Northern Vietnam: 5 Best Motorbike Tour Routes

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The North is the Place to Ride

No matter what anyone says, the North is the place to be if you wish to take a motorbike tour in Vietnam. Everyone can take part as there are routes for all levels and you can mix and match these routes and see the places you want to see as well as drive on the type of road that you want to.

There are the well-worn routes that have everything you need and there are newer areas for the more adventurous travel. Places like Ha Giang, which was very hard to tour until only a few years ago which have opened up beyond belief. Some would say a little too much. However, there are still places off the beaten track that the adventurous can find, with or without a guide. So, whatever your skill level and tolerance for hardship, there is something for you.

crossing the Cau River, just north of Hanoi
crossing the Cau River, just north of Hanoi

Planning Your Tour

Guided Tour

Finding the really out or the way places are quite tricky and best done with a guide. We recommend sCuong at Cuong’s Motorbike Adventures and Hung at Flamingo as they have been in the game longer than us and really know their stuff.

Self Guided Tour

If you do choose to self-guide then you would be well advised to print out this map. At the very least, jot down the names of the daily destinations IN VIETNAMESE so that you can show this when asking for directions. You are also well-advised to ASK TWO OR MORE PEOPLE when asking for directions. This is just to be sure you don’t go the wrong way.

wee Mai Chau mountain pass
wee Mai Chau mountain pass

The Best Tour Routes in North Vietnam

This map shows the main routes in the North and a few alternative routes that are also quite easy to take. Use them to make a basic plan.

North West Loop

A classic loop fitting in the historical sites Dien Bien Phu and some fantastic mountain passes. Then up to Sa Pa and Fansipan before heading downstream to Hanoi. It is best to take a minimum of 6 days for this 10-12 to make it very leisurely.

Ha Giang Loop

Many agree that this is the Vietnamese ‘Mecca’ for touring and with good reason. Stunning roads, beautiful passes, and a rich cultural heritage all make this the premier destination in Vietnam. It takes a day to get up and one to get back. Add this to you needing 3-4 days in Ha Giang and you have your 5-6 day minimum requirement for the tour.

North East Loop

Excellent routes through amazing Karst Scenery. There is a rich diversity of ethnic people here in addition to the waterfalls and thrilling routes. Another added bonus is that tourism is still underdeveloped here.  Allow a minimum of 6 days for this route.

Central North Loop

This is a full-on route that is going to see your head from the lowlands to the highlands and back. On the way, you will see about everything the North can offer in terms of diversity of people and the environment. It is not for the beginner and you should allow at least 10 days for something like this.

South West Loop

In some ways, this is a beginner’s ride. However, you are quickly out into the countryside and smelling wood smoke. It passes through the Da River Valley with wonderful views and lakeside roads. You can also reach great heights and take some particularly treacherous roads if you wish. You will need to set aside a minimum of 3 days for this. But, 4-5 would be better.

Make your own plan (with us!)

Think about how much time you can spend in-country and then consider your skill level. Take a look at the Vietnam tour routes above and see which one of these areas appeals to you the most.

Combining all these factors often means that we need to mix and match at least two of these routes. By doing so, you will end up with a great route that will be best suited to you and your group.

Honda XRs parked up at the enduro trail in Soc Son
Honda XRs parked up at the enduro trail in Soc Son