Vietnam is well-known for many things in modern times and visitors flock to this country for a variety of reasons, including pho, bikes, amazing nature, and beautiful architecture. It has been firmly established itself on the tourist map of Southeast Asia for some time, and it richly deserves its success. There is, however, a side of Vietnam that should be remembered and commemorated. It is often unpleasant to learn about, but it’s an important part of the history and key to understanding the country today. I’m talking about the War. The Vietnam War. Over the years many people have visited Vietnam to learn about its history, along with the beautiful scenery and delicious cuisine tourism related to the Vietnam War has increased in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. Here are the Vietnam War Sites you should not miss.
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A brief history of the Vietnam War
Between 1954 and 1975, the Vietnam War (also known as the American War in Vietnam or the War against the Americans to Save the Nation) took place. The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and the army of the Vietnamese Republic (ARVN) were diametrically opposed throughout the war. Communist China and Russia backed the North, while the anti-communist United States stood by the South. Between 1.3 and 4.2 million people are thought to have died near or at one of the many Vietnam War sites.
The Vietnam War was a watershed moment in the twentieth century, and many people are still haunted by it 40 years later. Although Vietnam is now a peaceful country, the war has left deep scars on the country and its people. Veterans who fought here and survived returned to their countries, but their families and relatives still want to learn about the history and remember the past. If you’re planning a tour to see historical Vietnam War sites, here’s where you should head to.
How to Visit the Major Vietnam War Sites
We’ll start our outline of the main sites of the Vietnam War in Ho Chi Minh City, as this is where most people begin their visit to Vietnam.
The War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City
Did you know that the war in Vietnam is known as the “American War?” When you visit the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll learn all of this and more. This is the best Vietnam War Site to start your explorations with. The “Museum of American War Crimes” was the name of the museum until 1993. A collection of tanks, planes, and other wartime equipment can be found here. Permanent and rotating exhibitions depict various aspects of the war. Although it is largely a one-sided portrayal of history, it is nonetheless an eye-opening and educational experience.
The War Remnants Museum in Saigon is a must-see for anyone interested in learning more about the devastating effects of the Vietnam war (which locals refer to as “The American War”). Because it is one of the most interesting museums in the country, it is regularly packed (you’ll see long lines of school groups). Visiting the War Remnants museum is included in a full day tour of Ho Chi Minh City, and also includes a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels.
This was our second stop on our visits to the Vietnam War Sites (we went to the Cu Chi Tunnels first). There’s a fair amount of propaganda on display in this museum, but that doesn’t detract from the display and the stories told. From the American aircraft, helicopters, tanks, and weaponry in the front yard to the tiger cages and prison recreation, through the detail on the impact of Agent Orange not just on those living at the time but also on their children. It is a thought-provoking, emotional journey through the 18 or so years of the American War.
The photographs of the foreign correspondents and photographers, and those of those impacted by the defoliation that Agent Orange caused will sear images into your mind that will be hard to shake. Indeed the stories of those correspondents lost as casualties of war, such huge talents, will also remain with you for a long time.
When you vacation on the island of Phu Quoc, (our guide is here) you’ll remember not just the fish sauce smell that it’s famous for producing, but also the prison, where those heroes of the war were incarcerated, tortured, and died in Tiger Cage cells.
- Address of War Remnants Museum: 28 Vo Van Tan St., Ward 6, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
- Opening Hours of War Remnants Museum: 07:30 am – 05:00 pm
- Entrance Fees for War Remnants Museum: 15000 VND
How to Visit the War Remnants Museum
The War Remnants Museum is right around the corner from the Reunification Palace, so you can visit both at the same time.
- Visit the War Remnants Museum by Taxi: The War Remnants Museum is located in District 3 of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon), near the Reunification Palace, on the corner of Vo Van Tan and Le Quoy Don. A taxi from Pham Ngu Lao’s tourist district should cost less than U$2.
- Rent a Motorbike or Scooter: You can rent motorbikes and scooters in Ho Chi Minh City here.
- Or for a worry-free and hassle-free visit to the War Remnants Museum, this tour takes you to the War Remnants Museum, the Reunification Palace, AND the Cu Chi Tunnels. Check availability for your preferred dates and book now.
