The 7 finest highway journeys in Vietnam weave previous mountains, jungles and seashores

Lengthy and sinuous, just like the legendary naga serpent, Vietnam curves across the jap shores of mainland Southeast Asia, stretching all the way in which from China within the north to Cambodia and the Mekong Delta within the south. Its twin megacities – Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh Metropolis – are divided by 1137km (707 miles) of mountains, jungles, paddy fields, seashores and historic websites. In different phrases, that is excellent nation for highway tripping. 

The journey between Vietnam’s northern and southern capitals is simply of many epic highway journeys that decision out to adventurers on 4, or, extra generally, two wheels. With greater than 61 million motorbikes on Vietnam’s roads, intrepid bikers will discover themselves in good firm as they discover the nation’s splendidly numerous landscapes, with ample restore retailers, gasoline stations and meals stops alongside the way in which.

Whether or not you’re pondering of hitting the highway by automotive or by bike, right here’s our choose of Vietnam’s finest highway journeys, from shoreline freewheeling to dizzying spirals into the mountains of Vietnam’s wild northwest.

Scout new methods to discover the planet’s wildest locations with our weekly e-newsletter delivered to your inbox.

Check your reflexes on the winding highway to Hai Van Move

Danang–Lang Co Seaside; approx 20km/12 miles; 3 hours

Earlier than the Hai Van Tunnel was accomplished in 2005, simply the considered enduring the hairpin turns and blind corners of the Hai Van Move was sufficient to ship shivers down the spines of bus passengers touring between Danang and Hue. Now with considerably much less automotive site visitors, this quick however gorgeous experience is a manageable, memorable journey even for the novice driver.

Translating as ‘Ocean Clouds’ in Vietnamese, the Hai Van Move is bordered by jungle-clad mountains on one aspect and cliffs plunging right down to the East Sea on the opposite, a dramatic setting that has made this highway one of the Instagrammed highways on the planet – with a whopping 4298 photos per mile!

Cease on the mid-way level for a Vietnamese-style iced espresso and admire the Indochina-era Hai Van Gate and the stays of a number of French fortifications. Whereas the move formally ends on the windswept Lang Co Seaside at its northern finish, most vacationers proceed for one more hour or so to achieve the previous imperial metropolis of Hue to stare upon its palaces and timeless tombs.

Elemental landscapes sprout in every single place in Ha Giang © VuCongDanh / Getty Photos

Ha Giang Loop

Ha Giang–Ha Giang; approx 350km/218 miles; 3–5 days

The hovering peaks and plunging valleys of Vietnam’s northernmost province are finest loved at a leisurely tempo, with loads of stop-offs for revitalizing dips in waterfalls, roadside snacks (nothing retains power ranges up like dried buffalo), and to snap images of the rice and corn terraces tumbling down the valley’s steep hillsides. Begin the journey in Ha Giang metropolis, the gateway to a land of conical, forested peaks plucked straight from an vintage scroll portray.

Ha Giang means ‘water and mountains’ in Vietnamese, and also you’re by no means removed from both if you deal with this loop by means of Yen Minh, Dong Van and Bao Lam, with gurgling streams and cascading waterfalls forming a serious a part of the surroundings. Winding its approach by means of communities of a minimum of 10 totally different ethnic minorities, this rewarding multi-day drive gives loads of alternatives for aspect journeys and actions, together with trekking, river-boating and caving.

The Ma Pi Leng Move is hands-down essentially the most scenic part of the drive, with jagged mountains surrounding the emerald Nho Que River. Keep in mind to think about a half-day for a quiet boat journey with a spot of swimming in its attractive waters.

A huge waterfall located on the border of Vietnam and China. Vast quantities of water flow over the falls.
The Ban Gioc Waterfalls make a memorable endpoint to the highway journey from Cao Bang to Ban Gioc © Peter Stuckings / Shutterstock

Cao Bang to Ban Gioc

Cao Bang–Ban Gioc; approx 80km/50 miles; 1 day

The drive from Cao Bang to the churning Ban Gioc Waterfall, which straddles the China-Vietnam border, takes adventurers by means of a few of Northern Vietnam’s most pristine pastoral terrain. Lush farmlands, stilt villages and crystal clear lakes are all on the itinerary. Nonetheless, for driving fans, nature’s creations is likely to be outdone by a man-made surprise: the three.5km-long Ma Phuc Move, with its seven writhing bends providing attractive views of the terraced fields under. 

For extra pure highlights, think about a stop-off on the huge, stalactite-filled Nguom Ngao Cave, which extends for a number of kilometers underground, however save loads of time for the highway journey’s major focus. Fed by the Quay Son River, the Ban Gioc Waterfalls are situated partly in China and partly in Vietnam and so they thunder dramatically over a sequence of greenery-draped cabinets.

