Tam Coc is a region of stunning natural beauty near the city of Ninh Binh which is located about two hours south of Hanoi, Vietnam. The landscape is dominated by hundreds of limestone hills towering above green fields of rice paddies with a calm river winding through it all. It only takes a glimpse of the scenery to understand why it has been nicknamed the “Ha Long Bay on land”.
Similar to Ha Long Bay, the best way to experience Tam Coc is on a slow moving boat the difference is that the boat that you will be on will be a small john boat being paddled by a person using their feet to row.
The boat ride lasts for three hours with breathtaking scenery around every twist and turn of the river. The irregularly shaped hills make the scenery appear to be consistently changing. Half of the trip is one direction on the river and then the boat returns to the starting place but it seems like a different river as the view of the hills look totally different from the opposite direction.
The river passes through three caves. The first photo below shows the river emerging from one of the caves and the next two photos are of entrances of caves as the boat approaches the cave.
The largest of the three caves and is about 20 meters wide and 127 meters long. Each cave has stalactites hanging from the ceiling of the cave which can be seen in the set of photos below.
The scene when emerging from the caves is really pretty and the contrast coming out or the darkness makes a spectacular transition.
The time of year that you visit will make a difference on the experience that you will have when visiting Tam Coc. There are three times of year that are vastly different. These times are the planting season, the growing season and the harvest season. The planting season is when the fields are being prepared and is the most active time of the year. The growing season is when the fields are lush green and just before harvest season the fields turn golden. I have been to Tam Coc during the planting season and during the growing season but not during the harvest season.
The limestone hills are beautiful all year but the rice fields are being prepared which means they are not very colorful. I actually enjoyed this time the most because I liked seeing the preparation for planting the rice. The photos below show the activities during planting season.
Growing season is a very calm time on the river. There is no activity happening on the river other than john boats with tourist enjoying the scenery. The bright green rice fields really make the hills even more beautiful.
The first photo of this post and the photo in the following section were taken in the growing season.
Tam Coc is a beautiful scenic place to visit. The big cities in Vietnam are busy and hectic but going to Tam Coc is a nice rural retreat to get away from the busy city and enjoy the natural beauty of Vietnam.
When I plan my trips, I always try to have a mix of seeing the famous sites and relaxing in the beauty of nature. There are many interesting places to see in Hanoi but taking a day trip to Tam Coc should be one of your top activities when visiting Hanoi.
I truly enjoyed being in such a beautiful location with no real artificial noise pollution. I don’t know of any other place on earth with this type of limestone formations where there is no modern noises like motor boats or engine noises.
“I travel because I want to see things that are unique and can only be seen in specific locations. Tam Coc is truly unique and it is one of my favorite activities in Vietnam.”