This fourteen-day cycling tour will take you from Hanoi in the north of Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh City in the south. The itinerary has been designed for leisure cyclists seeking a pleasurable means of discovering the best of the country’s rich cultural and natural heritage.
Although the route doesn’t require a high level of skill, good stamina is important. You would need to be a regular cyclist in your home country and be willing to prepare before leaving for Vietnam unless you are already at a high level of fitness. If you’re starting from scratch, about 45 minutes of exercise (either cycling or jogging) three to five times a week for two or three months prior to your departure is advisable.
The early part of the tour is deliberately planned to enable you to get used to your bicycle and the terrain. Unless you are fully fit and therefore unfamiliar with the rigours of cycling, we recommend careful preparation.
The cycling element is at moderate level arranged in eight one-day sections varying from approximately 40km to a maximum of 80km each day. Surfaces are mainly asphalted roads and dirt tracks. Gradients range from gentle to challenging with the former in the majority.
Typically, each cycling day begins with a drive to a suitable dropping off point to avoid the main highways. Accompanied by an expert local cyclist and guide, the route takes you to places of interest en-route. Breaks, both planned and ad hoc, are frequent.
A support vehicle will be available throughout each cycling section. Should you be finding the pace a bit too exhausting, you’ll be able to skip a stage to relax your legs and save energy for the next section of the course.
Day 1: Arrival at Hanoi (Dinner, Guide)
Arriving at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, you’ll be met and driven to your hotel. You’ll have time to relax after your journey before a ‘Welcome’ dinner at a restaurant in a restored French colonial building. In the evening, you’ll have tickets for a performance of traditional Water Puppetry, an art form unique to northern Vietnam, and a good, light-hearted introduction to its rural culture. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.
Day 2: Hanoi - Ha Long (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
After breakfast, you’ll leave for Ha Long Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas and the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape. There you’ll board your boat, a wooden junk built from the model of the old Vietnamese court vessels with sails, a wide transom and rectangular superstructure, that will take you first to the busy World Heritage area and then to some of the less well-known grottoes and caves. Weather permitting, you’ll be able to swim, fish, climb a hill (not a mountain!) for an overview of the Bay’s remarkable seascape, or venture into some of the sea level caves in a small sampan. All your meals will be provided on board, usually based on fresh seafood, and you’ll sleep in a twin cabin with an en suite toilet and shower.
For your two-day Ha Long excursion, you'll board one of the best quality boats on the Bay, a wooden junk based on the model of the old Vietnamese court vessels with sails, a wide transom and rectangular superstructure. The boats vary in size, accommodating between ten and eighteen people, so you're likely to be joining other travellers for the cruise. Your cabin will be about six metres square, and furnished with twin bunks, two fans, an air-conditioner, pillows, white cotton sheets, and an en suite toilet and shower. All your meals, usually based on fresh seafood, will be provided on board.
Day 3: Ha Long – Hanoi - Hue (Brunch, Guide Pick up)
You’ll spend the morning cruising Ha Long Bay, followed by lunch just before docking around noon and leaving for Hanoi thence to the Noi Bai airport for a late afternoon flight to Hue. When you arrive, you’ll be met by our guide and driven to your hotel for check-in. You’ll spend the night in Hue.
Day 4: Cycling day (40km)- Imperial Hue (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
In the morning, your bicycles will be at your hotel ready for you to ride through Hue’s rural villages towards the Thanh Toan Bridge (roofed in Chinese style). Nearby, a local market will provide you with views of daily life and local products. You'll then return to Hue’s city centre with en-route visit the Ngoc Son Princess ‘garden house’. It has an attractive family altar and the owner is an expert on Hue’s culture and history – he will be pleased to explain the geomantic principles underpinning the building and garden’s construction.
After lunch, your route will take you past the Imperial Citadel to visit some of the garden houses in Phu Mong Kim Long village, followed by a visit to the Thien Mu Pagoda. From there, you'll cross the river by boat to ride along a country lane to one of the handicraft villages in Hue’s hinterland that specialises in a single product range of ‘Huong Tram’ (incense sticks) village before looping back to your hotel.
In the evening, you’ll sit down for dinner in the pleasant surroundings and a comfortable atmosphere of another of the garden houses. The owner will prepare and serve a traditional meal based on the distinctive characteristics of classic Hue cuisine. You’ll spend the night in Hue.
