few kilometers past Mui Dien you will find Vung Ro, a lively town set on the shores of a tranquil bay of glistening blue water.
You’ll easily find the fish market, just follow your nose! Once there, see what the fishermen caught that day and pick out what you like best. You can choose a whole fish and usually, the vendor will prepare it for you. Alternatively, grab a seat at one of the little eateries and try some of their specialties.
Da Trang Pagoda and Mountain
If you’re curious to explore both nature and historical sights, hop on a motorbike and head around 20 kilometers north of Tuy Hoa to Da Trang Mountain. When you walk up the verdant slopes you’ll find Da Trang Pagoda, one of the most famous pagodas in Vietnam which attract quite a few visitors and pilgrims. It overlooks the surrounding countryside and offers a cool place to rest after climbing up the hill.
Built in the late 18th century, this pagoda has a turbulent history. When it was close to 100 years old in 1989, it was honored by the emperor but was burnt to the ground in 1929. With the help of donations from Buddhists around Vietnam, it was eventually rebuilt and is recognized as an important cultural heritage site today.
Day-trip: Xuan Dai Bay and Tuyet Diem Salt Making Village
Xuan Dai Bay is about 45 kilometers north of Tuy Hoa and makes for a great day-trip if you want to see beautiful landscapes and explore local marine life. Due to its convenient location, this area used to be an important trading post and was the site of several sea battles between rivaling dynasties.
Get on your motorbike early to beat the heat and set out to see an area most visitors to Vietnam know nothing about. The ways up there is an experience by itself thanks to the natural beauty of the untouched landscape. At the bay, there are plenty of things to do. You can go for a walk along the coast, take a boat tour or even go snorkeling to explore the reef.
Only a few kilometers further, you’ll find another interesting place: Tuyet Diem. In this village, people have been living from salt farming for several centuries. To this day many of them work on salt farms and collect the mineral manually. Stop by to get a glimpse of this interesting craft and maybe pick up some local sea salt as a unique souvenir.
Day-trip: Da Bia Mountain
Around 35 kilometers south of Tuy Hoa, Da Bia mountain sits proudly next to the coast. A prominent landmark and visible from afar in this rather flat part of the country, Da Bia mountain makes for a great day trip.
Rent a motorbike and set out in the early morning. As you drive along the coast at sunrise, you’ll see fishing villages and roadside snack shops slowly come to life. Take your time climbing to the top and take in the sweeping views of the sea and the countryside with its lush forests and rice paddies. Since you’re likely to be the only visitors there, you can enjoy this beautiful and little-known corner of Vietnam in peace and quiet before heading back down to cool off at a nearby beach.
For more important details on what to see and do in Phu Yen, check out this guide!
Love beaches, mountains, and long motorbike rides through small fishing villages? Then a trip to Phu Yen is a great way for you to explore Vietnam. Get there now while few other travelers know about this hidden gem and enjoy its unique charm and breathtaking nature.
If you enjoyed reading this article and would like some more fun info about what to see, do and eat (and a bunch of interesting cafes!) in Vietnam, follow us at the Christina’s blog!