There was a time, not so long ago, when the provinces of Quang Tri, in central Vietnam, was probably the most dangerous place in the world. During the late 60’s and early 70’s, at the spike of the Vietnam war, the US forces dropped about 8 millions tones of bombs and mines in the area. Some of the cruelest, like Khe San or Quang Tri battles, happened in the area. 40 years after that, the bombs left from wartime still haunt the locals, but the former Demilitarized zone is not a dangerous place for tourists. Just 75 km north from Hue, it’s one of the best hidden secrets of Vietnam. The hell that was is now a paradise where you can experience the real Vietnam.
1) Beautiful and clean beaches
Do you dream of those white sand beaches with turquoise waters? No need to fly to Phu Quoc or Con Dao. If you ride through the quiet coastal road that connects Dong Ha city and the Vinh Moc tunnels you will spot some of the best beaches in Vietnam. The most famous is Cua Tung, where king Bao Dai used to relax in the 40’s and where you can enjoy the several bars, hotels and resorts, but along the way you will spot amazing strips of white sand that remain mostly untouched. Cua Viet beach is probably the best one. Good way to refresh from a long day of pedaling.
2) Historical interest
Due to its strategic importance during the war, Quang Tri is an interesting historical site. A ride to Vinh Moc tunnels is really recommended. Not as famous as the excavations in Cu Chi, near Saigon, but far more impressive, with structures where it is easy to walk and with different rooms that go up to 23 meters down. In front of a beautiful beach, it’s a must if you are in Quang Tri. Project Renew museum, the war cemeteries, or the Khe San battlefield are also good options.
3) Cross the border between North and South Vietnam
The 17th parallel that used to separate North and South Vietnam passes by Quang Tri. Crossing the Peace Bridge that used to separate the two countries over the Ben Hai river is one of the highlights of the trip, although you won’t be allowed to do it by bicycle.
One of the upsides of Quang Tri’s slower development is a paradise for cyclists: roads free of traffic, with very few cars and a lot of charming backroads where you will feel the freedom of cycling. If you fear big slopes, don’t worry because it’s mostly flat, but you should start your ride early, since it can be very hot during the day.
5) The caves
In the neighboring province of Quang Binh, the Phong Nha caves are an exciting choice for adventure lovers, very few places in the world can offer such an underground river exploration. Sure, it may be not as impressive as the nearby Soo Dong cave, labeled as the biggest in the world after it was discovered in 2009, but not everybody can afford the 3,000USD you need to pay for that tour.