10 WORLD`S MOST EXTREME ROAD TRIPS

Dangerous yet scenic and action-packed; road trips through isolated and hostile regions have always drawn motorists. For some, extreme driving is like an addictive drug. No wonder, the feeling of having one`s heart in their throat brings the ultimate adrenaline rush. Surely, hitting a dangerous path is a rewarding experience – for all the thrill, jaw-dropping views and lifelong memories. So, if you are a passionate and daring driver, you should add one of the following to your bucket list!

The Road to Tusheti in the Caucasus Mountains is  considered to be one of the most treacherous roads on Earth (Georgia)

1.EL CAMINO DE LA MUERTE (BOLIVIA)

Internationally known as the North Yungas Road, El Camino de la Muerte (Death Road) is a 60 km long track, built by prisoners in the 1930s. The road takes you from the Bolivian capital of La Paz to the town of Corioco. Being almost a banality, the trail was repeatedly rated as the most dangerous road on Earth.

Traffic travels in both directions, but the road is not more than 3 metres wide, and there are no guard rails. Tropical setting, frequent heavy rains, and fog add to the hazard, and one single miscalculation could result in a fall off the cliff up to 600 meters high.

El Camino de la Muerte, ‘Death Road’ rated as the world`s most dangerous road (Bolivia)

The Death Road has claimed hundreds of lives and crosses mark the spots where vehicles have previously fallen. The track has been improved in recent years, and a new section now bypasses the most hazardous part, but the original route is still highly popular with cyclists.

The most hazardous section of the ‘Death Road’ is now mostly used by cyclists (Bolivia)

 2.KOLYMA HIGHWAY (RUSSIA)

Yakutsk is a Siberian region where the coldest temperatures outside Antarctica were recorded (-64.4°C).  Yakutsk is also the largest city built on continuous permafrost. Houses here are built on concrete piles because of the frozen ground.

For those who are intending to reach the Pacific Coast overland and meet the Trans-Siberian Railway at Skovorodino, there is no other way but following the Lena Highway, once said to be the world`s worst highway.  Stretching along the Lena River, the road eventually connects to the ill-famed Kolyma Highway, locally knows as “The Road of Bones.”

The Kolyma Highway, ‘The Road of Bones’ was rated as the world`s worst highway (Russia)

During winter, which normally lasts around ten months, the track is constantly subject to heavy snowfall, ice, and almost zero visibility. Funnily enough, the worst time of a year for most of the drivers is summer – once the snow has melted the road turns into a sea of mud. The highway wasn`t paved until 2014 (the locals would say that it was supposed to keep the Germans away), and it might well have been so in the past.

Today, the Germans ‘away’ and the surface is sealed, but for all that the Kolyma road situation has not much improved. Summer still often makes it impossible to drive through certain sections, even for the locals. Seeing extensive traffic jams and vehicles being slowly swallowed by the mud is not a rare image. And this is a perfect scenario for the notorious ‘Siberian mud pirates’ – armed groups of the local men who patiently wait for summer so they can rob the helpless motorists when stuck in dirt.

Summertime in Siberia makes the road turn into a sea of mud, Kolyma Highway (Russia)

DID YOU KNOW?

There is not even one bridge (yet) anywhere to cross the half-frozen Lena River, and the only transport are hydrofoils and helicopters (only open between May and October). Although, the Chinese investors are willing to fund building a permafrost crossing of the river to bring more visitors to China, when (and if) this is going to happen is uncertain.

3.HINDUSTAN TIBET ROAD (INDIA)

National Highway 22 is an old trading route, and part of the ancient Silk Road, running 500 km from Punjab to Tibet, via the jaw-dropping Shipki La Pass, where Heinrich Harrer once crossed the border to spend “7 years in Tibet”. Today, the mountain pass is only permitted to cross for the locals, but anyone can drive at least to the Tibetan border, which is a scenic and super-exciting drive.

