Are you looking for a day trip from Hanoi? Or, perhaps you’re looking to spend a relaxing few days in Vietnam’s scenic landscape? Tam Coc, located in the Ninh Binh province in Vietnam is the perfect place!
Located 100km from Hanoi, Tam Coc makes a perfect day trip from Hanoi.
Here are a list of things to do in Tam Coc and the surrounding areas, all located in the Ninh Binh province. It is possible to do everything mentioned here in one day. Though, there’s nothing wrong with traveling slow and taking your time.
Take a boat ride through Tam Coc
Entrance fee: 195,000 VND
Tam Coc means three caves in Vietnam (Tam: Three, Coc: cave). So, it may come as no surprise when I tell you that your boat tour takes you through all three caves along the Ngo Dong River.
Once you pay for your boat ride at the ticket booth, you will start your two-hour journey on the Ngo Dong River, rowing in between rice fields. Depending on the time of year, you can see rice getting planted or harvested. If you pay close attention, you can also see goats on the sides of the mountains in search of food.
These photos were taken in February, which is nearing the end of the winter. During this time, it’s very common to see the process of rice seeds getting planted.
If you’re seeking a greener landscape, you should visit when the rice is getting ready for harvest from April to June.
Hike up the Mua Cave
Entrance fee: 100,000 VND
Warning: bring your sneakers! Now, I didn’t count but it’s said that there are 500 steps to climb in order to reach the top. Truthfully, it’s all worth it. Getting there will offer you some of the best views of Ninh Binh!
Halfway through the climb, you’ll be faced with two sets of stairs to continue up: one on your right and one to your left. Which route do you take?
In my opinion, both! You will get different, yet spectacular views of Tam Coc.
Visit Bich Dong Pagoda
Entrance fee: Free
The Bich Dong Pagoda is located just a few kilometers from Tam Coc. It’s so close that many people bike from Tam Coc.
While most pagodas are tiered towers, the Bich Dong Pagoda is built within a mountain cave. Each tier of this pagoda can only be seen when entering deeper into the cave and up the mountain.
You come across the lower pagoda, or the bottom layer before entering the cave.
The middle pagoda is a short, steep climb up several steps along the cave.
The upper pagoda, which I noticed that some tourists didn’t know existed, is an even steeper climb from the middle pagoda. The reason why some tourists didn’t know they could continue up is because the next set of stairs is located behind the middle pagoda, in the dark cave lit with only one light.
Walk through the Linh Coc Pagoda
Entrance fee: 20,000 VND
This grotto was a different, but nice surprise. This mountain formerly housed a pagoda near Tam Coc. However, as you can see below, it’s now full of stalagmites and stalactites. In some parts of the cave, the two even meet. Unfortunately, the cave’s carvings have been overtaken by the stalagmites and stalactites, so it’s difficult to see what the carvings used to be. Nonetheless, it’s a beautiful cave to walk through.
Some parts of the cave are very low and require you to bend down. I’m talking about a real, proper bend here. There were a few times I underestimated how low I had to go, and so I ended up rubbing my back along the top. The photo below captures the smallest entry throughout the whole cave.
Visit the ancient capital of Hoa Lu
Entrance fee: 20,000 VND
Hoa Lu was first capital of Vietnam. It came to be in the 10th and 11th centuries when Vietnam broke from Chinese rule. Today, not much remains of Hoa Lu except for two temples and a lake.
Here you will find a temple dedicated to honor Dinh Bo Linh, the first emperor of Vietnam.
Gateway to Emperor Đinh Tiên Hoàng Temple
Have you heard about Tam Coc before this article?