Set on the Ngo Dong River banks, UNESCO-listed Tam Coc's limestone cliffs covered in greenery jut out from emerald rice paddies and waterways and are accessible by rowboat. The town, which forms part of the Ninh Binh province, draws fewer crowds than famous Halong Bay, resulting in a more serene experience of Vietnam’s spectacular scenery.
Trips to Tam Coc typically include a ride by wooden rowboat along the waterways, which provides the best views of the limestone cliffs known locally as “Halong Bay on Land.” Most tours depart from Hanoi and also stop at Hoa Lu, home to ruins and tombs that date back to the 11th-century Dinh and Le dynasties. If you’re after something a little more active, opt for a tour that includes a bike ride through the rice paddies.
Things to Know Before You Go
- A must-visit for photographers and lovers of natural landscapes.
- Visit Tam Coc to escape the crowds of Halong Bay and the bustle of Hanoi.
- Rowboats provide no shade, so ensure you bring sunscreen and a hat.
- Tam Coc means “Three Caves” in Vietnamese, and boats explore each of the three grottoes.
How to Get There
From Hanoi, you can take either a public bus, which takes around 2.5 hours, or a train, which arrives in significantly less time. Both routes are incredibly scenic and reveal Ninh Binh’s gorgeous landscapes. The majority of tours from Hanoi include hotel pickup and drop-off, making for a much more convenient option that requires far less advance planning.
When to Get There
The wet season in Northern Vietnam lasts from May to October, when rainfall is high and the air is hot or humid. To avoid the rain, choose to visit Tam Coc outside of these months and aim to arrive in the late morning, when the sun begins to burn off the morning mist that can obscure the view.
North Vietnam’s Caves
If you want to continue exploring Vietnam’s cave systems, head south to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to some of the world’s most spectacular caves. Dark Cave provides high-octane activities, while Paradise Cave exhibits majestic stalactites and limestone formations.