Best Vietnam Motorbike Routes: 5 Suggested Itineraries

motorbike-vietnam

Looking for the best Vietnam motorbike routes? Trying to squeeze in so many places in such little time that your Vietnam motorbike itinerary dream is becoming a nightmare?

Fret not.

In the instant-gratification, super-fast-paced world we now live in, it’s easy to race through experiences at full speed without truly taking them in and merely ticking them off for the sake of crossing the box. 

This has of course become especially true when it comes to travelling; with jam-packed “must see” itineraries, the call of high-speed trains aeroplanes and social media keeping-up-with-the-Joneses, we’ve forgotten to move with the pace of life on the ground. 

Vietnam, with the fierce nickname ‘The Land of the Ascending Dragon,’ full of flat rice plains, mountainous valleys and picturesque river deltas, is not a country you want to blitz through at 100 mph.

Whether you have little to all the time in the world, I’ve laid out 5 Vietnam motorbike itineraries for you to choose from or even chop and change if it makes your trip more convenient or enjoyable.

5 Optional Vietnam Motorbike Routes

The beauty of Vietnam is that there is something for everyone. Only in the country for three days? Head out from Hanoi to explore the north. Looking for a two-week remote adventure? Take a Vietnam motorbike itinerary through the country’s highlands. 

Below, I’ve outlined five of the best road trips you can do in the country, but don’t be afraid to combine them to make the ultimate five-week road trip through Vietnam!

3-Day Itinerary: Hanoi To HaLong Bay and Cat Ba

Boats passing through Ha Long Bay during the day

This quick, three-day trip route takes you from the Vietnamese capital through the country’s northwest and eventually to the famous Ha Long Bay. It’s the perfect motorcycle trip for those who are limited on time and can only travel a short distance from the capital and airport.

Day 1: Hanoi – HaLong Bay 

Leaving the capital, you’ll drive through the outer suburbs of Hanoi and to the ceramic village of Bat Trang, the oldest pottery village in Vietnam. Once you’ve soaked up the culture in this small village, it’s time for an adventure through Vietnam’s northwest and to the coastal city of Haiphong.

Day 2: Haiphong – Cat Ba

Day two can be a combination of exploring Haiphong and then making the coastal motorcycle ride to Lan Ha Bay and the southern part of Halong Bay, a region known for its beautiful limestone islands. A quick boat will take you and your motorbike from the bay to the island of Cat Ba.

Day 3: Exploring Cat Ba and a return to Hanoi

You can spend day three exploring the island of Cat Ba, a place that lends itself perfectly to motorcycle adventures. Attractions include exploring the island’s many winding tracks and panoramic views, as well as stopping off at the former Vietnamese cave hospital used by NVA forces during the Vietnam war. 

5-Day Itinerary: Ha Giang Loop

The famous Ha Giang Loop of Vietnam

Arguably one of the most picturesque regions of Vietnam, the province of Ha Giang in the extreme north is Vietnam motorcycle trip heaven. With jaw-dropping landscapes and minority tribal towns, complete with an untouched and unspoilt way of life, Ha Giang still remains just off the tourist trail. 

Bordering the Chinese province of Yunnan to the north and miles away from the built-up areas of Hanoi to the south, the Ha Giang Loop is a world within itself.

Here’s how to experience it in five days, though I wouldn’t blame you for adding a few days onto the end:

Day 1: Ha Giang city to Yên Minh District

On day one, you’ll leave Ha Giang city and make your way through the valleys, which will now be your home for the next five days. The first point of interest is the Quan Ba Pass, one of the many stunning mountain passes you’ll see along the loop. Good weather provided, and this first section of the route is easy going. A little further is the magical Lung Khuy Cave – a must-see diversion off the main road. Finally, you can find a place to rest your eyes in Yên Minh.

Day 2: Yên Minh to Lung Cu 

Setting out from Yên Minh, you’ll make your way through the winding roads of the Tham Ma Pass, another gorgeous valley on the Ha Giang Loop. Once you pass through the valley, you’ll come to the famous Sa Phin Market, a meeting place for the local Hmong people and other tribal peoples of northern Vietnam. From here, you can bike it to the H’Mong King Palace and the most northerly point in the country, Lungs Cu Flag Post.

