A country with 2,360 rivers totaling about 41,900 km of waterways. With plenty to choose from, only 12 made the list as most famous in Vietnam. We bring them to you along with activities to enjoy around each one to get the most out of your river exploring experience.
Rivers Of North Vietnam
1-Sông Nho Quế – Nho Que River
For modern-day explorers taking on the motorbike loops of northern Vietnam, one of the most accessible routes is the Ma Pi Leng pass. This loop generally starts or finishes in Ha Giang following the QL4C road through the mountains. At the peak of this journey, you’ll reach the Ma Pi Leng viewpoint at close to 1,500-meters that looks over the Nho Que River winding its way through Hà Giang Province, Cao Bằng Province, and a sliver of China.
With a nimble motorcycle and an adventurous driver, you can explore in and around the Nho Que River, and the indigenous villages via the trails etched out by the locals that live here. The route cuts through jagged cliffs, around river pools, and along the deep ravine here.
The immense power of towering landscapes above and the quiet murmur of the Nho Que River bubbling under the earth here are an indescribable feeling you need to experience.
To Do Near Ha Giang:
- Stop in Dong Van, an ancient town full of shops, eateries, and accommodation.
- Hike the viewpoint at Ma Pi Leng. The bird-like-views here are unreal.
- Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark is an amazing UNESCO site to explore with a guide on your motorbike. Seventeen ethnic tribes live within this natural park.
2-Song Hong- Red River
Starting more than 500-kilometers into mainland China, then crossing the border near Lao Ca in Vietnam before winding a further 510-kilometers. The Red River cuts southeast through nine provinces and eventually mixes with the waters of the South China Sea some 1150-kilometers later.
The Red, or Song Hong River flows through Hanoi and carries its nutrient-rich waters to the Red River Delta where indigenous inhabitants have been practicing wet rice cultivation for centuries. This abundant area has helped form some of the country’s most critical indigenous civilizations.
Stops Near Hanoi On The Red River
- Bat Trang Pottery Village is just south of Hanoi on the edge of the Red River. A famous old village of Hanoi where people still work in a traditional way.
- Red River Bridges:
- Long Bien Bridge is the oldest, and as per age-old Fench rule, bridge traffic drives to the left, opposed to Vietnams typical right side.
- Thang Long Bridge is a 2-floor, steel truss bridge connecting the Nam Thang Highway & Long Highway to the airport for both vehicles and trains.
- Chuong Duong Bridge is credited as the first of these bridges built entirely by Vietnamese engineers.
- Thanh Tri Bridge opened in 2007, with a total investment of VND 5,700 billion making it one of the most advanced and expensive bridges in Vietnam.
- Vinh Tuy Bridge rang in at 3.6-billion vnd and is currently 19-meters wide with expansion plans to reach 38-meters.
- Nhat Tan bridge is the only cable-stayed bridge leading into Hanoi and also the youngest of these three bridges.
3-Sông Ngô Đồng – Ngo Dong River
The Ngo Dong River is a small river that runs through the Ninh Hai commune before the river flows through Ninh Binh province. You can find these beautiful waters at the base of the Trang An World Heritage Site just outside of Ninh Binh city. This tributary of the Sao Khe river then cuts its way through the limestone mountains and rice fields of the region eventually connecting with the Vac River near Vung Tram Bridge.
If you’re coming to the area, the best time is during April and May when the rice fields come to life along the river’s edge.
What To See Nearby
- Take a rowboat tour to see caves, temples, and lakes. Popular choices are at Trang An Grottoes or Tam Coc. Both are beautiful, Tam Coc is more touristy.
- Hike to the viewpoint at Hang Mua, it’s just under 500-steps to a top-of-the-world view.
- Thai Vi Temple is a place of worship, but the grounds and surrounding area are stunning and well worth the visit.
- Ride your motorbike out the Cuc Phuong National Park. It’s full of wildlife and they have a primate rescue center onsite. We have a full Cuc Phuong activities guide to make planning easier.
Rivers Of Central Vietnam
4-Sông Bến Hải – Ben Hai River
Once known as the river that divided South from North Vietnam during the war, Ben Hai or Rao Thanh Rivers geographical location in Central Vietnam became a top priority for demilitarization during the 1954 Geneva Accord.
