Desert, Sea, Sky: The Ninh Thuan Loop

First published September 2015 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle


Between the two most popular beach towns in Vietnam – Mui Ne and Nha Trang – lies Ninh Thuan Province, one of the most sparsely populated, least developed, and driest regions in southern Vietnam. But Ninh Thuan’s rugged coastline – where blue bays meet rocky cliffs and sandy coves hide between huge boulders – is just as captivating as its more famous neighbours. Inland, clear rivers flow off the fertile slopes of the Central Highlands, before meandering through Ninh Thuan’s parched landscape of sand dunes, arid hills, and desolate plains: this is Vietnam’s desert. In recent years, ambitious new roads have opened up access to Ninh Thuan’s unique and enthralling natural beauty. I’ve pulled together three of my previous motorbike guides to create the Ninh Thuan Loop.

The Ninh Thuan motorbike loop, VietnamDesert, sea, sky: Ninh Thuan Province has a unique & enthralling natural beauty

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  • Total Distance: 250km
  • Duration: 2-3 days
  • Route: Phan Rang-Ca Na-inland-Cam Ranh [MAP]
  • Scenery: coastal, beaches, desert, rivers
  • Road Conditions: good paved roads & highways



The start and end point of this route is Phan Rang City, at the centre of the loop. However, you can easily approach the Ninh Thuan Loop from Mui Ne, to the south, by taking the new White Sand Dune Highway towards Ca Na; or from Nha Trang, to the north, by taking the scenic airport road towards Cam Ranh. The best time of year is December to February, which is the height of the dry season. If you start early you can complete this loop in one day, but I recommend at least two days. Scroll down for my map and guide of the Ninh Thuan Loop. (See related posts for more travel tips in this area)

The Ninh Thuan motorbike loop, VietnamNinh Thuan’s fabulous ocean roads are easily accessible from either Mui Ne or Nha Trang


Below is my map of the loop followed by three links to three separate motorbike guides which describe in more detail each section of this loop: including directions, sights, accommodation, and food. Alternatively, click the motorbike symbols on this map and follow the links in the box to go to the relevant motorbike guides. (For an alternative/extension of The Burnt Road in Section 2 try The Cai River Road.)

View in a LARGER MAP

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The Ninh Thuan Loop starts in Phan Rang. Head south on the new bridge which now connects the city with the wild and windswept Mui Dinh Pomontory. A fabulous new coast road winds around this boulder-strewn peninsular to Ca Na beach. Click the image below or read the full guide HERE

Mui Dinh Coast Road
Click image to go to guide

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After heading north on Highway 1 back towards Phan Rang, the loop turns inland; past the ruins of Cham temples, through acres of vineyards, along clear rivers, and into the dust and sand of the driest region in Vietnam. I call this the Burnt Road. (For a longer alternative to this try The Cai River Road.) Click the image below or read the full guide HERE

The Burnt Road, Ninh Thuan, Vietnam
Click image to go to guide

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Sweeping off the parched plains and back to the coast, a spectacular new road rounds Nui Chua Peninsular, where jungled hills plunge into the ocean, revealing ribbons of white sand and gin-clear water, before returing to Phan Rang and completing the Ninh Thuan Loop. Click the image below or read the full guide HERE

The Nui Chua Coast Road, Vietnam
Click image to go to guide


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6 Responses to Desert, Sea, Sky: The Ninh Thuan Loop

  1. Ed says:

    The Cam Ranh to Ca Na section of my favorite ride in all South Vietnam. It reminds me the the Dalmatian coast and the mountain roads of Southern Serbia and Northern Montenegro. Some of the hidden beaches, accessible by nature roads and paths, are real gems.

  2. Nathan says:

    Hi Tom

    Do you have any other recommendations for less oppressively sunny/hot rides from Nha Trang? I’m here for a few weeks and already have a bit of a burn.

    Was thinking heading to Da Lat or is that too ambitious with a scooter?

    • Hi Nathan,

      Yes, you could make a scenic loop from Nha Trang to Dalat and back again like this: from Nha Trang take road QL27C up to Dalat (1 day), stay in Dalat, then take road QL27 back down from Dalat to Phan Rang and along the Nui Chua Coast Road back up to Nha Trang. This loop could be as short as 3 days or as long as you like.

      I hope this helps,


  3. Florent says:

    Hello Tom!

    How many days would you recommend to make this trip? It sounds like 2/3 days would be enough. Also I am really curious to know the time of the year you made those trips!


    • Hi Florent,

      As I mention in this guide, I recommend at least 2 days to really enjoy it, and that the dry season months around January/February are the time I prefer to ride it. The photos in this guide were taken on many trips, some in the January/February, some in August/September. This loop is very scenic and very easy to drive so it’s ideal at almost any time of year 🙂


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