Do you ever wonder where the finest coffee in Vietnam comes from? Kon Tum Province is one of the prime coffee production regions in Vietnam, and an idyllic municipality in the Central Highlands. Although Kon Tum retains quite a humble position on Vietnam’s tourist map, there are a plethora of sights to see and things to do in this central highlands wonderland. Scroll down to learn more!
What We'll Cover in this Kon Tum Travel Guide
What to Pack for Kon Tum
Clothing: the weather is mostly temperate in Kon Tum during the dry season, but prepare some warm clothes in case you’re traveling to places at higher altitudes, where it definitely gets much colder than you would expect.
Sneakers: do expect a lot of walking, and possibly some trekking on your Kon Tum travel. We would also recommend bringing a few pairs of anti-blister socks.
Hiking essentials: Once in Kon Tum, don’t miss out on the opportunity to conquer the peak on Kon Tum (as we will share later on in this article), so some hiking and camping gears are of vital importance. Some recommended brands are:
Staying connect: Read more about Mobile and 4G Network in Vietnam
Get a sufficient travel insurance plan for your Kon Tum travel:
We would recommend staying in Kon Tum City - the administrative city - from which you can explore more of the province. Kon Tum City is a well-developed urban area where you can find most of the necessities as well as getting a good night’s sleep thanks to its ample accommodation options.
See our Top Picks for Staying in Kon Tum or find you favorite place to stay below:
Distance from Ho Chi Minh to Kon Tum: 650 km
There is no direct flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Kon Tum, but flying seems to be the optimal choice considering the great distance. Fortunately, you can fly from Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) in Ho Chi Minh to Pleiku Airport (PXU), which takes slightly longer than 1 hour and costs from VND 500,000/ticket. Then you will have to catch a bus or taxi to cover the remaining 2-hour drive from Pleiku to Kon Tum.
There are multiple private bus lines ranging from typical bus services to premium limousines in Ho Chi Minh leaving for Kon Tum. Most buses will start from the Mien Dong Bus Station in Ho Chi Minh then arrive at the Kon Tum Bus Station, while other companies may design their own pick-up and drop-off spots to avoid the crowded situation. It's best to book your bus tickets online, so you get all the necessary information in English to plan your trip.
We took a 5 PM bus at the Mien Dong Bus Station in Ho Chi Minh and arrived at Kon Tum Bus Station at 6 AM
Kon Tum lies on the most prominent highlands in Vietnam, hence the sensational mountainous roads, namely the historic Ho Chi Minh Loop. As exciting as it sounds, not everyone should ride a motorbike from Ho Chi Minh to Kon Tum, let alone doing this tricky loop. First of all, unless you have your own vehicle, renting a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City to travel to Kon Tum at VND 150,000/day/bike can cost as much as flying to Kon Tum from Ho Chi Minh, as it would take 3 - 4 days to complete the journey. Secondly, the quality of the rental bike is not guaranteed for you to take on this adventurous trip.
The Ho Chi Minh motorbike trail is not for the faint of heart
Our best advice is to fly or take a bus to Kon Tum, then you can rent a motorbike in Kon Tum City to travel around. A semi-automatic motorbike will cost around VND 150,000 - 200,000/day.
A semi-automatic bike is more suitable for riding on twisty mountainous & dirt roads
You can never run out of exciting things to do in Kon Tum, thanks to its culturally and historically rich background as well as stunning landscapes to explore.
A glimpse at the local ethnic village
Entrance fee: free
Standing proud for more than one hundred years, the Cathedral of Kon Tum is now both a tourist attraction and a sanctuary for local church-goers. The design is a unique combination between the iconic Roman architectural style and the signature stilt house structure of the local Bahnar community. Surrounding the church are hand-carved reliefs representing stories in the bible.
The one-of-the-kind architecture
Entrance fee: free
Not so far from the Kon Tum Church is the bishop house, of which the structure also represents the mixture of Roman and Bahnar architectural style. Inside the premise is an orphanage run by the nuns, where you can consider doing some volunteer work in Vietnam.
The Bishop's House sits quietly in the middle of its garden
Rows of tall trees leading to the building. You are not allowed to go inside, but capturing the beautiful setting outside is just as lovely
Dubbed as the second Da Lat, Mang Den is a newly-discovered tourist area with endless rows of pine trees and chilled climate. The road to Mang Den from Kon Tum City is not easy as you have to ride through challenging mountain slopes and passes (we came across quite a few accident spots on the way), but the journey is incredibly worthwhile, and the destination is the greatest prize. There are not many tourist activities or even tourists, so it’s the golden opportunity for you to enjoy the elegant nature in Mang Den wholly. As for what to do in Kon Tum, visiting Mang Den should be on top of the list.