The Independence Palace aka Reunification Palace (Ho Chi Minh City)
A historic site with a long history dating back to the colonial period. This was the headquarters of the South Vietnamese government. The opening of the “war rooms,” tunnels, and telecommunication center in the Palace basements brings some realizations about the War’s organization to those touring the palace. When a North Vietnamese army tank stormed through the gates, marking the Fall of Saigon, it became a symbol of the end of the Vietnam War.
This structure served as the headquarters for the South Vietnamese government during the war, and it has been kept in excellent condition. Foreign dignitaries were hosted here, as well as a bomb bunker in the basement where the military leadership communicated with its troops. The maps, too, are still hung on the walls. Its easy to visit the Reunification Palace at the same time as visiting the War Remnants Museum.
The Reunification Palace is located in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City. On April 30, 1975, an NVA tank crashed through the gates of the Reunification Palace, which was still known as the Independence Palace at the time. The Vietnam War came to an end with this event. North and South Vietnam were merged into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in July 1976, following negotiations. The city of Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City.
The palace and the Rex hotel are right in the city center and a walkable distance from each other.
- Address of The Independence Palace aka Reunification Palace: 135 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa St., Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
- Opening Hours of The Independence Palace aka Reunification Palace: 7:30 AM – 5:00 PM
- Entrance Fees for The Independence Palace aka Reunification Palace: 40,000 VND
How to Visit The Independence Palace aka Reunification Palace
The Independence Palace is in the city center and is easily accessible by bus, taxi, car, or motorcycle.
If you prefer to travel by bus, you can take one of the five routes listed below:
- 001: Ben Thanh Bus Station – Cho Lon Bus Station
- 002: Ben Thanh Bus Station – Western Bus Station
- 003: Ben Thanh – Thanh Loc Bus Station
- 004: Ben Thanh Bus Station – Cong Hoa – An Suong Bus Station
- 005: Ben Thanh Bus Station – Bien Hoa.
You can combine a visit to the Reunification Palace with a visit to the War Remnants Museum and the Cu Chi Tunnels – this is an excellent trip to take to three of the Vietnam War Sites.
Cuc Chi Tunnels, near Ho Chi Minh City
A labyrinth of tunnels used by North Vietnamese troops can be found about 50 miles outside of Ho Chi Minh City. The Chu Chi Tunnels are part of Ho Chi Minh City’s massive war effort. They give visitors a glimpse into Vietnamese soldiers’ underground life in 1948. Trapdoors, living areas, kitchens, storage facilities, armory, hospitals, and command centers are all part of the site’s 120km of underground tunnels. Vietnamese soldiers expanded the tunnels and added effective air filtration systems after the war against the French, which helped them survive the Chu Chi carpet bombings.
The Cu Chi Tunnels are possibly the most well-known war memorial in Vietnam. One of the amazing strengths of the Southern Vietnam forces was their tunnel network. Cu Chi is now tourist-friendly, with parts of the tunnels even widened to (almost) “accommodate” non-Vietnamese figures. This is a truly unforgettable and eye-opening experience. You can see the Cu Chi Tunnels in a half day from Ho Chi Minh City.
This was how we started our first visit to Vietnam – a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels outside Ho Chi Minh City, then and still now for many, Saigon. Eschewing the big bus tours, we’d hopped on a couple of local buses and spent a couple of hours getting there before walking in with a Vietnamese couple on a quiet, rainy midweek day.
There was an air of desertion as we walked onto the site, under the sign, to the ticket booth, where we handed over our 90k VND each and wandered in the general direction of – well, not back out the exit (there’s a distinct lack of signage and the map you’re given is not helpful.). You can choose to visit the temple built to commemorate the martyrs (that’s a common word when it comes to the war, so you’d best get used to it), but you will need long trousers and long sleeves.
A few hundred meters later, there’s a display of old American weaponry. That’s common across all the war sites, displays of American weaponry, not a great deal on Vietnamese weaponry at all. And then there’s a ticket check area and as we follow 15 or so Vietnamese in, we’re told to wait, at least that’s what we think the hand wave means this time.
A few minutes later we’re led off, just the two of us – being the only Westerners in sight – into the jungle down well-trodden paths, and within less than a minute you’re completely disoriented and have no idea where the other group has gone or where the way out is. You pass a display showing the uniform of the Viet army and then throughout the jungle, there are a series of covered screening areas, which is where you’re shown the 15-minute program (in English for us) on the history of Cu Chi and how the American devils came to destroy it.
