Sunset Sledding on Sand Dunes in Mui Ne, Vietnam

Mui Ne, Vietnam’s sand dune landscape is like something out of The Arabian Nights, but with an Alpine twist. Gusts of wind pick up sand from the cinnamon-colored dunes, causing the grains to dance in the air, all while adventure-seeking travelers gleefully sled — and wipe out — on plastic toboggans.

To get to the seaside resort town of Mui Ne, we rode a sleeper bus from Ho Chi Minh City. The journey only took four hours, but our seats were in a reclining position the entire time — making for unique glimpses of the streetscapes whizzing by.

With the sun preparing to slumber, we swiftly hopped into a taxi bound for Mui Ne’s well-known Red Dunes. They are approximately a 15-minute drive from central Mui Ne.

A Vietnamese brother and sister duo carrying turquoise blue, plastic toboggans swiftly greeted us as we hopped out of the van. And so began the negotiation process that is so common in Southeast Asia.

“How much… for two sleds… for a few runs?” Shawn asked.

After a bit of haggling, we agreed upon a $5 rental fee for the two simple contraptions.

Being the chivalrous gentleman that he is, Shawn insisted upon sliding down the dune ahead of me, first.

Our male Vietnamese guide expertly formed a mound of sand on the sled, prepared a track on the dune’s summit, and told Shawn to lie back — all for the ultimate aerodynamic experience.

Within a few seconds, Shawn had glided to the bottom of the dune. He wore a child-like grin on his face and gave a thumbs-up for me to proceed.

My female guide, Na, prepped my sled in the same manner in which her brother had prepared Shawn’s. With a few butterflies swirling in my stomach, I was on my way.

The descent was fun, exhilarating, and short! I only wished that the ride had lasted a bit longer, for the walk back to the summit for rounds two and three was quite a challenge.

I now know what it feels like to be swallowed in quicksand.

After three rounds of sledding, we bid farewell to Na and her brother, and found a quieter spot to watch the sun set. The sand’s color had transitioned from a deep cinnamon tone, to a rosy grey, and finally a faint khaki.

For several days following our sledding sortie on Mui Ne’s dunes, souvenir sand granules greeted me, having stowed away in my hair, shoes and clothes.

It’s miraculous that my camera is sand-free today. Thank goodness it was wearing its UV filter prior to voyaging to Mui Ne!

A couple walks on Mui Ne's Red Sand Dunes, in Vietnam.

Mui Ne Red Sand Dunes sandboarding sledding

Close-up of the Mui Ne Red Sand Dune in Vietnam.

A pair of people holds plastic sandboards at Mui Ne, Vietnam's Red Sand Dunes.

People walk across Mui Ne's sand dunes at sunset.

A close-up of the sand's wavy patterns at the Mui Ne Sand Dunes.

A couple walks across the Mui Ne Sand Dunes at sunset.

People standing in sand at the Mui Ne Red Sand Dunes
Shawn’s submerged feet (left) and a wind-blown look for me (right).
A man's legs are submerged in sand at the Mui Ne Red Sand Dunes in Vietnam.

A girl holds a blue sheet of plastic, used for sand boarding in Mui Ne, Vietnam.

People sled on the Mui Ne sand dunes at sunset.
A father and son wipe-out on the slopes of the dunes.
Flip flops, submerged in sand, sit on Mui Ne's Red Sand Dunes.
Flip flops, submerged in sand.
A man climbs Mui Ne's sand dunes on his hands and knees.
After a ride down the hill, a fellow sledder fights his way up the slope.
Silhouetted human figures stand on top of Mui Ne's Red Sand Dunes.
People sandboarding on Mui Ne's Red Dunes.

A man sandboards on Mui Ne's Red Dunes.
Shawn starts his first run, with a little help.
sandsledding Vietnam Mui Ne

Mui Ne Sand Dunes

man sandboarding Mui Ne Sand Dunes Vietnam

People sandboard
Shawn makes his way to the bottom of the dune.
Mui Ne Vietnam sandboarding

Mui Ne Sand Dunes sunset visit

A woman slides down Mui Ne's Sand Dunes in Vietnam.

A woman at the Mui Ne Sand Dunes shakes off the sand from our hair and face.
Shaking the sand from my face and hair.
A woman sits on the Mui Ne Sand Dunes. Her legs are submerged in sand.
My legs, devoured by sand.
A man stands atop the Mui Ne Sand Dune in Vietnam with a blue sky overhead.
Shawn, between sky and dune.
Mui Ne Sand Dunes footprints

Mui Ne Red Sand Dunes Vietnam at sunset

A couple poses at Mui Ne's Red Sand Dunes in Vietnam.

