Hai Van Pass – The Great Gate on the National Highway 1

Hai Van Pass is one of the most beautiful roads in Vietnam. This winding and alluring pass has always fascinated those who love adventure and want to conquer nature.

Hai Van Pass locates on a mountain branch stretching to the sea, crossing the Bach Ma mountain range that is a part of the Truong Son mountain range. The pass on the National Highway 1 is also on the natural geographical boundary of Thua Thien Hue province and Da Nang city.

The pass has a length of 20km and an altitude of 500m above sea level. Hai Van is one of the most beautiful and impressive coastal passes in the world with the name The Great Gate.

Hai Van Pass
Hai Van Pass | © Vietnamdrive

Name and history of Hai Van Pass

Hai means the Ocean, Van is the Cloud. So, Hai Van Pass refers to the Ocean – Cloud Pass because it is near the sea and on the top often gets cloudy.

Hai Van pass is also known as the Ai Van pass because there is a gate (Ai) on the top of the pass, and Deo May – Cloud pass.

According to historical records, before the year of Binh Ngo (in 1306), the land with Hai Van pass belonged to two regions of O and Ri of the Champa kingdom (Chiem Thanh). After being cut by Champa King Che Man to propose to Cong Chua Huyen Tran (Tran dynasty) in 1306, Hai Van pass is the boundary between Dai Viet (one former name of Vietnam) and Chiem Thanh.

About a century later, in 1402, the Ho dynasty brought troops to fight Chiem Thanh, forcing the king of Chiem Thanh to cut the land of Chiem Dong and Co Luy to make peace. Since then, the whole area with Hai Van pass belonged to Dai Ngu (another old name of Vietnam).

Later, during the French colonial period, Hai Van pass was built. However, the road was built very narrow and dangerous, and many beasts and looting took place at that time. Therefore, the French built more winding rail through this mountain.

During the period after 1954, because the road was too narrow, traffic accidents usually occurred. Thus, the government at that time set up 3 traffic checkpoints: 1 in Lang Co, 1 at the top of the pass, and 1 in Lien Chieu to control traffic volume. In 1966, the US Army allowed widening the road through the pass. The street was larger, so when passing through the pass, there is no longer waiting for other vehicles at 3 checkpoints. Although the big road has done, the accidents on the Hai Van pass are still an obsession for the drivers because of the twisting street.

Therefore, in 2000, Vietnam started to build a tunnel through the Hai Van pass to ensure traffic safety when crossing this place. In 2005, the construction through the mountain opened, creating favorable conditions for the safe North-South movement.

Today, although there is a tunnel connecting Lang Co bay and Da Nang City, tourists still want to go over the Hai Van pass to conquer its incredible beauty, which is set up by the mountains, clouds, and ocean.

Deo Hai Van
Many young Vietnamese tourists conquer the pass. ©Vietnamdrive

Conquer Hai Van pass – a unique road in Vietnam

Hai Van Pass is considered the most dangerous way in Vietnam, also one of the most beautiful and impressive coastal passes in the world. Coming here, you will have amazing feelings that are nowhere to be found. The reason is that the Hai Van Pass road is precarious, meandering, cloudy, and striking amidst the majestic mountains.

If you want to conquer Hai Van pass, you can choose the route from Hue to Hoi An or Da nang, and vice versa. The road has a steep slope of about 45 degrees with different shapes. The pass curves around the mountain, sometimes it turns suddenly, creating fancy curving lines.

Hai Van pass with one side is high mountains, and the other is the East Sea. All create magnificent natural pictures, infatuating the hearts of travelers. It is a charming painting of creation combining with the great work through human hands.

When you depart at the foot of the pass, you will be extremely excited. After that, you can experience the thrill of a bit of fear when stepping on a winding road. However, the zig-zag road ar the main thing that gives visitors exciting and challenging feelings.

Running along the road of Hai Van pass, you will be surprised by the beautiful natural scenery. From the pass, you can see a wide range of air, including the Bach Ma range, North-South railway. Standing north of the pass can see the fishing village and Lang Co Bay. Facing the south of the pass is the whole city of Da Nang, Tien Sa port, Cham Island, and green Son Tra peninsula.

To explore a panoramic view of the beautiful Hai Van Pass, there will be 3 means for you to choose from. It is by car and motorbike.

