Winding high through the Annamite Range above the South China Sea, the drive along Hai Van Pass between Danang and Hue is all jungle-clad mountains and glittering views out to sea. Known as one of the best coastal roads in the world for driving, thanks to a stint on BBC’s Top Gear, the 21-km-long Hai Van Pass rises up to 1,600 feet high in places. But what’s in the name? Hai Van is Vietnamese for Ocean Cloud, referring to the great mists which often rise from the sea below.
Once a natural boundary between Vietnam and the kingdom of Champa, the top of the pass has a number of lookout points with panoramic views looking out to the mountains and sea beyond. Look out for cyclists celebrating their hard-won arrival at the summit while you’re here.
When a second road, the Hai Van tunnel, was built in 2005, it cut travel times through the mountains by more than an hour. That’s made the Hai Van Pass of today a beautifully quiet scenic route, though you will meet truckers who aren’t allowed through the tunnel.
By bike, scooter, car, train or tour bus, it’s up to you how you take on Hai Van Pass, though the road is fairly steep and windy if you’re considering renting a bike to make the trip. At the summit there are lots of hawkers who will try to push overpriced goods on you. Just be firm and polite and it won’t feel like too much of a bother.