The Perfume River: A Historical Lifeline of Hue city

Perfume River, a unique experience exclusive to Hue city, is not only an ideal destination for those seeking relaxation and peace but also a place to explore more about the special cultural heritage of the Ancient Capital. Besides admiring the enchanting beauty of the river and enjoying the historical architectural structures along the banks, you also have the opportunity to experience countless other equally fascinating activities. Let’s explore this river and its special activities with Deluxe Group Tours.

About Perfume River

1. Its location

Also called the Huong Giang, the Perfume River is a waterway flowing through the city of Hue and the districts and towns of Huong Tra, Huong Thuy, and Phu Vang within Thua Thien Hue province.

Starting from the Bang Lang intersection to the foot of Ngoc Tran mountain, following the water flow to Thien Mu Pagoda, and visiting Dong Ba Market afterward. Departing from Dong Ba Market, head to Con Hen to indulge in the distinctive dishes of Hue. It arrived at the Sinh intersection, named after the historic village of Sinh with a history spanning over 500 years. With this map of the Perfume River, you can explore a poetic Hue alongside its cultural river without missing any interesting spots.

huong river map
Huong river map

2. Its name

The Perfume River was given its name because it flows through several forests with fragrant herbs, emanating herbal fragrances from the grasses, plant life, and leaves. Thus, as it reaches the Hue city center, it releases these herbal scents, hence the name “Perfume River.”

However, few are aware that the name “Perfume River” of this river is likewise intertwined with numerous different legends.

According to one legend, this name originates from Lord Nguyen Hoang. It is said that Lord Nguyen Hoang, while traveling from Dinh Cat in Quang Tri province to the south, camped by the riverbank of the Perfume River to rest. During his sleep, he dreamt of a celestial woman appearing and handing him an incense stick, advising: “Light the incense and follow this beautiful river. When the incense burns out, stop; that will be the land destined for an eternal empire.

huong river
Huong river – Hue City

Upon awakening, Lord Nguyen Hoang still held the incense stick from his dream in his hand. Believing in the advice of the celestial woman, he followed her instructions and chose the future capital, Phu Xuan. Lord Nguyen Hoang inspired by the spiritual incense, named the river guiding the way to his imperial land as the Perfume River. (As in Vietnamese the incense is also called Huong.)

Another legend tells that in 1792, during his visit to Phu Xuan, Emperor Quang Trung asked for the name of the river while traveling by boat. The answer was that the section just passed was called Dan Dien, the next section was called Huong Tra, and previously it was called Kim Tra.

The king was not satisfied, questioning why they used limited local names that frequently changed. He decided to give a name to the long river, reflecting its eternal nature and declared that from then on, it would be called Huong Giang, from its source to the sea.

In addition, besides the numerous legends about the Perfume River, there are numerous other names used to refer to it, together with the Linh Giang River, the Lo Dung River, the Huong Tra River, or the Yen Luc River. However, regardless of the name, the river, with its azure blue waters all year round, nevertheless holds its role as the symbol of Hue.

3. Its Origins

The Perfume River has two main sources, both originating from the Truong Son mountain range. The mainstream of the Ta Trach (left tributary of the Perfume River) is about 67 kilometers long, starting from the eastern Truong Son range. Flowing northwest along the area of Bach Ma National Park, it features 55 majestic waterfalls. Passing through Nam Dong town, it then merges with the Huu Trach (right tributary of the Perfume River) at the Bang Lang intersection (about 3 kilometers north of the Minh Mang Tomb area).

Ta Trach of Perfume River and Bang Lang Intersection
Ta Trach of Perfume River and Bang Lang Intersection

The Huu Trach, about 60 kilometers long, is a tributary flowing northward. It traverses 14 dangerous waterfalls and crosses the Tuan ferry to reach the Bang Lang intersection, where these two streams meet and form the Perfume River.

Ta Trach and Huu Trach tributaries come together to form the gentle and renowned Huong River or Perfume River in the land of Hue. The Perfume River stretches up to 80 kilometers in length, with its longest stretch being 30 kilometers from Bang Lang to the mouth of Thuan An Beach. Due to its low gradient and minimal variation in sea level, the Perfume River runs very slowly, creating a distinctive characteristic compared to other rivers.

4. The beauty of Perfume River

The Perfume River is beautiful from its source, meandering through winding paths amidst lush mountains and forests, carrying the fragrant scents of tropical herbs. It serves as a soft and gentle stroke in the picturesque canvas of Hue, which is inherently poetic and romantic.

