Explore the historic Royal Tombs of Hue on this self-guided cycling or scooter tour. Check out our map and route itinerary below..
Map of Hue Royal Tombs Cycling Tour Route
This is a self-guided cycling tour which can also be done on a scooter or motorbike. If you do have a scooter/motorbike, make sure to follow the alternative route to avoid some steps. Or if you prefer, there are several options for guided tours of the area*. Day tours normally include Hue Imperial City and a few of the Royal Tombs.
Sights visited on this Cycle Route around the Royal Tombs near Hue
- Thien Mu Pagoda
- Tomb of Minh Mang
- Tomb of Gia Long
- Tomb of Khai Dinh
- Nam Giao Esplanade
- Tu Hieu Pagoda
- Tomb of Tu Duc
- Ho Quyen Tiger Arena
Key Information: The tombs with tickets (Tomb of Tu Duc, Tomb of Khai Dinh, Tomb of Minh Mang, Tomb of Gia Long) are open from 7 am to 5 pm. Tickets are about 150,000/30,000d ($6/1.20) per adult/child at each tomb, or you can get a combination ticket that includes all the tombs plus the Royal Citadel. Ask about this at your first stop. At most of the tombs there are small stalls selling snacks and juices (avocado smoothies are a particular favourite).
Hue Royal Tombs Cycling Route (50 km)
This cycle or scooter ride around the royal tombs, or mausoleums, starts in the centre of Hue. It takes too long to explore both the royal tombs and Hue Imperial City in the same day so it’s best to allow two days in Hue for a full exploration of the area.
Cycling directions: From the centre of Hue City, cross either bridge across the river to the side with the Imperial City. Cycle left along the riverbanks on a special bike path through a nice park area. After the park ends the bike path continues along the river for 3 km until you reach the first stop.
1. Thien Mu Pagoda
This lovely pagoda is right next to the river and surrounded by pine trees. The pagoda, which is an octagonal tower of seven stories, is an icon of Vietnam dating from 1844. It’s peaceful and quiet early in the day.
Cycling directions: After the pagoda, continue cycling onwards, now along the fairly quiet road as the bike path has ended. You’ll pass the gate to the Temple of Literature of your right – this isn’t anything special. Follow the road as it bends around the corner and then heads to the edge of the river.
You now have a choice. You can either continue along the beautiful small track by the river or take the main route around. The small track by the river basically ends at a temple complex on the riverbanks. Here you have to carry your bikes up about 30 steps, through the temple complex, and then down a similar number of steps on the track on the other side. The monks in the temple didn’t seem to mind, but you would struggle much more carrying a scooter! If you’re fine carrying your bikes, the riverside route is very nice and peaceful.
Cycling directions: The two route options meet up again by some fields in the countryside. Continue along the road as it wiggles about near the river. Just before the large bridge across the river, head left to continue along the riverbanks. Soon you’ll come to the parking area for the next stop.
2. Tomb of Minh Mang
The Tomb of Minh Mang lies in the middle of a beautiful forest setting. It was perhaps my favourite tomb. There are a series of courtyards and buildings down the central axis and walls around the outside of the complex.
Cycling directions: Continue right out of the parking lot and then left over the bridge across the river. Head straight onwards for about 3.5 km until you reach a T-junction by another river. Turn right and right again to reach the next tomb.
3. Tomb of Gia Long
The little-visited royal Tomb of Gia Long is situated furthest from Hue. You arrive through a pine forest, and from the tomb itself you have great views over forested hills and countryside. There are several lakes and buildings, along with the colourful tomb. It’s a nice place and worth the extra distance.
Cycling directions: Return the way you came to the T-junction, and now continue straight on. Follow along by the river and cross it on an exciting pontoon bridge. On the other side turn left, then take a right after the river confluence and before the main bridge over the wide river. After heading under a highway you’ll see the next tomb across the fields to your left and will soon reach the entrance.