It’s old, and there’s a lot of propaganda, but it’s fascinating. If you get to the end of your video (we had a power cut..) then your guide will return and show you a plan of the tunnels and then a map. I was completely ignorant up until this point about the different levels involved. Our guide spoke pretty good English, although heavily accented, and it did help that we’d read up a little beforehand.
Now you head off further into the jungle (or we might have turned back on ourselves, I was probably walking in circles). And TBH this is part of the whole experience. It was raining, it was humid, it was hot, in the war I would have lasted maybe 15 seconds if that. You walk past termite mounds, that actually are cover for air holes into the tunnels, and then you come to your first tunnel. The guide will show you how the tunnels have been increased in size for tourists while you’re thinking, but how the heck am I going to crawl through that!!
We also got to go into the bunker, where the entrance is just about shoulder-width and Nige duly does squeeze in, the guide and I shut the entrance lid and Nige shoots us. With the camera, from inside. After he manages to find his way out, we head off into the tunnels proper. You do come up between areas of the tunnel and then go down again, at one point you have the option to go through a longer section (the guide said 30 meters, my knees said longer), but you don’t have to and can bypass that (but honestly, why would you take the bypass?).
When you finally come up, there’s a bamboo hand washing station and you get to taste tapioca – which is what the Viet’s lived on primarily during the war. And it’s not the sloppy rice pudding that you’re expecting, it’s actually quite pleasant, but I’m not sure I would say that after 10 years of it.
It was hot, humid, disorienting and a superb tour, a perfect introduction to the war in Vietnam.
- Address of Cuc Chi Tunnels: Đ. Tỉnh Lộ 15, Phú Hiệp, Củ Chi, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 733814, Vietnam
- Opening Hours of Cuc Chi Tunnels: 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM
- Entrance Fees for Cuc Chi Tunnels: The ticket is VND 90.000 (about USD 4).
How to Visit Cuc Chi Tunnels / Cu Chi Tunnels
The Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc sites of the Cu Chi Tunnel complex are located outside of Ho Chi Minh City.
- Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels by public bus: The public bus to the Cu Chi tunnels is easy. We caught the number 13 from Pham Ngu Lao, just by waving at it. This bus costs you 7,000 VND per person and it takes about 90 minutes, traffic depending to get to the Cu Chi Bus Station. Once you get to the bus station in Cu Chi, it’s easy to find the number 79, which costs another 6,000 VND and takes you through the countryside to the Cu Chi Tunnels. This part of the journey was about 45. Saying Tunnels, Tunnels to the driver means that he will yell at you when it’s time to get off. Your heart may stop a little as it looks like you’re getting off in the middle of nowhere, with not even a bus stop sign in sight. When you walk on a little and look to the left, there’s the sign for the tunnels.
- Rent a Motorbike or Scooter: The route to the Cu Chi Tunnels isn’t bad, but you can’t escape the city’s brutal traffic (more on that later). You can rent motorbikes and scooters in Ho Chi Minh City here.
- Another option for a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels is to go as part of a trip. You can combine your visit with a trip to the War Remnants Museum (details here) or just go to the Cu Chi Tunnels on a half-day trip (and there are details on booking that trip here).
Hỏa Lò Prison, Hanoi
There are remnants left also in Hanoi – where American pilots spent time at the “Hanoi Hilton“, or the Hoa Lo prison, including Douglas Peterson, who became the first US Ambassador to a unified Vietnam in 1995. Senator John McCain’s flight suit is on display along with photos of him after he was shot down. It’s a sad little display in Hanoi, at the Hoa Lo Prison. While the museum covers more than just its use during the American War, it is mainly in Vietnamese. Maison Centrale displays over the entrance door, videos reinforce the damage that the American devils did, yet wax lyrically over the easy time that those incarcerated there during that regime had. It’s in the two American rooms that you find the majority of the visitors and also a desire to read more and cut through the propaganda.
The French built the prison at Hoa Lo between 1886 and 1901 to house Vietnamese political prisoners fighting for independence. Hao Lo was also a breeding ground for the Vietnamese communist party. Five future Communist Party General Secretaries also spent time in Hao Lo Prison.
It is a propaganda-heavy site, but it is important. This is the famous “Hanoi Hilton,” which housed American POWs during the Vietnam War. This is the location where John McCain was imprisoned and tortured. Former Senator John McCain’s plane was shot down over Trc Bch Lake, which is only 2 miles from the museum. When you visit Hanoi, you must see both. I’ve covered them in detail and a lot more in my guide of the best things to do in Hanoi here.