The crystal-clear green river glistens like an emerald under the sunlight, with Hue’s iconic dragon boats gliding gracefully along its length, traversing back and forth.

perfume river
Huong river

As dusk descends, the sun gradually disappears behind the towering peaks, casting a faint, lingering light over the land. The Perfume River seems to be draped in a warm orange-yellow glow. The scenery appears to settle into a surreal, tranquil space, immersed in a characteristic river of Hue.

sunset and sunrize on huong river
Sunset and Sunrise on Huong river

As the night falls, enveloping the river, the Hue dragon boats still serenely glide back and forth, accompanied by the echoing melodies of Hue songs. They carry a hint of contemplation and depth amidst the silent darkness, illuminated only by the shimmering lantern lights dancing on the mystical water’s surface.

huong river night
Huong river at night

The significant of Perfume River

The Perfume River performs a critical position not only within the lives of people and the landmarks of the ancient capital of Hue but also in its cultural and commercial facets.

The Perfume River plays an essential role in the local commerce of the city of Hue. This picturesque river not only adds to the beauty of the historical land but also brings realistic benefits to economic activities, contributing to the merchandising of trade and generating earnings for the locality.

Particularly, the Perfume River is likewise a famous water tourism direction, attracting many human beings. Tourism offerings on the river, such as cruises, dragon boat rides, and combined visits to historical and cultural sites alongside the riverbank help improve the neighborhood tourism enterprise.

Furthermore, the Perfume River is the distinctive image of the city of Hue, which is the inspiration for many artistic, literary, musical, and pictorial works. It is a pride of locals and an essential part of their lifestyles. The Perfume River is where many annual activities and traditional festivals of Hue take place, such as the Hue Songs on Perfume River, Hue Festival, etc., contributing to the preservation and promotion of the traditional cultural values of the region.

Discover Perfume River

1. Take a Dragon Boat Trip on Perfume River

The Perfume River is a crucial part of the cultural and spiritual life of the people of Hue. If you wish to understand the land of the ancient capital, start your journey by dragon boat to explore the Perfume River.

The scenery along both riverbanks, with its ancient walls, bustling streets, lush gardens, and towering pagodas, all reflected shimmeringly on the water’s surface, enhances the graceful beauty and poetic ambiance of this iconic river. Along the dragon boat journey following the banks of the Perfume River, you can admire many famous historical and cultural landmarks of Hue such as the Hue Imperial City, the Forbidden Purple City, the Tomb of Tu Duc, the Tomb of Khai Dinh, and the Thien Mu Pagoda, etc.

hue-dragon-boat tour

Best time to Visit Hue for a Hue Dragon Boat

The dragon boats sailing alongside the Perfume River, amidst the green waters, have contributed to the city with a serene and contemplative poetic essence, emanating from a land with deep cultural roots. Take a dragon boat trip along Perfume River, you will sense as though your soul is gently enveloped inside the tranquility, softness, and peacefulness of this city.

You can rent or join a dragon boat tour to explore the Perfume River at Toa Kham Boat Wharf, the largest and most popular boat wharf in Hue, where many service providers offer a variety of boats and prices. Alternatively, you can visit the Ta Trach Boat Wharf, located on the southern bank of the Perfume River, opposite the Toa Kham Boat Wharf. Ta Trach Boat Wharf has fewer dragon boats compared to Toa Kham but usually offers lower prices.

The price for joining a dragon boat tour on the Perfume River ranges from 500,000 VND to 900,000 VND per person, depending on the type of boat, the duration of the tour, and any additional services included.

2. Listen to Hue Songs on Perfume River

Hue Songs on the Perfume River is a unique traditional art form of Hue, which originated in the 18th century and flourished under the Nguyen dynasty. Hue Songs is a harmonious blend of music, poetry, and the picturesque natural scenery of the Perfume River, creating an incredible artistic experience for you in the ancient capital.

Hue Songs on the Perfume River
Hue Songs on the Perfume River

Learn about the art of Hue singing on the Perfume River

You can enjoy Hue Songs on the Perfume River in the evening when the river adorns itself with a mystical shimmering beauty under the shining lights and melodious music. Sitting on the boat, you will be immersed in the sweet and melodious tones of Hue Songs, blending harmoniously with the picturesque scenery of the Perfume River, creating an unforgettable experience.

Currently, to experience Hue Songs on the Perfume River, you can rent a dragon boat tour on the Perfume River, which includes listening to Hue Songs service, at either the Toa Kham or Ta Trach boat wharf. The price may be slightly higher than that of regular sightseeing dragon boats. Additionally, Hue Songs dragon boat only operates in the evening, typically with three routes from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., 8:00 9:00 p.m., and 9:00 10:00 p.m.. Therefore, you can consider the timing to make your experience possible.

During your time on the dragon boat, the Hue Songs dragon boat trip will last from 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes. The itinerary will typically start from the Toa Kham Wharf, passing under the Truong Tien Bridge. Along the way, you will enjoy the Hue Songs performance for approximately 50 – 60 minutes.

