7 Best Road Trips in Vietnam

7 Best Road Trips in Vietnam

Long and meandering like a myth naga Vietnam winds its way around the east coast of mainland Southeast Asia, from China in the north to Cambodia and the Mekong Delta in the south. Its twin megacities — Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City — are divided by a 1,137-kilometer (707-mile) stretch of mountains, jungles, rice fields, beaches and historic sites. In other words, it’s the perfect country for a road trip.

The journey between Vietnam’s northern and southern capitals is just one of many epic road trips that require four-wheel (or, more commonly, two-wheel) adventurers. With more than 61 million motorcycles on Vietnam’s roads, intrepid cyclists will find themselves in good company as they explore the country’s wonderfully diverse landscape, with repair shops, gas stations and snack bars aplenty along the way.

Whether you want to hit the road by car or motorbike, here are our picks for the best road trips in Vietnam.

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Drive through stunning views of Ha Giang and mountain passes © VuCongDanh / Getty Images

1. Ha Giang Loop

Best Road Trips for Wild Swimming and Mountain Pass
Ha Giang-Ha Giang; 350 km (218 miles)

The soaring peaks and steep valleys of Vietnam’s northernmost province are perfect for leisurely admiration, stops at waterfalls for rejuvenation, and roadside snacks (there’s nothing like dried buffalo to keep you going ), and photos of rice terraces cascading down the steep slopes of the valley. Begin your adventure in Ha Giang, the gateway to a land of conical forested peaks straight out of ancient scroll paintings.

Ha Giang means “water and mountains” in Vietnamese, and you’ll be just outside of Yen Minh, Dong Van and Bao Lam as you follow this loop Not far away, babbling streams and cascading waterfalls make up the main part of the scenery. This rewarding multi-day drive winds through the communities of at least 10 different ethnic groups and offers plenty of opportunities for surrounding trips and activities, including hiking, boating and caving.

Planning Tips: The Ma Pi Leng Pass is easily the most scenic section of the entire trip, with jagged mountains framing the verdant Nho Que River. Remember to spare half a day for a quiet boat trip and a swim in the stunning waters.

Huge waterfall on the border of Vietnam and China. A lot of water flows through the waterfall.
Banjok Waterfall is an unforgettable end point on a road trip from Cao Bang to Banjok © Peter Stuckings / Shutterstock

2. From Gaoping to Banqiao

The Best Road Trips Through the Vietnamese Countryside
Cao Bang-Banjo; 80 km (50 miles)

Drive from Cao Bang to the churning Ban Gioc Waterfall, which straddles the Sino-Vietnamese border, and adventurers will travel through some of northern Vietnam’s most pristine countryside. Lush farmlands, stilt villages and crystal clear lakes are all on the itinerary. For driving enthusiasts, however, nature’s creations may be surpassed by man-made wonders: the 3.5-kilometre (2.1-mile) Mafuu Pass, with seven winding bends and beautiful views of the rice terraces below .

For a more natural view, consider stopping at the massive stalactite-studded Nguom Ngao Cave, which extends for kilometers underground but saves a lot of time for the main attraction of the road trip. Felt by the Quay Son River, part China, part Vietnam, Ban Gioc Waterfall roars over a series of tree-lined shelves. Admire the falls from the observation deck, or hop on a bamboo raft for a closer look at the impressive falls, which drop more than 30 m (98 ft).

Planning Tips: While worth traveling alone, this route is also a popular addition to the Ha Giang Loop.

Aerial view overlooking Da Lat hill station, Vietnam. Due to the high altitude, the town is shrouded in mist and only a few buildings can be seen.
Da Lat was once a mountain station in France with a unique microclimate © Khang Duong / 500px

3. Da Lat to Nha Trang

Best Road Trips to French Colonial Hill Station
Da Lat-Nha Trang; 134 km (83 miles)

From the cool climate of the highlands around Da Lat to the sunny beaches of Nha Trang, this short and easy road trip is filled with ever-changing landscapes and microclimates. Start early so you have time to enjoy the hilly terrain along the way and the coast towards the finish.

From the hillsides around Da Lat, here is a wholesome hill station where French colonists came to escape the scorching heat of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). This is a unique part of Vietnam where the scent of pine trees fills the air and where farms grow strawberries, coffee and flowers instead of rice.

