Best Tour Routes: The North is the Place to Ride
No matter what anyone says, the North has the best tour routes 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, have opened up beyond belief. Some would say it is a little too much, too soon. Now, with the help of Google Maps and Earth people are finding a lot of new routes and are able to keep ahead of the ever encroaching concrete and tarmac roads. 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.
Planning Your Tour
Finding the really out or the way places are quite tricky and best done with a guide. Even if you can find these places with Google Maps, you won’t know where to stay or eat. In this case, it is best to take a guide along so that a large portion of that stress can be removed and you are then left to enjoy your trip. If you take a look at our ‘Tours’ page you will see what we can offer in the way of tours.
If you are looking for a larger bike, then we can wholeheartedly recommend Explore Indochina as they are the best of the best, when it comes to this and also Cuong’s Motorbike Adventures. Both of these firms have been in the game a long time, and really know their stuff.
Self Guided Tour
If you do choose to self-guide then you would be well advised to use the map below. 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.
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.
This run will take you down through the Red River Delta and onwards to the Ho Chi Minh. It is the beginning of your route to either Danang or Saigon. You will move up into the hills and out of the rice paddy to be encircled by thick virgin forest. We keep you off the main roads and take the smaller roads that skirt the border with Laos. Some of these areas are extremely remote, therefore, some preparation is needed. Fuel and breakdowns are the biggest enemies of the motorbike tourer on this tour but these risks can be managed well. South to Danang should take a minimum of 6 days and on to Saigon will take another 8 to 10 days.
This is a 4-day loop that will take you very close to the border with Laos. Ask us and we will tell you where the secret border point is. You will head out of Hanoi and over to the hills of Mai Chau, Hoa Binh for your first night. After this, you will head westwards towards Laos on good tarmac roads that are not well-worn at all. Once by the border, you will be the talk of the town as very few foreigners are ever seen out this way. On the way back to Hanoi, you will pass through the Pu Luong Nature Reserve and some more very quiet and scenic roads. Then, it is back into the city and the mayhem. You will wish you had taken a longer trip.
The easiest way to get out to the sea and the beach from Hanoi is to get over to the beautiful Cat Ba in Ha Long Bay. This route is not the most beautiful route in Vietnam but it will get you to one of the most scenic beauty spots in all of Vietnam. Ha Long Bay is a world heritage site that is registered with UNESCO. There are some beautiful roads through the Ca Ba National Park and plenty of sites to see and things to do. Our blog on Cat Ba Island outlines all the things you can see and do.
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.
To get the most out of your time in country, it is definitely the best idea to take one of our tours. You can see these on our page that lists all of our motorbike tours of Vietnam.