Vietnam’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites You Must Visit
Vietnam has several UNESCO World Heritage Sites recognized for their cultural, natural, and mixed (both cultural and natural) significance. Here is a list of these sites:
The cultural sites from Vietnam on UNESCO World Heritage Site List:
1. Complex of Hue Monuments
Complex of Hue Monuments became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993. This is located in the city of Huế, central Vietnam. Huế was the capital of newly unified Vietnam in 1802 and played a vital role as the political, cultural, and religious center of the empire.
The Complex consists of the Imperial City, the Citadel, the Purple Forbidden City, and associated monuments outside the city, including the tombs of the emperors and various temples, pagodas, and spiritual sites.
The site’s urban design emphasizes the importance of nature, with the Perfume River running through the city and the Ngu Binh Mountain at its center
2. Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
This became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is a significant historical site that dates back to the 11th century. It came up during the Ly Dynasty and is a testament to Vietnam’s rich cultural heritage. It was the political center of Vietnam for over 13 centuries, from 1010 to 1802. Various dynasties including the Ly, Tran, and Le dynasties, ruled during this period.
The citadel is in a square shape, with walls and gates providing protection. Layout of the citadel reflects traditional Vietnamese architecture, influenced by Chinese design principles. Kinh Thien Palace, also known as the Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, served as the main hall for important state ceremonies. Hanoi Flag Tower, at the entrance of the citadel, is a prominent symbol of Hanoi. It came up during the Nguyen Dynasty. The main entrance to the Imperial Citadel is Doan Mon Gate. It consists of three arched gates and is an important symbol of Vietnamese history and architecture.
3. Citadel of the Ho Dynasty
Citadel of the Ho Dynasty, or Ho Citadel, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011. It is in Vinh Loc District, approximately 150 kilometers south of Hanoi. Built by the Ho Dynasty, a short-lived ruling family in Vietnam, this citadel was the capital of the country from 1398 to 1407.
The citadel has walls and towers surrounding it. The main complex consists of the Imperial City, the Royal Enclosure, and various gates. The layout of the Ho Dynasty Citadel reflects the principles of feng shui and the traditional planning of Vietnamese defensive military architecture.
The Citadel was abandoned after a short period as the capital, and the ruling power shifted to Thanh Hoa. The remnants of the Ho Dynasty Citadel still stand as a significant historical and cultural symbol.
4. Hoi An Ancient Town
Hoi An Ancient Town is a good example of a Southeast Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Its buildings and street plan reflect a blend of indigenous and foreign influences. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. This town is one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam. Visitors can explore the town on foot, buy an Old Town Ticket to enter five of Hoi An’s heritage buildings, visit museums, shop for silk and other valued items, and experience the town’s distinctive regional cuisine.
Hoi An is famous for its lantern-lit streets, especially during the monthly Full Moon Lantern Festival. During this event, the town has colorful lanterns, and traditional performances take place.
Hoi An is famous for its skilful tailors who can create custom-made clothing. Visitors often take advantage of the town’s tailoring services to get tailor-made suits, dresses, and other garments. The areas around the Thu Bon River is picturesque, especially during sunset. Visitors can take boat rides along the river or simply enjoy the scenic views.
5. My Son Sanctuary
My Son Sanctuary is a cluster of abandoned and partly ruined Hindu temples in central Vietnam, near the village of Duy Phú in the administrative district of Duy Xuyên, Quảng Nam Province. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.
My Son Sanctuary is an ancient archaeological site that was once the religious and political center of the Champa Kingdom, a civilization that flourished in the region from the 4th to the 13th century. The temples are dedicated to the worship of Shiva, the Hindu god, and are symbolically associated with Mount Meru, the mythical sacred mountain home of Hindu gods.
The temples at My Son are remarkable for their unique architectural style, which combines indigenous elements with influences from Indian culture. The site includes a series of tower-temples made in fired brick, each with intricate carvings and sculptures.
The natural sites from Vietnam on UNESCO World Heritage Site List:
1. Halong Bay
Halong Bay, a part of Quảng Ninh province, Vietnam, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994. It is known for its stunning landscape of towering limestone karsts and islets that rise dramatically from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin.
The Bay covers an area of about 1,553 square kilometers. One can see numerous caves, grottoes, and floating fishing villages in the Bay. The name “Halong” translates to “descending dragon” in Vietnamese, which talks with a legend about dragons helping the Vietnamese defeat invaders.
Halong Bay is a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from around the world who come to cruise through its scenic waters and explore its unique geological formations. Some of the most famous features in the bay include the Sung Sot Cave (Surprise Cave), Thien Cung Cave (Heaven Palace Cave), and Dau Go Cave.
The bay is also home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including various species of fish, birds, and marine life.
2. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2003, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is in Quang Binh Province. The park is famous for its stunning karst landscapes, extensive cave systems, and rich biodiversity. The towering limestone mountains have a number of caves and grottoes, creating a unique and picturesque landscape.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang is home to some of the world’s most impressive and extensive cave systems. Notable caves include Son Doong, the largest cave in the world, and Paradise Cave, known for its stunning stalactite and stalagmite formations.
The park offers various cave tours, allowing visitors to explore the underground wonders. The area was a strategic military location during the Vietnam War, and visitors can explore the remnants of the war, such as the Vinh Moc Tunnels.
The park has become a popular destination for eco-tourism and adventure tourism. Visitors can explore the caves, trek through the lush landscapes, and engage in various outdoor activities. There are guided tours available, catering to different levels of adventure and exploration.
Mixed site from Vietnam on UNESCO World Heritage Site List:
Trang An Landscape Complex
Trang An Landscape Complex was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. This is in Ninh Binh Province. It is famous for its breathtaking karst landscape, diverse ecosystems, and cultural significance.
Trang An Complex features diverse ecosystems, with two main types: limestone mountain ecosystem and aquatic ecosystem. It is home to more than 600 plant species, 200 animal species, and endangered species such as mainland serow, leopard, and phoenix pheasant.
The aquatic ecosystem consists of about 30 species of zooplanktons and 40 species of benthos, including the striped neck turtle.
It features an extensive network of waterways, including the Trang An River, which meanders through the limestone karst formations.
Boating is a popular activity, allowing visitors to navigate through the scenic landscape and pass through the natural caves and grottoes. Trang An Landscape Complex is home to several temples and pagodas, some of which are built into the caves and cliffs. These religious sites add a cultural dimension to the overall experience and showcase the historical connection between nature and spirituality.
Things to note:
Vietnam also maintains seven properties on its tentative list for potential future nomination for being on the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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