I slowed down so Lesh could ride up beside me. I could clearly see her beaming smile in my dusty side mirror and it was obvious she was having just as much fun as I was. When she pulled up alongside me, on that impeccable road from Dalat to Nha Trang, she screamed at the top of her lungs. “Wow! It’s just so beautiful!” I smiled back at her and nodded. Yes, it sure is.
One of the sheer joys of motorbiking is the sensation of being a part of your surroundings. You are not looking out the window of a car or bus, confined within the metal body of a vehicle. You are exposed to the elements. You can smell the sweetly-scented pines as you ride past fringing forests. The subtle atmospheric changes as you make your way through varying climates instantly affects your body. Only centimetres separate your feet from the tarmac. You are completely in tune with your environment.
The realities of riding motorbikes in Southeast Asia is that you can almost guarantee the conditions will be far from perfect. Kamikaze minibus drivers keeps the adrenalin pumping heavily through your veins as they nonchalantly edge you off the road. A perfectly-sealed road can unassumingly turn into a potholed quarry, with little or no explanation or supposed reasoning. Highways randomly end with no detour signs present. Whether you actually make it to your destination often depends on a mix of luck, goodwill, survival skills and guesswork.
For some reason, the new road from Dalat to Nha Trang is an exception to this rule. Once you find your way out of Dalat (with no signs in town pointing you in the right direction, of course), it is relatively straight forward. But besides the journey being the most direct route between Dalat and Nha Trang, the real reason you take this ride is to bask in one of Southern Vietnam’s most scenic roads.
Starting off in the relatively high altitude town of Dalat, you pass through well-maintained farmlands and towering pine forests. The pavement is brand new and barely a pothole is to be found. Banked corners weave through the countryside with little-to-no traffic to keep you company.
At the start of your ascent to the top of the mountain pass, the temperature notably drops and the scenery begins to change. Dramatic cliffs line the edge of the road while rollings hills begin to rise up in the distance. Once you reach the highest point of the road, the descent begins. And the best part of the trip is now ahead of you.
Rounding a bend in the road, you are met with vistas spilling down the mountains and across a startling gorge. The tarmac follows the contours of the hills as you switchback your way towards the valley floor. High above a soaring waterfall spills out from a crack in the mountain and tumbles its way towards the bottom of the ravine. I challenge you not to scream out in jubilation.
With a marble Buddha statue to meet you on your way, and an observation tower to climb for better views, this is one of the most scenic roads in all of Vietnam.
As you finally reach the valley floor you are given two options to make it to Nha Trang – either head through the small town of Khanh Vinh and follow rural villages all the way to the highway, or stick on the main road from Dalat to Nha Trang and enjoy the wide-open spaces of lush pastures. Either is a good option, although perhaps make sure you have a good map or GPS if you choose to go the rural route. An alternate to finishing up in Nha Trang is to continue heading up to Jungle Beach – a great beach getaway with sand and sea far cleaner (and quieter) than what you will find in Nha Trang.
Once you’ve made it to your final destination you will not be able to wipe the smile off your face. The road from Dalat to Nha Trang is captivating, exhilarating and gorgeous. You may even decide to do the ride again, just to enjoy its scenery once more (we rode it three times in the end). If you listen very carefully, you may still hear Lesh’s voice screaming out about how beautiful it is. More likely, however, is that it will be your own voice joyfully filling the valley.
How To Ride The Road From Dalat To Nha Trang
The absolute best way to ride the road from Dalat to Nha Trang is by motorbike. If you don’t have your own bike, you can rent them from many places in Dalat or Nha Trang. Just be sure to check whether or not you can find a one-way rental, or if you will have to return the bike to its original location. If that’s the case, you get to ride the road twice. Score!
For those who are not confident riding a scooter or motorbike, consider signing up with an Easy Rider operation. There are literally hundreds in the town of Dalat now, so be sure to do your research before choosing one. Quality levels vary between companies and individual riders. The added benefit of going with Easy Rider instead of heading off on your own is they know all the great back roads and villages to check out between Dalat and Nha Trang. If you have the time, perhaps consider extending your Easy Rider adventure by a day or two, and really explore Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
If you don’t want to jump on the back of a motorbike, your last reasonably-priced option is to take the bus. Yes, you will get to see same views as everyone else (admittedly through the panes of a window), but the true experience will be gone. Let go of your inhibitions, embrace the adventure and cruise along the road from Dalat to Nha Trang by motorbike!
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