Adventure riders visit Vietnam to conquer the Northern routes, and so are we. Most reviews highlight their amazing experiences, which solidify our travel intentions.
Of course, we had a great time here, but great experiences come with a price. Read our head-to-toe guide to learn all the essentials for an amazing trip to Hanoi and North Vietnam by motorcycle.
Hanoi And North Vietnam By Motorcycle: Things To Know Before Departure
Time To Ride From Hanoi To The North
It is necessary to know that the North Vietnam region can be divided into three motorcycle routes: The North East, the North West, and Ha Giang Loop. Each may take you four to seven days to uncover its charms fully. This means you should schedule a month to reach every corner of the North.
Unfortunately, planning a motorbike itinerary is never so easy. We rode the CB 500x at least 100km a day but were still dissatisfied with our thirst for thrills and spills. There are a lot of factors that slow down your speed, such as the amazing scenery or the bad weather.
Our fellows could not stop snapping their cameras in front of the magnificent rice terraces, so we had to skip a few stops afterward. The sudden downpours also hindered our motorcycle trip despite being fully prepared. They obstructed the view ahead, so we could not take the risk of climbing to the top.
So do not try to plan strictly or commit to a specific itinerary. Just travel with your tempo! Feel free to spend a longer time at your favorite places or skip the ones you are not interested in.
Best Time To Start Your Northern Vietnam Motorcycle Tour
The perfect moment of departure boils down to your preference. If you have rich driving experience, come to Vietnam whenever you can. The landscape in the North changes with the seasons, so there are always hidden gems to spoil you.
In contrast, scheduling in September or October – the tourist season – is ideal for the inexperienced. The temperature drops and the rains subside after a sweltering summer, promising a pleasant trip. Remember to prepare some warm clothes for your body at night.
Major Sections Worth Trying
There are many ways to explore Northern Vietnam, but we’ve compiled a list of ten must-try routes. Feel free to combine your favorites for a one-of-a-kind trip.
|Northeast Loop||Cao Bang – Lang Son – Bac Kan – Ba Be||Majestic waterfall, caves, lakes|
|Harvest Route||Mu Cang Chai – Yen Bai||Terraced rice fields, minority villages, green valleys|
|Northwest Loop||Lao Cai – Lai Chau – Muong Lay – Muong Te – Dien Bien||Borderlands, rivers, mountains|
|Limestone Path||Hanoi – Mai Chau – Pu Luong – Thanh Hoa||Limestone karsts, rice paddies, bamboo forests|
|Sin Ho Loop||Sapa – Lai Chau – Sin Ho – Phong Tho||Giant mountains, rice terraces, deep valleys|
|Back-Roads And Border Routes||Sapa – Lao Cai – Muong Khuong – Bac Ha – Xin Man – Hoang Su Phi – Ha Giang||Gorges, challenging mountain pass, rice fields|
|Extreme North Loop||Ha Giang – Tam Son – Yen Minh – Du Gia – Dong Van – Meo Vac – Bao Lac||Limestone karsts, pine forests, gentle rivers|
|High Road Path||Ha Giang – Ba Be Lake – Cao Bang||Jungle, natural park, deep valleys|
|Y Ty Loop||Sapa – Y Ty – Lao Cai||Chinese borderlands, ethnic villages|
Watch Out for Some Shortcomings
Motorcycle tours in the northern provinces are adventure tours not for those looking for a comfortable and luxurious vacation. Keep in mind that you may face bad road conditions and unpredictable weather. Sudden showers can mess up the dirt road, and your vehicle gets stuck.
Finding cozy rooms, standard customer service, and support from English-fluent locals also seems impossible. If you prefer these things, book a flight to bustling cities like Da Nang or Ho Chi Minh City. In compensation, you may skip the incredible views to natural landscapes and cultural activities of ethnic tribes.
