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Often refered to as “Halong Bay on Land” due to the lush green rice paddies and towering limestone cliffs, Tam Coc and Ninh Binh are areas of Vietnam that are all too often overlooked by visitors. Just 2 hours south of the bustling city of Hanoi, we think that Tam Coc is one of the best places to visit in Vietnam.

Tam Coc and Ninh Binh are the perfect places to relax and unwind while soaking up the landscape and the culture of Vietnam. It’s the perfect retreat from hectic Hanoi and touristy Halong Bay. In fact, we highly recommend you add at least a couple of days in this beautiful region to your Vietnam itinerary.

Best time to visit

The temperature in Northern Vietnam is hot and humid from May to October and the chance of rainfall is high. This rainfall can spoil your ability to explore the region but it also makes for vivid green rice paddies. November to April tends to be a bit cooler and drier.

You can visit Ninh Binh or Tam Coc at any time of year but best to check the weather prior to departing since pretty much all of the attractions are outdoors.

Check the below table for the general idea of Tam Coc weather throughout the year.

Month Avg. High (°C) Avg. Mean (°C) Avg. Low (°C)
Jan 18.6 15.8 13.2
Feb 21 18.4 16.1
Mar 22.9 20.4 18.2
Apr 27.4 24.2 21.6
May 31.8 28.1 24.8
Jun 33.9 29.9 26.7
Jul 33.3 29.7 26.9
Aug 32.3 28.9 26.1
Sep 31 27.7 25
Oct 29.3 25.7 22.7
Nov 26 22.5 19.4
Dec 21.6 18.3 15.4

Tam Coc’s current weather and 7-day forecast


Here are top things to do in Tam Coc:

1. Tam Coc Route: Boat Wharf - Ngo Dong River - Tam Coc (Three Caves) - Thai Vi Temple - Thien Huong Grotto

The trip starts from Tam Coc Wharf, takes you about 2 hours two-way.

If you take the Tam Coc Route, the boat will start at the eastern boat wharf and follow the waterway of Ngo Dong River. Actually, Tam Coc was known with the beauty of this part even more widely than the caves themselves. 

On both sides of the winding river are rice fields and limestone mountains which change their own appearance as seasons go by. If you love to experience the boat ride in this particular part, come to Tam Coc in harvest season to see the rice fields in golden color.

Hang Ca 

Hang Cả means 'First Cave', also the largest cave with 127m in length and an entrance 20m high. When the boat enters the cave, you'll a cool, refreshing atmosphere here and also can see beautiful karstic formations. 

Hang Hai

Hang Hai is the Second Cave, also the second largest in size with just 60m long. The second cave is about 1 kilometer from the First Cave. The second cave is known for its gorgeous ceiling.

Hang Ba

Lying just right next to Hang Hai, Hang Ba (Third Cave) is only 50m in length, much lower than the other two. The cave's ceiling looks like a little dome made of limestone.

Thai Vy Temple

Thai Vy is the worshiping place of King Tran Thai Tong, Generals Tran Hung Dao, Tran Quang Khai and Queen Tran Thi Dung. In the past, Ninh Binh was the place the Trans chose to build a military base (Hanh Cung Vu Lam) to fight the Mongols. During the boat ride, the rower will stop to let you walk trek up to the temple. 

Thien Huong Grotto

The grotto lies along the river-way to Thai Vi temple, so you can visit the grotto before the pagoda. The grotto is on middle of a small mountain (about 15m above ground), dry and bright, with height of 60m, depth 40m and width 20m. Inside the grotto is the shrine of Quen Tran Thi Dung who taught the locals here the craft of weaving. 

2. Bich Dong Route: Bich Dong - Xuyen Thuy Dong

The boat ride to Bich Dong is separated with Tam Coc boat ride, starting from a different wharf.

Bich Dong Grotto - Bich Dong Pagoda

Bich Dong is the place that was called 'The Second Nicest Grotto in Vietnam'. The beauty of Bich Dong was only behind Huong Tich Grotto. The grotto is a dry one, lying on the middle of the mountain. Bich Dong Pagodas are also located at this site. There are three pagodas on this mountain: Lower Pagoda, Middle Pagoda (Bich Dong Pagoda) and Upper Pagoda. Visitors often visit the first and the second ones, but if you can trek all the way up for the view.

The entrance to Bich Dong mountain is quite a famous spot to take photos, you shouldn't miss. 

Xuyen Thuy Grotto

The grotto is a river grotto going through Bich Dong mountain. It's darker and can be visited by boat. The grotto is 350m long, going from east to west with average width of 6m. The entrance to this grotto is on the opposite side of the pagoda's entrance. 

Dong Tien 

Dong Tien is a fair spot in the complex, located just 1km away from Bich Dong Pagoda. The grotto's ceiling has a gorgeous karst formations hanging down, sparkling under light. There are also bats and birds living inside the grotto.

Other sites near Tam Coc

Hang Mua (Mua Caves)

Only 4km away from Tam Coc - Bich Dong, Mua Cave is the new rising tourist site in Ninh Binh. Most highlighted features in Mua Cave is the trek to Lying Dragon Mountain and Mua Cave Viewpoint.

