Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam
If you’re seeking a corner of Vietnam as-yet uncharted by zealous tourists, Ninh Thuận Province might just be the answer to all your prayers. The verdant Núi Chúa National Park and the beaches on the eastern coast and are mostly undiscovered. If you get bored of the walks among the trees and lazing by the lapping, sapphire-blue waves (granted, it’s unlikely), there’s plenty more to explore. Phan Rang–Tháp Chàm (sometimes called Panduranga) is Ninh Thuận’s capital city and it’s alive with indigenous Cham culture; visit the 13th-century Po Klong Garai temple, or climb the flower-banked stone steps to Po Ro Me tower. It’s well worth venturing to Ninh Thuận’s neighbouring provinces for a change of scene: head south for the crowded, lively hub of Phan Thiet; north to see the beaches at Nha Trang; and west to wander the forest and admire the lakes and waterfalls of mountainous Da Lat.
When to go
To avoid the rainy season, go in January or February, when the temperature is a balmy 25 degrees. Try to avoid October – although it’s a little warmer, the rain is torrential.
PlanesThe nearest airport is Cam Ranh International Airport, which is an 90-minute drive from Phan Rang–Tháp Chàm. There are frequent connecting flights from most international airports.
BoatsNinh Thuận has three main ports: Vịnh Vĩnh Hy in the northeastern Ninh Hải District; Ninh Chu in southern Ninh Hải District near Phan Rang–Tháp Chàm; and Ca Na Port in the south. It’s a bother to come by boat, though, so stick to air and rail travel if you can.
TrainsNinh Thuận's main railway station is in Phan Rang–Tháp Chàm. There are also two smaller stations: Bà Râu in Thuận Bắc in the north and Cà Ná near the southern border. Vietnam Railways serves all three stations.
AutomobilesYou’ll need an International Driving Permit (IDP) as well as your regular licence to drive in Vietnam. If you don’t have an IDP, you’ll need to get a Vietnamese driving licence in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh city – so really, it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Instead, book taxis from hotel-recommended firms.