Southeast Asia is world-renowned for its dazzling array of picture-perfect scenery, from vast tropical rainforests to towering mountain peaks and mile after mile of breathtaking white-sand beaches. It should not come as a surprise then that this spectacularly-beautiful region is a road tripper’s paradise. Although countless paths traverse this land of unparalleled natural splendor, these five scenic Southeast Asian roads are must-see routes for adventure.
1. Hai Van Pass, Vietnam
Winding for 13 miles between Hue and Hoi An in central Vietnam, the Hai Van Pass provides splendid panoramic views of the South China Sea to the east and the majestic Annamite Mountains to the west. With all its spectacular scenery, driving along this centuries-old passageway is like journeying through a picture postcard. At the highest point on the pass, visitors can stop for souvenirs, refreshments, and a visit to the historic Hai Van Gate, constructed in 1826 to defend Vietnam’s then-capital from invaders. It’s an experience like no other.
2. Halsema Highway, Philippines
Traversing the Cordillera Central mountain range on Luzon Island in the Philippines from Baguio to Bontoc, the 150-kilometer Halsema Highway meanders through lush tropical forests and passes several spectacular volcanic rock formations. Visitors can marvel at the breathtaking views from the summit of Philippine Pali – the highest point in the country’s road network – and experience local Cordillera culture at the Guerilla Saddle rest area. The Halsema Highway is also the main access route to Sagada, where visitors can admire the subterranean wonderland of Lumiang and Sumaguing caves. It’s quite the trip.
3. Route 66, Cambodia Cambodia’s Route 66 plays host to plenty of spectacular scenery along its course from Angkor to Beng Mealea and onward to Preah Khan. Travelers will be awestruck at the sight of the ancient Chaw Srei Vibol and Beng Mealea temples, both constructed at the height of the Khmer Empire. Running through tropical forests, rice fields and quaint rural villages, Route 66 crosses several stone bridges built in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; most notable among these is the dramatic Spean Ta Ong span, with more than twenty arches. Even though the road is best suited for dirt bikes, traversing this route is a must.
4. Phuket Northeast Loop, Thailand
Thailand is known the world over for its breathtaking scenery, and the Northeast Loop road on the island of Phuket is certainly no exception. Also known as Highway 4027, the Northeast Loop provides motorists and cyclists alike with stunning panoramic vistas along Phuket’s east coast. Paralleling the shoreline of Phang Nga Bay, the road provides outstanding views of limestone karst formations rising out of the emerald-hued waters. Golfers will be especially pleased to know that the Northeast Loop is the primary access route to and from Mission Hills Golf Course, where they can enjoy a round of nine or 18 holes in a picturesque tropical setting.
5. Thakhek Loop, Laos
The Thakhek Loop traverses Laos for 450 kilometers, providing travelers with breathtaking sights at every turn along its circuitous path. Such picturesque and diverse landscapes along the route include crystalline blue lagoons, towering limestone peaks, and a plethora of caves. Konglor Cave, in particular, is an underground wonderland boasting a subterranean river in addition to several spectacular rock formations. Guest houses and homestays in local villages allow visitors to experience genuine Laotian hospitality. In short, a journey along the Thakhek Loop is nothing short of amazing.