All you need to know about Hai Van Pass

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Last Updated on 3 years by Tam Le Van

Hai Van pass is widely known within the mind of many Vietnamese generations by its striking mountain landscapes and dangers when move on it formerly. A modern tunnel inaugurated in 2005 changed spectacularly the face of traffic in this legend. Everything goes smoothly, business as usual. And thus, only past fears remain today.

As one of world’s best coast roads, it is a must-see on the way from Hoi An to Hue (a peaceful city with various monumental royal buildings listed by UNESCO). Driving motorcycle to explore’s popular for both Vietnamese and international tourists, even highly recommended as a must-do like Ha Giang loop. Little strange at first but over time, you feel really much enjoyable the ride. Tons of freedom vibe, surprises and uncountable memories given during the time you’re on it. Organised tours on bus and car are also always available in Hoi An’s local travel agencies.

Hoi An Life outlines all you need to know about Hai Van pass in this article to help you have the most complete view, not only its beautiful sceneries or how to travel it by motorcycle.

Hai Van pass location and special features

What is Hai Van pass?

Located in meeting place between jungle-soaked Bach Ma mountain of greater Annamite Range and the sea, Hai Van pass (literally Sea and Cloud pass) is one of must-see destinations in Da Nang. This 25km long mountain pass also functions as the boundary of Da Nang city and Thua Thien-Hue province. Due to its very central position of the country, two most important routes on land as National Road No.1A (Asian highway 1) and North-South railway are all cross it. For travelers, Hai Van pass’s home of striking landscapes between over 500m height towering mountains and blue ocean, panoramic viewpoints and fog. More than that, its winding roads with a large gradient becomes favourite stage for motorbikers and cyclists wordwide. This caused many traffic accidents formerly but rarely occur now thank to construction of a modern tunnel in 2000.

In Top Gear’s Vietnam Special, English famous broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson praised Hai Van pass as ‘one of the best coast roads in the world’.

Location and how to get Hai Van pass from Hoi An

Hai Van pass situates 45 kilometers away to the North of Hoi An (around 1.5hrs drive) and lies on the administrative boundary between Da Nang city and Thua Thien-Hue province. National highway 1A (Vietnam’s most artery road) goes through it making car, bus, motorcycle and bicycle all convenient to access. While bicycle is the good friend of physical activity seekers and cyclists, other vehicles are popularly choosen by the bulk of tourists. Although the Reunification railway crosses Hai Van pass but there is no station designed to stop. Browse here for further information about traveling from Hoi An (Da Nang) to Hue by train if you like to see its awe-inspiring coast. An off-the-beaten-path experience in Central Vietnam!

Besides, local tour operators daily arrange guided trips and transfer service from Hoi An to Hue with a stop in this well-known wonder (usually at 19th centuried Hai Van gates). In case of packaged tours only, they are abundant with numerous types to choose from, including on bus, car, military jeep, with bicycle or on back of the motorbike. Read our articles about the best cycling tours, the best motorbike tours and jeep tours to find out your favourite one to explore Hai Van pass from Hoi An.

In all organised tours from Hoi An to Hue and vice versa, Hai Van pass is often an inclusion. Depending on weather on it, responsible persons will let you know should and shouldn’t. If too bad, the tunnel is the best choice to keep your safety.

Special natural features

Geographically, Bach Ma range in general and Hai Van mountain pass in particular boast of their very special location. It’s the boundary between North and South regions of Vietnam. Most specially, the climate has differences in each part, four seasons in the North (including low-temperature winter) and only two in the other one. During many days, you have the chance to see the opposition in weather on sides of Hai Van pass.

Thank to its spectacular, Hai Van Pass serves as a ‘shield’ what cold winds from the North overcome with difficulties to Hoi An. So, this city doesn’t have a winter although locals wear coat in several days in the end of the year.

In addition to, Hai Van is one of the largest coastal mountain-peninsular in the country. That’s reason why the most costy part of French railway and tunnel work of Vietnamese all are here. Its greater area (known as Bach Ma range) houses superb richness of animals and plants, 7% and 17% of whole Vietnam biodiversity respectively. In 2016, a group of about 70 five-coloured langurs found in this natural gem. Numerous threaten and endangered species also highlighten its priceless values.

