Covered in forests and mountains, Quang Tri Province is defined by its narrow coast, compact valleys, and deep canyons. Integrated into Vietnam’s North Central Region, the province is an important part of both the North-South and East-West Economic Corridors.
Integral to the country’s war history, many are attracted to the Demilitarized Zone and historic sites. Though with boundaries stretching from the East Sea to the border with Laos, many travelers will pass through the Quang Tri Province as they explore the diversity of Vietnam’s landscapes.
How to Get to Quang Tri
Though the vast majority of the Quang Tri Province is dominated by the Annamite Mountains, there is a narrow coastline that runs along the East Sea. Along the coast, the capital city of Dong Ha (Dông Hà) is the province’s main destination. The proximity of Dong Ha to Hue (Huê), Vietnam’s old imperial capital, helps draw in tourists to the city and province.
With the North Central Region being so far from the country’s main cities, Quang Tri’s provincial capital Dong Ha is a prominent city in a string of coastal destinations. Connected by the National Route 1A and Hanoi-Saigon Railway, Dong Ha is just 84km (52 mi) north of Hue and about 170 km (106 mi) from Da Nang.
Travelers coming from Hanoi would have to journey 600 km (373 mi) south, meanwhile, those leaving from HCMC would have to venture 1,001 km (622 mi). Currently, the way only to reach Quang Tri Province is by road or railway as there are no options to fly. Plans to build an airport outside of Dong Ha are underway. For now, the closest airport to the province is located outside of Hue.
Tracing the history of Quang Tri Province back to ancient times, the area was predominantly inhabited and ruled by the Cham people. In the 3rd century BCE, the Kingdom of Champa was invaded by the Chinese, and it wasn’t until the 2nd century BCE that a rebellion to overthrow Chinese power was successful.
For millennia after they reclaimed the land, the Cham people ruled over Vietnam, which is why their history is still a prominent part of local culture. It wasn’t until the modern era that the country entered a new phase. Divided into the North and South, the Vietnam War greatly affected the Quang Tri Province.
Dong Ha was Southern Vietnam’s northernmost position before entering the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Ultimately, there were two battles in Quang Tri, which resulted in the South Vietnamese forces losing control over much of the territory.
As a result of the war, leftover landmines have been a serious threat to local communities. While tourist areas have been cleared, rural areas of the province still have a considerably high risk of landmines. Since 1999, the Mines Advisory Group has worked hard to remove as many as possible in Quang Tri, as well as the neighboring province of Quang Binh (Quang Bình).
After an area has been cleared, the Roots of Peace group has helped local farmers plant high-value crops, which has boosted agriculture in Quang Tri.
- Approximately 650,321 people live in Quang Tri Province as of 2018.
- The total area of Quang Tri Province is about 4,745 sq km (1,832 sq mi).
- The dominant local ethnic groups in Quang Tri include Vietnamese, Bru, Hoa, and Ta Oi (Tà Ôi).
Once a Combat Base for US forces during the Vietnam War, Dong Ha is the provincial capital of Quang Tri Province. Situated just outside of the DMZ, the city has become a popular tourist attraction for travelers who are interested in or connected to the Vietnam War. Most of Dong Ha was destroyed during battles in the province and as a result, the city’s architecture isn’t very old.
Being tied closely to the wartime past, Dong Ha is a city where tourists go to see historical sites. Attractions in the area include DMZ tours of the Khe Sanh Combat Base, Vinh Moc Tunnels, Rockpile, and Ben Hai River. Of the few attractions that are not directly tied to the war, tourists can also visit the city’s main market or quiet beaches.
Although Dong Ha is well-recognized for its military connections, the city is still working to expand its tourist sector. Currently, there are only a few places where travelers can comfortably stay the night in the city. However, even with only a few options, friendly staff and great service ensure that everyone enjoys their stay in Dong Ha.
The city’s best hotels are the Sai Gon Dong Ha Hotel, Muong Thanh Grand Quang Tri Hotel, and the Hoa Phuong Guesthouse.
To refuel and rest after a long day, Dong Ha has a bounty of quality restaurants that serve a variety of local and international dishes. Guests in the city will find that there are plenty of places to choose from with options on-site or away from their lodgings. The Sachi Restaurant, Tong Hua Restaurant, and Tam’s Café are the best places for visitors to eat in Dong Ha.
Famous Places in the Quang Tri Province
As a well-known province in the North Central Coast Region, Quang Tri has a few destinations that have become tourist hotspots. In addition to the capital city, Dong Ha, tourists should consider traveling to the Vinh Linh District, Gio Linh District, or the Huong Hoa District (Hu’ó’ng Hóa). With historical sites, natural wonders, and cultural centers, these districts have a lot to offer.
Gio Linh District
Located just north of Dong Ha, tourism in the Gio Linh District is expected to expand after the completion of the future Quang Tri Airport, which is currently under construction. An important Allied position during the Vietnam War, there are various monuments and museums throughout the district that are open daily to the public.
One impressive monument that garners a lot of attention is called the Post Office.