Hindustan Tibet Road, part of the ancient Silk Route (India)

The whole thrill starts at Shimla, where the road turns into a mountainous track, with rough terrain and continuous hairpin bends, and if you are a fan of extreme off-road driving, you will love the adrenaline rush in the Kinnaur Valley.  Carved into vertical cliffs the road is a masterpiece of the Indian engineering.

 The famous Tranda ‘dhank’ section at is the most exhilarating, and the deadliest. Already tunnelling of the hanging cliffs over the wild Sutlej River claimed many lives during the construction in the 19th century. Now, the locally claimed ‘world`s most treacherous road,’ is considered to be ‘stable,’ yet lethal accidents frequently happen, despite the road being open only in summer.

If you have a few extra days, you can return via the beautiful Spiti Valley. Past Khab, there is another electrifying adventure to enjoy – the cliff-hanging drive through Malling Nala.

Tranda ‘dhank’ section, Kinnaur Valley (India)

4.GUOLIANG TUNNEL  (CHINA)

This magnificent tunnel-road was built by the local villagers in the rugged Taihang Mountains of the Hunan Province of China. It took them five years to complete this masterpiece: 1200 meter long tunnel, 5 meters high and 4 meters wide.

Many of the builders died during the construction, and many others endured the tough weather conditions and hard work. Eventually, their efforts paid off, and in 1977 the tunnel was open to traffic. The Guoliang Tunnel road is another hair-raising driving experience that does not tolerate any mistakes. Nevertheless, it is a popular scenic route and a key tourist destination on the Chinese map.

The construction of the famous Guoliang Tunnel has claimed many lives (China)

5.RUTA NACIONAL 5 (CHILE)

Chile’s the Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on our planet. It’s said that in some areas, the average annual rainfall is zero, and it’s been that way for centuries. While most of the desert stretches across Bolivia, Peru, and Argentina, the central part belongs to Chile.

This is exactly where to look for one of the most dangerous roads on our planetRuta Nacional 5. The northern part of the highway crosses the Atacama Desert from the Peruvian at Arica to Iquique, with only very few gas stations and far between.

Ruta Nacional 5 through the Atacama Desert (Chile)

Wind is a serious issue here since the region is known for gusty gales so strong that they can easily blow your vehicle off the road and throw you down a valley – numerous vehicle skeletons lying at the bottom speak for themselves.

However, what the main danger factor causes most of the accidents is the monotony: hundreds of miles through endless, empty lines and the heat often lead to exhaustion, loss of concentration and mirage. On the gutters, there are small mausolea in memory of those who gave their lives to the road.

A bus wreck at the road, Ruta 5 (Chile)

DID YOU KNOW?

The Atacama Desert is believed to be home to the “Arica Monster” – a big surviving member of the feathered theropod dinosaur. Many motorists driving the Iquique-Arica route reported spotting a large and weirdly looking animal that resembled something between a dinosaur-emu and a kangaroo. In 2004, the largest number of drivers (some in groups) claimed to see an animal of the same description.  However, such existence of a prehistoric species in the area has never been officially confirmed, and so, if dinosaurs really live in the vast Atacama desert remains a mystery.

6.MANALI-LADAKH-SRINAGAR ROAD (INDIA)

It is only about 500 km from Manali (Himachal Pradesh) to Leh-Ladakh, situated in the province of Kashmir. Absolutely staggering, and extremely dangerous; the journey leads through snow-capped mountains, half-frozen streams with no bridges and cruel weather, with the highest elevation of 5328 m at Tanglang La.

The road between Manali and Ladakh is subject to flooding throughout a year

It is the “Corpse Field Pass” – as the locals call it, which has the worst reputation. The name of India`s oldest mountain pass reflects the hazard that should never be underestimated when crossing the Rohtang Pass (3978 m); even though the ancient trade route is only open in the ‘mildest’ season (Jun-Oct) too many motorists and vehicles have succumbed to the harsh weather and road conditions – the corpses along the highway are serious warnings to all drivers.