For nature scientists and conservationists, greater Hai Van is the last uninterrupted forest belt connecting Laos and the sea. It’s also place the highest rainfall recorded around the country, over 9.000mm per year.

History of Hai Van pass

Before belong to Vietnamese, Hai Van pass was inside Champa kingdom‘s territory during many centuries. In 1306, the emperor of this South-east Asia major state gave two his regions to the North as wedding presents to get married with princess Huyen Tran (cover present-day Hai Van pass and My Son sanctuary). Politically, both Vietnam and Champa wanted to build up a stronger relationship to face powerful Mongolian troops imminently. Although officially owned Hai Van pass after that, but until 15th century, first Vietnamese moved to live and established permanent villages in Da Nang as well as Hoi An.

Visit Da Nang Museum of Cham Sculpture if you like to know more about Champa kingdom and its culture. Alongside Hai Van pas, the place’s a must-see. See further information here.

In 1471, King Le Thanh Tong and his military solders stopped here before reach further to the South to control Champa’s attacks. Because of the admiration for amazing landscape of Hai Van pass, he titled it as ‘the most marvelous wonder of the country’. This words’re carved on the main gate at its top in 19th century we still can see today.

Significant historic tangible traces left in Hai Van pass today are built in Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), French colonial time and South Vietnam Republic. In brief, all of them is dated back before 1975 when the wars ended. The most noticeable building is Hai Van Quan (a couple of gates, army houses used for monitoring purposes).

Traffics in Hai Van pass

In ancient times, this breath-taking natural monunent was just in jungles and paths with dangers (mainly from robbers, wild tiger). People remind each other a folk poetry meaning ‘walkers are terrified of Hai Van pass, boaters’re frighten of waves under it’. For that reason, Vietnamese kings always encouraged their subjects living or more, settling down on the pass to improve all issues. They also gave money, gold, necessities and cleared total taxes.

On later periods of feudal dynasties, the horse’s used to support transportation and communication for humans. Almost everything was in a better fashion, especially moving from areas to the South to Hue capital from 19th century. Old gates we see today on top of Hai Van pass were built to manage these activities (for military function as well). It took at least one day to cross over this natural wonder.

The scene of traffic in Hai Van Pass’s changed significantly by innovative technology touches from French in 20th century. Roads serving for car and railway were established that still in use. Time of moving’s shorten just twenty-four hours from Da Nang to Hue, a thing thought as impossible in people’s mind. Last king of Vietnam Bao Dai had done widening works for the road (nowadays National highway No.1). Nonetheless, threats caused by rugged terrain and deep cliff, large gradient, dense fod and condensed clouds, landslide in rainy season were not disappeared. Many historic accidents happened and they’re actually in rarity after Hai Van tunnel completed. This construction is the longest of its kind in South-east Asia.

Hai Van tunnel-Vietnam’s 21st century work

To decrease number of traffic accidents and bring better safety conditions to people, ideas about a modern tunnel in Hai Van pass was formed from last year of 20th century. This is the first time Vietnamese’s carried out a large-scale underground construction. In 2000, this 6km long work was commenced and completed five years later. Finally, after uncountable difficulties and challenges, the sweet fruit was harvested under amazing help from Japanese engineers. It becomes the new enblem of friendship between two countries (traditional one is Japanese covered bridge in Hoi An). With the desire for eternal existence of Hai Van tunnel, Vietnamese built a temple worshipping the Mountain god (Son than) and planted a banyan tree symbolizing for longevity on the top of its portal.

Scene of traffic in Hai Van pass’s improved dramatically since then (for North-South highways of Vietnam as well). It took only 15 minutes instead of over one hour like in the past. The economies of both Da Nang and Hue also had much positive changes. Nowadays, the construction of another tunnel’s on the way to be finished. Current one will be re-functioned to direct vehicles to move in single direction.

Fact: Hai Van tunnel is the longest highway tunnel in South-east Asia and top 30 of the world at the time it was completed.