Take within the falls from the viewing platforms or hop on a bamboo raft for a more in-depth have a look at the spectacular cascades, which fall over 30m (98ft). Whereas worthy of being tackled as a standalone journey, this route can also be a preferred add-on to the Ha Giang Loop.

An aerial view overlooking the hill station of Dalat in Vietnam. The town is shroud in mist due to its high altitude, meaning only a few buildings are visible.
Dalat is a former French hill station with a novel microclimate © Khang Duong / 500px

Dalat to Nha Trang

Dalat–Nha Trang; approx 134km/83 miles, 1 day

From the cool climes of the highlands round Dalat to the sunny seashores of Nha Trang, this quick and easy highway journey is all about altering surroundings and microclimates. Get an early begin so you may have time to understand the hilly terrain en route and the coastal views close to the top of the drive.

Start within the hillsides round Dalat, based as a salubrious hill station the place French colonists got here to flee the oppressive warmth of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh Metropolis). This can be a very distinctive space of Vietnam, the place the scent of pine bushes hangs within the air and farms domesticate strawberries, espresso and flowers as a substitute of rice.

As you descend from the mountains and the humidity begins to return, issues begin to really feel extra standard. The paved QL27C highway unfurls round hills and snakes by means of tiny villages all the way in which to the coast, the place a dip within the turquoise waters of Nha Trang Seaside makes for a worthy near this journey.

Traders at the floating market in Can Tho
A cease on the floating market in Can Tho is a spotlight of a visit to the Mekong Delta © Phuong D. Nguyen / Shutterstock

Ho Chi Minh Metropolis to My Tho

Ho Chi Minh Metropolis–My Tho; approx 70km/44 miles; 1 day

The rice paper-flat Mekong Delta doesn’t get a lot highway journey love as a result of its every-shade-of-green rice fields can flip from mesmeric to barely monotonous because the miles mount up. Nonetheless, when you get exterior of sprawling, smoggy Ho Chi Minh Metropolis, you’ll see the city shrubbery give technique to majestic palms, lush banana bushes and glimmering waterways amongst the emerald rice paddies.

Whereas the surroundings right here is definitely evocative, the very best a part of driving within the Mekong Delta is taking your foot off the gasoline and dropping your self within the tiny riverside laneways and byways, the place life strikes at a really totally different tempo to the buzzing streets of HCMC.

While you ultimately make it to My Tho – a city famed for its chewy noodle, pork and shrimp soup – additional cultural experiences await, with the flower farms of Sa Dec a brief drive to the west and Can Tho, residence to the most important floating market within the Delta, situated to the southwest.

A fishing boat floating in blue waters off the Con Dao islands
Taking a bike round Con Son Island is all in regards to the sea views © Tonkinphotography / Shutterstock

Con Son Island

Dam Trau–Ben Dam; approx 25km/15 miles; half a day

Remoted from the mainland for years, the Con Dao islands are one in every of Vietnam’s pure wonders. Con Son, the most important and solely inhabited island of the archipelago, has only one important highway stretching throughout its size – a bike journey shouldn’t be solely one of the best ways to see the agricultural splendor of the island, but in addition one of the best ways to hop from one attractive abandoned seaside to the subsequent.

Begin at Dam Trau, a protracted stretch of seaside dotted with seafood shacks close to the airport, and wind your well past forested hillsides, a French colonial-era jail, and a string of superb seashores that solely seem throughout low tide, ending up at Ben Dam the place ferries from the mainland come and go. Take issues slowly over a morning or afternoon and produce your swimming costume.

A top-down view of a very busy road during rush hour in Ho Chi Minh City. The road is filled with people on scooters, most of them have at least two people on each bike.
Be part of the throng of motorbikes that fill Vietnam’s roads on the epic experience from HCMC to Hanoi © xuanhuongho / Shutterstock

Ho Chi Minh Freeway

Ho Chi Minh Metropolis–Hanoi; approx 1880km/1168 miles; 2 weeks

There are a number of totally different routes between Vietnam’s two largest cities, relying on whether or not you want seashores, mountains or clean highways, however for the very best steadiness between driving time (about two weeks) and glorious surroundings, hit the Ho Chi Minh Freeway, a part of which was as soon as used to move troopers and provides in the course of the Vietnam Warfare.

After exiting busy Ho Chi Minh Metropolis, observe the highway alongside the Truong Son mountain vary because it snakes its well past sleepy hamlets, the place the odor of espresso from close by plantations hangs thick within the air. This barren plateau offers technique to forested mountains as you attain Central Vietnam, thought-about essentially the most scenic stretch of this epic highway journey.

Adventurers will need to cease at Phong Nha Ke Bang Nationwide Park, residence to the world’s largest cave, and Cuc Phuong, Vietnam’s oldest nationwide park, situated within the Pink River Delta, earlier than becoming a member of the throng of site visitors on the traditional streets of Hanoi.