3. Admire the sunset on the banks of Perfume River

Sunset on the Perfume River is one of the most beautiful scenes in Hue. As the sun gradually disappears behind the distant mountains, the sky is painted in vibrant shades of orange and yellow, creating an incredibly majestic natural panorama.

The poetic Perfume River adorns itself with a shimmering golden cloak, glistening under the twilight. Gentle rays of golden sunlight softly illuminate the rows of trees, and temple roofs, crafting a scene of enchanting splendor.

Sunset scene on the Perfume River
Sunset scene on the Perfume River

Sitting by the banks of the Perfume River, surrendering yourself to the serene scenery, lost in those precious moments, you’ll feel your soul becoming lighter, and tranquil, as if blending harmoniously with the romantic nature surrounding you.

However, the sunset scene on the Perfume River isn’t something that can be admired from just anywhere alongside its banks. To completely admire the sunset at the Perfume River, it is really useful to pick out the best locations that aren’t obstructed by any buildings, tall trees, and many others. Here are a few perfect spots you can don’t forget for the pleasant perspectives of the sunset at the Perfume River:

As one of the new symbols of Hue City, Lim Wooden Bridge, located at the foot of Truong Tien Bridge, is an ideal spot to admire the sunset on the Perfume River. From the bridge, you can cast your gaze far and wide, taking in the picturesque view of the Perfume River. The image of the sunset blending with the dragon boats and SUP boards gliding on the river, creates a striking scene.

Lim Wooden Bridge - huong river - hue city
Lim Wooden Bridge – huong river – Hue city

Additionally, situated on a high hill, Vong Canh Hill offers you a different perspective of the Perfume River and the city of Hue. From here, you can admire the panoramic view of the Perfume River winding through the city, embracing the historical and cultural landmarks, creating a breathtaking picture of Hue. As the sunset descends, the scenery on Vong Canh Hill becomes even more enchanting and mystical than ever before.

Vong Canh Hill offers you a different perspective of the Perfume River
Vong Canh Hill offers you a different perspective of the Perfume River

4. Duck Pedal on Perfume River

When mentioning Hue, people immediately think of a dreamy land infused with a bit of solemnity, gentleness, and indescribable peace. To fully immerse in that beauty, one of the favorite experiences for many is the duck pedal on the Perfume River. This is not just a leisure activity or a way to relax at the end of the day; it’s also a wonderful experience allowing you to admire the city from the river, letting your soul follow the breeze, and feeling the romantic spirit of the ancient capital.

Duck Pedal on Perfume River
Duck Pedal on Perfume River

Duck pedal on the Perfume River during the shining afternoons, enjoying the refreshing air from the heart of the river along with gentle breezes, will make your soul truly relaxed and comfortable. This experience will also bring you moments to live slowly in the truest sense, to admire the beauty on both sides of the river, immerse yourself in the warm, shimmering orange glow of the late afternoon, and feel the surroundings seemingly settling down amidst the serene and deeply melancholic atmosphere of Hue.

The ticket expenses for the duck pedal on the Perfume River currently range depending on the wide variety of human beings, the duration of use, etc. Typically, the fee is calculated in keeping with a boat. A duck pedal boat usually costs around 25,000 VND per hour. If you exceed the time restriction said at the price tag, extra expenses may additionally apply.

5. Row SUP on Perfume River

Row SUP on Perfume River
Row SUP on Perfume River

While paddling SUP may not be surprising to you, paddling SUP on the Perfume River is sure to provide you with a unique experience.

Paddling stand-up paddleboarding, or paddling SUP, is a noticeably new enjoy on the Perfume River in Hue. The Perfume River, serene and picturesque, with its sparkling air, permits you to relax and immerse yourself inside the splendor of nature. It offers a gentle and soothing surrounding, permitting you to combo harmoniously with the natural surroundings, the river, and the sky. On the boat, you’ll have the possibility to discover new matters and enjoy first-rate moments.

Moreover, experiencing unique activities such as meditation and yoga in various poses on the SUP drifting freely will provide you with wonderful experiences that you have never enjoyed anywhere else.

Stand-up paddle (SUP) boating provider on the Perfume River in Hue is priced at only 100,000 VND to 150,000 VND per person, which includes 1 bottle of mineral water, 1 life jacket, 1 SUP board for two human beings, help from staff, and protection assurance during your SUP boating revel in at the Perfume River. Especially, SUP boating usually takes vicinity throughout two major time slots: 5:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Currently, in Hue, many organizations are offering stand-up paddle (SUP) boating on the Perfume River with diverse and abundant services, along with enthusiastic and professional staff. Vivu Camping (FB: @vivuhuecamping) and Surfing Sup on the Perfume River (FB: @HueSupTour) are among the organizations specialized in providing services for renting SUP boards, SUP boating tours to explore the Huong River, the Da Vien Boat Wharf, or the Toa Kham Boat Wharf that you can refer.

