ITINERARY BY DAY
Hoa Lu Temples and Tam Coc Boat Ride
Depart the hotel this morning at 8.30 for the 2 and half-hour drive through rural northern Vietnam to the site of Vietnam’s first capital, Hoa Lu. Visit the temples dedicated to Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang of the Dinh Dynasty (968-80), and Emperor Le Dai Hanh of the Le Dynasty (980-1009). The ancient Hoa Lu Citadel (most of which has since been destroyed) once covered an area of three square kilometres.
If time permits after visiting Hoa Lu (for the fit and strong), take a half-hour walk up one of the surrounding limestone karst hills, the climb is rewarding with spectacular views.
In the late morning depart for Tam Coc Town for a Vietnamese lunch, along the way stop where you wish to take photographs of local villages and the stunning landscape.
After lunch board your private sampan (see other options below). As the boat gently slices through the water, notice the enormous limestone karsts jutting out from the green rice fields giving rise to other name, ‘Halong bay on Land’.
Should you feel adventurous climb up to Bich Dong Pagoda on nearby Ngu Nhac Mountain, dating to 1428 and comprising three structures: Ha, Trung, and Thuong Pagodas, in ascending order. Following its back by sampan to Tam Coc town before returning to Hanoi where you arrive in the late afternoon. (L)
Option 2: Trang An
Situated near Tam Coc, Trang An is a nature reserve similar to Tam Coc however less visited. Limestone hills surround a peaceful river which passes through a series of caves (one which takes 15-minutes to pass through in darkness). An ‘eco-tourism’ area, the only interruptions here are the sound of birds and the gentle paddle of the oar upon the crystal clear river.
Option 3: Thung Nang
Similar to Tam Coc though not as spectacular, Thung Nang is off the tourist trail and a pleasant alternative. Pass through a cave, fields of lotus (in summer) and reach a quaint pagoda before returning on the same route.