With its roads snaking through majestic mountains in the north, down the sandy coast and along verdant rice paddies in the south, Vietnam is a joy to explore on both two and four wheels. In recognition of this, Australian travel magazine Lonely Planet has recently published a list of recommended rides for anyone wishing to hit the road in Vietnam.
So regardless whether your vehicle of choice is a motorbike or a car, here are the 7 most enjoyable road trips in Vietnam as per Lonely Planet:
1. Hai Van Pass
A 20-km stretch of hairpin turns and breathtaking vistas between Danang and Lang Co Beach, the Hai Van Pass is widely considered one of the most beautiful drives anywhere on the planet. It is also in the contention for the world’s most “instagrammed” road with more than 55,000 photos tagged #HaiVanPass on Instagram, but according to Lonely Planet the ride does not require advanced driving skills.
2. Ha Giang Loop
A roller-coaster of a ride between plunging valleys and soaring peaks in the extreme north of Vietnam, the Ha Giang Loop takes between three and five days to complete. Not for the faint-hearted and not for novice drivers either, the 350-km route winds its way through a dozen of ethnic minority communities but is at its most hair-raisingly beautiful at the Ma Pi Leng Pass, the so-called King of All Passes in Vietnam.
3. Cao Bang to Ban Gioc Waterfall
A frequent add-on to the Ha Giang Loop, this 80-km route meanders through an idyllic landscape of lush farmlands and stilt villages and culminates at the foot of the impressive Ban Gioc Waterfall, right at the Chinese border. While nature is clearly the main draw of the area, the best vantage point to take it all in is the man-made Ma Phuc Pass, a 3.5-km bendy road offering superb views of the terraced rice fields below.
4. Dalat to Nha Trang
A 134-km drive from the highlands of cool Dalat to the beaches of sunny Nha Trang, this uncomplicated road trip will have you journeying through the different microclimates of Central Vietnam. Start it off with locally-grown coffee in the pine-scented town of Dalat, follow the winding road out of the hills and through countless tiny villages, and finish your ride with a well-earned dip in the turquoise waters of the East Sea.
5. Ho Chi Minh City to My Tho
With a flat and monotonous landscape of never-ending rice fields, the Mekong Delta is not held in particularly high esteem as a road trip destination. That said, the 70-km drive from the concrete jungle of Ho Chi Minh City to My Tho, the gateway to the fertile water world of the Mekong Delta, is a journey between two contrasting worlds. Venture into some of the riverside byways and witness that contrast from up close.
6. Con Son Island
Riding a motorbike along the deserted coastal roads of Con Son, the largest island of the southern Con Dao archipelago, is as easy and pleasant as it gets in Vietnam. Start the 25-km ride at Dam Trau, a white-sand beach right by the airport, and follow the island’s sole main road past forested hillsides, French colonial-era prisons and tiny beaches all the way to Ben Dam, a port serviced by ferries from the mainland.
7. Ho Chi Minh Highway
Undeniably one of the great ways to explore Vietnam, this classic 1,880-km motorbike adventure will take you all the way from the southern metropolis of Saigon to the ancient capital of Hanoi up in the north. Set aside at least two weeks for your trip and hit the legendary Ho Chi Minh Highway, rather than any alternate routes, as it offers the best balance between the driving conditions and the (superb) scenery on the way.