These days, in a united country, the river simply continues to flow from Dong Chan mountain in the Truong Son Mountain range near Ben Hai, eventually connecting up with the Sa Lung River before flowing into the sea.
What To See Nearby
- Hien Luong Bridge at Hien Luong Village marks a country divided. The Northside of the bridge was once the Socialist Republic Of Vietnam and the Southside the Democratic.
- Vinh Moc Tunnels was once home to nearly 90-families during the war. They lived, worked, and hid here during American bombing attacks – an interesting tour for sure.
- The largest cemetery in Vietnam, Truong Son Martyrs, hold over 10,000 gravestones marking those lost here during the war. A humbling visit.
- Ride down to Hue for amazing photo opportunities of an abandoned theme park that will either excite or creep you out.
5-Sông Son – Son River
A tributary of the Gianh River in North Central Vietnam, the Song Son or Troc River flows from the Phong Nha cave in Phong Nha village flowing under the mountains west of Quang Binh, never leaving Quang Binh province.
The green waters of Son River are reflective of the Ke Bang limestone mountains it passes through. Spending time on the waters here, you’ll come to know some of the many legends and love stories associated with the water.
What To See In Nearby Phong Nha
- Take a boat tour deep into the 14,000-meter underground river that’s hidden inside the Phong Nha Cave to see some of its 14-grottoes.
- Go swimming and jump from the bridge at Mooc Springs. It’s a nice place to cool off for the day.
- Adventure seekers will enjoy a day zip-lining, caving, and kayaking at Dark Cave. Our related post around Phong Nha will help you plan your activities.
6-Sông Hương – The Perfume River
The Perfume River takes its name from the fragrant flowers that bloom along the river’s edge, then fall into the water during autumn giving the river a fragrant aroma. The areas landmarks give Hue a nickname often referred to as “The Land of the Huong River and Ngu Mountain” as the infamous river flows through while Ngu mountain watches over the city.
Huong River flows through the villages of Kim Long, Nguyet Bieu, Vy Da, Dong Ba, Gia Hoi, Cho Dinh, Nam Pho, and Bao Vinh. For tourists the experience of floating down these waters watching the idyllic scenery on a simple man-powered boat make for a romantic and treasured event.
Things To Do Nearby
- Visit the Imperial City. This former imperial capital of Vietnam is a walled city inside a citadel. See where the ruling class used to live.
- Take a boat ride down the river. There are plenty of options to choose from.
- Have a drink or go for dinner along the river’s edge in Hue. Sit down at Han Restaurant if you’re looking for something special.
- Go on a DMZ Tour. A local guide can take you through a tour of what it was like to live during the war and see this demilitarized zone. If you’re looking for more, check our related post on top things to do in Hue.
7-Han River, Da Nang
The Han River is most well-known for the incredible bridges and activities that surround it rather than the water itself. The waters begin between the districts of Cam Le, Hai Chau and Ngu Hanh Son and then flow roughly 7kms before the river flows through Danang Bay.
The river’s edge is the chosen spot to host an international fireworks competition attracting millions of tourists from around the globe. To add to this, there are 9 bridges that cross the Han River around Da Nang that vary from a fire-breathing Dragon Bridge to an incredible rotating bridge. The Han River is a magnet for impressive structures and sights to see.
Sites & Activities
- Check out the Dragon Bridge on weekends. This impressive structure comes to life in a fury of flames and water on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
- Other Impressive Bridges Nearby
- Han River Bridge – the only rotating bridge in Vietnam
- Tran Thi Ly Bridge – the largest pillar bridge in the world
- Thuan Phuoc Bridge “spectacular” – The shine on the Han River
- Tien Son Bridge – Made famous by the Tigit Motorbike location nearby 🙂
- Ride over to the Marble Mountains named for the five elements of the earth, and see how a hidden community-operated undetected inside a mountain during the war.
- We made a full list of fun things to do while cruising around on a motorbike in Danang, go through and check them off!
8-Sông Hoài – Hoai River
Hoi An is a city locked in time and the people that live and work here can still be found creating a living in these old ways. The Hoai River that flows through the city is still a symbol of this history and one of the main attractions is to enjoy a man or wind-powered boat ride that’s just like it has been since people first began sailing the river.
