Hải Vân Pass
The Hải Vân Pass is one of the most popular and scenic mountain passes in Vietnam. The name translates to “ocean cloud pass” in English, revealing exactly what it is: Those who travel up its winding roads leave behind an ocean backdrop, ascending through twists and turns into mountains of lush jungles topped by clouds. Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear called the road “a deserted ribbon of perfection — one of the best coastal roads in the world.”
This 13-mile pass connects Đà Nẵng to Huế, both popular stops along a backpacker’s itinerary. It is best to try this route between the sunnier months of April and July so you can also stop over at Lăng Cô Lagoon and beach for a refreshing swim. In 2005, a tunnel opened beneath the mountain, giving riders a choice between a quicker drive or the scenic route.
Hà Giang Loop
The Hà Giang Loop is a 300-kilometer (186-mile) winding road in the northern province of Hà Giang, bordering the Yunnan Province of China. It is often described as the most spectacular ride in the country and takes travelers about four days to complete. However, this route is not for beginners. Expect hundreds of hairpin turns, mountain scenery and friendly local hill tribes such as the H’Mong people, who inhabit this area. Multiple viewpoints are scattered throughout for stunning panoramas. Check out the Hà Giang Loop between June to November. Avoid it during the rainy season.
Mẻ Pia Pass – Cao Bằng Province
Mẻ Pia Pass was indeed the most twisting and rugged bend in the Northeast of Viet Nam. It is located on Highway 4A, the road from Xuân Trường commune to the center of the border district of Bảo Lạc (Cao Bằng). Mẻ Pia pass is 2.5 km long up to the peak. Because there are 14 winding sections, it is called a 14-story slope. According to locals, this mountain pass dates back to the French domination period. Formerly, this trail was about 40 cm wide and some places were narrower. After being renovated, the road is 5 meters wide, including the curb.
Ô Quy Hồ
Ô Quy Hồ is the longest mountain pass in Vietnam, stretching for about 50 kilometres (31 miles) on National Highway 4D. It connects Lào Cai to Lai Châu, running along the Hoàng Liên Sơn mountain range. Its peak reaches an altitude of 1,999 meters (6,560 feet) in a place called Heaven’s Gate. Visually stunning and equally dangerous, this pass is known for its hairpin turns lying perched over an abyss, gurgling streams and beautiful waterfalls — with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
The Beaches Route
If you love sea, sand and sun, then hit the Vietnam southern coastal road. You could start in Da Nang and head south, but we recommend you make your way out of Hồ Chí Minh City instead. For starters, it’s much easier to find gear in the big city — a motorbike to buy/rent, camping gear, clothing, etc. — but it’s also more pleasant to finish your drive in Hội An or Đà Nẵng. Many riders stick to the main highways to make their schedule, but that’s not what we have in mind. Start south to Hồ Tràm Beach and make your way north, with stops in La Gi, Bình Thuận, Mũi Né, Phan Rang, Cam Ranh, Nha Trang, Tuy Hòa, Quy Nhơn, Quảng Ngãi and, finally, Hội An — or any place along the way that you like. This way, you will enjoy the best of what the coast has to offer.
Khe Sanh – Phong Nha
Take enormous ascents and descents and combine them with twists and turns, bursts of open straits and breathtaking views, and you have the road from Khe Sanh to Phong Nha. It’s hard not to stop every five minutes and pull out your camera on this scenic journey. As drivers near Phong Nha, they follow rivers and cross through farmlands. Then, the turquoise lakes of Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park come into view, raw and untouched, with plenty of opportunities to get off the beaten track.
DT725 – Nam Cát Tiên to Đà Lạt
The road to Đà Lạt from Nam Cát Tiên is a sight to behold. Head up the imaginatively-named DT725, which does no justice to the glorious landscape continuously changing as you experience its spectacular twists and turns. Thanks to the great condition it is in, cruising along this road is a lot faster-paced than others, allowing you to up the ante for a thrilling ride. Try not to lose your concentration when it comes to those winding bends — the beautiful scenery can be distracting.
DT652 – Đà Lạt to Nha Trang
The DT652 is a favourite route among locals, connecting two popular travel destinations that seem a world apart: slow-paced, cool Đà Lạt in the mountains, and hot, buzzing Nha Trang on the coast. The pass takes around five hours to complete, with twists through mountains and forests on each side. You’ll find awesome pitstops along the way to get some food or coffee.
The Nam Mã River Route
Ninh Bình is a popular backpacker spot, known for its spectacular natural beauty that has earned it the nickname “Hạ Long Bay on Land”. It is a region full of mountains, rivers, rice paddies and caves (and, unfortunately, quite a lot of tourists). The Nam Mã River Route offers a similar landscape to Ninh Bình, yet undisturbed by crowds. Get on the Hồ Chí Minh Highway south of Hà Nội until the QL217, following this until the town of Vĩnh Minh. From there, follow the road called Đê tả sông Mã that runs parallel to the river until it meets back with the QL1A. Sầm Sơn Beach is a great final destination to reward yourself after the long hours on the road.