Charming roads in Kon Tum. We visited Kon Tum during a public holiday in Vietnam, yet the streets were so empty and peaceful
Amazing scenery on both sides of the roads, with daring twists and turns
Mang Den welcomed visitors with a thin layer of fog - completely contrasted the urban scene
The grand beauty of Pa Sy Waterfall
The grilled rice is a staple in Vietnam’s mountainous areas. In Mang Den particularly, com lam is served with grilled whole or half chicken and sesame salt. There is a wide selection of streetside com lam restaurants on the way to Mang Den, and it tastes the best when served right off the grill.
Some say the Kon Klor Bridge resembles the Long Bien Bridge in Hanoi
Not far from the bridge on the Thang Loi Ward side is a Kon Tum cultural center where a massive communal stilt house (called Nha Rong) stands. Traditionally, Nha Rong holds the heart of the ethnic groups in Vietnam, where the villagers meet and discuss a vital matter or celebrate together. Here you can learn more about the Gong culture - the intangible heritage of Vietnam Central Highlands.
Google Maps location
Nha Rong is the heart of every ethnic minority in Vietnam
On the other side of the Kon Klor Bridge is the Kon K’tu Village. This is the oldest village of the Bahnar people - one of the most prominent ethnic groups in Kon Tum. Though the area has been developed for tourism purposes, the nature of the village remains pristine. As a result, you can witness and experience first-hand the local life in their stilt houses without the annoyance of tourist traps.
The more off-the-beaten-path you travel in Kon Tum Province, the more eccentric locations you’ll find. Due to the elevations of the terrain, it is a bit hard to travel and indeed colder and more foggy than usual, so you might need careful preparation upon visiting the waterfall.
Find out more about Vietnam Waterfalls
Once a gruesome penitentiary for revolutionary prisoners in the Vietnam Central Highlands, the prison now serves as a testimony for the sacrifices of the war heroes. The site is not as large as it used to be, and most remnants have been removed, but you can pay a visit here to appreciate Kon Tum’s courageous past.
Ngoc Linh Mountain acts as a natural border between Kon Tum Province and Quang Nam Province, meaning a hiking adventure here is the “best of both worlds” on your Kon Tum travel. Hiking in the Ngoc Linh Mountain will take you to the height of over 2000m while passing through terraced fields and steep hills. It can take up to 2 days to up to the peak, so do expect overnight camping and staying over at a local’s house if you plan on taking this activity. Because the forest on Ngoc Linh Mountain is under the government's protection, you will have to sign an agreement with the authorities as permission to hike before climbing the mountain.
Never miss the ultimate goal of why people come to Kon Tum: to taste the premium coffee. One major bonus of coffee shops in Kon Tum is that most of them are designed in a way to harmonize with nature; either there are a lot of plants around, or the furniture is made from valuable woods.
Coffee in the Central Highlands is exceptionally strong
Some coffee places we tried and loved are:
Adam - Eva Coffee
Address: 80 Phan Chu Trinh Street, Thang Loi, Kon Tum
The cafe illustrates the owner's love for decorative plants immensely
Indochine Coffee Kontum
Address: 30 Bach Dang Street, Quyet Thang, Kon Tum
The Central Highlands are famed for their traditional rice wine infused with local herbs. It can be either a big jar of rice wine called Ruou Can, or some small bottles such as wine made with fermented purple rice - the variations are endless! Therefore, wherever you’re having lunch or dinner in Kon Tum, see if you can try some rice wine at the restaurant too. Do be mindful that the ABV of these traditional liquor is quite high (around 40%), so drink with caution, especially when you’re driving.
A version of homemade herbal rice wine
The wild herbs salad is probably the one dish that can sum up the taste of Kon Tum’s primitive forests. A serving can go beyond its name as just a salad because there will be a huge plate of mixed wild leaves and vegetables freshly picked to serve on your table. The salad comes with some special dipping sauce made with minced meat and tiny shrimps. Frankly speaking, the taste is not ‘comprehensive’ in the beginning because of the wide variety of flavors coming from dozens of types of herbs, and the sauce itself doesn’t have many spices. However, the taste will slowly yet surely excites your taste buds as you can sense the freshness of everything.
It's nearly impossible to name every single type of the herbs
Dried Pho is actually a specialty of Gia Lai - the neighboring province, but once you’re in the Central Highlands, why not grasp the chance to try this little-known yet tasty version of Pho right away. One bowl of Dried Pho will give you more than sufficient energy to embark on your Kon Tum travel.
The dried Pho version has its broth served separately. It will amaze you how much difference can a little alternation in recipe make
Our Kon Tum travel guide is undoubtedly just a small sum up of our memorable experience and a rogue idea of how you can discover this historic and naturally-blessed province. It takes at least four days to really absorb the wonders in Kon Tum, and you just can’t wait to come back to create more memories. If you have visited here, let us know your experience in the comments below.
© Written by Kim Hoang for itourvn.com | itourvn.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com