The Zoji La Pass, the Indian Himalaya

Most of the road trippers will want to continue for another 400 km, from Ladakh to Srinagar, via the treacherous Zoji La pass (3528 m). The 9 km long, very narrow trail runs through rough terrain with no protective barriers where snow cutting machinery is essential to make the road passable as the snow carpet here can be up to 25 meters deep. The highly perilous journey is often accompanied by snowstorms and landslides, yet it provides a vital link between Ladakh and the Kasmir Valley.

The Magnetic Hill, optical illusion gives an impression that the road rolls uphill (India)

TRAVEL TIP

Past Leh, there will be an extraordinary natural wonder to drive through: The Magnetic Hill is a ‘gravity hill’ known for an optical illusion that the cars are driving uphill which is, in fact, a downhill road. Also, if you have an extra day or two, turn off the road at Leh and take the 40 km long diversion up to Khardung La (5359 m) – one of the world`s highest drivable mountain passes, which eventually leads to the Siachen Glacier.

7.SICHUAN HIGHWAY (CHINA)

The ‘big north line’ between China and Tibet is more than 2412 km long, high-elevation highway built from Chengdu to Lhasa, which traverses 14 mountain ranges in Himalaya, with the average altitude of 4000-5000 m. The road passes through rugged mountains, and primeval forests filled wild rivers and wildlife, and as of 2017, the highway includes the highest vehicular tunnel in the world (Chola Mountains, 6168 m).

A steep incline on the Sichuan Highway (China)

Even though it is an adventurous journey to travel from China to Tibet overland, with some of the world`s most impressive mountain sceneries, there is danger around every corner – the road claims hundreds of lives every year.

Driving the northern route to Tibet, you will be crossing several riversNu-Jiang, Jinsha, Dadu and Lantsang – and these can be tricky. Regular landslides and rock avalanches cause serious damage to the roads and bridges, and high in the mountains, oxygen is scarce, and temperatures feature swings of up to 40 degrees over a single day.

The Nujiang Highway 318 has 72 turns at Baxoi (China)

The southern line might not be as high but what makes the road trip risky is the section at Baxoi on the Nujiang Highway 318. Here not only harsh weather but the road itself presents great challenges: 72 turns along a 35 kilometre stretch swing down the mountainsides, starting at the 4,658 meter-high Yela Mountain, before descending to the Nujiang Bridge – the most dangerous section, where water roars up to 150 meters below and the cliffs, soaring 1,000 meters high.

Jinsha river crossing (China)

It almost seems like no one would even think of taking the risk to set out on this long, perilous journey. Yet, for the indigenous people, the bridge is vital to link to the outside world so they can bring food, clothing, kitchenware, jewellery and other daily necessities to the nearby markets. At least, there is a proper bridge now, as in the past the locals had to use a crude system of ropes to cross the wild river.

The traditional Himalayan rope river crossings are slowly being replaced by bridges (China)

8.OLD TELEGRAPH TRACK (AUSTRALIA)

To reach the northernmost point of Australia – Cape Yorke – is on the bucket list of every Australian. The cape is separated from Papua New Guinea by the narrow Torres Strait, and it is an extremely isolated region filled with swamps, billabongs, and crocodiles.

The 1000 km long off-road journey takes the adventurers through ancient rock art, Aboriginal culture, tropical wilderness, stunning waterfalls, red outback tracks, gold town ruins and remote WWII sites. The Peninsula Developmental Road, starting at Cairns, is an unsealed track and due to heavy rains often muddy with several river crossings.

The Old Telegraph Track includes several fairly deep river crossings (Australia)

The best part – and the riskiest – is the 80 km long Old Telegraph Track, only accessible during the dry season (May-Oct). The road is notorious for the Gunshot’ (almost vertical crossing), the highlight of the road trip, only doable using a high ground clearance vehicle.

Deep creek crossings, steep and muddy river banks, no facilities and no phone coverage do not make it any easier.  Besides, both freshwater and saltwater crocodiles inhabit the rivers and streams of the Far North of Queensland; quite tempting unless you don`t mind having your heart in your throat!

