Taking road trips in Northern Vietnam is the best way to see new sights and experiences with excitement that comes from such an activity: hiking, biking, kayaking to soak in the scenery and immerse in the most beautiful landscapes of Mu Cang Chai, Sapa, Ha giang, Ban Gioc waterfalls, Halong Bay, Ninh Binh, Mai Chau and Puluong viewed from the comforts of a vehicle.
Why Northern Vietnam road trip on a 4WD is just for you?
The Northern parts of Vietnam has a vast and diverse landscape, and road travel allows you and experience this diversity firsthand. The scenery will change here and there on the next 50km crossing the region. Driving from Tam Coc Trang An limestone mountains in Ninh Binh to Puluong nature rice terraced fields.
Many enjoy the sense of freedom and adventure that comes with hitting the open road, as well as the opportunity to discover new places, meet different people, and create lasting memories. Strolling the Mai Chau valley of Thai tribe and relax in village of Viet Hai on Cat Ba islands following up routes of Road trips in North of Vietnam
Learn more: Beautiful Places to Visit in Vietnam
Road trips are often seen as a way to disconnect from the fast pace of everyday life and enjoy a slower, more leisurely mode of travel. Reading a book a mountain resort at Sapa paddy fields, a short walk and hike to H’mong villages of Lao Chai – Ta Van in the valley down side Fansifan mountain peak.
Road trips with your family in Northern parts of Vietnam are the best time for you to connect and unplug from the “real world.” When else can you we spend 8 hours together with nothing to do but talk and laugh and…be together?
You meet people you’d never otherwise get to know, and see some of the coolest sights on the planet
You can get in whenever you like, and just drive. You don’t rely on public transportation, or taxis, or other people. It’s just you, the road, and wherever you want to go.
Check it out: North Vietnam Itinerary 7 Days from Hanoi
There are places to stay everywhere. drive until end of the day , and then you just start looking out for a motel, which will appear within the next hour at most, and will almost always have room.
There’s so much to do and see while on a road trip in the North of Vietnam. Driving through various Northern provinces of Vietnam means you could see a vast and diverse set of landscapes and terrains. Mountains, lakes, valleys, oceans, rivers, forests, prairies, etc. From Mu Cang Chai to Sapa rice terraced fields to Ha Giang loop to Ban Gioc waterfalls. The Northern Vietnam is naturally a very beautiful and diverse country, geographically, from Rocky mountains of Ha Giang to Halong Bay. Plus there are a lot of interesting small towns and big cities to visit across the region such as Tam Coc and Trang An in Ninh Binh. Driving through them can be quite interesting to experience local culture and differences between other cities and villages such as Bac Ha Sunday market to Hoang Su Phi terraced field lodging county . Road tripping is a fun way to see other places in the country and enjoy the beautiful nature throughout!
Some popular road trips in Northern Vietnam
Itinerary looks like this: arriving in Hanoi, then Yen Bai, Ha Giang (loop), Sa Pa, Son La, Mai Chau, Pu Long, Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh, Halong Bay, and finally returning to Hanoi!
And another route itinerary: arriving in Hanoi, then Ha Giang (loop), Cao Bang Ban Gioc waterfalls, Bac Son valley Lang Son, Halong Bay and finally returning to Hanoi.
Ha Giang Loop
Start Hanoi – Ha Giang – Quan Ba – Yen Minh – Ma Pi Leng – Lung Cu – Dong Van – Meo Vac – End in Hanoi Distance – approx 800km. Journey 4 – 5 Day tour of Halong Loop
The soaring peaks and plunging valleys of Vietnam’s northernmost province are best enjoyed at a leisurely pace, with plenty of stop-offs for revitalising dips in waterfalls, roadside snacks (nothing keeps energy levels up like dried buffalo!), and to snap photos of the rice and corn terraces tumbling down the valley’s steep hillsides.