- Address of Hoa Lo Prison: 1 Hoa Lo Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
- Opening Hours of Hoa Lo Prison: 08:00 AM – 05:00 PM
- Entrance Fees for Hoa Lo Prison: 30,000 VND
How to Visit Hoa Lo Prison
Taxis are the most convenient way to get to Hoa Lo Prison – 1 On the edge of the French Quarter, Pho Hoa Lo is located at the corner of Pho Ha Ba Trung, south of Hoan Kiem Lake.
While you can visit the Hoa Lo Prison independently, you can combine seeing the prison with seeing the B52 and other Vietnam war sites in a US military jeep. It’s a fabulous way to visit these sites and you can check dates and availability here.
The B52 in a Lake in Hanoi
Walk a little further afield in Hanoi and you’ll find the remains of a B52 in a Lake. Down a rabbit warren of alleys, this stark reminder of the War sinks a little lower into the mud and rusts a little more each year, although the tires look remarkably intact. It’s left there as an aide-memoire of the impact of the acts of war.
Operation Linebacker II, also known as the Christmas Bombing, was a three-day bombing campaign carried out by American forces between December 18th and December 29th, 1972. Linebacker II targeted military installations in the densely populated area between Hanoi and Haiphong in order to force North Vietnamese leaders to sign a provisional peace agreement.
Despite the bombing’s intended targets and the evacuation of nearly half a million civilians, 1,318 civilians were killed, prompting international condemnation. North Vietnamese forces retaliated by firing over 1,200 missiles at fifteen B-52 bombers, capturing 31 crew members, and killing many more.
In the quiet neighborhood of Ngoc Ha, an artifact from the last burst of violence in the American portion of the war still stands. An American B-52 bomber’s rear landing gear and undercarriage rest in Huu Tiep Lake after it was shot down on December 27, 1972.
“The Battalion No72 – Air Defence Missile Regiment No285 shot down a B52G of the US imperialist violating Ha Noi airspace… creating an important change that led the Vietnamese people’s anti-US resistance for national salvation to the complete victory,” according to a nearby plaque. The well-kept houses reflected in the waters surrounding the twisted remnants provide a stark contrast between modern Hanoi and the horrors that its residents still remember.
- Address of the B52 in a Lake: Ngõ 55 – Hoàng Hoa Thám Hanoi, Vietnam
How to Visit the B52 in a Lake
Huu Tiep Lake is located in the Ba Dinh district, just west of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, and is a twenty-minute walk west of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. You should see a sign directing you to the memorial down a narrow street if you walk west on Hoang Hoa Tham Avenue where it meets Ngoc Ha Avenue.
- The lake is passed by a few buses. As a result, there are only a few options.
- Take Bus 9 to the 91-93 Lê Hng Phong stop. Then take a stroll to the lake.
- Bus 32 will take you to the Bn Xe Kim M – I Din 168e Kim M stop. Then take a stroll to the lake.
Want to see the downed B52? Why not combine it with a trip to the Hanoi Hilton and visit them in a US military Jeep?
Vietnam Military Prison Museum, Hanoi
This site, also known as the Army Museum, houses a large collection of artifacts and weapons that were used during the Vietnam War. The wreckage of an American B-52 bomber is one of the most recognizable artifacts. Aside from that, don’t miss the M107 self-propelled gun and, in particular, the military tank that destroyed the main gate of Saigon’s Independence Palace. This event stunned the world and officially ended the Vietnam War, which had lasted 21 years.
The museum houses a large collection of weapons seized during this turbulent period in Vietnamese history. The tank that plowed through the gate of the Independence Palace in Saigon, bringing the war to an end, is perhaps the most remarkable item on display. From tanks to old jet fighters and nearly every gun ever fired in this country, the equipment on display at this small museum is fascinating. The propaganda is overly aggressive, but that is to be expected. Finish your tour by climbing the old tower for a spectacular view of the city.
- Address of Vietnam Military Prison Museum: 28A Điện Biên Phủ St., Ba Đình Dist., Hanoi
- Opening Hours of Vietnam Military Prison Museum: 8:00 AM-5:00 PM
- Entrance Fees for Vietnam Military Prison Museum: 30,000VND (Adult), FREE (Kids)
How to Visit Vietnam Military Prison Museum
The Vietnam Military Prison Museum is close to the Hanoi Flag Tower and the Hanoi Railway.