  • Motorbike: This is the best means for the Vietnamese guests to fully experience the feeling of discovering and conquering Hai Van pass. Traveling by motorcycle, you can flexibly stop at many places on the road to admire the scenery, take pictures, and rest. If you depart from Da Nang, after about 30 minutes, you will reach the foot of Hai Van pass.
  • A private car: Most vehicles today choose to go through the tunnel. So, it is comfortable to use a private car to explore the Hai Van Pass. If you are an international visitor, a car with a driver is the best choice to conquer this site. Stop at the top of the pass, and you can enjoy a cup of coffee in the cloud and take beautiful pictures.
  • A bicycle: if you like adventure, you can choose to conquer Hai Van pass by bike. However, you need to ensure good fitness to be able to go through this beautiful and dangerous pass.

What is outstanding about Hai Van Pass?

The most prominent in Hai Van pass is the 20km long road through the vast tropical forest, the winding road, curvings along the mountainside. All brings explorers to enjoy beautiful settings and the magnificent nature.

Going on Hai Van pass, you will see in front of you are the spectacular mountains, a stretch of white sand in the distance, and the gentle blue sea, all embellish and dazzle this way.

However, coming to Hai Van pass, you can not only satisfy the feeling of conquest but also visit many other interesting things here.

Hai Van Gate at the top of the pass

Hai Van Quan (Hai Van Gate) situates on the top of Hai Van pass. If you have conquered the spectacular roads of Hai Van Pass, you should also visit this gate.

Hai Van Pass Gate
The gates and bunkers on the top of Hai Van Pass. ©Vietnamdrive

The gate was built in the Tran dynasty, restored in 1926 under the reign of Emperor Minh Mang (Nguyen Dynasty). Hai Van Quan was made of red brick, about 6m high, below is there a large arch, above is a separate floor with windows to observe.

The gate was built with thick, solid walls. The door facing the Thua Thien Hue was written: ” Hải Vân Quan” (Hai Van Gate), while the door facing Quang Nam is titled ” Thiên Hạ Đệ Nhất Hùng Quan” (The Great Gate).

This site is a historic architectural work because it has witnessed many journeys of feudal kings.

Not only that, but Van Quan was also a strategic military position during the Vietnam War. Currently, this place remains the ruins of a small Japanese fort, and some bunkers built by the French army since 1826 although these monuments are severely degraded.

Standing on the top, you will admire the panoramic view of Hai Van Pass with white clouds, breathtaking roads, magnificent mountains, and immense sky – sea. And typically, you can take yourself the beautiful pictures of a natural setting.

Lang Co Bay down Hai Van Pass

Right at the foot of Hai Van Pass, at the railway crossing with the road, you can stop to admire Lang Co Bay. A beautiful site has also become one of the popular tourist destinations in Vietnam.

lang co beach
Lang Co Beach from the road of Hai Van Pass| ©Vietnamdrive

Lang Co Bay is also in the list of beautiful bays in Vietnam. The area has a poetic and peaceful landscape with mountains stretching to the sea along with pristine white sand beaches.

Standing here, you can enjoy the amazing scenery of the beach and fishing village at the Lang Co Bridge. If you have time, take a rest to taste lovely seafood, or spend an overnight at the resorts in the bay.

Notes to remember when going to Hai Van pass

The most appropriate time of a day to pass Hai Van pass is at dawn or sunset. Then, you will have impressive photos of the most beautiful scenery.

Hai Van Pass is exceptional on the sunny days, usually in the summer from April to September. During the wet season in Hue from October to February, sometimes it is good to go over Hai Van pass if not rain.

Take your time to rest on the top of Hai Van Pass, and taste a cup of Vietnamese coffee. That time will be great to relax and give yourself a joyful moment with fresh air.

Do not go further than the Great Gate and bunkers around. It is because there were some tourists lost who could not know how to come back when they climbed up the mountain.

There are many good points to take pictures. One of them is at the back of the coffee shop, which is opposite the Hai Van Quan. You can look at the Da Nang city, mountains, and ocean.

Driving motorbike in Vietnam is dangerous, and over this pass is more. So, we strongly recommend you hire a motor driver who will ride you, or book a private car with a driver to conquer Hai Van.

Hai Van Pass is an exciting choice for those who like adventure and experience. This place is not the same as the rustic beauty of Hue, nor too vibrant and bustling like Da Nang, but it has the freshness and greenness of the mountains and the sea. So, you can immerse yourself in the incredible scene of nature.

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    About the author

    The editorial staff of Vietnamdrive is a team of travel experts managed by Mr. Thom who has worked in tourism for 14 years. Trusted by thousands of tourists from all over the world.