The notorious ‘Gunshot’ is the highlight along the Old Telegraph Track (Australia)

9.VAN ZYL`S PASS (NAMIBIA)

Africa Overland! This is an extreme cross-country drive running through the desert, and the absolute highlight is the tricky descent at the Van Zyl`s Pass that leads to spectacular Marienfluss Valley.

It is not exactly a road; rather a route made over the mountain by the travellers over time. The pass provides a pure adrenaline rush, but be aware that the which leads up to it is a 10-15km of challenging 4×4 driving where one has to dodge their way through rocks, boulders, badlands, and ravines. The track is only drivable one way – downwards – the direction to the Marienfluss.

Van Zyl`s Pass (Namibia)

Towards the end, the road descends to the ancient glacial Marienfluss Valley – one of the Earth`s most beautiful sights. There are some camping facilities in Kaokoland, and if you ever pluck up the courage to undergo this trip, you are guaranteed to meet the real ‘Mamma Africa’ with everything that belongs to it.

Remember that this off-road venture is only suitable for experienced off-road drivers unless you hire a local driver.

10.DALTON HIGHWAY (ALASKA)

Similarly to the Siberian roads the 414 miles, long James Dalton Highway is an arctic and partially gravel trail. Also called, Alaska Route 11, it starts at Fairbanks and ends at Deadhorse, near the Arctic Ocean. The highway parallels a pipeline, and it is still the main supply route for the Prudhoe Bay oilfields.

Alaska Route 11 (USA)

It is one of the most isolated roads on the continent hence if you decide to use this route you need to be aware that you highly likely come across nothing but occasional tracks and tractor-trailers.

Although the aurora borealis is a tempting tourist attraction, most of the rental companies would not even allow their cars on this highway: clouds of gravel kicked up by the speeding trucks, potholes take a heavy toll on cars and services, gas, and repairs are practically nonexistent.

Moreover, in winter time some sections of the road get icy and driving these requires certain experience. If you insist on doing this, however, you will absolutely need 4×4, a CB radio, extra fuel, food, tires, and a trunk filled with supplies. Remember that you are in a grizzly country and you certainly don`t want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere!

The Northern Lights at the Dalton Highway (Alaska)

HAVE FUN DRIVING AND STAY SAFE! 🙂

BALI BY SCOOTER IN 9 DAYS

If you think that Bali is a solely for beach bums you are very much mistaken. Bali, “The Island of Gods”, has become a worldwide-famed destination for several reasons; endless stretches, tropical jungles, fuming volcanoes, mystic temples, spellbinding culture and divine food. Indeed, Bali is a magical place and its fantastic reputation is well-deserved.

The good thing is that there is a way how to explore the highlights of this wonderful island independently in as long as 9 days!

Bali is renowned for arresting culture, traditional dance and art

A BRIEF SCHEDULE OF OUR SUGGESTED ONE WEEK ITINERARY:

DAY 1 (KUTA, LEGIAN, SEMINYAK)

  • Arrive at the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar and catch the reliable “Bluebird” taxi to Kuta and accommodate in a desirable guest house
  • Rent a scooter at your guesthouse
  • Explore the vibrant quarters of Kuta and have a meal in one of the warungs (“Warung” is the Indonesian name for “Tavern”). Try the local “Gado Gado”, “Nasi Goreng” or “Mie Goreng” and you will not regret.
  • Take a long walk along the iconic Kuta Beach dotted with pubs, bars and clubs and search around the stylish malls and graceful promenades along. Especially, the top-rated “Beach Walk Mall“, offers trendy shops, smart cafes and modern restaurants.
  • Catch a wave at Kuta Beach, ideal for the surf beginners and get ready for a long night out
  • Enjoy a welcome dinner in one of the beachfront restaurants of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak and their bars and clubs, e.g. The Cocoon Beach Club (Legian), The Potato Head Beach Club (Seminyak), The Sheraton Pool Bar (Kuta) or the famous Sky Garden Disco Club in Kuta, offering freed drinks for the Westerners at night

