Welcome to the beach capital of Vietnam. Loud and proud (say it!) the high-rise, high-energy resort of Nha Trang enjoys a stunning setting: ringed by a necklace of hills, with a sweeping crescent beach, the city’s turquoise bay is dotted with tropical islands.
The beachfront has been given a huge makeover in recent years, with parks and sculpture gardens spread along the impressive shorefront, while the streets inland reveal a cosmopolitan array of dining options.
As the restaurants wind down, the nightlife cranks up – Nha Trang is a party town at heart, like any self-respecting resort should be. Forget the curfews of the capital; people play late in this town.
If cocktails and shooters aren’t your flavour, there are some more sedate activities on offer. Try an old-school spa treatment with a visit to a mud bath or explore centuries-old Cham towers still standing in the centre of town.
This part of the country has its very own microclimate and the rains tend to come from October until December, a time best avoided if you are into lazing on the beach or diving in crystal-clear waters.
When the best time to visit Nha Trang
The best time to visit Nha Trang beaches is of course from January to early October. However, it is important to note that temperature will peak up in August while infrequent typhoons may hit the south central coast from June to October, so be on top of weather forecast for these months.
Getting There & Away
Vietnam Airlines connects Nha Trang with Hanoi (three daily) and to Ho Chi Minh City and Danang daily. Vietjet Air usually has the cheapest fares if you book well ahead, flying to both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City daily. Jetstar offer five weekly connections with Hanoi.
Phia Nam Nha Trang Bus Station is Nha Trang’s main intercity bus terminal, 500m west of the train station. Very regular daily buses head north to Quy Nhon and Danang. Heading south, there are very frequent connections to Phan Rang (46,000d, two hours) and Ho Chi Minh City, including sleeper buses from 7pm. Buses also head west into the Central Highlands, to Dalat and Buon Ma Thuot (100,000d to 120,000d, five hours, seven daily).
Nha Trang is a major stopping point on all of the open-tour buses. These are the best option for accessing Mui Ne, which is not served by standard buses. These buses usually depart between 6am and 8am, before continuing on to Ho Chi Minh City. There are also regular open-tour buses to Dalat (five hours) and Hoi An (11 hours).
The Nha Trang train station is west of the cathedral in the Centre of town. It’s on the main north-south line with good connections to destinations including Quy Nhon, Danang and Ho Chi Minh City.
Taxi, Cyclo & Xe Om
It’s safer to take a metered taxi with a reputable company such as Mai Linh.
Nha Trang has an excessive number of Xe om drivers. A motorcycle ride anywhere in the Centre shouldn’t cost more than 25,000d. Be careful at night, when some less reputable drivers moonlight as pimps and drug dealers.
Most of Nha Trang is pretty flat so it’s easy to get around all the sights, including Thap Ba, by bicycle. Hotels have bikes to rent from 30,000d per day. Watch out for the one-way system around the train station, and the chaotic roundabouts.
Sights & Activities
Po Nagar Cham Towers
Built between the 7th and 12th centuries, these four Cham Towers are still actively used for worship by Cham, ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists. Originally the complex had seven or eight towers, but only four towers remain, of which the 28m-high North Tower (Thap Chinh), which dates from AD 817, with its terraced pyramidal roof, vaulted interior masonry and vestibule, is the most magnificent.
The towers stand on a granite knoll 2km north of central Nha Trang on the banks of the Cai River.
Nha Trang Beach
Forming a magnificent sweeping arc, Nha Trang’s 6km-long golden sand beach is the city’s trump card. Various sections are designated for swimmers, where you won’t be bothered by jetskis or boats. The turquoise water is fabulously inviting, and the promenade a delight to stroll.
Two popular lounging spots are the Sailing Club and Louisiane Brewhouse. If you head south of here, the beach gets quieter and it’s possible to find a stretch of sand to yourself.
Alexandre Yersin Museum
Highly popular in Vietnam, Dr Alexandre Yersin (1863–1943) founded Nha Trang’s Pasteur Institute in 1895. He learned to speak Vietnamese fluently, introduced rubber and quinine-producing trees to Vietnam, and discovered the rat-borne microbe that causes bubonic plague.
You can see Yersin’s library and office at this small, interesting museum; displays include laboratory equipment (such as astronomical instruments) and a fascinating 3-D photo viewer.
Nha Trang Cathedral
Built between 1928 and 1933 in French Gothic style, complete with stained-glass windows, Nha Trang Cathedral stands on a small hill overlooking the train station. It’s a surprisingly elegant building given that it was constructed of simple cement blocks. Some particularly colourful Vietnamese touches include the red neon outlining the crucifix, the pink back-lighting on the tabernacle and the blue neon arch and white neon halo over the statue of St Mary.
Khanh Hoa Museum
This sleepy local museum features displays of Cham statues and artefacts of the ethnic minorities in the province. The Uncle Ho room features several of Ho Chi Minh’s personal effects, such as clothing and the microphone with which he made his famous independence speech in Hanoi on 2 September 1945.
National Oceanographic Museum
Housed in a grand French-colonial building in the port district of Cau Da at the far south end of Nha Trang, this poorly maintained museum has 60,000 or so jars of pickled marine specimens, stuffed birds and sea mammals, and displays of local boats and fishing artifacts. Unfortunately there are also live seals kept here in small, dirty tanks.
Hon Chong Promontory
The narrow granite promontory of Hon Chong offers fine views of the mountainous coastline north of Nha Trang and the nearby islands.
The beach here has a more local flavor than Nha Trang Beach (but the accompanying refuse is unpleasant). Still, it’s fun to watch local kids do Acapulco-style swan dives into the ocean.
Long Son Pagoda
This striking pagoda was founded in the late 19th century. The entrance and roofs are decorated with mosaic dragons constructed of glass and ceramic tile while the main sanctuary is a hall adorned with modern interpretations of traditional motifs.
Behind the pagoda is a huge white Buddha seated on a lotus blossom. Around the statue’s base are fire-ringed relief busts of Thich Quang Duc and six other Buddhist monks who died in self-immolations in 1963.
Nha Trang is a diner’s delight, with a diverse mix of international flavours. Vietnamese, French, Italian, and Indian- anything and everything is available. Tran Quang Khai Street and Biet Thu Street are popular hunting grounds, but more authentic Vietnamese is found further afield. Seafood-lovers are in for a treat with fresh fish, crab, shrimp and an assortment of exotic shells.
– Lac Canh Restaurant: 44 Nguyen Binh Khiem Street
– Sailing Club: 72-74 Tran Phu Street
– Le Petit Bistro: 26D Tran Quang Khai Street
– La Mancha : 78 Nguyen Thien Thuat
– Veranda : 66 Tran Phu
– Lanterns : 72 Nguyen Thien Thuat
– Louisane Brewhouse : 29 Tran Phu