Keen to experience a side of Vietnam you’ve never seen before? Try exploring the country on two wheels.
A long and narrow country, Vietnam’s major cities and destinations are about a day’s drive from each other, and between these cities is beautiful, relatively untouched countryside that’s best experienced with a side of adrenaline rush—by bike.
Whether you’re a new or seasoned motorcyclist or cyclist, these scenic routes will take you through sloping mountains, breathtaking coastal roads, lush fields or even historical landmarks for an adventure of a lifetime.
Get ready to move between heaven and earth on the Hai Van Pass, which the Top Gear men have dubbed “one of the best coast roads in the world”. Its namesake translates to the poetic-sounding “ocean cloud” in English, a hint of the adventure that awaits riders bold enough to take on the quest. The reward? A scenic four- to five-hour ride with stunning views of sloping mountain ranges and coastlines from beginning to end, as the pass overlooks Da Nang to the south, while the shimmering vistas of Lang Co Lagoon provide an enticing view of the north.
At almost 500m above sea level, the Hai Van Pass’s twisting, windy road makes it a difficult course better suited for more experienced riders; expect plenty of ascents and descents, as well as a 7 percent angle for a majority of the route. But if you’re a beginner itching to experience the world-famous road, your best bet is to join one of the many guided motorbike tours offered. For peace of mind, Hoi An Motorbike Adventures is Central Vietnam’s largest motorcycle tour operator, and offers one- to three-day tours around the Hai Van Pass.
Fun fact: there are a couple of military bunkers at the top of the pass, too. These remnants from World War II serve as a stark reminder of Vietnam’s military past, but they’ve become a popular spot for wedding photos today—so don’t be surprised if you catch a glimpse of couples decked out in wedding finery during your ride.
Turn your bike wheels toward the sun and surf of Vung Tau Beach. Located 50km from Ho Chi Minh City, Vung Tao is a popular beach weekend getaway for urban dwellers itching for their dose of vitamin sea. During the ride to Vung Tau from Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll venture on country roads that will take you through rubber plantations and tapioca farms too.
Want to take full advantage of your post-ride adrenaline rush? Trek up the nearby Nho Mountain to marvel at the 105ft tall statue of Jesus Christ and Vietnam’s oldest lighthouse—besides getting a bird’s-eye view of the stunning shoreline of course! But if you’re feeling knocked out from the ride, feel free to put your feet up and laze in the sun; you’re at the beach, after all.
Fun fact: The name Vung Tau is Vietnamese for “anchorage” and is a nod to the area’s maritime past; between the 1300s–1400s, it was a bustling stopover for European trading ships.
Bring out the daredevil in you and ride through 300km of steep, winding cliffs, sharp hairpin turns and rocky roads; you’ll be rewarded with some of the most breathtaking mountain views of Northern Vietnam. This is the Hà Giang Loop, and it’s not one for beginners or the faint-hearted.
The epic route takes around three to four days to complete on a motorbike, but before you dismiss this for being too extreme, allow us to sway your opinion: the Hà Giang Loop is slated to be one of the country’s most phenomenal, with stunning scenery all around, especially as you go up the awe-inspiring Ma Pi Leng Pass; its impressive mileage means that the ride will take you right up to China’s Yunnan Province border, presenting you with the rare opportunity to experience Vietnam’s diverse environment and nature; plus, there are options to join a tour group, so you can ride at ease with like-minded travellers guided by an experienced local guide.
Hà Giang Province is home to several ethnic minority groups, and your ride here will give you a glimpse into local culture. Be sure to include the Đồng Văn Sunday Market into your itinerary, where you can get up close and personal with the villagers (especially the H’Mong people) and immerse yourself in their culture too.
Tip: The best time to embark on your Hà Giang adventure would be during dry season between March–May and September–October. You can get there via bus from Hanoi, which takes around five to seven hours.
Level: Beginner to moderate
If you’re looking for a nice, peaceful cycle through the idyllic Vietnamese countryside where village houses, lush paddy and corn fields abound, go for a ride to Bat Trang Ceramic Village. The charming village is next to the Red River, so prepare to cross over river dykes and the iconic Long Biên Bridge.
The history of Bat Trang Ceramic Village can be traced back by 700 years. Thanks to its ideal location between the ancient ports of Thang Long and Pho Hien, the village gained prominence as a premier source of high-quality ceramics in medieval Asia too. Today, you’ll be able to check out a stunning variety of ceramic goods like bowls and plates. You can also enhance your local experience here by getting your hands dirty at a pottery workshop.
Level: Beginner to moderate
Keen to explore Hanoi city and its surrounds on pedals? The West Lake and Three Bridges route is popular among cyclists for its relatively easy, flat terrain. There’s also plenty to see on the 40km stretch. Starting and ending by the iconic West Lake, you’ll be passing by the city’s beautiful parks, museums, tree-lined boulevard and more before heading into the urban outskirts and finally, the picturesque countryside. Here, your journey takes you through Hanoi’s peaceful backroads and dirt paths, where you’ll be inches away from the ubiquitous corn fields and nature. You’ll also be riding over three bridges: Long Biên Bridge, Thăng Long Bridge and Đuống Bridge. As you cycle along the Red River banks, remember to take in the scenery: floodplains, buffaloes grazing, and traditional fishing boats slowly sailing across the river.
Tip: Start your cycle in the early morning to see Tran Quoc pagoda—Vietnam’s oldest Buddhist temple—bathed in breathtaking morning sunlight. If you’re worried about getting lost, be sure to fall back on Google Maps for easy guidance, or follow this user-generated cycling route.
Other important exploration tips