No visit to Hue is complete without a visit to the tombs honoring the emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty.
Getting There: Khai Dinh tomb is 9KM south of Hue city center and Minh Mang is about 3 KM further, hire a motorbike to get between them quickly. If you don’t ride motorbikes hire a bicycle or a driver for the afternoon, negotiate hard on the rate and you can expect to pay 100,000 VND
Costs: Admission is 100,000 VND per tomb; a combined ticket with the Citadel will save on admission costs.
Nearby Attractions: Purchase a combination ticket and spend the morning at the Citadel, exploring the tombs in the afternoon.
The Nguyen Emperors (1600 Bc – 1900 Bc) built monumental tombs to remind the country of their legacy and rule. While there are 7 tombs in Hue, of which the two most visited are Khai Dinh and Minh Mang. These are included in the packaged ticket with the Citadel which costs 250,000 VND. If you are interested in visiting the other 5 tombs, Tu Doc and Gia Long are two of the other 5 we would recommend you visit.
A great place to start an afternoon of touring the tombs is at Khai Dinh, the closest of the two to the city of Hue. It’s about 9 KM away so I’d recommend getting a motorbike or if you enjoying cycling the bike ride is certainly a pleasant one. Khai Dinh was the 12th emperor of the Nguyen dynasty ruling over Vietnam for 9 years between 1916 and 1925 and was the last emperor to construct a tomb of this style. Khai Dinh’s rule was overshadowed by the French occupation of Vietnam, leading him to make few decisions benefitting the Vietnamese people, which ultimately led to his unpopularity. Construction of his tomb started before he died in 1920 and went on for 11 years even after his death. It was funded by raising taxes by more than 30%, even more reason for the Vietnamese people to resent him!
Ascending the stairs into Khai Dinh’s tomb you are greeted by an army of soldiers in guard formation. Once inside the tomb the intricate detailing and mix of eastern and western architectural style is astonishing. The Emperor himself is buried deep inside the tomb, above his remains sits a bronze statue, a gift from the French in 1920, prior to his death
A short drive from Khai Dinh’s tomb is that of Minh Mang. Minh Mang is the second emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty and son of Gia Long, who constructed the Citadel.. Considered a thoughtful and devoted leader, Minh Mang is beloved by his country, however not having taxed the people to build his tomb, it is not as impressive as Khai Dinhs. Construction of the tomb started in 1840 shortly before the emperor’s untimely death in 1841, having to be completed by his son nearly 3 years later.
Minh Mang’s tomb site is monumental covering over 140 acres. It originally consisted of over 40 monuments, of which 6 main sites remain the highlights being the Pavilion of Light and the burial site. Which His tomb is located on an island inside a lake, the gate of which is only opened once a year on January 20th, the anniversary of his death.
If you only have time to visit one site, I’d definitely recommend Khai Dinh’s tomb as it is more elaborate and impressive. Although Minh Mang was beloved by his people, his tomb does not hold the same grandeur for tourists. I highly recommend visiting both tombs as well as the Citadel and learning the history of the Nyguen Dynasty.