The best times to visit Hai Van pass

In the year

Dry season from March until early October is the best time to visit Hai Van pass from Hoi An. During its months, driving conditions’re great and all breath-taking sceneries not blocked by clouds or fog. That is all we need for a day of adventure in this Da Nang must-see attraction. Keep in mind that road assistance from both rental shop and rescue team ‘knights in the peacetime’ will be more adventurous to help you.

By contrast, the highway will be wet, slippery especially at twists and turns. Falling stones, landslide and sudden waterfalls from mountain slope may push you in dangerous situations. For further detail of Da Nang weather (the best times to travel), read Hoi An Life’s article via http://hoianlife.net/the-best-times-to-visit-da-nang/.

During the day

Weather in Hai Van mountain pass is changeable hourly during the day. However, the time with most tourist’s midday, usually stretching from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. This span has minimum foggy and cloudy elements according to local people’s experiences. If travel in the dry season, you have a more sunny hours than. Your trip can start early from Hoi An to visit Da Nang’s attractions and avoid the heat on the pass then (or even drive further to Hue). On the other side, reaching up in the rains is a shouldn’t thing because of threats from sudden landslides, short foresight and large gradient. Unpredictable situations may make you be at risk. Think of using transfer service with a fee at Da Nang station and Lang Co station (Hue side) when needed.

Many Da Nang residents approach coffee shops in Hai Van pass as a habit in the morning. Making it become the good time to appreciate the pass’s natural qualities like locals. Try out this off-the-beaten-path experience if you think possible.

Motorbike tours from Hoi An to Hai Van pass

Participating an organised motorbike tour is one of the best ways to explore Hai Van Pass. Not only freedom and discovery vibes given, you have rich time to do favourite things in which.

#1 Easy Rider Hoi An

Address: 109 Le Hong Phong street (near Hoi An bus station)Price: Around 1.500.000 VND (65 USD)
Contacts: Telephone number (+84) 914245217, webpage, Facebook page, Email (Mrthongtours@gmail.com)Duration: Half-day

Before ride up to legendary Hai Van pass with a local licensed driver-guide, you’ll visit other Da Nang’s must-see attractions as the Marble Mountains, My Khe beach and authentic fishing villages. Your lunch is served at a lookout turret previously used by French and American in the altitude of 500m above sea level. You also have the chance to swim in cool, unpolluted stream on the way down prior to heading home.

Inclusions: Private transportation, fuel surcharge, parking fee, lunch and entry/admission.

Exclusions: Travel insurance, tipping, personal expenses, things not mentioned above. Browse official webpage of Easy Rider Hoi An via https://easyrider-hoian.com/ to know booking and cancellation policies.

#2 Vespa Adventures – Hoi An Motorbike Tours

Address: 170 Ly Thai To street (Cafe Zoom)Price: 4.120.000 VND (179 USD) for adult, 125 USD for childrens under 12-years-old
Contacts: Telephone number (+84) 9017933855, webpage, Facebook page, Email (info@vespaadventures.com)Duration: Full-day, end at Hue

This Hoi An to Hue full-day expedition starts at 7:30 a.m. Prior to conquer winding roads of Hai Van pass, Vespa Adventures brings you closer to local daily way of life like visit authentic fishing villages, talk with fishermans or learn about their belief in a temple. On the highest point of the pass, the guide also shares you fastinating historic stories about Hai Van Quan brick gates and modern-time bunkers nearby. Fuel up by coffee before go down to Hue’s side to admire one of Vietnam’s best seascapes-Lang Co bay. Here, you have the opportunity to see stilt houses, oyster farms, take lots of good Instagram pictures and enjoy lunch with Vietnamese foods.

In the afternoon, “City of ghost” in An Bang village, hilltop Buddhist temple where panoramic views over the largest lagoon of South-east Asia can be captured, ancient Champa towers, households making fish sauce (nuoc mam) and building boat just await you to explore. Your long journey ends at Hue city (you can make a request to the tour operator for car arrangement to head back Hoi An right after, contact in advance). For detailed information of the itenerary and policies, browse the Vespa Adventures Hoi An’s homepage.

If you like to drive, get in touch ahead of time with Vespa Adventures Hoi An. Additionally, make sure you have driving experience with a cluth and copy of driver licence from your country. Before say yes, the tour operator will give you a driving orientation as well.

