The best attractions in Phan Thiet and the beach of Mui Ne comprise geographical wonders, traditional fishing villages, pristine beaches and verdant mountains, not forgetting ancient structures that date back as far as the 9th century. Needless to say, visitors have plenty to see and do during their holiday in the capital of Binh Thuan province.
While Phan Thiet and Mui Ne are among the busiest coastal towns in Vietnam, it remains relatively untouched by urban development, making it an ideal retreat from the bustling cities of Saigon and Hanoi. The most famous attractions in Phan Thiet are the Red and White Sand Dunes, where travellers can enjoy a fun-filled day of riding ATVs or sliding down the slopes on rickety sleds. With that being said, there’s more to this town than the extraordinary desert plains, so we’ve compiled a list of Phan Thiet and Mui Ne’s most popular attractions.
1. Red Sand Dunes
The Red Sand Dunes are one of Phan Thiet’s most unique natural formations, where you can take gorgeous snapshots and enjoy an array of activities. Located three kilometres north of Mui Ne, it features reddish-brown sand with gentle slopes that’s reminiscent of a miniature Middle Eastern desert. If you get to the highest peak, you’ll be greeted with a great sunset view of the ocean. Sand-sledding is a common (and fun) activity here, with plastic sleds available for about VND 10,000 to VND 20,000. Be aware you have to haggle to rent the boards as the local boys will try to charge extortionate fees to rent the thin sheet of plastic. Visitors can also rent quad bikes and dune buggies to explore Red Sand Dunes, but make sure you agree on the price beforehand.
2. Mui Ne Beach
Mui Ne Beach runs along the coast of this popular coastal town in the capital of Binh Thuan province. It features 15 kilometres of sandy beaches, gentle waves, and luxurious beachfront resorts. The northern end of Mui Ne Beach is home to a traditional fishing village while the southern caters to recreational activities such as swimming and water sports. Thanks to its rock-free waters, the most popular activity in Mui Ne Beach is kitesurfing. The best time to enjoy this is between the months of November and March, when the skies are sunny with strong winds.
3. Mui Ne Fishing Village
Mui Ne Fishing Village boasts a splendid view of an expansive coastline lined with swaying palm trees and colourful fishing boats moored on the water. Set at the northern end of Mui Ne Bay, make sure you visit the fishing harbour in the early morning as local fishermen sort out their catch of the day such as crabs, scallops, groupers, and stingrays. Catering to the growing number of foreign visitors, Mui Ne Fishing Village also hosts a number of seafood restaurants and gift shops.
4. Po Shanu Cham Towers
The Po Shanu Cham Towers comprise three ancient worship towers dedicated to Hindu deities Lord Shiva, Agni and Nandi. Constructed during the Champa Kingdom, these ruins are set a top Ong Hoang Hill, where you’ll get expansive views of Phan Thiet and the distant coastline. If you explore past the towers, you can also find a fortress formerly used by French and South Vietnamese troops. There’s also a memorial in honour of revolutionaries who launched an attack on the fortress back in 1947. Po Shanu Cham Towers are accessible within a 15-minute drive from Mui Ne Town and a fee of VND 10,000 is required before entering.
5. Fairy Stream
Fairy Stream is a photography hotspot in Phan Thiet and Mui Ne thanks to its dramatic landscape of reds, whites, oranges and pinks. With clear water flowing from Ham Tien’s Dinh Mountain, one side of Fairy Stream features a mix of white and red sand dunes while the other is an expansive field of verdant trees, blossoming flowers, and coconut palms. If you’re feeling a bit peckish, there are several food stalls set along the way while bars and restaurants are located upstream. Also, make sure you wear comfortable clothing and bring an extra pair of shoes as you’ll be wading through water during your visit to Fairy Stream.
6. The Prince's Castle
The Prince’s Castle is actually a depilated French estate house atop Ong Hoang Hill, boasting fantastic views of Phan Thiet’s coastline and countryside. Built by Duke De Montpensier in 1911, the structure spanned 536 square metres but all that’s left today is an old tower and several military bunkers. Just a few metres away are the Po Shanu Cham Towers and the tomb of Vietnamese poet Han Mac Tu, who often praised The Prince’s Castle and its surroundings in his love stories.
7. Van Thuy Tu Temple
Van Thuy Tu Temple, dating back to 1762, is the largest and oldest whale temple in Phan Thiet – Mui Ne. Built in honour of Ca Ong (Lord Whale), locals believe that whales are benevolent creatures that protect fisherman from bad weather and the dangers at sea. Therefore, Van Thuy Tu Temple houses the skeletal remains of more than 100 whales, including 22-metre long whale skeleton that’s thought to have been the biggest in Southeast Asia. Numerous artefacts from the Nguyen Dynasty are also displayed within the main hall of the temple, such as written decrees by 24 former kings, terracotta statues, incense table, lacquered boards, and an antique bronze bell.
8. White Sand Dunes
White Sand Dunes or Bau Trang (White Lake) feature dramatic white sand dunes plunging towards a small lagoon lined with lotus flowers. Unlike the Red Sand Dunes, there’s also a small pine forest within Bau Trang, providing visitors some much-needed shade from the scorching sun. As one of the only desert areas in Southeast Asia, it’s a favourite spot for unique photo opportunities, sand-sledding, and ATV rides. For about VND 20,000, you can slide down the White Sand Dunes on plastic sleds; going down is quick and easy, but coming back up can be quite a challenge!
9. Ta Cu Mountain
Ta Cu Mountain boasts 250,000 square metres of lush rainforests, rare wildlife, limestone caves, and ornate Buddhist structures. After an hour’s drive from Mui Ne Town, the top of the mountain is accessible via a two-hour hike through the jungle or a 10-minute cable-car ride. If you choose the latter, you’ll be greeted with vertigo-inducing views of Thuan Nam Town, Ham Thuan An Sea, and Ke Ga Lighthouse. Set atop Ta Cu Mountain is Linh Son Truong Tho Pagoda which was built in 1879. Its main attraction is a 49-metre long statue of a reclining Buddha, hailed to be the biggest of its kind in Vietnam.
10. Phan Thiet Central Market
Phan Thiet Central Market is a must-visit for travellers looking to experience the daily lives of the local population. The market is at its busiest at dawn, with huge crowds haggling with vendors for an array of fresh fruits, spices, nuts, meat, dried foodstuff, and household supplies. As Phan Thiet and Mui Ne are renowned for fresh and cheap seafood, you’ll find just about everything here, from shrimps, squids and fishes to snails, clams, and crabs. Phan Thiet Central Market is also a good place to enjoy authentic Vietnamese delicacies such as banh xeo (crispy pancake), mi quang (turmeric noodles), and guoi cuon (fresh spring rolls).
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