Potato Head Beach Club, Seminyak

DAY 2 (JIMBARAN, ULUWATU)

  • Stay at the same guesthouse (it makes it easier) and after the morning swim in the pool head down south (direction Uluwatu) until you hit the fine coastline of the Bukit Peninsula. Stop at the fabulous Jimbaran Beach, the Balangan Beach and the Dreamland Beach (brilliant surfing beaches)
  • Afterwards continue to Uluwatu – the surfer`s paradise of Bali, where you can enjoy some jaw-dropping views which will stay in your memory forever. There is a really cool cafe “Single Fin” with great smoothies, fresh beer and funky atmosphere. Have a quick swim at the nearby popular Padang Padang Beach.
  • Do not skip having a lunch in a local warung on the way and taste the local specialities
  • Uncover the secrets of the glorious cliff-top temple Uluwatu and watch the impressive Balinese “Kecak” dance at sunset
  • Return to the guesthouse late night

Pantai Suluban, Uluwatu

DAY 3 (UBUD)

  • Take off and drive to the peaceful town of Ubud, accommodate yourself at one of the plentiful guesthouses
  • Feel the powerful spirit of the jungle and get lost in the legendary Monkey Forest but be careful the monkeys can be fairly intrusive. Avoid feeding them or wearing eye-catching objects like jewellery or sunglasses – they are the best thieves ever!
  • Ride around Ubud and get lost in the countryside to see some of the most wonderful rice terraces in the world and treat yourself with a locally made lunch in the middle of the rice fields
  • Explore the unique ambience of the evening markets and artisan workshops in Ubud and enjoy your dinner in one of the relaxing nearby restaurants or a few drinks and water pipe at “XL Shisha Lounge Bar” that is open till late

Monkey Forest, Ubud

Day 4 (JATILUWIH & BRATAN)

  • Stay at the same guest house and in the morning ride to the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site of Jatiluwih (rice fields)
  • Take a ride to Bedugul to search around its inspiring water temple “Pura Ulun Danu Bratan” and the stunning Kebun Raya Eka Karya Botanic Garden
  • Stop by at the admirable water temple complex Pura Ulun Danu on Lake Bratan
  • Return to Ubud before dusk and enjoy the delightful night atmosphere of this jungle town

Jatiluwih Rice Fields

Day 5 (KINTAMANI & BESAKIH)

  • Do not leave Ubud yet, but head out at sunrise and drive to Besakih, relishing the morning aroma at mild temperature and relaxed Balinese pace. The beauty of Pura Besakih temple will surely amaze; the monument expanding along the foggy hills of Mount Agung, the highest point of Bali, is really exceptional
  • Look in on one of the coffee plantations on the way to the Kintamani Mountains and taste one of the most exquisite civet coffee in the world “Kopi Luwak”
  • Explore the hilly town of Kintamani; its eerie volcano and the magnificent Lake Batur are stretching in the middle of volcanic ranges. Remember that here you will need a warm jacket
  • Chill-out through the last night in Ubud

Lake Batur

Day 6 (PADANGBAI)

  • Pack your backpack and set out on a journey to the eastern shores of Bali, situated just under the slopes of the volcanic Mount Agung, passing through the busy market city of Gianyar where you can have a break if you are a city person or keep driving to the relaxed coastal town of Candidasa where you can take a break and have some fresh seafood
  • Arrive in Padang Bai and find a guest house. This is a placid fishermen town known as a gateway to the idyllic Gili Islands & Lombok. Padang Bai features a very pleasant atmosphere and nice taverns, e.g. Topis Inn offers delicious food and funky environment. Take a short walk to the Blue Lagoon, where you can snorkel, swim or have some rest. Enjoy the quiet night on the beach watching the Pelni Ships, arriving and departing in the horizon

Virgin Beach, Candidasa

Day 7 (AMED)