#3 Hoi An Motorbike Adventures

Address: Nguyen Chi Thanh street, Cam Ha Price: 2.185.000 VND (95 USD), 1.080.000 VND (47 USD) for pillion guests who share one bike, 30% off for childrens
Contacts: Telephone number (+84) 905101930, webpage, Facebook page, Email (info@motorbiketours-hoian.com)Duration: Full-day

Your experience with Hoi An Motorbike Adventures will start from the hotel and stops at countryside hidden gems (900 years-old Bang An Champa tower, Bo Bo Hill) before reach up celebrated Hai Van pass. Highlights like viewpoints pretty as a picture or Hai Van Quan are all covered. In Lang Co town at its base, your lunch’s served with Vietnamese foods. Here, you have free time on sands and dip your feet in crystall-clear water sea. Then, ride over the mountain pass one more time, visit fishing village where you meet and talk with locals prior to return Hoi An.

Inclusions: Pick-up/drop-off services, experienced driver, English speaking guide, fuel, entrance fees, international standard helmet, lunch and drinks on tour, motorbike gears.

Exclusions: Personal expenses, tipping, things not mentioned in inclusion section. Browse the official webpage of Hoi An Motorbike Adventures to know further information including its booking/cancellation policies.

Self-guided trip by motorbike from Hoi An to Hai Van pass

Motorbike rental in Hoi An

Riding itself is a part of the self-guided experience in Hai Van pass. To have smooth and safe drives, pay your first attentions on the motorcycle you will travel with. For sure, its qualities play the foremost role (even move on not specially challenged routes, this should be your priority).

There are plentiful choices of places to hire a motorcycle in Hoi An, from hotel, roadside to reputable shops. Price of a commom scooter falls in around 120.000 VND for day rental and may be lower for long-term ones. While you have to leave your passport as the pledge in somewhere, money deposit is quite popular. Browse our article to know Vietnam’s requirements for foreign renters and the best motorbike rental shops in Hoi An via http://hoianlife.net/the-best-hoi-ans-motorbike-rental-shops/.

Things to know before drive up Hai Van pass

Hai Van pass’s famous for large road gradient and sleeve-like bends, follow strictly traffic signs and instructions to keep your safety at its highest standards. However, do not worry too much because Vietnam government upgraded and improved the roads very regularly. Before you stop at any beautiful viewpoints, keep in mind to look around first. Large trucks may push you into risky situations.

Rains also cause top zone of the mountain pass filled by fogs making the foresight just in few meters. Meaning that views will be blocked. Landslide’s usually occurs due to this natural factor. Check the weather forecast very carefully before you make up your mind. From far distance, you’re able to see it by naked eyes. If impossible to travel in another day, organised tours by bus/car are good choices to know main historic sites and experience the spectacular of the pass.

For security, petrol trucks, animal transporters, motorcyles and walkers are not allowed to go through Hai Van tunnel. Accordingly, motorbike drivers have two options to get other side as crossing the pass and using transfer service. Local people often select first option but many drive up the mountains (because cheaper and adventuring vibes given).

Vietnam is a right hand drive country so be careful when control your vehicle if come from LHR community like UK, Singapore, India, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa and more.

Places to stop en route from Hoi An to Hai Van pass

From Hoi An, every site in sister city Da Nang is easily combined with Hai Van Pass during a day. Read our article about must-see attractions in Da Nang center, the Monkey Mountain (Son Tra peninsular), the Marble Mountains (Ngu Hanh Son) and Da Nang beaches to design your travel itenerary. In case of Ba Na Hills, balance your time at both places. About places to eat, we also have street foods, the best Vietnamese restaurants including seafood&Da Nang food specialty eateries, the best Western restaurants. Read them to find out your favourite places.

Places to eat in Hai Van pass and nearby areas

Near parking lots serving for Hai Van gates, there are some establishments dealing in foods (mainly Vietnamese dishes) and beverages. If like to stay longer and enjoy good weather on the mountaintop, these places’re acceptable choices. On Hue’s side, Lang Co town provides you more and better options. Restaurants with the best view locate along the shore of An Cu lagoon (famous for living seafoods) and the beach (within resorts like Thanh Tam Seaside Resort or Langco Beach Resort). Organised tours also often stop or offer your set lunch in one over two areas. If prepare the favourite restaurant ahead of time, discuss with your guide and driver.

