The Nam Na River Road, Vietnam

To the north of Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam, there are a hundred miles or so of other-worldly mountains. Stretching serpentine-like through this spectacular landscape is the Nam Na River Road.

Leave the city of Dien Bien Phu heading north on Highway QL12. At Muong Lay, you cross the Black River which runs from China through Hanoi and to the sea. From here, you are tracking the Nam Na River all the way to Phong Tho. In all, it’s a little over 100 miles from Dien Bien Phu. Starting out through paddy fields, as the city is left further behind, the villages become smaller and the areas that can be farmed become scarcer. 

Mountains of black rock tower on either side of the river valley. The road is a never-ending route of twists and turns, hairpins and climbs. The Nam Na river section of the QL12 is only 500m above sea level, but you are constantly climbing or descending the valley walls, where the engineers have hewn the road out of the rock face. There is hand-pumped fuel available in the villages and a few small shops, but little else. Why travel here to ride this epic road, apart from the obvious motorcycling delights? The rest of the day takes you over 2,000m to Sa Pa with its cloud scraping terraced rice paddies and dirt roads.

Want to ride this?

The Nam Na River Road is just one of the Greatest Roads you can ride with Motorrad Tours. Motorrad Tours is an independent tour operator, which specialises in taking the hassle out of the planning and logistics of riding the world’s greatest motorcycle routes, without taking away your freedom to ride and explore. You can ride the Nam Na River Road with Motorrad Tours on Adventure: Vietnam, or as part of the seven-week South East Asia Overland. To find out more visit