Day 3: Lung Cu to Meo Vac

Leaving Lung Cu, day three will take you to the old town of Dong Van, a former colonial outpost with 100-year-old architecture. Winding ever on through the valleys, you will come to one of the most impressive parts of the loop, Ma Pi Leng Pass. This road is carved into the mountainside and makes for fantastic motorbike exploration, finishing in the town of Meo Vac. 

Day 4: Meo Vac to Du Gia

Exiting Meo Vac, you can then drive through one of the final breathtaking roads between here and Mau Due, pulling over to enjoy the views and take lots of photos as you go. After miles and miles of more mountain views, you’ll arrive at the rice-paddy-laden village of Du Gia. 

Day 5: Du Gia to Ha Giang    

For the final stretch of the journey, it’s onto the built-up town of Ha Giang to complete the loop. You can extend this motorcycle trip further by continuing your journey to Hanoi or heading over to Sapa (more on this next!).

7-Day Itinerary: Hanoi To Sapa

Rice fields in Sapa, mountainous town of Vietnam

Another Vietnam motorcycle trip that starts from the capital is the route from Hanoi to the mountain town of Sapa. Complete with mountain views, local Hmong villagers and stunning rice paddy steps, this route is what Vietnamese motorcycle trips are all about.

Day 1: Hanoi To Mai Chau

The first day will see you exit the built-up capital of Hanoi and head out into the country’s northwestern countryside. Home to a Thai ethnic group, you’ll ride past extensive farmlands and country roads, especially the forgotten French road No 6, surrounded by stunning limestone karsts. You’ll then finish the first day in the small town of Mai Chau.

Day 2: Mai Chau to Phu Yen

On day two, you can make the drive from Mai Chau, heading northwards through the idyllic Hua Tat pass, following the course of the River Da. At one point, you will need to take your bike across the river on the Van Yen ferry to make it to your final destination of the day Phu Yen.

Day 3: Phu Yen to Than Uyen

Leaving Phu Yen, it’s time to drive through the beautiful Lung Lo pass and the many mountain villages that sit along today’s route. As you then approach Mu Cang Chai, you’ll catch sight of some of the most beautiful and seldom-visited rice terraces in northern Vietnam, before arriving at Than Uyen in the evening.

Day 4: Than Uyen to Sapa

At the halfway point in this seven-day road trip, it’s time to drive towards the main town in the area, Sapa. Another French outpost, Sapa, is home to old colonial buildings and modern cafes and restaurants, ideal for stopping off for lunch. After filling up on some of Vietnam’s finest street food, head to the Qui Ho pass to cross Hoang Lien, the tallest mountain range in Vietnam.

Day 5: Sapa to Luc Yen

Day five is a much more relaxing drive, coasting through the mountain roads and passing through Lao Cai, which gives you a chance to look over the Chinese border. Finally, you’ll arrive at Luc Yen, home to the Tay people who still live in stilt houses.

Day 6: Luc Yen to Vu Linh  

Coming down from the mountains and hills, is the flattest part of the motorcycle journey. Today, you’ll pass through the picturesque villages of the Dzao and Tay peoples before stopping off for food and lodgings in Vu Linh, which sits peacefully on the banks of the beautiful Thac Ba lake.

Day 7: Vu Linh back to Hanoi

The Red River Delta route back to the Vietnamese capital means you can enjoy more picturesque roadside views without the need to ride your bike down the main highways.

10-Day Itinerary: Mekong Delta & The Central Highlands     

Local lady rowing in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam.

This Vietnam motorcycle trip takes in two of the most famous areas of the country, the southern Mekong Delta and the Central Highlands region. Leaving from Ho Chi Minh City, your route will loop through the delta and back up northwards through central Vietnam.

The ten-day trip is a great way to experience a cross-section of Vietnamese climates, from scorching river heat to soothing highland winds.

