The ultra-luxe Banyan Tree Lăng Cô is an all-pool villa resort set on the remote central coast of Vietnam, in the foothills of the Truong Son mountains and on the longest private beach in Lăng Cô. Designed like a Vietnamese village, a collection of enormous beach, lagoon and hillside villas are dotted along the beach or overlooking lush green grounds and a lagoon. All feature clay-tiled roofs and gorgeous open courtyards, inspired by the traditional homes in the nearby imperial city of Huế, and an expansive outdoor living area that includes your very own pool.
Related article: Room for Two: Angsana Lăng Cô
It’s one of Vietnam’s most luxurious resorts and, if you’re familiar with Banyan Tree resorts around the world, right on brand. Expect a chic, relaxed resort experience replete with rewarding dining experiences and engaging activities, such as golf on the Nick Faldo-designed championship course. And its location – in a culturally rich region that includes the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Huế and Hoi An – makes it a magnet for culture vultures as well. It’s not hard to see why, back in the day, this secluded holiday spot was favoured by Vietnam’s former royal family (who lived in nearby Huế).
The Banyan Tree Lăng Cô is a true destination resort. It’s off the beaten track and access to the nearest town requires some effort. So if you’re at Banyan Tree Lăng Cô it’s because you want to be. And you will definitely want to be…
Banyan Tree Lăng Cô sits behind the Truong Son Mountain Range, on a three-kilometre stretch of sandy beachfront at Lăng Cô Bay, in Central Vietnam. It’s roughly halfway between the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Hoi An (80km away) and Huế (65km away), and just over 50km from Da Nang International Airport (DAD), the starting point for most visitors to the region. Phu Bai International Airport near Huế is around 45km away.
If you’re travelling from Da Nang during the day and booked a private transfer, ask your driver to give the Hai Van (‘sea cloud’) Tunnel a miss and go instead via the Hai Van Pass, once the boundary between Vietnam and the kingdom of Champa. It takes a little longer, but the staggering views from the top (you’ll climb to 500m) are totally worth it.
On the other side you’ll eventually end up in rural Vietnam, complete with rice paddies and grazing water buffaloes. Green and serene, it’s a far cry from the craziness of Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi which most people experience on a trip to this country. At the end of the journey you’ll arrive at the resort, exiting your vehicle in a courtyard that’s home to a magnificent (what else?) banyan tree.
The Banyan Tree Lăng Cô’s location means it’s removed from pretty much everything, except sister property, Angsana Lăng Cô. The two resorts (part of the Laguna Lăng Cô development that also includes apartments and villas for sale) share the same private beach and some facilities, including restaurants and an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Nick Faldo. They’re connected by an artificial canal decorated with colourful lanterns, on which a barge ferries guests between the two properties. The secluded, quiet location means there are no dining, shopping or nightlife options nearby the resort so you’ll be spending your meals and evenings in-resort. You won’t find any restaurants, shops or nightlife within about a 30-minute drive of the hotel. But for many guests, that’s part of the appeal.
There are three types of accommodation at Banyan Tree Lăng Cô, and they’re all luxe and lovely. Set in lush private gardens around the natural lagoon between the mountains and the sea, Lagoon Pool Villas are ‘entry level’ accommodation, but you’d never know it. They’re further back from the beach and the main building than the other villas, and therefore the quietest and most secluded. And who even needs the beach when you have your own private pool? Dotting the shores of Canh Duong beach, Beach Pool Villas (which have an outdoor Jacuzzi in addition to a pool) are located right on the sand, creating the feeling that you’re in your own private beach house.
Then there’s the highest category accommodation, the Hilltop Pool Villas (with one or two bedrooms). Ranging from 152 to 237sqm in size, they have an enormous pool and outdoor terrace/lounge area and, because they’re high on a hillside (25-86m above sea level), enjoy incredible views over the entire beach, bay and beyond. Complimentary bikes allow guests to make their own way around the sprawling resort easily, or you can make use of the buggy service operated by hotel staff. Indeed, upon arrival a buggy will deliver you to your villa for in-room check-in, a very welcome service that lets you relax, settle in and feel right at home immediately.
Like all of the villas at Banyan Tree Lăng Cô, my 131sqm Lagoon Pool Villa was spacious, sumptuous and decorated in an elegant contemporary Vietnamese style that also pays homage to the country’s rich history and culture, with lovely touches like Champa sandstone sculptures, Vietnamese calligraphy and silk embroideries.
A king-sized bed (with 1,000-thread cotton sheets, of course) takes centre stage in these luxury digs, and every night a little surprise awaits you following turn-down service: a treat, a little gift/souvenir and even, on our first night, flowers spelling out a welcome message. There’s a ‘hidden’ desk behind the bed, an enormous artwork of lotus flowers on the wall overlooking it and a well-stocked mini bar within far too easy reach.
The ceilings are super-high and everything’s oversized, aesthetically pleasing and undeniably luxe. A deep, standalone tub awaits in the massive bathroom which also features a walk-in rain shower, his-and-her sinks and plenty of fragrant bath products. Surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, the bath sits in its own special section which juts out into the garden, creating the effect of a luxury spa. But privacy is paramount, and the extensive gardens and grounds of each villa are enclosed by high walls to ensure complete seclusion and freedom (especially when you’re soaking in the the tub).
The bathroom is at one end of the villa: at the other is an enormous daybed that sits on a spacious terrace. This leads to two sun loungers sitting under a large umbrella on a timber sun deck right next to the pool. Overlooking the lagoon, this private plunge pool is eminently Instagrammable and the pièce de résistance in an already pretty spectacular villa.
