Vietnam: The Perfect Route

  • © lea,

    © lea,

Discover the many different faces of Vietnam from north to south, plus a short detour to the Mui Ne peninsula


Take the N 1 from Saigon past seemingly endless suburban sprawl as far as the coast. Make your first stop in the port city of Phan Thiet with its fine, 20km (12 mi) long beach on the Mui Ne peninsula. After the traffic chaos of Saigon, this place is a haven of peace and tranquillity. Amateur photographers in search of artistic shots will be inspired by the famous sand dunes here.


As you proceed north, do stop off near the bustling town of Phan Rang to see the remarkable Cham towers at Po Klong Garai, which date from the 13/14th century. You will encounter the impressive legacy of this once powerful tribe later. As you continue along the N 1 coast road, stop off for a swim in the sea near Nha Trang, Vietnam’s first beach resort - former emperor Bao Dai used to take a dip here. If you like to go in a little deeper, then there are some worthwhile things for you to do. It may be something for another time, but there are no fewer than 25 dive sites and 70 offshore islands to explore. Take a break from the beach, with its hawkers and campfire parties, and pay a visit to the Long Son Pagoda, where the enormous white Buddha is the main attraction.


Keep to the coast on the spectacular mountain pass near Dai Lanh and enjoy some amazing views. The mountains gradually get closer to the coast, until finally the city of Qui Nhon comes into view. Stay the night in one of the new beach hotels here or carry on to Hoi An. Once a small fishing town on the Thu Bon river, it is now a very popular spot with travellers. In recent years, dozens of hotels in all price categories have opened here to satisfy demand. Souvenir shops, galleries and tailors quickly followed. It is definitely worth spending time here to admire the beautiful old timber buildings, trading houses, Chinese pagodas and covered bridges. There‘s also a beach...


It’s only a short hop to Da Nang, and the Cham Museum in this modern city is definitely worth a visit. In the 16th century, Spanish and Portuguese sailing ships moored alongside the beach here. They were followed 300 years later by the French navy, and then in March 1965 came the US navy, which transformed this port city into what became the largest American military base in southeast Asia. The legacy of the war lingers on – it could be China Beach, of TV series fame, or the caverns beneath the Marble Mountains, where the Viet Cong had a hideaway. Take a detour to Hai-Van-Pass between Da Nang and Hue. With a bit of luck, you will be able to enjoy the stunning view over the peninsula and Lang Co lagoon from Cloud Pass at an altitude of 496m (1,625ft).


The peaks of the distant Truong Son mountain range rise to a height of 1,400m (4,600ft). In Hue, the city on the Perfume River, you will be immersed into a world of Imperial splendour. In 1802, Emperor Gia Long built his residence and palace here; the tombs of six emperors and the famous Thien Mu Pagoda draw in travellers from all over the world.


Another fascinating sight awaits you near Dong Hoi, where you will find the UNESCO-protected Phong Nha Cave. Just as fascinating is the region known as Ha Long Bay on land, which the N 1 crosses near Ninh Binh. It's a fairytale landscape dominated by huge green limestone rocks emerging from the rice fields. The teeming capital of Hanoi is now only approximately 90km (55mi) away.

Approx 1500km (925 mi)
Driving time: approx. 30 hours, allow 2-3 weeks

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