The garden houses are a unique feature of Hue. The houses are traditional, privately owned, and set in attractive formal gardens. Some have connections with the old Royal Imperial Court. Hue traditional architecture has long had close associations with the natural environment. The garden houses reflect this association. Each is highly individual - house and garden, people and scenery, plants, clouds and water co-exist and blend with each other in a harmonious context. The narrow streets and abundant flora give the garden house area a country village feeling.
Day 5: Cycling Hue to Hoi An (80km cycling) (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
A classic cycling trail for people with average fitness - taxing, but not exhausting! You’ll be driven to the coast, about 18km (or 2O minutes) beyond Hue’s city limits. The first 40km is off the beaten track along a picturesque lane shaded by coconut palms running alongside a peninsula from Thuan An beach to Vinh Loc. A pause to explore the hundreds of ancestral tombs scattered across the high sand dunes is a welcome break.
Upon reaching the end of the peninsula, a local ferry will take you across the Perfume River’s estuary and, after reaching dry land, the route takes you a further 11km arrive at Highway 1. At this point you have two options – brave the traffic on Vietnam’s busiest road or be transferred to the start of today’s three hill climbs. Unless you enjoy following heavy juggernauts belching diesel fumes, we recommend the latter!
After the first two moderate climbs, each about 3km, a break to relax, sunbathe, splash in the azure waters of Lang Co beach and seafood lunch, you’ll be ready for the Hai Van Pass. You’ll ignore the tunnel, full of commercial traffic and noxious gasses, in favour of the 11km mountain road. Since the tunnel was built, it’s very quiet - the gradient is manageable and the views breathtaking!
Finally, you’ll then be transferred the rest of the way to Hoi An Ancient Town, a historic old port and trading post where you’ll spend the night.
Hoi An town is a UNESCO World Heritage area. An ancient trading port, once the largest in Indochina, Hoi An was a meeting point for many cultures that left their mark in the different architectural features of its wooden buildings. The original traditional street pattern still exists, as does the quay that once welcomed ships from all over East Asia and beyond. Many remained there for months at a time, waiting for favourable trade winds to carry them home.
There are plenty of good restaurants offering a variety of cuisines and price levels. The town is also a good place for shopping for silk. You can have your clothes tailor-made within a day or two at reasonable cost.
Day 6: Cycling day (35km) - My Son (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
A gentle ride westward to the World Heritage My Son Sanctuary, mostly on quiet level roads following the banks of the Thu Bon River!
Seven kilometres after setting off, you’ll cross the river to visit a fishing village. After remounting and dropping in at a local market, a further 11km takes you to Bara bridge for a break and refreshments. Revitalized, you’ll soon need to push your cycles across a couple of major roads, then it’s more back roads until you reach My Son.
Your guide will show you the remains of the remarkable towers constructed by the Cham builders, many centuries ago - their origins and purpose have yet to be fully explained. In the afternoon, you’ll return to your hotel via your support vehicle rest of the day to do what like.
Once, the My Son Sanctuary was the spiritual capital of the Cham Kingdom that dominated SE Asia for nearly a thousand years. The Cham craftsmen built a network of intricately-worked red brick columns heavily incised with figures and motifs as well as many striking statues. Their towers were badly bombed in the American war, but are still impressive, as is its remote valley setting. The complex is set in a quiet, richly forested area bisected by a clear stream. However, the tree cover is not complete and the valley acts as suntrap, so good sun protection is important.
Day 7: Cycling day (47km)- Hoi An to My Lai (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After a hearty breakfast, you’ll drive along Highway 1 to Quang Ngai and My Tra Hotel, your overnight accommodation. Your bicycles will be waiting for you. The first stage is gentle - quiet country lanes leading to the coast and fishing villages. A short 2km ascent to the top of Thien An Mountain offers striking views of the surrounding countryside with time to visit an ancient Pagoda dating back to 1650 and still an active place of worship. The monks living in the pagoda are always welcoming - have a small donation ready!
The gradient is now downhill towards the site of the infamous My Lai massacre, now a shrine dedicated to the unarmed 550 villagers, mainly women and children, slaughtered by the Americans in March, 1968. Many were raped, beaten, tortured, or maimed before they were killed. A museum and gardens commemorate the event, but the silence broken only by the sighing of the breeze in the trees is its own memorial.