This is another easy road trip to extend, as you may want to spend a few days exploring Can Tho, Hoi An, Mui Ne and Dalat.

Day 1: Ho Chi Minh City to Ben Tre

Starting in Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City, to give it its official new name, your journey will head southwest out of the city towards the town of Ben Tre. City suburbs give way to calm village roads, ideal for long stretches of easy motorbiking.

Day 2: Ben Tre to Can Tho

On day two, you’ll delve deeper into the Mekong Delta to one of its major towns, Can Tho. During this stretch of road, you’ll need to travel over small one-track bridges and dirt tracks, only adding to the sense of adventure. Can Tho is also the site of The Mekong’s famous floating market, Cai Rang. If you’ve got time, it’s worth joining a tour to see the floating fruit and veg market come to life.

Day 3: Can Tho to Chau Doc

Day three is a day of many bridges as you cross multiple tracks over the waterways of the Mekong Delta. Your route will also take you through the Tra Su Cajuput forest, one of the most beautiful mangrove forests in Southeast Asia. The day ends in Chau Doc, giving perfect views of the Vietnam – Cambodian border.  

Day 4: Chau Doc to Cai Be

On the fourth day of this Vietnam motorbike itinerary, it’s time to change direction, as you make your way out of the delta and head back east. Driving to Cai Be instead of Can Tho means the route is a little different than on the way there, though expect plenty more bridges and waterways to cross.

Day 5: Cai Be to Vung Tau

Bypassing Ho Chi Minh City, your route eases round to the coastal town of Vung Tau, which offers up a completely different view of the country than you will have seen so far. Vung Tau coastal peninsula is a taste of things to come as you ease up Vietnam’s coast.  

Day 6: Vung Tau to Mui Ne

Continuing with the coastal theme, day six will take you down beach roads with stunning sea views. With the sandy beaches and lapping waves crashing to the right of you, there’s plenty of time to pull over for a quick dip in the sea before arriving at the beach town of Mui Ne. 

Day 7: Mui Ne to Da Lat

Say goodbye to scorching beach weather as you leave the low coastal plains and head for the Central Highlands. The road winds ever on and upwards before you climb to the highland town of Da Lat, where pine forests and coffee plantations replace the drier lowlands of Vietnam. 

Day 8: Dalat to Buon Me Thuot

Riding through the Central Highlands, this winding road will take you through endless coffee plantations and luscious green farmland. This is the perfect place to stop off and try the local coffee, especially as Buon Me Thuot is known as the coffee capital of Vietnam. Buon Me Thuot is also one of the only places in Vietnam where you can spot wild elephants roaming around!

Day 9: Buon Me Thuot to Kon Tum

Joining the famous Ho Chi Minh trail, this section is an easy drive punctuated by swing bridges, waterfalls and epic landscapes, taking you through the heart of the central region to Kon Tum. 

Day 10: Kon Tum to Hoi An

The final leg of the journey is also the longest, covering 186 miles from Kon Tum to Hoi An. A treat for eyes as well as for motorcycle lovers, this is a challenging ride with more plantations and beautiful landscapes passing by with every mile. There’s also a chance to stop at Vietnam’s premier Hindu archaeological site of Mỹ Sơn before ending your journey in the popular UNESCO town of Hoi An.

11-Day Itinerary: Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi

Motorcycles in Ho Chi Minh City during the day, Vietnam.

Embarking on a fantastic south-to-north journey through Vietnam is the king of all Vietnam motorcycle trips. Made famous in the west by the British Top Gear team, the Saigon to Hanoi journey is one full of multidimensional culture, ever-changing conditions and a real insight into Vietnam as a whole. 

Of course, this journey can be completed from either direction, but, in this case, I’ve started in Ho Chi Minh.

Again, feel free to add a few days here and there to soak in the sights of some of the larger cities. There’s no reason why you couldn’t make this an extended three-week road trip (other than having no time left of course).

