Tam Coc is just outside of Ninh Binh and is a lovely little place surrounded by plenty of attractions. While the town of Tam Coc itself is tiny, it has a great sense of community between travellers!
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What To Do:
Bai Dinh Pagoda –
One of the most stunning Pagoda’s in the world. It’s actually located within a National Park with a ton of other attractions. Temples, Buddha Statues, Viewpoints and long treks await (unless you choose to get around in the electric buggies available). The electric buggies cost money and you don’t get to choose which sites you see and miss out on all the beautiful scenes to take in on your walk! Bai Ding Pagoda itself is incredibly tall and breathtaking, famous for it’s golden pillar in the central interior. Everything is gorgeously adorned within the Pagoda and the beauty doesn’t stop as at the top the views are sublime. We spent a whole day around the Pagoda and had a blast checking out all of the cultural artefacts on display! It’s worth renting a scooter from Tam Coc & riding there as it’s a 45 minute drive and there’s not really any other way to get there unless you’re willing to fork out a ton of money on a tour!
Bird Valley/Thung Nham Bird Park –
This place was amazing! We recommend renting pushbikes as the park is too big to walk on foot unless you plan on spending the entire day there. The main attraction of the Bird Valley is seeing all of the Herons coming back to their nests in the late afternoon. They all gather at the same time each day and it’s nothing short of a show! It really is something that is hard to find anywhere else, making it an experience unique to Tam Coc. Pretty flower fields are a highlight here too and great to cycle around, which offer some great shots for Instagram! They actually reminded us a ton of Amsterdam and our experiences of cycling to see the tulips there. There are also some little caves for the budding adventurer, some of which were a bloody tight squeeze but cool to see nonetheless. Definitely worth a visit as it doesn’t take long to cycle here from the centre of Tam Coc!
Mua Caves –
So the caves aren’t much to look at themselves, in fact they take about 5 minutes to explore. What is exciting, however, is the viewpoint above the caves! Be warned, it’s quite a testing climb with over 500 steps to tackle that are all pretty steep. The view when you reach the top is utterly magnificent, even if the weather doesn’t co-operate, truly worth the trouble getting there! You’ll overlook rice paddies from a great distance and when visibility is good you can see for miles. We recommend getting up super early if you want the best shots possible with no one in the background, no matter how rough it may be. We’re talking REALLY early, at 5-6am which is obviously gross. It isn’t a long journey from Tam Coc centre which is a blessing, around 10-15 minutes on a scooter. Check it out & get some great shots!
Bich Dong –
Bich Dong is actually super close to Tam Coc, you could even take a stroll there if you fancy. We say getting pushbikes is the best route to take though as you can couple it with the Bird Valley and make a full day of it. The temple isn’t big but is very old and has a lot of history behind it. There’s a dangerous climb behind the top layer of the temple which we’d recommend for the more hardy sorts. It was a very tough, slipper climb though so if you’re not wearing the right footwear (no sliders or flip flops) you should probably give it a miss! As you traverse Bich Dong. you’ll stumble across a giant bell which is said to be hundreds of years old located in a dark passageway, it was really cool! If you’re staying in Tam Coc, there really is no reason to miss this!
Trang An National Park
Honestly one of our favourite things we did while travelling, it was just the most magical experience! It has to be the closest thing we’ve ever seen to a real life Jurassic Park. The park is based around a huge lake with a network of caves & temples on it. Bamboo boats will help get you from A to B, with a ticket purchase required to secure yourself a boat paddler. Tickets are quite costly at 500,000 Dong (£18) per person but you can understand why due to how much effort your boat guide has to put in & the raw beauty of the place! You have to choose between three routes, each going different ways & stopping at different attractions. Temples are a big part of the experience and each route will visit at least two of them. History is all around you as the lake & structures around it are centuries old, making it an interesting learning experience. Each route takes around 2-3 hours to complete & we recommend going early morning or late afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day. You’ll be without shade for most of the boat journey so apply lots of suncream & bring water! Oh, and help your boat guide with the rowing!
Hoa Lu, The Ancient Capital –
Sadly we didn’t get to go to this because we overstayed out itinerary in Hanoi a little too long. We’ve checked on other travel accounts that it looks unreal so we’re devastated we couldn’t see it in person! One thing Vietnam has an abundance of is stunning architecture; the classic pagodas & breathtaking bridges. You’ll see both of these things at Hoa Lu, making it an amazing place to get some shots for your scrapbooks! We would say, definitely visit if you have time as it looks absolutely stunning in pictures!#
Get Scooters! –
This is legit a must if you plan on getting scooters during your travels! There are so many great rides to do in Tam Coc, in fact you pretty much to have hire a bike to get to most of the sights! Tam Coc is the ideal place to hire a bike if you’ve not ridden one before as the roads are really quiet compared to the rest of Vietnam. We hadn’t hired bikes until this point and it was perfect to get to grips with the whole thing! All around Tam Coc, there are some pretty diverse landscapes, from motorways to rice paddies to almost desolate scenes. It costs around 80,000-100,000 Dong (£3-4) to hire a bike for 24 hours, making it a great investment!
How to Get There:
Most hostels in Hanoi will have travel options to Tam Coc. You could of course drive there yourself but we wouldn’t fancy driving out of Hanoi! Ticket prices for the bus to Tam Coc vary but shouldn’t be anymore than 150,000 Dong (£5) per person from our experience. The bus ride itself wasn’t long at all, we left at about 9am and arrived just after midday. Your hostel will be easy to find in Tam Coc as it’s so small & you’ll be dropped off in front of Tam Coc Central Hostel which also serves as an information point!
How Much Did It Cost?
Tam Coc was cheap compared to Hanoi, for just about everything in fact. Food was super cheap and there were some really lovely restaurants owned by charming locals. Activities were all well priced too considering how much time you could spend at each one. Trang An was the only expensive (but well worth it) attraction on the list! As for accommodation, we recommend Tam Coc Central Hostel for a great, cheap place to stay. The staff were uber helpful & friendly and helped us book our bikes & excursions. (Link Below!)
So that wraps up Tam Coc, the little unexpected gold mine for things to see & do! If you liked this post, check out our post on Hanoi for more of Vietnam!
We hope you enjoyed this, if you have any other recommendations for Tam Coc, please leave us a comment here or on our socials!
As always, Stay Safe & Much Love,
Matt & Mik
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