Hiring a car and setting off on an adventure along the famous Hai Van Pass, made even more popular by an episode of Top Gear in 2008, is easy to organise and will give you unrivalled views of the coastline.
The one-day drive leads you up through the lush mountains, offering stunning views across misty treetops and out over the ocean. There are plenty of points of interest to stop off at along the way too, which are sure to make it a road trip to remember.
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Having a car in Hue will make it easier to get around and discover the city’s rich history and numerous attractions.
Visit the Imperial City, an impressive citadel containing palaces and temples. Then, drive four kilometres southwest to the 19th century Thien Mu Pagoda looking over Perfume River, or seek out Tu Hieu Pagoda a little further out. For something a bit different, you could go in search of the famous abandoned water park hidden in the forest.
After you’ve explored Hue and are ready to set off on your 135 kilometre journey to Hoi An, make sure you give yourself at least six hours to travel and take in the beautiful sights along the way.
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Hai Van Pass
Instead of the more direct Hai Van Tunnel, opt for the scenic Hai Van Pass. Springtime marks the start of the dry season, which is ideal for this winding route which can become slippery during the rainy months.
Twisting its way high up into the majestic mountains, you’ll drive through dense green foliage with panoramic views of the glistening sea and coastline below. Rustic roadside cafés provide the perfect lookout points to pause for a Vietnamese coffee while admiring the sweeping vistas.
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Lang Co Beach
The Hai Van Pass leads down to Lang Co Beach, nestled at the foot of the mountains. Surrounded by fishing villages, the 10 kilometre stretch of fine white sand is backed by palm trees and a beautiful lagoon.
Roughly the halfway mark between Hue and Hoi An, it’s a lovely place to stop for a refreshing swim or take a break for lunch at one of the local seafood restaurants.
Continue south towards the city of Da Nang and you’ll find more beautiful beaches punctuating the coastal route, including Non Nuoc Beach and Thanh Binh Beach.
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A short drive from Da Nang will take you towards an impressive temple complex perched on the five outcrops of the Marble Mountains. Each represents an element: water, fire, air, earth and metal.
Thuy Son, the water mountain, attracts the most visitors up its steps. A series of pretty pagodas, marble sculptures, colourful gardens and atmospheric temples hidden in caves awaits you at its peak.
At the foot of the mountains, you’ll find a wealth of marble shops where you can browse for souvenirs before starting your engine for the final 30-minute stretch to Hoi An.
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This ancient town has a relaxed feel and is bursting with charm. The centre is home to an eclectic collection of architectural styles and the pretty streets are illuminated by strings of colourful paper lanterns.
Known for its gastronomy, you’ll find lots of restaurants and cafés clustered around the attractive riverside setting, as well as cooking courses on offer. Search for bargains in the daily markets or place a bespoke order at one of the many tailor shops in town.
Once in Hoi An, keep hold of your car a little longer to visit the nearby beaches and temples of the UNESCO protected My Son Sanctuary. Or load your boot with bicycles and explore the rice paddies and tranquil canals that cover the lush landscape here.
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This iconic road trip takes you from Hue to Hoi An along roads with coastal panoramas and through unique destinations awash with charm. A perfect trip to undertake in spring given the start of Vietnam’s dry season. The roads provide fantastic views, and the attractions to be seen along the way remain absolutely breathtaking.