Our North Vietnam Motorbike Tours: 7-Day Escape To The Wild Nature
Day 1: Hanoi – Cao Bang Motorbike Route
Leaving the buzzing city center, we departed towards Ba Be – home of many natural landscapes as the first stop in our Hanoi motorbike tours. We arrived at noon and stayed there for one night. As quick travelers, we could try both exciting activities guided by local staff – a boat tour of the lake and trekking to Hua Ma Cave.
The second option filled our souls with joys and surprises. The fanciful stalactites and stone pillars reflecting the meager light from the entrance took us into another fantasy world.
Day 2: Cao Bang By Dirtbikes
We started very early to make the most out of the day. The stunning scenery kicked the stagnancy in our minds as soon as we reached the Ban Gioc waterfall.
The beauty of this place couldn’t be put into words but can only be fully sensed when you contemplate with your naked eye. While the headwaters with strong currents gave off an intense vibe, the small stream weaved from the lake bed down to the bottom gravel floors calmed our souls.
We lost track of time for a lot of spontaneous activities here and ended up having limited time at Tiger Cave and even missing out on Pac Po Cave. When the night embraced the road, we had no choice but to stay overnight at Bao Lac – an unplanned stopover. It is hard to accept, but this is common in the North.
Day 3: Ha Giang Loop Motorcycle Trip
That’s right; our favorite day has arrived. We visited many interesting attractions, including Meo Vac, Ma Pi Leng Pass, Lung Cu Flagpole, Ta Ta Lung Cave, Chin Khoanh Slope, and Dragon Cave. The most interesting stop went to Ma Pi Leng Pass, part of the Hoang Lien Son range.
It has been the first time since we started our motorcycling hobby that we felt a bit of fear in some twisties. A narrow road with a deep abyss on one side sent chills down our spine while the fog casted a shroud of secrecy upon the mountain and masked our vision, weaving and dancing among the ancient trees that cling to the slopes. As a result, our shirts got sweaty when we made it to the top.
Day 4: Ha Giang – Sapa Motorbike Tour
We dedicated the 4th day to unique cultural activities. In Bac Ha, we slowed down on a scenic road that stretched past small ethnic minority villages and military posts before they reached the bustling market. We were intrigued by crafts with tribal touches, but it was impossible to bargain.
Our friend reported poor infrastructure on DT 177, so we took QL279 as an alternative route. Unfortunately, the situation wasn’t so good either. Pay close attention to the direction signs unless you want to return to Hanoi.
Day 5: Sapa – Lao Cai Motorcycle Path
Our schedule covered many stops at famous attractions, but they were not our cup of tea. On the bright side, we learned a cool architecture lesson in Hoang A Tuong Mansion dating back to the French colonial period.
We continued on DT153, one of the best-quality roads. It threw some off-road challenges but included a few straight tracks to distract your attention from the surroundings.
The terrain turned bad as we followed the Chinese border. The last stop of the day, Y Ty, featured picturesque landscapes, but we could not stay overnight due to the lack of government permits.
Day 6: Lao Cai – Ta Phin Motorbike Trip
We couldn’t hold back our excitement on the way to Ta Phin Cave, famous for its archaeological works. We also met Dao and Hmong people and joined them with the farm work.
We then headed to QL32, but it was a wrong decision. Everything was quite boring except for the Rong May glass bridge and a short part of the way through a mysterious cave. Worse yet, a random route took us past the beautiful Mu Cang Chai.
Day 7: Back To Hanoi
It took about 300 km to get us back to the capital, and luckily, we had a stop in between for relaxation. It was called Bach Long, forecasted to be the longest glass bridge in the world. Some of our friends went against this architectural site since it was blamed for destroying the natural creation.
On the contrary, we believed it was a good opportunity to develop tourism. Otherwise, visitors will never be able to visit Chim Than cave, which is associated with legends of mythical species.
Despite some shortcomings, Hanoi and North Vietnam by motorcycle was one of our best trips ever. We have learned and experienced many wonderful things to expand our understanding and aesthetics.
As you can see, we’ve only accomplished some of the nine major routes. So we will try another offroad Vietnam motorbike tour soon! Follow our blogs for great upcoming itineraries!
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