Vietnam’s Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, was a 10-kilometer-wide stretch of land running from Laos to the China South Sea roughly along the 17th parallel. It separated north and south Vietnam after the first Indochina war that ended in 1954. A visit to the DMZ is a must do on any Vietnam itinerary and best done as a day trip from Hue. There are several places of interest but do keep in mind most war related remains are destroyed and gone. The green hills with dense jungle are a beautiful sight too. Although the DMZ is now just history it did remind me of the active DMZ I visited in North Korea several years earlier. Places of interest include a combat base, bunkers, cemeteries, tunnels, bridges, and memorials. This DMZ day tour from Hue is packed with history! The following Vietnam DMZ itinerary is the most efficient and will get the most out of your time.
DMZ day tour stop #1 – Rockpile
The Rockpile is normally the first stop of a Vietnamese DMZ day tour. As the name says it’s a pile of rock in the middle of a flat area with cliffs going straight up to the 240-meter-high summit. It’s inaccessible by foot and you can only get to the top by helicopter. The location was strategically important and that’s why the US build the Elliot Combat Base at the base of the Rockpile. On the top was a top-secret base where mainly technicians worked to intercept radio transmissions of the enemy. Today, it’s just a mountain in the fields but it played an important role in the Vietnam War makes it a must stop on any DMZ day tour.
DMZ day tour stop #2 – Khe Sanh Combat Base
The Khe Sanh Combat Base is one of the highlights of a DMZ day trip from Hue in Central Vietnam. There are several helicopters, planes, and other war machinery on display. You can also visit – reconstructed – trenches and walk over what is left of the runway. The small onsite museum gives background information on the Khe Sanh Combat Base, the battles around it and the Vietnam War in general.
Although the Khe Sanh Combat Base was a strategic post it got abandoned when it was clear that it was vulnerable to enemy attacks. Several years later it was used once more for a short period of time by the US army but finally it fell into hands of the North Vietnamese Army. They rebuild the airstrip and used it until the end of the war.
The Khe Sanh Combat Base is one of the best-preserved combat bases in Vietnam and gives a good impression on how it must have been in the war. It’s a must include on a DMZ day trip and the highlight together with the Vinh Moc Tunnels. A visit takes just over an hour after which I recommend taking lunch in a nearby village when continuing this war themed day of my Vietnam itinerary.
DMZ day tour stop #3 – Dak Rong Bridge & local village
The current Dak Rong Bridge is a newly build bridge in 1974. It has nothing to do with the Vietnam War but it’s a marker point of the former Ho Chi Min Trail. The North Vietnamese army used the Ho Chi Min Trail to carry all kinds of material to their fighters in the south. There is a small memorial on the other side of the bridge. Just after the bridge, if coming back from the combat base, on the left side is a local village which is nice to walk through. There you can see some typical stilt houses. Go for lunch there!
DMZ day tour extra stop – Hidden bunker
If you’re visiting the sights using your own transport or on a private tour I recommend visiting the hidden bunker. A visit is normally not included on a standard tour but it’s an interesting 45-minute stop. Look at the GPS map below where you’ll see a short detour on the top left corner of the “square” I drove. There is a rubber plantation, which is also nice to visit, through which you can reach the bunker. It’s not sign posted and a bit difficult to find so use the GPS map below to find it or put (Longitude: 106.982730 / Latitude: 16.908185) coordinates in Google maps to direct you to the bunker. You’ll pass the place when going from the combat base to the tunnels.
DMZ day tour stop #4 – Vinh Moc Tunnels
The Vinh Moc tunnels are located on the China South Sea coast north of the Vietnamese DMZ. The villagers of Vinh Moc were supplying the north Vietnamese Army with food and daily needs. When the American forces started to bomb Vinh Moc village the villagers went underground to escape the bombs. Initially they constructed a village 10 meters underground, but this wasn’t deep enough as bombs penetrated that deep. They then moved further underground to a depth of 30 meters. A complete village was constructed with a well, hospital and rooms for each of the 16 families. Even babies were born underground!
It’s impressive to visit these tunnels and they are completely different as the Cu Chi tunnels near Ho Chi Min City. I highly recommend visiting the Vinh Moc tunnels if you’re doing a DMZ day tour from Hue. When walking through these underground tunnels you’ll get a real feeling of how it must have been during the war.
DMZ day tour stop #5 – Hien Luong Bridge
The Hien Luong Bridge is a bridge just south of the Vinh Moc tunnels in Central Vietnam. It connects both sides of the Ben Hai River which was the marker of the DMZ. Today the bridge is a landmark as it connected North and South Vietnam in the middle. It’s colored in yellow and blue marking the border where the colors change. At the northern side there is a museum, a memorial, negotiating hall and the flag pole. Further you’ll see some – reconstructed – watch towers, speakers, and other propaganda material. It’s interesting to visit this historic place.
After I checked out all the places in the north I walked through the arch over the bridge to the south where there is another war memorial. I was picked up by my private transfer there and we continued back to Hue with a small stop at a cemetery on the way.
The Vietnamese DMZ day tour was one of the highlights of my two-week Vietnam itinerary. It was a day full of historical places of the Vietnam War. I learned a lot of that period in Vietnamese history. I like exploring key sites that played a major role in worlds history including war sites. Another example is Tinian island where the bombers took off that ended WWII. Central Vietnam is also home to the My Son Sanctuary which is another day trip to do. In Hue I recommend staying at Indochine Palace Hotel or Ana Mandara Hue Resort. Check out my complete two-week Vietnam itinerary to learn what else to do in Vietnam.Stay tuned for more stories and subscribe to the newsletter or follow CTB on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram including Instagram stories; on all social media you can find CTB @christravelblog) to get updated information.
Did you visit Vietnam's Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!