Van Lam Village

Belonged to Ninh Hai commune, Van Lam village is 6km from Tam Coc Bich Dong. This is a great place to discover the local handicraft of embroidery and enjoy bicycling in the countryside. The remote rice fields with limestone mountains dotting create such a nostalgic yet refreshing feeling. If you're seeking a unique experience in Ninh Binh, don't miss this out.

There are several small towns in the Ninh Binh region of Vietnam so don’t feel like you need to stay in Ninh Binh town proper. Tam Coc is the most popular town as there are plenty of comfy homestays and many delicious restaurants. Trang An is another area that has a few homestays but less dining options. If you stay in the heart of Ninh Binh town you’ll probably find it to be a bit underwhelming.

We would recommend staying in Tam Coc where you’ll be surrounded by the beautiful countryside but still have plenty of eating and drinking venues right nearby.

Tam Coc Sunshine Homestay

Tam Coc Sunshine Homestay is truly a home away from home. The darling little bungalows are situated right at the base of a massive limestone cliff and lush, green rice paddies are outside of your front door. Rooms have air conditioning, hot water, extremely comfortable beds, and are stocked with coffee and an electric pot. The complimentary breakfast is superb. You’ll love the views from your private front stoop!

Tam Coc Horizon Bungalow

Tam Coc Horizon Bungalow is another amazing choice in a picturesque setting! The owners offer sweet touches like fresh fruit upon arrival, a relaxing foot bath at the end of the day, and they send you off with treats for your upcoming bus ride! Plus the property is partially inside of a cave so the outside showers are truly unique.

Trang An Valley Bungalow

If you’d prefer to stay in Trang An over Tam Coc, then book a room at Trang An Valley Bungalow. Not only do they have a stunning location that is extremely peaceful and relaxing, but also a beautiful pool! It’s the perfect place to unwind after a day spent exploring the region.

Hoa Luan Restaurant has a large menu filled with Vietnamese classics and a few dishes that you probably haven’t seen before. The fresh spring rolls are delicious and unique – the vegetables inside are cooked and seasoned to perfection!
If you’re tired of eating so much Vietnamese food, how about a little Indian cuisine? Aroma Ninh Binh has a large menu of delectable Indian favorites at reasonable prices. Be sure to try the Aroma Special Naan!

Bamboo Bar and Restaurant and Hai Linh Restaurant are two good choices in Tam Coc proper that offer delicious and affordable Vietnamese fare. Both have outstanding papaya salads and savory meat options including the region specialty, goat.

Getting to Tam Coc and Ninh Binh

The town of Ninh Binh is located about 60 miles south of Hanoi. There are three options to get to Ninh Binh – take a train, a bus, or hire a private driver. Or, of course, you can rent a motorbike and drive yourself (although driving in Vietnam is not for the faint of heart).

Tourist Bus

Tourist buses depart from Hanoi around 8:00am and will pick you up from your hotel if you stay in the Old Quarter. Tickets are typically around 160,000 – 250,000 VND ($7-11) per person depending on how luxurious a bus you want. The bus usually takes around 3 hours and makes one 20 minute stop to grab a snack and use the toilet.

We recommend booking bus tickets through Bookaway – there you can see all the bus and train options along with ratings and reviews.

Local Bus

If you’re feeling adventurous, local buses also depart regularly from Hanoi’s southern bus terminal, Giap Bat, but note that you may end up with less space and more stops than you planned for. If you take a local bus and want to visit Tam Coc, you’ll have to take a taxi from the station in Ninh Binh. (The aforementioned tourist buses stop in Tam Coc so you’ll avoid the extra taxi fare.)

We recommend you check the latest bus schedule and price via


There are 3 trains departing daily from Hanoi Station and include the SE5, SE7, and SE19. The trip takes about 2.5 hours, but keep in mind that trains in Vietnam are often late so don’t be surprised if you have to wait a bit once you arrive at the station.

You can purchase the train tickets online through the Vietnam Railway site directly or through Bookaway (for some reason it is actually cheaper to buy the ticket through Bookaway).

Getting Around Tam Coc and Ninh Binh

Most of the homestays in Tam Coc have bicycles and motorbikes available to rent. While it’s nice to cruise around on a bicycle, a few of the highlights are outside of town so you’ll have a long ride ahead of you. A motorbike will run you about 120,000 – 150,000 VND/day but you’ll have to fill up the gas tank (~80,000 VND for a full tank).

For many visitors to Ninh Binh and Tam Coc, a favorite activity is simply roaming around the back roads on a bicycle or motorbike soaking in the beautiful landscape and views of daily life in rural Vietnam.

If you are staying in Tam Coc and are only interested in visiting Bich Dong Pagoda and taking a Tam Coc boat ride you will be fine with just a bicycle. However, if you want to visit any of the other sites (such as Hang Mu, Trang An, or Hoa Lu) you’ll be much happier on a motorbike as these sites are several miles away from each other.

It’s also rather easy to get lost on the winding back roads of Tam Coc. We always recommend buying a Vietnamese SIM card as soon as you land in the country. Having internet on your cell phone allows you to utilize Google Maps to help with navigation. If you don’t have a local SIM card you can download an offline map of Ninh Binh and Tam Coc in Google Maps.

Contact us to get more information


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