How to Spend 2 Days in Hanoi ItineraryCheck out our itinerary for how to spend 2 days in Hanoi here.
Khe Sanh Combat Base
The Combat Base was located in Khe Sanh, a small mountain town deep inland near the Lao border. In 1968, one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War, which lasted 77 days, took place there. Khe Sahn was established by Special Forces in August 1962 and occupied until December 1966, when it was handed over to the Marines, who expanded the camp to suit their needs. After that, the Special Forces moved west, closer to the Laotian border and the Lang Vei camp.
Khe Sanh is now one of the most visited war memorials. Almost every DMZ tour will include a stop in Khe Sanh. On the site of the old camp area, there has been a museum for over fifteen years. The areas on and around the runway are also accessible now that the majority of the UXO (unexploded ordinance) has been cleared.
A beautiful project called The Peace Garden is being developed by one of Khe Sanh’s veterans. At the former Combat Base, American and Vietnamese veterans come together to plant trees together and put the past behind them.
- Address of Khe Sanh Combat Base: Huong Hoa District, Khe Sanh, Vietnam
- Opening Hours of Khe Sanh Combat Base: 7:00 AM-5:00 PM
- Entrance Fees for Khe Sanh Combat Base: Entrance fee is 50.000 VND, and parking is free.
How to Visit Khe Sanh Combat Base
Khe Sanh Combat Base is located 63 kilometers west of Dong Ha City and 20 kilometers east of the Lao Bao Border Gate in Quang Tri Province.
Khe Sanh Combat Base Tour can be easily visited every day as a part of tours starting in Hue City. This is the best tour I can recommend!
Côn Đảo Prisons, Con Son
Con Dao Prisons are located on Con Son, the largest island in the Con Dao archipelago, and were originally used by the French colonists to house the most dangerous enemies of colonialism. It’s a small, remote island off Vietnam’s southern coast. These islands off Vietnam’s southern coast are some of the country’s most beautiful spots, but they were also the site of torture, abuse, and politically motivated executions for much of the previous century.
The French were the first to build and use these prisons, but they were also used by the American-backed regime in Saigon to house captured soldiers and other political prisoners, including V Th Sáu, Vietnam’s famous guerrilla girl.
The prisons were taken over by the American army in the 1960s and 1970s, and it was used for torture and abuse of prisoners. On his fact-finding mission, photographer Tom Harkin documented the deplorable conditions in which the prisoners were held. The Con Dao prisons are actually three prisons across the island and the ticket to enter covers them all.
Con Dao is not only known for its history; the archipelago is also known for its beautiful beaches, which the Vietnamese government is promoting as a great weekend getaway.
- Address of Côn Đảo Prisons: MJQ7+PR6, Nguyễn Chí Thanh, Côn Đảo, Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu, Vietnam
- Opening Hours of Côn Đảo Prisons: Prison opening time includes two-time frames: Morning from 7:30 – 11:30 and afternoon from 13:30 – 16:30. Con Dao prison is open to visitors every day of the week
- Entrance Fees for Côn Đảo Prisons: 40,000 VND / person
How to Visit Côn Đảo Prison
You’ll need to get to the island of Con Son to visit Con Dao prison.
Get to Con Son by Plane: From Hanoi, Can Tho, and Saigon, Vietnam Airlines and Bamboo Airways fly to Con Dao. Tickets cost between 800,000 and 1,200,000 VND (depending on the time). The flight time is estimated at 45 minutes.
By Train & Boat: You can travel from Saigon to Soc Trang or Vung Tau and purchase train tickets to Con Dao. If you travel from Soc Trang, you will depart from Cat Lo port at 17h with fares ranging from 85,000 to 200,000 VND and a journey time of 13 hours. If you travel from Vung Tau, you will arrive at Tran Deport, where tickets cost between 250,000 and 300,000 VND and depart at 8 a.m.
Vịnh Mốc Tunnels
On the border of North and South Vietnam are the Vinh Moc Tunnels. These tunnels were built to protect families from the bombing of the surrounding county during the Vietnam War. This massive network of tunnels is the ruins of a coastal North Vietnamese village that went underground in the face of relentless American bombing. People were able to stay safe inside these tunnels after they were completed. They are still intact today and are a popular Vietnam War site to visit.