  • Next morning head out to Amed and the first stop will be the picturesque Secret and Virgin Beaches famous for their sugar-white sand and the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” with Julia Roberts
  • Afterwards, pay a visit the marvellous Ujung Water Palace – a former royal palace from the times of the Dutch East Indies that features a beautiful park set amidst several pools and ponds
  • Slowly continue to Amed, following the winding coastline route and feast your eyes with the striking views; passing through several outlying villages you can see the real nature of Balinese people and probably the most dramatic scenery on the island
  • Arrive in Amed and find some accommodation if you are after snorkelling or diving. Amed is well-known for its great snorkelling and diving spots; hence you totally need to dive into its underwater world. Most of the visitors come here to dive into the waters of the Bali Sea in search of the offshore shipwrecks and their underwater coral gardens. TRAVEL TIP – take the coastal drive when driving to Amed, it might be longer but it will give you the chance to see the other face of Bali
  • Stay overnight and you can either dive or snorkel or just relax on the beach

Amed, Mt Agung in the background

DAY 8 (LOVINA)

  • Get up early as this will be a long driving day so get yourself ready! You will need to drive along a half of the east coast to reach Lovina
  • In Lovina, you can take a dolphin tour or see one of the waterfalls (Git Git Waterfall or Sing Sing Waterfall)
  • Depending on the time and whether you either stay in Lovina overnight or continue driving to Bubunan where the road turns inland towards the mountains
  • Stop by at the sacred hot springs ‘Air Panas’ in Banjar set in the amid of the jungle in a beautifully landscaped tropical garden
  • Further up, you will come across the Blahmantung Waterfall and keep riding towards Tabanan. It might be quite chilly up here so always have some warm clothes in your bag
  • Stay overnight either in Selemadek or Tabanan (alternatively wherever you will have to after it gets dark)

The sacred hot springs of ‘Air Panas’ near Lovina

DAY 9 (TANAH LOT & NUSA DUA)

  • From Tabanan, the road turns to the coast where you can admire one of the best temples in Bali – the sacred sea island temple of Tanah Lot (try to arrive early morning to avoid the crowds and take some photos)
  • Drive towards the south-east coast of Bali – Benoa Bay, in order to research the posh part of Bali – Nusa Dua
  • Hunt for souvenirs, spoil yourself with a blissful Balinese massage in one of the neighbouring spa retreats and have a romantic sunset dinner on the beach to say farewell to Bali
  • Return to your previous guesthouse in Kuta to hand out the scooter and spend here the last night (unless you changed your mind in the meantime and extended your stay 😉
  • Departure (Book the reliable “Bluebird” cab ahead enough to get to the airport to avoid any hassle)

Tanah Lot Temple

WHEN TO TRAVEL

Bali lies near the equator and it features tropical climate with an average temperature around 30 degrees of Celsius. High humidity can be expected during the wet season, especially between December and February (hence do not travel in these months if doing a road trip).

Dry and sunny weather hits the island in May and goes on until October and that is also the best time to visit Bali.


HOW TO GET THERE

Fly to the International airport Denpasar/Bali that is well-connected to most Asian and Australian airports.

For all international flights go to www.momondo.com or www.skyscanner.com

FROM SAIGON TO HANOI BY MOTORBIKE

Stretching from the south of Vietnam all the way to the Chinese border, the more than 1.700 km long coastal route truly is an epic driving adventure. The journey offers a fascinating insight into the nation`s history and culture, exquisite culinary art, the finest coastal sceneries and alluring nature. Besides, Vietnam is a fairly safe country with the hospitable nation, divine food, and travelling here is a good value for money.

Cao Bang, far north of Vietnam near the Chinese border

1.START IN SAIGON (HO CHI MINH)

Firstly, you will need to buy a used motorcycle in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) so that you can re-sell in Hanoi before you leave the country (unless planning on a big Asia-venture).

Motorbike market in Vietnam is big and travellers typically buy-sell-swap the bikes through their hostels, guesthouses or online. Prices start at $100USD +, depending on the type, size, and age. Take your time to get a good deal, and while you are doing so, you should explore the city – some of the craziest on Earth.

