Con Dao Islands: From Prisoner’s Hell to Traveller’s Paradise

After our amazing time in Myanmar we were so full of new impressions and food for thought that we needed some time off from all the (amazing) sightseeing. We were looking for a place that was not too interesting so that we could truly relax and did not feel we were missing out on anything… 🙂 After some online research we decided to fly to Con Dao, a beautiful island about 200km south of the southern Vietnamese cost. It turned out we chose well! It is a really pretty island with not really a lot going on. Still, of course, it was a lot more interesting that we had thought (as always… 🙂 ).

History of Con Dao

In particular, Con Dao has a turbulent history as a prison island. The first prisons were built in 1861 by the French colonists to jail those considered especially dangerous to the colonial government. In 1954, it was turned over to the South Vietnamese government, who continued to use it for the same purpose. During the Vietnam War, prisoners who had been held at the prison in the 1960s said they were abused and tortured. The horrors of this torture were only discovered by a delegation of US Congressional representatives in 1970.

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Prison on Con Dao

We went to the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, which had a whole section dedicated to the museums on Con Dao. Some of the torture methods that were used are too tyrannical to even write about.

Con Dao Today

Today Con Dao is a beautiful island that has not yet been discovered by mass tourism. While there are some expensive luxury resorts, there are only just a few hotels on the whole island, most of them in its only real town of Con Son. We stayed in the only AirBnB accommodation on the island.

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Beautiful Bai Nhat Beach on the South side of Con Dao

The rest of the island is beautiful nature including some of the best beaches and diving in the country. Actually, due to nesting turtles and an intact dense tropical forest the islands are a protected National Park. You need to register when hiking and get a guide on most trails. Even though the weather was not great, we still had an amazing time and enjoyed the tranquility a lot.


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