Hoa Lu and Tam Coc day trip - review by Rusty Compass
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Hoa Lu and Tam Coc day trip

| 16 Nov 2011
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Hoa Lu and Tam Coc day trip
Ninh Binh Province - around 2 hours from Hanoi
8AM till 5PM

Our rating
16 Nov 2011

In classic tourist parlance, brochures describe the mystical Hoa Lu and Tam Coc  landscape as “Halong Bay on land” on account of its stunning limestone mountain formations. There is plenty to hype too. This is spectacular country.

Note: The information provided in this review was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service

The countryside around Hoa Lu and Tam Coc is beautiful and perfect for short cycles through stunning rural scenes with a backdrop of hundreds of magnificent limestone mountains. The boat trip along the river at Tam Coc is also beautiful, but diminished both by heavy handed tourism management and the harassment of sellers.

The area is also an increasingly common day trip from Hanoi. Time permitting, there’s a strong argument for spending a night here - which will happily put you out of sync with the tour coaches and also enable better exploration of what is a magical part of Vietnam. 

Hoa Lu

Little remains of the Dinh and Le Dynasty kingdoms that positioned their 9th and 10th century capital amidst the limestone mountains of Hoa Lu. While the mystical mountains are the source of the unique beauty of this region for travellers, in dynastic times, the mountains also provided a defensive barrier and a surveillance capability against invaders.

Two small temples are the main remnants of the Le and Ly dynasties. In a regrettable move, a large new pagoda has recently been completed on the site.

Tam Coc

A beautiful 12km cycle ride from Hoa Lu (several tour companies in Hanoi can arrange this) is Tam Coc. The countryside is similar; still marked by hundreds of limestone formations. Here though, the highlight is a sampan ride that includes some rugged caves and timeless landscapes.

Travel tips
While the countryside is beautiful, crowds, sellers and heavy handed management can detract from the whole Hoa Lu / Tam Coc experience. Arriving early or late will help avoid the crowds. If you have time, there’s a lot to be said for spending a night in this area - especially if you’re looking for some easy, scenic cycling. You’ll miss the crowds and be free to explore more widely.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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