Beautiful viewpoints around Hai Van pass or seascapes in Lang Co at its base are fantastic places to chill out and enjoy pre-made foods like a camping. Make it if you like this way of leisure.

Cycling tours to Hai Van pass from Hoi An

Hai Van pass is a dream destination for cyclists in Vietnam and worldwide. For that reason, it becomes the place all local cycling tour operators wanting to introduce to travelers. Leading one like Hoi An Cycling or Kong Adventures daily arrange packaged trips on the bicycle with an experienced mechanic-guide from Hoi An. They provide reasonable price, friendly service and awesome assistance when needed (even you just like to hire a bicycle to carry out your self-guided trip). To know all details about their offers with most values (among the best Hoi An cycling tours) to Hai Van pass, browse our article via http://hoianlife.net/the-best-hoi-ans-cycling-tours/.

Hoi An jeep tours to Hai Van pass

Traveling on a military jeep to discover famed Hai Van pass is special, off the beaten path. It appeared in Vietnam war for the first time as a combat vehicle but today carries tourists to scenic sceneries. Many local tour operators arrange day and multi-day trips but just some stand out like Vietnam Jeep Tour or Hoi An Jeep Adventures.

Not only claim up the pass, Vietnam Jeep Tour also brings you to the other side to admire one of the most charming bay in the country (return Hoi An). More than that, you have the chance to see an authentic fishing village, chat with locals and visit “City of Ghost” if travel with Hoi An Jeep Adventures (end at Hue). Read our article through http://hoianlife.net/hoi-an-jeep-tours/ to deepen your understanding about these best Hoi An’s jeep tours.

Bus tour from Hoi An to Hue with a stop at Hai Van Pass

Hue Tourist arranges this join-in-group bus tour in the morning at 7 a.m and two more in the afternoon at 2:30&3:30 p.m. Its guide and driver will pick up you at your hotel in Hoi An. On the itenerary, the bus stops in Hai Van pass and Lang Co beach prior to drop you off at Hue. If can not make sure your accommodation, you’re advised to leave it in the Weekend pedestrian street area (Pho di bo Hue) where plenty of hotels, hostels, homestays stand. Browse Hue Tourist’s webpage to see detailed timetable and book the tickets. Check out our article about different ways to get Hue from Hoi An to have more ideas when design your travel plan.

Price: 10 USD for morning bus, 9 USD for afternoon bus.

Inclusions: Transportation, guide, water, cool towel, insurance.

Exclusions: Meals, personal expenses, entrance fees, tipping and things not mentioned in inclusion section.

Discovery Hai Van pass’s coast by train from Hoi An

Exploring Hai Van pass’s coast with charming beaches and spectacular cliffs along the tracks is a special experience. First of all, the train itself remind you about the images appeared in novels. Following the establishment by French in 19th century, its look had no big change. During around one hour climb up and get down, passengers can not take eyes off. The landscapes from its window are heaven-like and overwhelming. Read our full guide for train travel from Hoi An and Da Nang to Hue through http://hoianlife.net/get-from-hoi-an-and-da-nang-to-hue-by-train/.

Keep in mind that if take a train, you will miss points of interest on upper Hai Van pass. Consider carefully before make up your mind.

Tours from Chan May port to Hoi An and Hai Van Pass

Tour operator: VM TravelAddress: 93 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai street, the Old town
Contacts: Telephone number (+84) 2343931747, webpage, Facebook page, Email (booking@vmtravel.com.vn)Price: 3.910.000 VND (170 USD), 2.300.000 (100 USD) for group of two, 1.840.000 VND (80 USD) for group of three&more discounts for larger group, 25% off for childrens from 5 to 10 years old, free-of-charge for childrens under 5.

