Something less known but with nothing to envy to the so popular Halong Bay, Tam Coc, a few kilometers from Ninh Binh and about 100 from Hanoi, offers a walk and spectacular views that well deserved a stop on our journey through Vietnam. As if the atolls of the bay themselves had invaded and colonized the mainland, the huge rock formations here are surrounded by vegetation and rice fields forming a unique landscape that can also be crossed with a small boat on the Ngo Dong River.

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Tam Coc
Tam Coc
Visit to Tam Coc
Although you can visit it by making a tour from Hanoi, a comfortable option is to sleep in the neighboring city of Ninh Binh, (we did it in the Canh Dieu Hotel) with several accommodations and places to eat and from where you can also reach other points of interest near the area as the citadel of Hoa Lu, which was the capital of Vietnam in the tenth century.

From the same hotel or from an agency (both in Ninh Binh and in Hanoi) you can organize an excursion to Tam Coc, the Bich Dong pagoda and the citadel, but if you have your own transport or you rent a bike you can go on your own.

We went in the early morning with our bike directly to the point where the boats are hired to make the excursions on the river. There we paid the entrance fee (we bought our little Vietnamese hat Nón Lá to protect us from the sun) and since we didn’t have to queue up, we left immediately.

Ticket offices to buy the ticket
Ticket offices to buy the ticket
The little port
The little port
The first tourists are already leaving
The first tourists are already leaving
One of the T-shirts waiting for the tourists
One of the T-shirts waiting for the tourists
We got on one of the boats where a woman was already waiting for us and after a cordial greeting without too much enthusiasm she put her feet on the oars and started to pull her in this peculiar way, typical of the area.

With my little Vietnamese hat Nón Lá
With my little Vietnamese hat Nón Lá
Look at how the photographer rows
Look at how the photographer rows
The tour of Tam Coc begins
The tour of Tam Coc begins
The excursion lasts a little over two hours in which you navigate the Ngo Dong River crossing a valley of rice fields in the middle of karst formations. It’s a fairly quiet ride when you’re in a rowboat (although the speed they reach can sometimes surprise you, what legs!). The landscape is spectacular for its authenticity although we were unlucky enough to go when the rice had not come out, because in photos we had seen before going the almost fluorescent green of the fields contrasted with the rest of the landscape and made it even more beautiful.

The caves of Tam Coc
Tam Coc means three caves and during the tour you can go through them without having to get off the boat. Each one has a name Hang Ca, Hang Giua and Hang Cui, the first one so long that when you are in the middle it gets almost dark (almost 130 meters long).

In the morning it is very quiet
It’s very quiet in the morning
The entrance to one of the caves
The entrance to one of the caves
And the output
And the output
During the outward journey we were lucky not to come across many other boats because it was still early, but when we arrived at the entrance of the third cave there were already other boats there with insistent soda vendors. On the way back we came across a lot of tourist boats and some scandalous and annoying motor boats that were breaking all the charm of the tour.

Other tourists enjoying the ride
Other tourists enjoying the ride
Salesmen waiting for tourists
Salesmen waiting for tourists
Spectacular view from inside a cave
Spectacular view from inside a cave
Coming out of the last cave
Coming out of the last cave
After the relaxed walk we stayed in the area and went to see the Bich Dong temple and the Hoa Lu citadel, but we will tell you about that in the next posts.

Practical data of Tam Coc:
Distance from Ninh Binh to Tam Coc: 9 km
Price of the excursion: 190,000 VND per person
If you go with your vehicle right next to the “port” there is a parking lot where for a few dongs you can park