Vietnam is a gem of a country, filled to the brim with history, delicious food and incredible scenery. We’d recommend a cycling holiday here any day – yes Vietnam is great for cycling! Because travelling by bike is right up our street, we know all about the best cycling routes in Vietnam. Read on to find your favourite…
Vietnam’s city roads are the epitome of organised chaos. Yet there’s something intriguing and magical about the sea of motorbikes zipping through the labyrinth of vibrant streets. On every corner local Pho restaurants waft out irresistible smells, and colourful shops selling this and that squish in between. You’ll notice that nothing is perfect, however nothing is dull either.
Although Vietnam has witnessed wars since 111BC when China invaded, as well as French colonial rule, their culture is peaceful. The quiet countryside retains tradition as the modernising cities race ahead to become more technologically and commercially advanced. At the same time, Vietnam’s calm, buddhist inspired lifestyle seeps from the luscious rice paddies and mountains into the skyscrapers and tourist hotspots. Just as the cities, such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, house unique architecture, the places in between boast beautiful landscapes. For this reason we recommend travelling by bike, to experience much more than what regular tourists see.
Over a period of 7 days, consider traversing 457km of Vietnam’s coast, from Hue to Nha Trang. En route there are historic towns, secluded beaches and vast highlands stretching out beyond your path. Begin your coastal journey in Hue, the capital city of Vietnam between 1802-1945. Although many historic sites in Hue were damaged in the Vietnam war, the walled Imperial City just about survived. Make sure you visit here before cycling onward, along with the ancient tombs if you have time.
Next up on your Central Coast cycling route is Hoi An, home to a network of canals and an ancient city. Cycle here using the 10km climb up Hai Van Pass, dubbed by Jeremy Clarkson, ‘a deserted ribbon of perfection’. Hoi An is particularly special given it’s UNESCO heritage status, with colourful lanterns lining the vibrant streets. Delve deeper into Vietnam’s peaceful countryside, cycling parallel a railway line from Dieu Tri to Tuy Hoa. Admire the mountains and valleys folding into the stunning landscape as you reach Whale Island, a perfect finish. Relax on the irresistible sandy beaches, go for a swim in the clear blue sea or explore the coconut groves before leaving. There’s a reason why the Central Coast cycling holiday is one of the best cycling routes in Vietnam!
Saigon to Hanoi
We recommend spending 15 days making your way from Saigon in the South, to Hanoi in the North. In total the distance will be 787km, which is a challenge to many cyclists, yet worth every pedal stroke. Because the route takes you between two different areas, there are plenty of opportunities for discovering new scenery, food and lifestyles. By starting in the capital, Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh city) you can unearth the lesser known details of the Vietnam War. Wander around the War Remnants Museum, and crawl through the Cu Chi tunnels. The tunnels were crucial to communication during the Vietnam War as well as to store food and hide in.
In contrast to tackling mountain climbs throughout the route, there will be much deserved down time. Where better than coastal Nha Trang to relax? Take a boat trip to the pristine surrounding islands, where you can snorkel amidst colourful fish and coral. After a couple nights in Nha Trang, Hanoi gradually becomes closer, with stops in Hoi An and Hue en route. A true highlight of Hanoi is the iconic Halong Bay. Picturesque limestone karsts jut out from the crystal water, decorated with lush forests and hidden caves. We recommend hopping on a boat cruise where you can weave in and out of the karsts, or even kayak!
North Ho Chi Minh Highway
For the hardcore road cyclists, the Ho Chi Minh Highway will be your Asian cycling haven. It’s definitely one of the best cycling routes in Vietnam. Offbeat and much more rugged than your average Sa Calobra, the roads are not always smooth tarmac. However, a road bike still does the job, and the whole route feels like an epic adventure. The North section is especially thrilling, due to the incredible mountainous landscape and challenging climbs peppered about. You should expect to ride an average of 100km a day, in addition to 1025m of climbing. The best section in terms of quality is the Northern section, starting in Hanoi and ending in Hue.
As we mentioned previously, Vietnam’s city roads are full of buzzing motorbikes. Hanoi is no stranger to the organised chaos, yet the traffic is nothing to be hesitant about. It is often slow moving and drivers are generally respectful of cyclists, as there are many bikes too! Make sure to explore Hanoi’s museums, delicious street food stalls and various quarters, including the architecturally unique French Quarter. From Hanoi head south along the Song Ma river, coffee plantations and jungles. The time needed to cycle this route is around 9 days without a rest day. There will be many towns and villages where you can stop for the night, with locals happy to welcome you.
When to Go
Overall, the best time to visit any part of Vietnam is between September until April. Although there will be slight variations in the South and North, for the most part both areas are similar. Take note of the monsoon season between April and August, as the weather is hot, humid and wet. Not ideal for cycling! Whilst the North becomes cooler during winter months, it is still a great time to be out on the bike. Any of our best cycling routes in Vietnam are subject to a bad weather day here and there, however planning which season you go makes all the difference.
Make sure to have lots of water and bike repair equipment, as sometimes shops can be a reasonable distance away.
There is no need to go super fast. In rural areas it’s nice to go a bit slower and take the incredible landscape in.
Cycling in Vietnam is an adventure, meaning nice clothing may get dirty so bring old stuff!
Due to Vietnam being in close proximity to Cambodia, and consequently Thailand, why not consider cycling all of them? Set off from Saigon and end in Cambodia’s Siem Reap, where you’ll find the famous Angkor Wat temple complex. Or, take the long road all the way to Bangkok in Thailand via Cambodia.
Up for an adventure? Contact our cycling specialists today and book your cycling trip of a lifetime in Vietnam. We offer well organised guided cycling holidays, which are hosted by knowledgeable guides and include accommodation, bikes and baggage transfers.