The Mui Ne Red Sand Dunes at sunset.

A woman sits on the Mui Ne Red Sand Dune in Vietnam.

A pair of sunglasses at the Mui Ne Sand Dunes.

Where in the World?

Planning Pointers:

  • Our bus arrived in Mui Ne from Ho Chi Minh City just before sunset, so we didn’t have a lot of time at the Red Sand Dunes. It cost $5 to rent two plastic “toboggans” for sledding/sandboarding.
  • We spent one wonderful night in Mui Ne at the Muine de Century Beach Resort & Spa (affiliate link). The room and grounds were lovely! We went for a swim in the massive pool, enjoyed afternoon tea, and ate breakfast on the terrace overlooking the South China Sea. Our only regret is that our stay was so short. (We stopped in Mui Ne on the way from Ho Chi Minh City to Da Lat and were on a bit of a tight traveling schedule.)

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All rights reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

20 thoughts on “Sunset Sledding on Sand Dunes in Mui Ne, Vietnam

  1. What a fantastic post Tricia! At first, one may think that you’re vacationing in Dubai!! Excellent shots; I cannot believe Vietnam has this type of terrain! You both look like you’ve had an excellent time :)

    1. We had a splendid time indeed, Marina! Felt like kids again. :-) And, it gave us a feel for winter sledding back home, sans the white fluffy stuff.

      I find myself continually amazed by Vietnam’s varied landscapes: Alpine-like, flowery cities, sand dunes, beaches, jungles. It’s a beautiful country.

    1. Victor, I’m amazed to learn that there are dunes like this in so many corners of the world! My friend in France just mentioned that Europe’s tallest dunes (the Pilat Dune) are in France’s Arcachon Basin. What a beautiful world we live in!

  2. Quel magnifique paysage lunaire ! Profitez bien de ces dunes irréelles à l’heure où, à Grenoble, on prépare les luges pour dévaler les pistes enneigées!
    En France, la dune du Pilat (dans le bassin d’Arcachon) est la plus haute d’Europe ! Gros bisous aux deux globe trotters !

    1. Bonjour, Claudine, et merci pour tes voeux pour un voyage merveilleux! Dévalez-vous deux sur ces pistes, ou peut-être leur plus petite version, bientôt? C’est la première fois que j’ai entendu parler de la Dune du Pilat – c’est vraiment magnifique! La belle France est bénie avec tant de paysages magnifiques et variés. Peut-être un jour, nous pouvons explorer ce paysage. Gros bisous à vous deux aussi et à la prochaine!

    1. Friends who had visited there highly recommended the dunes – otherwise it would’ve come as a big surprise to us as well. Alas, months later, I think my camera still has grains of sand stowing away on it. :) Time for a professional cleaning! :) Glad you stopped by, Rachael. I look forward to seeing more of your work – you’re quite talented!

  3. That certainly seems like a lot of fun! And you guys are so photogenic :-)
    The closest I have come to anything like this is the Toboggan ride down the hill from the Great Wall. Thanks for sharing Tricia, Your little Vietnamese ‘guide’ is so adorable :-)

    1. Ah, thank you Madhu! I’m intrigued by your mention of a toboggan ride by the Great Wall! Do you have a post about it on your website? When were in you in China and for how long? We really hope to make it there soon.

      1. We went in 2009 for three weeks.. I don’t have pictures, but I have mentioned it in my post on the Great Wall. You will find it under destinations or from my index, under China.

  4. Ahhhh I think I know where I’m going next!!! I want to see the best of Vietnam, like Halong Bay, Sapa, Mekong Delta, Hue, Hoi An (and get in one of those round boats that you did) and the Red Dunes here!!!!! It all looks so amazing! Maybe after that head to Southern Thailand paradise. *swoon*

    1. Alli, I thought you were headed to NZ next. :)

      Sapa is the only spot that’s alluded me in Vietnam, but I hope we’ll make it there the next time. I’ve heard other travelers say that the homestays were quite special.

      Travel just makes one realize how much left of the world there is to see.

  5. Mui Ne actually has 2 different sand dunes: One is red and the other is white. Here is a link to some photos of the white sand dune:
    Tricia, if you plan to come back to Vietnam, perhaps the below links may give you some ideas of other places to visit:
    Ma Pi Leng Pass:
    Mai Chau Valley:
    Tam Coc in Ninh Binh Province:
    white-sand Doc Let beach:
    I came across this blog by a guy named Tom called Vietnam Coracle which has some useful advice for those wanting to know more about food, drink, and independent travel in Vietnam:
    I hope the above is of use to you and those who follow your blog.

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