Day 1: Ho Chi Minh City to Cat Tien National Park 

Starting in Ho Chi Minh, it’s time to leave the busy city behind and head north toward one of the biggest national parks in all of Vietnam. Cat Tien National Park offers green spaces to bike through and a chance to see some of the country’s famous wildlife.

Day 2: Cat Tien to Da Lat 

Leaving the hot lowlands of Cat Tien National Park behind, your route will climb into the central highlands and the mountainous roads leading towards Da Lat. The temperate climate is a nice change, and the chance to visit some of the country’s ethnic villages in the central highlands is a must.

Day 3: Da Lat to Nah Trang

When you leave the central highlands, you can take the winding route back to the coast and towards the resort city of Nah Trang. Mountain passes, and winding roads on the way to Nah Trang offer keen bikers a perfect route to let their hair down and pick up some speed. It’s better to set out early in the day to ensure you get Nah Trang before sundown, allowing you to take a dip in the sea before turning in.

Day 4: Nah Trang to Buon Ma Thuot

Riding back into the Central Highlands, you’ll drive to the region’s biggest city, Buon Ma Thuot. Surrounded by picturesque mountain roads and the odd roadside waterfall, the journey to Buon Ma Thuot is captivating. Complete with coffee plantations and farmland, Buon Ma Thuot and its surrounding area are perfect motorcycle territory.

Day 5: Buon Ma Thuot to Kon Tum

Staying close to the Ho Chi Minh Trail route, the road continues north towards the town of Kon Tum. The sight of many fights during the American War (commonly known as the Vietnam War in the west), this route is perfect for history buffs hoping to hit up some poignant sites on the way.

Day 6: Kon Tum to Hoi An

Day six is another superb day of biking when you’ll leave Kon Tum and make for the coastal town of Hoi An, 180 miles away. The up-down motion of the roads is a little trickier here, but no less idyllic and picturesque. Heading down from the central highlands, you will notice the humidity and heat rise as you make it to the UNESCO town of Hoi An.

Day 7: Hoi An to Prao

Today, on your way towards the Vietnam – Laos border, you’ll make it to the town of Prao, home to Cham architecture and tribal villagers. Stay in a guesthouse here and enjoy a few treks to local waterfalls. Far from the typical tourist trail, Prao is an untouched gem that is a welcoming stop after a tough day’s ride.

Day 8: Prao to Khe Sanh

Biking alongside the Dakrong River is some of the best wild motorbiking you can do in all of Vietnam. Over streams, jungle tracks and narrow bridges, you’ll arrive at the former US military base of Khe Sanh. The sight of a huge battle in 1968, little remains of the base, but there is a museum to visit that is dedicated to the conflict that raged here.  

Day 9: Khe Sanh to Phong Nha

Entering historic North Vietnam, this section of your Vietnam motorcycle trip will take you over the old DMZ, Truong Son war cemetery and the Hien Luong Bridge. Arriving in the Phong Nha district, you’ll be treated to magical caves and the company of the Van Kieu people.  

Day 10: Phong Nha to Tan Ky

Venturing even further north, day ten offers even more scenic views of the mountainous and inland landscapes of central Vietnam. Much of this region is unseen by your average tourist and creates the feeling that you are truly in remote Vietnam. By the end of the day, you should arrive in the small, unassuming town of Tank Ky. 

Day 11: Tank Ky to Hanoi 

The last stretch of the route takes you from the historic start of the Ho Chi Minh Trail to the Vietnam capital. The roads start smooth and open as you leave Tank Ky but generally get bumpier as you approach Hanoi. The green fields of rice transform into the built-up suburbs of inner-city Hanoi as you draw closer. After tackling the busy traffic of Hanoi’s central streets, it’s time to grab a beer in the capital’s famous Bia Hoi corner and toast to the end of your Vietnam motorbike itinerary. You should also check out these tips for driving a motorbike in Vietnam so that you know before you go!

Anthony Middleton

A former loser who took a risk. I now live in Chiang Mai, Thailand after visiting over 100 countries. Stay tuned for the next challenge against that clock!
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