The Vinh Moc tunnels were hand-dug by civilians so that they could take cover when the Americans bombed the area. Some bomb craters remain, others were filled in in order to make the land usable after the war. On the surface, though, Vinh Moc has all the requirements for a Vietnamese tourist site – a ticket office, a restaurant, toilets, and a huge array of small stalls where you can part with your tourist dollar. Pineapple was popular when we were there.
Under the ground, it’s an absolute maze – on three levels, the top-level mainly used for storage, the second level, for living in, included a maternity ward, where 17 babies were born (16 of whom are still alive today), a hospital, toilets, a washing area, places to sleep, a long, large meeting room, a kitchen. And there’s not just one opening, there are lots from the surface, openings disguised beneath bamboo, to the four or so openings onto the beach – where, food and ammunition could be brought in from the Con Co island easily and brought in through the tunnels, to be distributed from one of the surface openings. One of the easiest ways to see the Vinh Moc Tunnels is on a full day DMZ trip from Hue – you can see more details here.
Unlike the more well-known Cu Chi Tunnels, which were used by the military, the tunnels at Vinh Mc were used by civilians. For over six years, approximately 300 people lived and worked underground to avoid American bombers in this multi-tiered system of tunnels. Trips to other popular DMZ sites, such as the base at Khe Sanh, are frequently included as part of a package.
Vinh Moc, Vietnam, had the misfortune of being located on the border between the North and the South and was subjected to heavy military action. The Vinh Moc tunnels were therefore used as bomb shelters by civilian Vietnamese.
The Vinh Moc Tunnels, as well as many other famous historical sites such as Quang Tri Old Citadel, Khe Sanh Combat Base, Hien Luong Bridge, Ben Hai River, and others, are chosen as a stopover for visitors traveling from Quang Binh to Hue or as a day trip from Hue city, as this district was an important battlefield between Vietnam and America.
The Vinh Moc Tunnels, like the Cu Chi Tunnels below, are one of the interesting Vietnam War sites to visit. On a visit you’ll be escorted around the complex by an English-speaking guide who will point out the 12 entrances until you reach a beautiful beach overlooking the South China Sea (East Sea).
- Address of Vịnh Mốc Tunnels: Vĩnh Thạch, Vĩnh Linh District, Quảng Trị, Vietnam
- Opening Hours of Vịnh Mốc Tunnels: 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM
- Entrance Fees for Vịnh Mốc Tunnels: 40,000VND / person
How to Visit Vịnh Mốc Tunnels
Nearby City: If you travel by private car/van, Vinh Moc is 90 minutes from Dong Hoi city (80 kilometers) or 2 hours from Quang Binh (114 kilometers). More underground tunnels can be found 1.5 hours south of Da Nang in Tam Ky town.
Rent a Vehicle: The village of Ho Xa is 6.5 kilometers north of the Ben Hai River, where the Vinh Moc turn-off is located. Follow this road for 13 kilometers east. Between Phong Nha/Dong Hoi and Hue, Vietnam, tourist shuttle buses run, after which you can take a taxi to Vinh Moc and the Ben Hai River.
The Vietnam DMZ – Quang Tri Province
Quang Tri, the area’s provincial capital, is located in Vietnam’s Central Region, near the crossroads of North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. Formerly known as South Vietnam’s northernmost province. The southern DMZ is located here. Quang Tri was one of the most contested areas in South Vietnam, with Hanoi troops constantly attempting to infiltrate through Laos and North Vietnam’s borders. Our full guide to the DMZ sites is here.
This prompted the United States to construct a string of bases along Route 9, the east-west link. These bases appeared over time in various shapes and for various purposes. Several of the bases evolved and expanded over time; Khe Sanh Combat Base, which began as a Special Forces outpost, is a good example of this.
Most of the bases along Route 9 are open to the public today, except for Khe Sanh, which has been converted into a large museum. You can visit many of these sites on a full day trip from the city of Hue.
Dong Ha Combat Base, one of the largest bases, no longer exists because the city of Dong Ha has grown all over the former base area. The old base has a few houses left, and the runway is now one of the city’s main thoroughfares.
Here, legendary battlegrounds such as Mutter’s Ridge and Leatherneck Square, where Con Thien, Cam Lo, Gio Linh, and Dong Ha fought, can still be visited. Mutter’s Ridge requires some extra planning because it is off the beaten path and only has a few small trails leading up to it.