Saigon 24/7 no-rules-traffic

2.MEKONG DELTA (170 km south of Saigon)

The Mekong River, at over 4 000 km, it rises high up to the Tibetan plateau and flows through 6 countries to meet the South China Sea in Vietnam.

Mekong Delta is some of the most inspiring places on Earth; it is essential for travel and transport, with thousands of boats ply up and down these waterways, from tiny rowing boats to cargo ships, carrying rice, sugarcane, and fruit.

All life can be seen observed in the water: colourful river villages and markets, pagodas, a myriad of bird colonies and species of rare fish, and even dolphins. Can Tho – the delta`s epicentre and the floating markets of Vinh Long and Cai Be should not be left out of your itinerary.

Can Tho floating market, Mekong Delta

3.MUI NE & PHAN TIET (215 km north of Saigon)

Built around a charming fishing village, the beautiful beach of Mui Ne has a reputation as the adrenaline capital of Southern Vietnam, popular with surfers (August-December) and wind and kite surfers (October-April), when the gales hit the coast.

That is also a time when the changing winds sculpt the vivid sands into the giant sand dunes, and tourists can have much fun quad-biking, 4×4 driving or sand-sledging.

White dunes in Phan Tiet

4.DALAT (163 km north of Phan Tiet)

With elegant colonial villas, a cooler climate and verdant scenery, Da Lat is Vietnam`s premier hill station, originally established by the French as a cool retreat from Saigon`s stifling tropical heat.

The bohemian vibes and marvellous landscapes typical of pine forests, rolling hills, and tranquil lakes make it the sort of place best enjoyed at a gentle pace. Da Lat also lends itself perfectly to outdoor activities like trekking, mountain biking, and eco-tourism.

Don`t skip a night at the Crazy House!

Ecotourism in Da Lat, Elephant Camp

5.NHA TRANG (135 km north of Da Lat)

Considered to be the beach capital of Vietnam, Nha Trang is famed for its sweeping stretch of gorgeous beach with picturesque offshore islands adding to its appeal.

The turquoise waters offer fantastic diving opportunities while the beachfront provides plenty to keep the visitors entertained with parks, gardens, stylish restaurants, hip nightclubs and sophisticated bars. So, if you are a fan of good seafood and chill out, you will surely want to linger for a bit.

Nha Trang city

6.HOI AN (550 km north of Nha Trang)

Strap on your walking shoes – Hoi An is a town best explored on foot. The large community of foreign merchants living here between the 16th and 18th centuries left a heady mix of architecture, combining Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese cultures.

Today, the UNESCO-listed town features a well-preserved architecture, cobbled streets lined with old merchant houses and pagodas and lovely riverside promenade packed with art stalls, markets, fabulous restaurants, and tailor shops.

And if you are lucky enough you might witness the full moon lantern festival – a magical spectacle of hundreds of sparkling lights sailing down the river and lightening up in the sky.

Hoi An, riverside and old town

7.DA NANG (30 km north of Hoi An)

This modern city with sparkling skyscrapers and a riverfront promenade reminiscent of a subdued version of Shanghai`s Bund, Sitting on the banks of the Han River, Da Nang has excellent dining and entertainment options and fine white-sand, palm-fringed beaches.

Besides, you can watch some of the most spectacular sunrises in Vietnam and fishermen bringing fresh fish and seafood that you might well have for dinner at one of the seaside taverns. Da Nang is an ideal place to recharge one’s batteries on the beach before heading out into the next adventures.

Busy fishermen, early morning in Da Nang

8.THE FORBIDDEN CITY OF ‘HUE’ (102 km north of Na Trang)

Once the capital of Vietnam, today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the imperial city of Hue has a distinguished history and traditions. Despite the bitter battles during the Vietnam War, it has kept its original vibes – it is romance, refinement, and spirituality one will find in Hue.

On the north bank of the Perfume River, the emperor Gia Long built a huge citadel in the Chinese style that hides a ‘Forbidden City’ at its heart. Sightseeing here is at its best; find Hue`s ancestral altars, pagodas, temples, royal tombs and fascinating museums.