Ha Giang means ‘water and mountains’ in Vietnamese, and you’re never far from either as you tackle this loop, with epic summits looming overhead and gurgling streams and cascading waterfalls forming a major part of the scenery. Winding its way through communities of at least 10 different ethnic minorities, the three- to five-day drive offers loads of side trips and activities, including trekking, boating and caving. The Ma Pi Leng Pass is hands-down the most scenic section of the drive, with jagged mountains surrounding the emerald Nho Que River. Remember to factor in a half day for a quiet boat trip with a spot of swimming on the river.
See more: Ha Giang loop on a 4WD SUV experiences
Cao Bang to Ban Gioc
Start Hanoi – Cao Bang – Ban Gioc waterfalls – End in Hanoi Distance – approx 700km. Journey 2-3 day tour from Hanoi
The drive from Hanoi to Cao Bang to the cascading Ban Gioc Waterfall, which straddles the China-Vietnam border, takes adventurers through some of Northern Vietnam’s most pristine pastoral terrain. Lush farmlands, stilt villages and crystal clear lakes are all on the itinerary. However, for driving enthusiasts, all might be outdone by a man-made wonder: the 3.5km-long Ma Phuc Pass, with its seven squirming bends offering gorgeous views of the terraced fields below.
For more natural highlights, consider a stop-off at the vast Nguom Ngao Cave, which extends for several kilometres underground and is home to a number of impressive stalactites, but ensure you save plenty of time for the road trip’s primary focus. Fed by the Quay Son River, the Ban Gioc Waterfalls are located partly in China and partly in Vietnam. Take in the falls from the viewing platforms or hop on a bamboo raft for a closer look at the impressive 30m-high cascades. While worthy of being tackled as a solo trip, this route is a popular add-on to the Ha Giang Loop.
Mu Cang Chai to Sapa
Start Hanoi – Mu Cang Chai – Sapa – End in Hanoi Distance – approx 800km. Journey 4-5 day tour from Hanoi
Embark on a remarkable journey that showcases the essence of Vietnam’s beauty and cultural diversity. Begin with a visit to the captivating Long Coc tea plantation, where you gain insights into the art of tea production. The tour continues with an exploration of the awe-inspiring rice terraces in both Mu Cang Chai and Sapa, where you’ll witness the harmonious blend of human ingenuity and natural landscapes.
As you traverse these picturesque terrains, you’ll also have the chance to engage with the locals from various ethnic groups, gaining a deeper appreciation for their unique cultures and ways of life. This journey promises an immersive experience that encapsulates the very essence of Vietnam’s allure.
Ha Giang loop to Cao Bang
Start Hanoi –Ha Giang loop – Cao bang Ban Gioc waterfalls – End in Hanoi Distance – approx 1200km. Journey 7 – 8 – 9 -10 day tour from Hanoi]
When exploring the north the Ha Giang Loop is by far the most popular one, but Cao Bang with Ban Gioc waterfall and Pac Bo cave becomes a more interesting destination for a 4 SUV car road trip. With enough time both the Ha Giang Loop and Cao Bang Loop could be combined for a great trip to the far north of Vietnam.
Coming from the Ha Giang province the best option is to head towards Cao Bang from Meo Vac, as it is closest to the other province, and the route covers some nice scenery. Adding the route to a north Vietnam road trip would be worthwhile.
Ho Chi Minh Highway
Start – Ho Chi Minh City; End – Hanoi; Distance – approx 1880km/1168 miles
While there are several different routes between Vietnam’s two biggest cities depending on whether you like beaches, mountains or smooth highways, the one offering the best balance between driving time (about two weeks) and excellent scenery is the Ho Chi Minh Highway, part of which was once used to transport soldiers and supplies during wartime.
Follow the road along the Truong Son mountain range as it snakes its way past sleepy hamlets, where the smell of coffee from nearby plantations hangs thick in the air. From barren plateau rise forested mountains as you reach Central Vietnam, considered the most scenic stretch of this epic road trip. Adventurers will want to stop at Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, home to the world’s largest cave, and Cuc Phuong, Vietnam’s oldest national park, located in the Red River Delta, before joining the throng of traffic on the ancient streets of Hanoi.
Read more: Vietnam 16 day family road trip car transfer
Questions About Road Trips In Northern Vietnam?
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