4. Tomb of Khai Dinh
The Tomb of Khai Dinh is quite unique for two reasons: it’s setting on a steep hillside, and the grandiose combination of European and Vietnamese architecture. There are also some cool rows of statues (people and animals) guarding the tomb. The complex is very grey from the outside, which contrasts to the bright colours inside the building at the top. Don’t forget to admire the lovely views over the countryside from here. You can get a worthwhile audioguide at this tomb for an additional fee of 70,000d (~$3). It can be busy here in the middle of the day with large tour groups.
Cycling directions: Head straight onwards along the road and prepare for some ups and downs along this section. After about 5 km you’ll come to a T-junction with the entrance to the next stop in the pine forest to your right.
5. Nam Giao Esplanade
The Nam Giao Esplanade, which is really just a series of stone platforms, used to be an important place for animal sacrifice, rituals that the Emperors of the day took part in. However, today there’s not much to see apart from a nice pine forest.
Shortening the Hue Royal Tombs Cycle Route
If you want to save time, the Nam Giao Esplanade is the first place to miss since it’s not super exciting. If you want to skip more stops, miss the Ho Quyen Tiger Arena or the Tu Hieu Pagoda.
To shorten the cycle ride significantly, the simplest option is to miss out the Tomb of Gia Long, the furthest royal tomb from Hue. However, you will miss a nice tomb and a fun bridge crossing. You’ll save almost 10 km if you miss this.
Cycling directions: Turn left from the Esplanade and straight on down the hill. Don’t miss the entrance to the next stop through an archway on your right in about 1 km. Cycle through the archway for roughly 200 metres to park your bike.
6. Tu Hieu Pagoda
This is a temple where monks still worship, rather than one of the Hue Royal Mausoleums. The monks chant several times a day and you might be lucky enough to hear them. It’s very peaceful wandering about this area and some of the garden areas are very pretty.
Cycling directions: Return through the archway and head back up the road a little way before taking the first right. This heads downhill to a T-junction. Head right and the next tomb is in a few hundred metres.
7. Tomb of Tu Duc
The Tomb of Tu Duc is in one of the largest complexes here, and it’s often popular with locals who come here to sit on the grass and have a picnic. The Emperor Tu Duc had over 100 wives and concubines when alive, and lived a life full of luxury. He designed his grandiose tomb complex himself so he could continue to lead the good life even in death.
There are several pavilions, lakes and temples to look around here but nobody actually knows where Tu Duc himself was finally buried. To keep it a secret, the servants who buried him were all beheaded!
Cycling directions: Cycle onwards around the walls of the tomb and follow the road straight on, all the way to a T-junction in the outskirts of Hue city. Turn left and in 400 metres turn left up a small road with an easy-to-miss sign. You’ll quickly reach the arena, which feels slightly abandoned and in the middle of nowhere.
8. Ho Quyen Tiger Arena
This isn’t a temple or a royal tomb, but an arena where royalty used to watch animals fighting, a bit like in Roman times. There’s not loads to see here, just the circular brick arena. You can still notice the doors where the animals were let in. The fights were mainly between an elephant (the symbol of the Emperor) and a tiger or leopard. However, to make sure the elephant/emperor won, the big cats were declawed and detoothed before the fight began. The last fight here took place in 1904.
Cycling directions: Return to the main road and turn right. Cycle right along the road and soon you’ll be back in the centre of Hue.
This completes the Hue Royal Tombs Cycling Tour. For other fun days of self-guided exploration, read our Ninh Binh Top Highlights Cycling Tour, or our Ninh Binh Countryside Tour. If you enjoy cycling, explore our cycle rides in Bali or around Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Novels to read while in Vietnam
Guidebooks to explore more of Vietnam
Useful things for a holiday in Vietnam
- Travel Insurance: we use SafetyWing*, it’s simple to buy online and they have a downloadable letter proving you have travel insurance which includes Covid-related issues
- Travel Debit Card: we have Wise Cards* which allow you to cheaply convert most currencies into Vietnamese Dong. You can then pay by card within the country for no extra fees, or withdraw cash from an ATM.
- We booked train travel in Vietnam through 12GoAsia*. They charge a few extra dollars in commission, but to book directly on the official website you must have a Vietnamese credit card.