6. Watch Trang Tien Bridge

In the early morning, while the fog nevertheless blankets the location, Trang Tien Bridge dimly appears inside the mystical and romantic panorama. The first rays of daylight pierce through the mist, casting a flat beam onto the floor of the Perfume River, creating an enchanting scene. Below the bridge, existence starts to stir, with people coming and going, welcoming a new day.

At noon, Trang Tien Bridge sparkles under the vibrant daylights reflecting its image with the blue sky and white cloud on the tranquil Perfume River. You can stroll along the bridge, admiring the stunning surroundings of the Perfume River and Hue city.

In the late afternoon, as dusk descends, Trang Tien Bridge shines brightly in a magic light. The sky transitions to many hues with the prominent of yellow and orange, sometimes pink, reflecting onto the water’s surface, creating a magnificent painting. Trang Tien Bridge becomes a shimmering strip of golden silk stretching across the Perfume River, blending with the natural scenery.

In the evening, Trang Tien Bridge sparkles under the twinkling lights, creating a romantic ambiance. The lights reflect on the water, forming a unique and enchanting landscape. You can take a dragon boat on the Perfume River, admire the shimmering Trang Tien Bridge under the lights, and enjoy the melodious tunes of Hue Songs on the tranquil river.

Trang Tien Bridge along with the Perfume River
Trang Tien Bridge along with the Perfume River

Admiring Trang Tien Bridge along with the Perfume River, regardless of the time of day, you will feel its unique beauty.

Experience traveling to Perfume River

1. The best time to visit

The Perfume River possesses a unique charm in every season, whether it’s spring, summer, autumn, or winter, each offering a distinct allure.

However, if you want to fully enjoy the magical beauty of the Perfume River, the best time to visit is perhaps during the summer months (from April to August). Summer is when the Perfume River quickly transforms its appearance to harmonize with the surrounding scenery, surprising you with its enchanting beauty.

You can admire its poetry in the morning, but quickly it becomes vibrant at noon, romantic at dusk, and mysterious at night. The vegetation along the riverbanks seems to be changing.

Coupled with the fresh summer air and the warm golden sunlight, the Perfume River surprises you with its enchanting beauty.

Especially, the proper time to visit the Perfume River is in the early morning or late afternoon. During those times, the air is brisker and the surroundings are more picturesque. Additionally, you may immerse yourself in the active environment along the river. You can also lose yourself in the world of serenity, with the backdrop of dawn and sunset.

2. Nearby atrractions

When you come to Hue, countless other places will make you unable to stop and rest. Let’s explore more attractive destinations near the Perfume River together.

Dong Ba Market: the largest market in Hue, located in the city center on Tran Hung Dao Street, by the romantic Perfume River. The market was built in 1887 under the reign of King Dong Khanh and is one of the cultural symbols of Hue. This is an ideal destination for you to experience the unique shopping and culinary culture of Hue. Here, you can find a variety of items, from souvenirs and specialties of Hue to fresh foods, clothes, household items, etc.

The Complex of Hue Monuments: This is where the unique cultural and historical values of Vietnam are preserved, comprising famous historical sites. You can visit the Hue Citadel, which was the living and working place of 13 Nguyen dynasty kings. The Citadel is a vast and magnificent architectural complex consisting of many temples, palaces, and pavilions. You can also explore the system of tombs of the Nguyen kings, each tomb bearing a unique architectural style. Additionally, you should not miss other famous landmarks in the Complex of Hue Monuments, such as Thien Mu Pagoda and Nam Giao Altar.

Ngu Binh Mountain: Ngu Binh Mountain, additionally called Bang Mountain, is a small mountain located at the bank of the Perfume River, about 4km south of the center of Hue city. This mountain is 105 meters high and has a trapezoidal form with a flat pinnacle. Due to its precise region and shape, Ngu Binh Mountain is dubbed the “great famous mountain” of Hue. Moreover, it also plays a significant role in the cultural and religious lives of the people of Hue.

The Perfume River is not only a famous landmark in Hue but also the heart of the ancient capital with its distinctive beauty, profound cultural significance, and countless appealing activities. Drawing from my practical experiences, I’ve shared useful information about the Perfume River after many visits. Include this destination in your “must-visit” list when you come to Hue immediately. Especially, these experiences will make your trip easier and more enjoyable, not only at the Perfume River but also when exploring Hue. Get your backpack ready and start exploring now!