Quang Tri and its region are a must for all travellers wishing to discover the remains of the Vietnam War. This area located on the 17th parallel, called DMZ, has a high historical value for the Vietnamese people. And not to spoil anything, the countryside is superb.
This tongue of land that ran along the 17th parallel stretched from the China Sea to the border with Laos over a width of 10 kilometers and was once used to delimit the border between communist North Vietnam and national South Vietnam under the Geneva Agreements signed in 1954 following the departure of the French and the failure to hold elections. This demarcation line was symbolized by the Bien Hai River. At the time of partition, the main north-south road linking Hanoi to Saigon crossed the Ben Hai River on the Hien Luong Bridge. This steel girder bridge built by the French in 1950 was painted red on the northern part and yellow on the southern part. After the great victory in the spring of 1975, Hien Luong Bridge became the bridge of reunification. Hien Luong Bridge is no longer used today and has become a historical monument, classified as a special national monument.
Khe Sanh U.S. Military Base
Khe Sanh was only a small village on the edge of a coffee plantation before it became an American military base in 1962, equipped with an airstrip to monitor the demilitarized zone between North and South Vietnam. From January 21 to April 8, 1968, in the middle of the Tet offensive, Khe Sanh was the scene of a terrible battle between the American army and the Vietnamese People's Army and the troops of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam. A 77-day siege that almost turned into a tragedy for the Americans and gave them a second Dien Bien Phu. Left to themselves, isolated, deprived of reinforcements, the Marines would have had no chance of escaping. But the entry on the scene of the air transport squadrons was decisive and made the difference between the French and American experiences.
The former American base has become a museum where the siege of Khe Sanh and all the battles that took place in the region are very well explained. Planes, tanks, helicopters, bunkers and other American military equipment are scattered all around the old airfield.
The rockpile or the Elliot Battle Base
On the way to Khe Sanh, you will have the opportunity to see in the beautiful rice countryside this lonely karst peak which was an important observation post and artillery base of the United States Army and Marine Corps from 1966 to 1969. At the top of the rockpile was a large helicopter platform.
The Vinh Moc Tunnels
This incredible complex of tunnels, strategically located on the border between North and South Vietnam, were built to shelter the local population and North Vietnamese soldiers from the intense bombing by the U.S. military. At depths of between 12 and 23 m underground, this network of about 2 km sheltered several hundred villagers from 1966 to 1968. The Vinh Moc tunnels were a veritable city, with wells, a hospital, classrooms for children, and compartments used as housing for families. The Vinh Moc tunnels are reminiscent of the Cu Chi tunnels in South Vietnam.
The ancient citadel of Quang Tri
Located on the banks of the Thach Han River, the ancient citadel of Quang Tri is known to have been the scene of intense bombing during the Vietnam War. Quang Tri Citadel was built in 1824 as a military stronghold during the reign of Emperor Ming Mang. An example of Vauban architecture, the citadel later became the administrative headquarters of the Nguyen dynasty until 1945. The fierce battle of the summer of 1972, which lasted 81 days and pitted North Vietnamese soldiers against the American army, largely destroyed the citadel. Classified as a National Historic Site, the ancient citadel of Quang Tri is also a place of remembrance in honour of the many missing soldiers.
Best season: It is best to visit the Quang Tri area during the dry season from March to early September.