Hue, Walls of the Forbidden City

9.NINH BINH (573 km north of Hue)

Arriving in Northern Vietnam – a very different scenery comes into sight; this is the land of Vietnamese natural wonders. The Red River will take you through a phenomenal limestone encounter, starting at Ninh Binh, a small town situated in Red River Delta.

Once occupied by the French, today the town is one of the most popular tourist spots in the country. Tam Coc is the main attraction; a tiny yet famous fishing village offers a 3-hour excursion by a small rowing boat along the Red River, picturesquely nestled amid lush rice fields and towering karst mountains filled with caves and caverns.

Ninh Binh, Red River rowing tour at Tam Coc

10.HA LONG BAY

The Vietnamese named it “The Bay of the Descending Dragon,” and the majestic grandeur of this place along with its mysterious ambience became the inspiration for dozens of legends and poems since ever.
No wonder that Ha Long Bay was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This unbelievably beautiful area is covered with thousands of uniquely shaped limestone islands, ridges, hidden coves and echoing caverns, dominating the motionless waters. Ha Long Bay is one of those special places on our planet, which no matter how clichéd they become their beauty is simply timeless.

Ha Long Bay

11.SA PA

Bypass Hanoi for now, and drive towards the Chinese border at Lao Cai. Sa Pa is a must-visit when in Northern Vietnam.

This small French-colonial town features breathtaking mountain images, picturesque rice terraces, vibrant markets and various indigenous ethnic groups.

Sa Pa sits on a misty lake at an altitude of 1500 m above sea level, and the town is backed up by the highest peak of Vietnam – Fan Si Pan (3143m), which only adds to Sa Pa`s picturesque scenery and makes a popular trekking destination.

Lao Cai, the countryside near Sa Pa

TRAVEL TIP

It is suggested to take additional time to explore the Lao Cai province. The country is fairly mountainous, and roads are not always in the top-condition. However, it is considered the most scenic part of Vietnam. Also, we strongly recommend visiting Cao Bang (popular with motorists) and the spectacular Ban Gioc Falls – the world`s 4th largest waterfall along a national border.

12.HANOI

Once you have arrived at the final destination – in the capital city of Vietnam, you should try to sell your motorbike to one of the next candidates for this unique road trip – the other way round. Before you leave the country, however, spend a few days in Hanoi to explore the cultural hub of Vietnam – it is a pretty beguiling city.

Hanoi, The Old Quarter

NOTE

Suggested time for this coastal road trip is 4-8 weeks, depending on the route you choose and time you spend at the individual places. Your daily budget should not be more than $50USD/day (mid-range). For more tips and Vietnam, driving itineraries go to http://vietnamcoracle.com/saigon-to-hanoi-by-motorbike-5-suggested-routes/


WHEN TO TRAVEL

Vietnam is a vast land, and it is subject to different climate zones. Hence it is hard to say what is the very best time, considering that you travel the whole length of the country in one trip.

Generally speaking, Southern Vietnam has dry weather between Jan-March, Central Vietnam between Apr-Jun and the north between Nov-Apr. However, Northern Vietnam gets abundant rainfalls throughout the whole year.


HOW TO GET THERE

Fly to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi (depending on your starting point).

For all international flights go to www.momondo.com or www.skyscanner.com

ROAD TRIPS

Embark on an open road journey and taste the ultimate in-car adventure. Feel the absolute freedom. Lose the perception of time and let yourself be led simply by instincts and intuition. Sun on your face, wind in your hair, music in your ears and peace in your soul. Just follow the road, through scenic coastal highways and dusty off-road tracks, climb steep hills, cross creeks and rivers, and pull over wherever you wish to. Fancy a van? Get a van. Fan of motorcycles? Buy a bike.  Love your old jeep? Take your old jeep. No matter what kind of vehicle you use, on any road trip the sense of a total liberty is guaranteed.

“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey”  Babs Hoffman