Huong Hoa District
Once the site of the Battle of Khe Sanh, the Huong Hoa District is another historical destination that is frequented by ex-servicemen and their families. Located about 65 km (40 mi) to the west of Dong Ha, most travelers will stay in Khe Sanh, which is the district’s main town.
In addition to the war history, tourists in Huong Hoa can learn more about traditional Vietnamese culture from the Bru or Ta Oi people, who are indigenous to the area.
Vinh Linh District
Meeting the East Sea, the Vinh Linh District has gone by many names throughout history. To the Champa, the district was called Ma Linh and Chieu Linh (Chiêu Linh) before being renamed Minh Luong and Minh Linh.
Today the district is a famous destination because of the Vinh Moc Tunnels (Vinh Môc), Ben Hai River (Bên Hai), and Hien Luong shores (Hiên Lu’o’ng). Tourists may also be interested in touring the Vinh Moc Fishing Village.
Quang Tri Province is closely associated with the Vietnam War because of its border with the Demilitarized Zone, however, historical sites aren’t the only attractions in the area. Adding to travelers’ itineraries, there are a few natural waterfalls and important religious landmarks in the province.
Travelers in Quang Tri should visit Thac Chenh Venh (Thác Chênh Vênh), Thac Ta Puong (Thác Tà Puông), Basilica of Our Lady of Lavang, and the Quang Tri Citadel.
DMZ tours are the most popular activity in Quang Tri Province. Established in Dong Ha, there are a few companies that take tourists on a day trips to historic war sites. Destinations included in most itineraries are the Khe Sanh Combat Base, Vinh Moc Tunnels, Rockpile, and Ben Hai River. Transportation is included and many companies will pick clients up at Tam’s Café in Dong Ha.
Basilica of Our Lady of Lavang
In the Hai Lang District, the Basilica of Our Lady of Lavang is an important site for Catholics in the country. Previously persecuted and killed, many Catholics in Vietnam fled into the forests of La Vang to hide. Legend states that a woman wearing a traditional ao dai dress (áo dài) appeared with two angels beside her to comfort the people.
Since then, the church has been dedicated to the lady. The original church was destroyed during the Vietnam War, but since being rebuilt, it has become a tourist site for religious and non-religious people.
Thac Chenh Venh
Close to the border with Laos in the Huong Hoa District, Thac Chenh Venh is a stunning waterfall that flows down from a small rocky canyon. At the base of the falls, a deep blue pool turns green and yellow before flowing down the river. Accessing the waterfall is much easier since the path has been widened and groomed. Swimming in the pool and river is permitted.
Thac Ta Puong and Ta Puong Cave
Just 40 minutes to the north of Thac Chenh Venh, another waterfall called Thac Ta Puong is a beautiful destination for eco-tourists. Featuring multiple cascades flowing down from a rocky cliff, tourists are welcome to hike to the falls and bathe in the pool or river at its base. Technically, there are two sets of falls with one sitting above the other.
Another attraction in the area is the Ta Puong Cave, which extends 200 m into the mountain. Divided into two, part of the cave is flooded by a stream and the other half has a wide strip of sand. Tours of the area are encouraged for visitors who wish to visit the caves but exploring without a guide is permitted. There is no light in the cave, so travelers will have to bring a flashlight.
Quang Tri Citadel
Originally built in 1809 by King Gia Long, the Quang Tri Citadel has become a site that is dedicated to the fallen soldiers of the Vietnam War. A national relic, there are multiple parts to the citadel including the main gate, ornate murals, ancient walls, old prison cells, and large monuments. To get to the Quang Tri Citadel, tourists will have to travel 25 minutes south of Dong Ha.
The citadel is open daily and tourists are welcome to tour the grounds on their own. An on-site museum houses historical artifacts, documents, and photos about the citadel’s history and the Vietnam War.
Deeply affected by the war, Quang Tri Province is trying to move past its dark history and into a new chapter. One of the province’s newest festivals that hopes to bring unity to the people while looking towards a bright future is the Peace Festival. Typically held in late June or early July, it’s a time for Quang Tri to spread messages of love to the people, country, and world.
Activities during the Peace Festival include exhibitions, performances, seminars, and ceremonies.
For being a mostly mountainous province, Quang Tri still maintains a mild climate throughout the year. The slowest time of the year for tourism in the province is from September to November because monsoons hit the area and the temperatures remain high. Summertime is also not very busy because of the high heat and humidity.
Instead, most travelers will visit the Quang Tri Province during the dry season, which starts in December and lasts until early April. Temperatures during the dry season are lower and without monsoons, tourists won’t have to worry about rain ruining their excursions.
Frequently considered to be the go-to place to learn about the Vietnam War, Quang Tri Province engages tourists by showing them some of the important sites and monuments in modern history. Drawn to the DMZ, there’s a lot more to uncover in this North Central Province and some of the attractions may surprise you.
With gorgeous natural wonders and major religious structures, Quang Tri Province has a little bit of everything to ensure that tourism in the area continues to grow.
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