This full-day tour starts at around 7:30 in the morning from Chan May port (VM Travel’s local guide with a welcome board will be in the place earlier). Before have set lunch with Vietnamese foods, your bus stops at Lang Co beach (one of the most untouched stretches of sand), Hai Van pass, the Marble Mountains. In the later course, the guide shows you historic landmarks within UNESCO-listed Hoi An ancient town like Japanese covered bridge, Chinese assembly hall, traditional styled house. Head back to the port around mid-afternoon.

Inclusions: All transportation, lunch, professional English speaking guide, entrance fees.

Exclusions: Drink in your lunch, pick up at the cruise (it cost 20 USD per person), tipping, travel insurance, personal expenses, things not mentioned in inclusion section. See all details in VM Travel’s homepage via https://vmtravel.com.vn/tours/chan-may-port-to-hoi-an-tour-in-1-day-private-tour/.

Chan May is among the best deep water port in Central Vietnam where numerous intercontinental cruise ships stop. Its name means ‘at the foot of cloud’.

What to do in Hai Van pass?

Visit Hai Van Quan and viewpoints

The most valuable standing monuments in Hai Van pass is Hai Van Quan (gates). It’s built in 1826 under the request of Minh Mang king to monitor all activities on the pass and Da Nang bay under. This National heritage site also functioned as an important military station to protect the South direction of Hue capital. Beside buildings serving for living and working of army solders, the king also added the most innovative cannons at the time in this stategic point. Year after year, its importance increased because more and more foreign merchant’s ships, missionaries came to Da Nang. His worries happened, in 1858, French troops carried out first attacks on the city (and Vietnam) to kick off their colonial process. A cemetery still exists today on a side of the Monkey Mountain attested to this turning point.

Alongside two brick arched gates, there are some other remains on the ground like French&American bunkers dated back from 19th century, abandonned living houses and archaeological sites. Near the highway, you’re able to see a stele showcasing information about ‘Hai Van victories’ in 1940s. Because faced many difficulties and skirmishes from the Revolution powers, French called Hai Van as ‘the pass without joy’ at that time.

Either Hue or Da Nang say Hai Van gates were in its boundary. This ‘discussion’ actually ended when these historic buildings’re registered as National heritage in 2017. Now, both localities has jointly owned and managed by both cities.

Enjoy coffee with a picteresque view

Local people and tourists regularly drive up Hai Van pass to reach coffee spots on Da Nang’s side. They offer Vietnamese traditional coffees, juices for the guests with a reasonable price. The best value belongs to the view towards Da Nang bay, city, white sandy beaches, railway and distant Monkey Mountain. In Cay thong co don (Single pine tree) and Mountain Rock Bar, you’re also able to stand on top of large rocks for taking picture. Keep in mind to carefully walk up and watch out all your steps.

Best viewpoints are usually in roadside cafeterias. Check online before you make your decision about the place should stop. In opposite, Hue’s side has no constructions covering your view.

Spend a day of adventure in Lang Van beach

In Da Nang’s side, an unspoiled sandy beach below Hai Van mountain pass, namely Lang Van is ideal to camp. In local language, it means ‘village under Cloud pass’. From 1968 to 1998, it served as the hospital for leprosy patients where they live and get treatments. Today, just some people stay here with income from fishing and cultivating rice. This village is well-liked and the best camping spot Da Nang. Campers enjoy bonfire parties together and nice natural qualities, especially sunrise. Additionally, small Lang Van and Xoan beaches are fabulous places for sun seekers. Thus, very worth it to spend a day of adventure in Lang Van! To see more details, browse Hoi An Life’s comprehensive article about beaches in Da Nang.

Camping by night

Hai Van mountaintop is a well-deserved place for spending a night. To get camping grounds, there is a small cement-made road at the base of Hai Van gates. Over there, you can set up all facitities for accommodating and watching sunrise in the next day. All of picteresque views of Da Nang bay&city and the Monkey Mountain are included. Keep in mind that cooking is not allowed to keep natural environment away from firing. Additionally, signs of fire and smoke make your time not smooth because polices will come and request you moving home.

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Tam Le Van

Tam is a tour leader and passionate traveler who has beautiful memories over 50 provinces of Vietnam. During the time Corona virus spreads out globally, he decides to become a blogger to share his experiences.
Contacts for work: Levantam0906@gmail.com or (+84) 968009827

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