- Address of DMZ – Quang Tri Province: The town of Dong Ha is the provincial capital of Quang Tri in Vietnam. It is found at the crossroads of two major highways, 1A and 9.
- Opening Hours of DMZ – Quang Tri Province: OPEN DAILY
- Entrance Fees for DMZ – Quang Tri Province: FREE
How to Visit the DMZ – Quang Tri Province
To visit the sites of the Vietnam DMZ you’ll need to get to Dong Ha or to Hue, where you can take tours from. Quang Tri is a province in northern Vietnam, with Hue as its capital. Quang Tri is 600 kilometers south of Hanoi and nearly twice as far south as Ho Chi Minh City. From north to south, Vietnam’s road and rail systems are fairly good, and Da Nang, at 190 kilometers away, even allows for direct international flights.
By Train: Only a mile south of Dong Ha is a train station with services to and from other major cities throughout the country, as well as a bus station. Because it is the last town before the DMZ, many tours stop here. Hue, the nearest international airport, is 50 miles or a 2-hour drive from Dong Ha. Dong Ha is a 12-hour bus ride away from Hanoi. You can check transport links to Dong Ha here.
There are some special-theme tours available for those who want to tour around the DMZ area in Quang Tri, click here to learn more.
The Hue Imperial City, which has stood the test of time as a royal palace, has also witnessed the Vietnam War’s escalation. Hue, as a former capital, is today a major tourist destination in Vietnam. (and you can read our guide of things to do in Hue here). However, in 1968, the town and the Citadel that once housed the royal dynasties were turned into a battleground for over a month.
Emperor Gia Long built the Citadel in 1804 and, while it served as the Emperor’s living quarters for a long time, it also saw some of the most intense fightings of the Vietnam War. Much of the original structure was destroyed during the Tet Offensive in 1968, but with the help of UNESCO funding, it has been gradually restored.
When the NVA and Viet Cong launched the Tet Offensive in 1968, this peaceful city was the battleground. Each side attempted to retake control of Hue, which was also their primary target. Hundreds of thousands of men fought over the city for weeks. Because of the bitter fighting between the two sides, the majority of the royal structures were destroyed. Only a few ruins remain, which are now covered in moss and grass.
- Address of Hue Citadel: It is about 700km south of Vietnam’s capital – Hanoi, about 1100km north of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), and about 100km from Danang City.
- Opening Hours of Hue Citadel: The Hue Imperial City is open every day from 07:00 – 18:00.
- Entrance Fees for Hue Citadel: Admission to the Hue Imperial city for adults is 150,000 VND and 30,000 VND for children.
How to Visit Hue Citadel
The Hue Imperial City is located on the northern bank of the Perfume River, across from the city’s center. The Meridian Gate, off Le Duan Street, is where you enter.
If you are traveling by train, the Hue Imperial City is located across the river from the main train station. Buses to Hue run frequently from Hoi An. From the tourist area to the main entrance gate is a short walk (it will take less than 15 minutes).
Visiting the Imperial City will be a highlight of your time in Hue and you’ll get a lot more out of it with a guided tour.
There’s more on how to get to Hue from Hoi An in our guide here.
Lai Khe Base Camp
Lai Khe was probably the most bombed base camp in the country except for Khe Sanh during the siege. During the war, a series of bases were located along QL13, also known as Thunder Road. Lai Khe was one of the most important, serving as a base camp for the 1st Infantry Division from 1965 to 1972, as well as several other American units at various times.
The 3rd Brigade’s headquarters were at the base camp, with the division headquarters in Di An not far away. Quan Loi, Phuoc Vinh, and Dau Tieng were the locations of the other brigades. It was an excellent choice of location, right on the highway. Supplies could be brought in relatively easily by road and air, thanks to its large runway and proximity to Saigon. A Special Forces Camp was located 70 kilometers up the road in Loc Ninh.
At first glance, the old base area appears to have little left, but if you know what you’re looking for, you can still find evidence of this massive installation’s existence. Some of the old gates, as well as concrete remnants of the old walls and the former Brigade administration buildings, have survived. Some of the older trees inside the camp have shrapnel marks from the rocket attacks. At least a couple of the former perimeter roads, as well as the bypass road on the east side of the camp outside the old minefield, are still visible and in use.
