Taking the High Road Hai Van Pass

September 17, 2013 11 Comments »

Hai Van Pass

Evie checks out the view from Hai Van Pass

In today’s travel world where most people rush around trying to get from place to place, I love any opportunity to take the slow path. After all – the fun is in the journey for me – not necessarily the place. So when our Intrepid Vietnam Travel Itinerary called for overland transportation from Hue to Da Nang (and ultimately Hoi An) – I was pretty excited when our guide, Ngoc, told us that we had two options – a high road and a low road – and we would be taking the high road crossing Hải Vân Pass.

This notoriously dangerous pass in Vietnam is 13 miles long and winds through the Annamite Range that juts into the South China Sea along National Road 1A. The 1,600 foot elevation isn’t the danger, the weather is actually what makes the pass dangerous. The Vietnamese name Đèo Hải Vân means “ocean cloud pass” as the area traditionally gets a lot of ocean mist and fog making the visibility on the pass poor. However a ‘lower route’ was created in 2005, the Hải Vân Tunnel—the longest tunnel in Southeast Asia—offers an alternative road across the pass, reducing travel times by at least an hour.


Tunnel With No View VS. Twisting, Curving Mountain Road


Hai Van Pass danger

I love signs in other countries…

Is there really even a question on what I’d rather do? We took off in a big van heading for the pass – Evie downed some Dramamine and I got my cameras ready. As we drove out of Hue I was surprised at the gorgeous, simple villages along the water which made me promise myself that next time I came to Hue I would rent a motorbike and drive out this way myself to explore. We made some stops for photography and pitstops since it was a long 4 hour drive to Hoi An overall.

What’s a road trip without games? I enjoyed watching Evie interact with our family travel companions the Australian kids, Daryelle and William. Even though there was quite an age difference it was fun to watch the two cultures collide and intertwine as they played “Would You Rather” and discussed music and movies. And in true cultural challenge fashion, we all tried to see how long any of us could converse without saying the word “like” and of course the Americans, Evie and me, lost terribly. I pretty sure Ngoc and our van driver thought we were nutty.

Once we started climbing up the pass past the beaches, we could see the railroad below us and the traffic seemed to thin out a bit. Most commercial traffic takes the quicker tunnel route, which left all of these wonderful views to us! Our driver stopped at strategic points for us to get out and take pictures and luckily the ocean mist stayed at bay and our visibility was pretty good. We then had lovely views to drop down into Da Nang where the fishing boats and villages returned again.

Sure, taking the high road took longer – but the journey was worth it.

Vietnam dock

Fishing Village before the pass

trees vietnam

Hazy views before the pass.

Fisherman Vietnam

Fisherman near Hue

Hai Van Pass Beaches

Leaving the beach areas and starting to climb the pass.

Hai Van Pass pictures

The misty pass – we stopped to take pictures of the gorgeous views.

Hai Van Pass weather

The misty pass lives up to it’s name.


Hai Van Pass view

The South China Sea view from the pass.


Fishing boat Da Nang Vietnam

Evie in a typical Vietnamese fishing boat on Da Nang Beach

Was there a time when you took the long road? 

Disclosure:  While in Vietnam I was a guest of Intrepid Travel.  However all of the opinions and thoughts expressed here are my own.  I never accept such a deal if I am required, in any way, to write positively about any company, organization or experience. I will only take such a trip if I am free to write honestly and openly based on the actual experiences that I have.

Back to Blog

11 Responses to "Taking the High Road Hai Van Pass"

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Back to Blog