When you come down from the mountain, the humidity starts to return and everything starts to feel more traditional. The paved QL27C road loops around the hills and winds through small villages all the way to the coast, where a swim in the turquoise waters of Nha Trang Beach rounds off the trip.

4. Sea Cloud Pass

Best road trips for stunning views and sharp turns
Da Nang-Lang Co Beach; 20 km (12 miles)

Before the Hai Van Tunnel was completed in 2005, the mere thought of enduring the sharp turns and dead ends of Hai Van Pass was enough to send shivers down the spines of bus passengers commuting between Da Nang and Hue. Now, with significantly less car traffic, this short but stunning journey is a manageable and memorable one even for novice drivers.

Hai Van Pass, which translates to “sea clouds” in Vietnamese, has jungle-covered mountains on one side and cliffs plunging into the East China Sea on the other, a striking setting that has made this road the most-followed on Instagram One of the highways. All over the world – a whopping 4298 photos per mile!

Vehicle diversion: Stop for a Vietnamese-style iced coffee and admire the remains of the Indochina-era Haiyun Gate and several French fortifications. While the pass officially ends at windswept Lan Co Beach at the northern end, most visitors will continue the drive for an hour or so to the former imperial city of Hue, admiring its palaces and eternal tombs.

Vendors at Can Tho Floating Market
A stop at the Can Tho Floating Market is a highlight of a trip to the Mekong Delta © Phuong D. Nguyen / Shutterstock

5. Ho Chi Minh City to My Tho

Best road trips along the lush Mekong Delta
Ho Chi Minh City – My Tho; 70 km (44 miles)

The rice-paper-flat Mekong Delta isn’t much of a road trip favorite, as its various green rice fields change from mesmerizing to slightly monotonous as the miles go on. However, once you step out of the vast, smoky Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll see the city’s undergrowth give way to majestic palms, lush banana trees and glistening waterways amidst verdant rice fields.

While the scenery is certainly evocative, the best part of driving in the Mekong Delta is lifting off the gas and getting lost in the riverside alleys and byways, where the pace of life is so different from the buzzing streets of Ho Chi Minh City.

When you finally reach My Tho – a town known for its chewy noodles, pork and shrimp soup – more cultural experiences await, a short drive west to Sa Decak Flower Farm and Celery Tho, here is where the largest floating market is located in the southwest of the delta.

A fishing boat floats in the blue water near the Con Dao archipelago
Riding a motorcycle around Kunshan Island is all about enjoying the sea view © Tonkinphotography / Shutterstock

6. Kunshan Island

Best Road Trips to Desert Island Beaches
Dam Trau-Ben Dam; 25 km (15 miles)

Isolated from the mainland for many years, the Con Dao archipelago is one of Vietnam’s natural wonders. Kunshan Island is the largest and only inhabited island in the archipelago, with only one main road running through the whole island – traveling by motorbike is not only the best way to enjoy the island’s countryside, but also the best way to jump from beautiful deserted beach to another Way. Next.

Start near the airport at Dam Trau Beach, a long stretch of beach dotted with seafood shacks that meanders through forested hillsides, a French colonial-era prison, and a string of beautiful beaches that only emerge at low tide, Finally reaching Ben Dam is where ferries from the mainland come and go. Take your time in the morning or afternoon and bring your bathing suit.

7. Ho Chi Minh Expressway

The best road trips to experience the essence of Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City – Hanoi; 1880 km (1168 miles)

There are several different routes between Vietnam’s two largest cities, depending on whether you prefer beaches, mountains, or flat highways, but for the best balance of driving time (about two weeks) and great scenery, Please choose the Ho Chi Minh Highway, part of which was used to transport soldiers and supplies during the Vietnam War.

After leaving busy Ho Chi Minh City, the road along the Truong Son mountain range meanders through quiet hamlets where the aroma of coffee from nearby plantations fills the air. As you reach central Vietnam, this barren plateau gives way to forested mountains in what is considered the most scenic stretch of this epic road trip.

Vehicle diversion: Adventurers will want to stop at Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, home to the world’s largest cave, and Cuc Phuong, Vietnam’s oldest national park in the Red River Delta, before joining the traffic on Hanoi’s ancient streets.

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