VietnamCentral Vietnam TravelWhat to do in Kon Tum Travel Guide

What to do in Kon Tum Travel Guide

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!

Quick Notes about Kon Tum Travel Guide 

  • Kon Tum shares borders with Laos and Cambodia (check out Land Border Crossing in Vietnam)
  • Ethnic minority groups in Kon Tum include Xo Dang, Bahnar, Gia Rai, Gie Rieng, etc.
  • Geography: mountains, hills, plateaus, and valleys
  • Climate: rainy season (April – November) and dry season (December – March); You can visit Kon Tum at any time of year, but beware of unexpected showers during the rainy season
  • Our top keywords for Kon Tum Travel Guide: good coffee, cheap and delicious local food, splendid highland nature, and peaceful atmosphere

What We’ll Cover in this Kon Tum Travel Guide

What to Pack for Kon Tum
Where to Stay in Kon Tum
How to Get to Kon Tum from Ho Chi Minh
What to Do and See in Kon Tum
What to Eat in Kon Tum

What to Pack for Kon Tum Travel Guide

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:

Health Essentials:

Staying connect: Read more about Mobile and 4G Network in Vietnam

Get a sufficient travel insurance plan for your Kon Tum travel:

 

Where to Stay in Kon Tum Travel Guide

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:

 


How to Get to Kon Tum from Ho Chi Minh City

Distance from Ho Chi Minh to Kon Tum: 650 km

Flying from Ho Chi Minh City to Kon Tum

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.

kon tum travel guide pleiku airport

Pleiku Airport

Taking a Bus from Ho Chi Minh City 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.

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kon tum travel guide kon tum bus station

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

Riding a Motorbike from Ho Chi Minh to Kon Tum:

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.

kon tum travel guide ho chi minh trail

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.

kon tum travel guide motorbike

A semi-automatic bike is more suitable for riding on twisty mountainous & dirt roads

What to Do and See in Kon Tum Travel

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.

kon tum travel guide village

A glimpse at the local ethnic village

The Cathedral of Kon Tum (Kon Tum Wooden Church) | What to do in Kon Tum
Google Maps location 

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.

kon tum travel guide church

The one-of-the-kind architecture

The Bishop’s House of Kon Tum | What to do in Kon Tum
Google Maps location

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.

kon tum travel guide archbishop house

The Bishop’s House sits quietly in the middle of its garden

kon tum travel guide bishop trees

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

Mang Den Pine Forest and Ecotourism Area | What to do in Kon Tum
Google Maps location

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.

kon tum travel guide roads

Charming roads in Kon Tum. We visited Kon Tum during a public holiday in Vietnam, yet the streets were so empty and peaceful

kon tum travel guide twists and turns

Amazing scenery on both sides of the roads, with daring twists and turns

kon tum travel guide mang den

Mang Den welcomed visitors with a thin layer of fog – completely contrasted the urban scene

Some famous spots in Mang Den:

Pa Sy Waterfall: A nice place for camping, enjoying nature, and taking pictures.
Google Maps location 

kon tum travel guide pa sy

The grand beauty of Pa Sy Waterfall

Grilled rice and bamboo tubes and grilled chicken (Com Lam):

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.

Our notes for visiting Mang Den:

  • The temperature in Mang Den at night can drop quite significantly compared to Kon Tum as the region lies at a higher altitude, so make sure to bring some warm clothes with you.
  • There is not much to do in Mang Den at night, and you might even have a hard time finding a place for dinner as the houses and shops here scatter quite far from each other. Our favorite things to do were buying some grill dishes or hot soups back to the hotel room to enjoy, preferably with some local rice wine. Do check with your hotel if you can do so in case you wish to try the same thing.
  • If traveling by motorbikes, check the conditions and the gas tanks carefully before setting off, as Mang Den is still a remote area with little services for when unfortunate incidents occur.

Kon Klor Suspension Bridge and Kon Klor Communal House (Nha Rong) | What to do in Kon Tum
Google Maps location

The Kon Klor Bridge was finished in 1994 and has become a symbol of modern development in the countryside life of Kon Tum. The bridge is not too grand, but the architectural value is immaculate with pristine nature on both sides complementing its grandeur. Unfortunately, the structure has worn off over time, and only a minimal number of two-wheel vehicles are allowed to cross the bridge each turn. On the bright side, since there are few bikes and cars on the bridge, you have the freedom to strike some poses without random bikes photobombing your pictures.

kon tum travel guide kon klor

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 

kon tum travel guide nha rong

Nha Rong is the heart of every ethnic minority in Vietnam

Kon K’tu Village | What to do in Kon Tum
Google Maps location

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.

Dak Che Waterfall | What to do in Kon Tum
Google Maps location

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

Kon Tum Prison | What to do in Kon Tum
Google Maps location

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.

Trekking and Hiking in Ngoc Linh Mountain | What to do in Kon Tum
Google Maps location

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.

What to Eat and Drink in Kon Tum Travel Guide

Coffee

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.

kon tum travel guide coffee

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

kon tum travel guide adam eve coffee

The cafe illustrates the owner’s love for decorative plants immensely

Indochine Coffee Kontum
Address: 30 Bach Dang Street, Quyet Thang, Kon Tum

Rice Wine

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.

kon tum travel guide rice wine

A version of homemade herbal rice wine

Wild Herbs Salad (Goi La)

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.

kon tum travel guide goi la

It’s nearly impossible to name every single type of the herbs

Dried Pho (Pho Kho)

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.

kon tum travel guide pho kho

The dried Pho version has its broth served separately. It will amaze you how much difference can a little alternation in recipe make

Our Insider Tips for Kon Tum Travel Guide

  • Since the major population in Kon Tum are the ethnic minority groups, so even when you can speak a little Vietnamese, it can be quite a challenge to understand the local ethnic people. Some speak neither English or Vietnamese or some may speak Vietnamese with an unfamiliar accent to you. However, there’s no need to sweat over this as the people here are remarkably hospitable.
  • When visiting local villages, be respectful to the local life and try to ask first before taking pictures of the people.
  • If you’re interested in trekking and hiking in Kon Tum, please do so in a group or with a professional guide. The wilderness in Kon Tum’s forests can literally lead you astray easily.
  • We spent roughly VND 2,000,000 each for four days in Kon Tum, which was already quite a conservative budget.

Final Thought on the Kon Tum Travel Guide

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.

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