Activities Near Song Hoai
- Rent a motorcycle and ride the famous Hai Van Pass. The Hai Van Pass route from Hoi An to Hue is a spectacular way to see this beautiful pass along the coast.
- Visit the Ancient City in Hue. If the city is holding onto its past, this part is the most reflective of a centuries-old world. Photo-junkies, brace yourself.
- Visit the Lantern Market that lights up each night with the famous Hoi An silk-made lanterns. There is plenty of food, drink, and shopping here to enjoy.
Rivers Of South Vietnam
9-Sông Sêrêpôk – Serepok River
Taking its name from the Cambodian title Tongle Xrepok, the Serepok or Srepok River is an important tributary of the Mekong River that originates from the combining waters of the Krong Kno and Krong Ana streams further up the Truong Son mountain range.
When these gentle streams combine, the mixing waters turn to aggressive churning rapids as though battling each other for dominance of the riverbed that hosts them. An interesting transformation to witness.
Activities To Do Nearby
- Visit the Dray Sap, Dray Nur, and Virgin waterfalls. Though Sap and Nur are virtually side by side, the bridge that separates them is derelict and it’s a 25-kilometer drive to reach the other.
- Ride To Where The Waters Begin
- From Buon Ma Thuot city of Dak Lak province, drive a motorbike to Buon Tra town (Krong Ana district) to begin your journey to the birthplace of the majestic Srepok line. Reaching the paved road you will have to go on the dusty red dirt road and tiny farm roads that are just big enough for a bike. When you arrive at the fork of the river, you must continue the journey by boat to reach the place where the two rivers meet – on the left is the muddy Krong Ana stream, on the right is the Krong Kno line all year round transparent water.
10-Sông Đồng Nai – Dong Nai River
Starting in the Central Highlands of Lam Dong province and rolling down towards Ho Chi Minh City in the South of Vietnam. The Dong Nai River is the second longest river in Vietnam only to the Mekong, racking up a total length of 586kms.
Some important points along the water include the Ghenh Bridge, built by the French from 1901-1904 that can transport cars, trucks, trains and a special section for motorbikes. There’s also the Dong Nai Hydroelectric plant built into the river providing electricity to a large part of Vietnam.
Sites Along The Dong Nai
- Drive over the 100-year old Ghenh Bridge. After this two-minutes of fun, you can stop at some of the nearby pagodas. Ong Pagoda is one of the more popular ones here.
- Check out the cheap activities at BUU Long Tourist Park. They’ve got swan boat rides, waterfalls, gardens to walk, some rides, and a kids splash park.
- Test your skills on a 1-Day Escape Saigon Motorbike Tour. A great way to test your bike skills and see some hidden sites near Saigon.
11-Sài Gòn – Saigon River
Originating from Loc Ninh basin along the Vietnam and Cambodia border, the Saigon River divides the provinces of Tay Ninh and Binh Duong as it makes its way some 256kms before the river flows through Saigon before meeting up with Rap River en route to the sea.
An important river to Saigon’s economy, this is one of Vietnam’s major rivers and acts as the city’s main shipping port to help transport goods to and from Ho Chi Minh and around the globe.
Sites Along The Saigon River
- The Phu My Bridge that connects District 2 and 7 is the most modern cable-stayed bridge in the world.
- The Cu Chi Tunnels are just on the edge of the Saigon River and make for a great half day tour by motorbike from Saigon.
- Take the cable car up then hike around Black Virgin Mountain. You’ll see the growing Saigon River and views over the land below.
12-Sông Cửu Long – Me Kong River
Likely the most famous of all the rivers in Vietnam, the Mekong River or Cuu Long Giang (Nine Dragons River), is the twelfth largest river in the world. These waters start near Tibet in China and run through China’s Yunnan Province, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and finally into Vietnam.
The Mekong River is an incredible source of food, life, and economic activities for all the countries and communities that border it.
Things To Do Around The Mekong River Delta
- Take a boat tour of the Cai Be or Cai Rang floating markets. You’ll be treated to regional foods and fruits in a grocery shopping experience like no other.
- Visit the three huge Buddhist temples at Vinh Trang Temple. This is a great place to take photos of some of Vietnam’s stunning temples.
- Get to know the hidden farms, backroads, and local families on a Mekong Adventure Motorbike Tour. You’ll get a first-hand look into the real Vietnam.