- Address of Lai Khe Base Camp: Located along Highway 13 to the northwest of Hồ Chí Minh City and about 20 km north of Thủ Dầu Một in southern Vietnam
How to Visit Lai Khe Base Camp
Lai Khe is about 60 kilometers north of Ho Chi Minh City, on the QL13, on the way to An Loc and Loc Ninh. It’s a nice half-day trip up there and back or a full-day trip for those who want to go further north and visit the other bases along the road.
My Lai Memorial (Quang Ngai)
Quang Ngai is the last stop on our list of Vietnam war sites to see. The memorial to the My Lai massacre is located here. This memorial site in Quang Ngai, complete with monuments, ruins of a village, and a small museum, honors the victims of the My Lai massacre, which occurred on March 16, 1968.
On March 16, 1968, the village of Tu Chung, which is part of the larger village of Son My, was a place of horror when US soldiers from Charlie Company, 11th Light Infantry Brigade, killed over 400 civilians. Women, the elderly, and small children were the majority of the victims.
Several of the victims were tortured and beaten before being executed, and many women were raped. Machine gun fire killed the fleeing people and set fire to their huts and houses. People were stabbed with bayonets, grenades were thrown, and grenade launchers were used. Women attempted to protect their children, but most children were also killed.
The My Lai war memorial is located near the country town of Quang Ngai, about three or four hours south of Hoi An. The memorial is dedicated to the people of My Lai village, who were massacred in one of the most heinous events of the Vietnam War.
The memorial is surrounded by the victims’ graves, who are interred in family groups among the trees and rice paddies. To represent the chaos of the massacre, visitors walk through the memorial on brown concrete pathways imprinted with army boots and bare feet.
- Address of My Lai Memorial: Quốc lộ 24B, Tịnh Khê, Quang Ngai
- Opening Hours of My Lai Memorial: Open 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM.
- Entrance Fees for My Lai Memorial Museum: 10,000 VND
How to Visit My Lai Memorial
A tour through a tour company or a hotel is not required. Hire a private car and driver or take a regular taxi. The grounds are open all day until 5 p.m., and admission is only 10,000 VND! A four-seater private car ride from Hoi An to My Lai (Son May) costs around VND1.4 million.
Unexploded Ordnance in Vietnam
We might have had our last stop on our tour of Vietnam War Sites, but there’s one remaining remnant of the war, and this continues to remind the Vietnamese of the legacy of war to this day. During the war, an estimated 15 million tonnes of ordnance was dropped on Vietnam, a large concentration in the DMZ area.
It’s estimated that 10% did not explode. Yet, it continues to explode now, sometimes for no apparent reason, other times found by farmers or curious children it maims injures, and continues to take lives.
The Mine Action Centre, Dong Ha
The Mine Action Centre, in Dong Ha, is a Non-Government Organization (NGO) that works in the DMZ area – educating primarily children and collecting, defusing, and blowing up unexploded ordnance. We spent a riveting hour with the manager of the center, as he explained their programs. If you’re lucky enough to visit on a Tuesday or Thursday and they have any recently found unexploded ordnance (UXO), then you just might get to see it made safe – or blown up. With the education programs that they run and the rate of finding UXO, the Centre estimates that they may be on top of the situation in 10 years.
The War impacted many people both then and now and in this beautiful country leaves behind scars and memories that will remain for generations to come and this was an emotional journey, even for someone such as me, completely unconnected.
I urge you if you’re in this area to also visit the Mine Action Centre in Dong Ha. You can see similar work if you’re heading to Laos and Phonsavan (check out our guide to the Plain of Jars here).
- Address of Mine Action Centre, Dong Ha: Alley 185, Lý Thường Kiệt, Street, Ward, Quảng Trị 52000, Vietnam
- Opening Hours of Mine Action Centre, Dong Ha: Open Monday to Friday 8 am until 4 30 pm.
- Entrance Fees for Mine Action Centre, Dong Ha: FREE to visit, donations welcome.
Map of the Major Vietnam War Sites
You can also see the Vietnam War sites map here.
Travel Tips for Exploring Vietnam
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Final Words on the Vietnam War Sites You Should Not Miss
Every step you take across the country, whether north, central, or south, was once part of the war. The Vietnam War was one of the country’s last major military conflicts and there are still many remnants of the war here – and many memories. So while you’re traveling around Vietnam, perhaps pause and visit some of the memorials or major Vietnam War sites and remember.
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