Tam Coc - The Best Things To Do
Tam Coc is northern Vietnam hidden gem, to be discovered one epic view at the time!
Tac Coc is situated in northern Vietnam and offers some of the most unforgettable views you will ever experience. This region of Vietnam, called Ninh Binh, was without a doubt our favourite. It’s quieter, more scenic and packed with unmissable destinations to explore.
We visited Tam Coc in January, which is not very advisable due to the cloudy and colder weather, but we were still able to enjoy with fewer tourists around. In hindsight, we would recommend visiting during the local spring season, as this is when the climate will be warmer and the vegetation of the area will be greened, making the sightseeing even more enjoyable.
The town of Tam Coc and the nearby city of Trang An are not worth a mention, just small settlements developed around tourism and local business, with nothing to truly enjoy. Nonetheless, we recommend sleeping in Tam Coc rather than Trang An, as you will be closer to the main sightseeing areas and able to reach them by scooter or bicycle.
A VALLEY OF BEAUTY
Top 3 things to do in Tam Coc
Mua Caves -Enjoy the mesmerizing views from Mua Caves. You can reach this viewpoint either by scooter or bicycle from Tam Coc. To get to the top you will need to climb 500 steps (we promise is worth it!) and on your way, you will find several small temples and shrines. Once at the top, you will have a panoramic view of the valley from both sides. On one side you will see the rice fields and the villages and on the other side, you can admire the river cutting through the uniquely shaped limestone mountains. We recommend visiting either early in the morning or for sunset to enjoy the best light and do not struggle too much during the climb. → The entrance ticket is 100.000vnd/person and the site is open from 7 am to 7 pm in summer.
Boat ride in between the limestone hills - Take a boat ride down the main river aboard one of the traditional sampans boats. From the centre of Tam Coc, you can catch one of the many local boats for a small cruise on the main river. This small wooden boats that can host a maximum of four people are conducted by local people who ride them in a very unique way using their feet and legs to paddle. The boat ride, which lasts between one to one an a half hour, takes you down the river, flanked by limestone mountains. You will be riding through one of the most unique landscapes in the world, in peaceful contemplation of the beautiful nature surrounding you. If you visit during spring or summer, on the side of the river the rice fields will be lush and vibrantly green. The end of the boat ride are three caves, Hang Ca, Hang Giua and Hang Cuoi, eroded through the limestone hills. The river can get quite busy during the day, so you will find many boats riding along with you. This doesn’t take anything off the experience, but you might want to choose a time when there is a fewer tourist around. When the boats reach the end of the ride and turn around to make their way back, you will find several shop-boats, with local women selling snacks and drinks. A note of caution to be shared about this, as we had a rather annoying experience. Our driver pulled next to one of these shop-boats and the local lady asked us, very insistently, to buy snacks for the driver, for a price which was equal half of the boat ride itself. The whole situation was quite strange so we decided to not to buy the snacks and rather give the driver a tip of the amount we were comfortable with. → The ticket costs 120K/ person and the boat 150K/boat (foreigners: 2 persons/boat - Vietnamese: 4 persons/boat).
Bich Dong Pagoda - The highlight of this ancient pagoda is the beautifully decorated entrance gate. To reach and pass through the gate to get to the rest of the pagoda site, you will cross a small bridge on a pond covered with lily pads. Past the gate, you will find a flight of stairs that will take you up to a lovely viewpoint. → The entrance fee is 100.000 vnd/per person.
Where to sleep in Tam Coc
This is one of the loveliest guesthouses we stayed during our time in Vietnam. The small wooden cabana which opens off a beautifully curated little garden is brand new and have all the comforts. We had two double beds to choose from, coffee and tea station, perfectly new bathroom with hot water. Included in the price there is a la carte breakfast in the morning.
If you are looking for a hotel, we recommend Ninh Binh Hidden Charm. This wonderfully decorated hotel will transport you to another era, with its grand facade and stylish interior design. There is a pool for the hot days and a view over the ride paddies. It is a five minutes' walk from a colourful commercial area with restaurants and bars, and 5 km from Ninh Binh railway station.
How to get to Tam Coc
You can take a bus from Giao Bat in Hanoi. In three hours you will arrive in Ninh Binh, once you are there you can easily get a taxi to drop you at Tam Coc Wharf (we have used the app Grab to order our taxies in South East Asia and always had a great experience).
Another alternative is to catch a train from Hanoi to Ninh Binh, which takes equally three hours. We opted for the bus as it is said to be more comfortable.