After a guided tour to reflect on the war, the quiet roads take you to the beach for relaxation and perhaps a swim. After a picnic lunch, you can loop round through the fishing villages to return to Quang Ngai or, if you’re tired, take the direct route back to your hotel.
Day 8: Cycling day (73km)- My Lai to Quy Nhon (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
Today, the serious cycling begins, hence an early breakfast! A drive takes you to the start point, 99km south of My Lai. The first section meanders alongside the coast from Binh Duong, Tung Giang and Tuy Phuoc on a small provincial road passing many villages, far from the main highway. There’ll be plenty of time to dismount to experience the warmth and friendliness of Vietnamese people. The surface varies from reasonable to rough, so the support vehicle may have to detour to avoid hazards. Eventually, you’ll arrive at Tuy Phuoc, 9km to Quy Nhon City, your destination and accommodation. You can cycle this last stage if you wish, but you may prefer to be driven as this the section of the road is quite busy.
Day 9: Cycling day (67km)- Quy Nhon to Nha Trang (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
Another early start and a transfer well away from the main highway! The day’s route mostly follows the lanes and tracks alongside the Reunification Express railway. The first stage will be on an isolated but well-surfaced road. The gently rolling terrain and views of the Highland foothills make a splendid backdrop for the potbellied pigs and barefooted children dashing across your trail as you pass ethnic minority and Vietnamese communities’ en-route. You’ll be quite a spectacle for the villagers, so expect plenty of offers of hospitality.
As your ‘off the beaten track’ route begins to converge with the highway, you’ll transfer to four-wheel transport and head to Nha Trang where you’ll spent the night, stopping at Dai Lanh Beach for a dip and refreshments on the way.
Day 10: Cycling day (80km)- Nha Trang to Mui Ne (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
As usual, you’ll drive to the outskirt of the city to avoid the traffic. Once on your cycles, the route continues southward towards Cam Ranh (32 kilometres, about two hours) until you join Highway 1 and dismount. After driving to Ca Na for lunch, you’ll drive to Luong Son, where you re-mount. At 48km, (about one and a half hours) the last stage is the longest. Although the terrain undulates from time to time, the road is good quality so you can make good time. As you near Mui Ne and your hotel, the last section is hilly with high sand dunes and ocean views.
Day 11 to Day 13: Mui Ne free (Breakfast)
Your time will be your own.
Phan Thiet town is undistinguished apart from one international hotel and a good golf course. Not far away is Mui Ne Beach, one of the best beaches in Vietnam, famous for its huge rolling dunes. There is a good range of hotels on the beach, some offering accommodation in bamboo villas and bungalows. Many have very attractive, well-kept gardens. Large trees and palms screen the hotels from each other creating a sense of seclusion. There are also plenty of restaurants along the beach road - a mixture of Vietnamese and international. Apart from an 18 km beach and places to stroll in the cool of the evenings, there's not much to do at Mui Ne apart from relaxing on the sand and swimming. Alternatively, you could choose to visit the golf course in Phan Thiet.
Day 14: Mui Ne - Ho Chi Minh City Departure (Breakfast, Driver Pick up)
Your time will be your own until your driver arrives to take you to Ho Chi Minh City. (approx. 4.5 hours) for your departure flight.
- Free Vietnam Visa invitation letter
- Breakfast and accommodation sharing a twin or double room.
- Pick-ups and transfers by private air-conditioned vehicle as specified in the itinerary above. For description, see below
- Domestic flight tickets: Hanoi - Hue, including domestic airport taxes.
- Boat cruise as programme. For Ha Long Bay, you’ll cruise on a high quality private wooden boat good facilities and an experienced crew. The boat will be fully licensed and comply with current safety regulations.
- Road travel in an appropriate private vehicle for transfer and back up when cycling as itinerary (supplement luggage van to carry bike and baggage).
- The services of experienced English-speaking guides as indicated in the itinerary.
- Where necessary, entry fees for all visits as mentioned in the programme.
- Lunches and dinners, as specified, in the best local restaurants, picnics where suitable restaurants are not available, and full board on the boat in Ha Long Bay.
- Good quality touring cycles for all cycling days in the programme.
- Drinking water for cycling days as itinerary.
- Snack, soft drink and local fruits for cycling days.
- Simple first aid kit.
- VAT and other taxes.
- International flight tickets and airport tax.
- Lunches and dinners, except as specified above.
- Drinks, gratuities and personal expenses.
- Surcharges for peak season (if any)
- Compulsory meals (if any)