On-site dining at Banyan Tree Lăng Cô spans a menu of Vietnamese, Italian and Thai, with even more choices at Angsana Lăng Cô next door plus romantic Destination Dining options for special celebrations. Vietnamese and international cuisine are served at Water Court, a contemporary open-concept restaurant overlooking the resort’s main pool area. But let’s be honest: it’s all about the breakfast here. The spread is epic, extravagant and exceptionally good. You can get the usual eggs or cereal if you want, but if your tastebuds are feeling more adventurous there are also things like beef pho, spring rolls and other Vietnamese favourites, sushi, kimchi, cold meats, cheeses, pastries and mason jars of yoghurt, Bircher muesli and fresh fruit, all washed down with with strong Vietnamese coffee.
The breezy beachfront and poolside Azura serves casual Italian fare at lunch time – including top-notch seafood and crispy thin pizza prepared on the open pizza counter and cooked in a wood-fired oven – while at Thu Quan, the Banyan Tree’s authentic Vietnamese bar, there’s an all-day snack menu plus a drinks list that includes teas, traditional Vietnamese coffee and cocktails.
But our favourite meal, unquestionably, was served at Banyan Tree’s signature restaurant, the award-winning Saffron. A wraparound verandah makes the most of the restaurant’s hilltop position, showcasing stunning views of the bay, while inside the decor is elegant, the service attentive and the food divine. Initially I was surprised to be eating Thai food in Vietnam, but the very first dish soon put paid to any questions. Here, the chef has given traditional Thai dishes a mouth-watering modern touch and the results are spectacular. A Thai curry savoured that night may be the best I’ve ever eaten. And I’ve been to Thailand. This is mighty fine fine dining.
Destination Dining is another trick up Banyan Tree Lăng Cô’s culinary sleeve, perfect for couples wanting an intimate and unforgettable dinner for two. The terrace of your pool is one option (complete with super-special menu, professional service and romantic setup), or you can head to a secluded corner of the beach to dine under the stars.
Banyan Tree Lăng Cô’s private beach is three kilometres long and great for power walks or leisurely strolls, while the Laguna Water Sports Centre can deck you out with everything you need for jetskiing, paddleboarding, kayaking, windsurfing, parasailing and a host of other fun and fast water sport activities.
You can also go on a cycling tour or hike through nearby mountain trails, play tennis, football or volleyball, have a crack at archery or take off on an ATV adventure. Plus there’s a well-equipped gym, daily sessions in the yoga pavilion and – one of the resort’s most popular attractions – the 18-hole, par-71 championship golf course designed by Sir Nick Faldo. In-house activities include cooking classes, learning the art of making Vietnamese coffee and local language lessons so when you venture out of the resort and into the real world you can haggle with confidence.
There’s one other experience you simply have to have when you’re staying at this resort. Banyan Tree resorts are famous across the globe for their award-winning spas, so indulging in a time-honoured Asian spa treatment is a must. Even filling in the paperwork before your treatment is a pleasure, thanks to the magnificence of the spa reception area, centred around a vast reflection pool.
Boxes ticked, I was introduced to my therapist who escorted me to one of the private treatment pavilions located alongside a tranquil lagoon just a short walk away. Inside, it was all very zen and lovely, and I was soon de-robed and ready to be de-stressed. There are various massages listed on the spa menu, their descriptions rife with pampering buzzwords and details of ingredients and techniques. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea which one was performed on me. I pretty much left it up to my therapist who – like all staff – was trained at one of the Banyan Tree Spa Academies, located in Phuket (Thailand) and Bintan (Indonesia). So I knew I was in safe hands (pun intended). The result? I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy spa treatments at countless resorts all around the world, and this one is going straight on to my top-five list.
Chilling by the pool – either the one in your villa or on a stylish sun lounger for two by the main resort pool – is probably the thing you’ll do the most, so be sure to download the free magazine app that Banyan Tree has made available for guests. This genius and generous touch gives you access to thousands of mags and papers from all over the world, in every conceivable language, so you can leave those heavy books or your Kindle at home.
All of the activities at Angsana Lăng Cô are also open to Banyan Tree guests: click here for more details.
The unspoilt countryside and cultural riches of this region of Indochina are there to be explored and enjoyed – if you can be tempted to leave your villa! The resort is the ideal launching point for day trips to a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites for which this part of the world is famous. There’s the ancient trading town of Hoi An, famous for its laneways and the lanterns which light up the town at night, the imperial city of Huế and the My Son Champa ruins, dating back to the fourth century. (Banyan Tree Lăng Cô offers a complimentary shuttle service every day to Huế and Hoi An.)
Hang Son Dong, the largest known cave passage in the world, is also nearby, plus you can explore Lăng Cô by mountain bike, ATV or guided trek, or go hiking in the Bach Ma mountains, located about 80 minutes from the resort. Reaching a peak of 1,450 metres, they’re home to more than 2,000 species of plants, insects, birds and mammals, and 50 species of fish, reptiles and amphibians.
Couples will love
Pretty much everything. The entire Banyan Tree experience is a joy so singling things out is difficult, but if I had to, I’d say the spa, dining at Saffron and just enjoying spending time together in the gorgeous villas. All of them are perfect for a romantic break or honeymoon, but if you really want to treat yourself, upgrade to a One-Bedroom Sea View Hill Pool Villa (described above) or a Sanctuary Pool Villa, which has all the charms of the other villas, plus unlimited spa treatments from the award-winning Banyan Tree Spa. Ding ding ding! We have a winner!
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The writer travelled courtesy of Vietnam Airlines, which flies thrice-weekly from Sydney to Hanoi. Passengers can also fly daily from Sydney or Melbourne to Hanoi via Ho Chi Minh City.