When heard about Hoa Lu, most of the people will remember the gorgeous landscape in Trang An, Tam Coc and Hang Mua – the most famous attractions in Ninh Binh. However, Hoa Lu Ancient Capital is also a wonderful destination with its important historical values. Hoa Lu also has a tranquil and beautiful natural backdrop of limestone mountains covered with green trees.
Hoa Lu Ancient Capital Overview
Hoa Lu was once the capital of Vietnam during Dinh and Le dynasties. Hoa Lu was built for defensive purposes thanks to its natural geography. After Thang Long, Hanoi was made national capital more than 1000 years ago, Hoa Lu capital has become the ancient capital and most of the relics are what left and have been innovated more recently.
Hoa Lu has been recognized by UNESCO as one of the four core zones of Trang An World Heritage Complex. It’s evident that this national and historical relic is a fundamental cultural heritage of Vietnam.
When to visit Hoa Lu Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh enjoys the typical weather of North Vietnam, which has two distinctive seasons – hot season and winter season. Visiting Hoa Lu doesn’t force you to determine the time. However, if you also visit other attractions in Ninh Binh, like Tam Coc, you should visit in May – June when you can see the golden rice fields.
After Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year), it’s also the great time to visit Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh to enjoy the local traditional festivals here. This time is the perfect time for those who love the bustling atmosphere, the colors and the many fun, exciting activities of a festival.
How to get to Hoa Lu Ancient Capital Ninh Binh
From Hanoi, it’s quite easy to get to Hoa Lu Ninh Ninh. You can go by train, coach or by booking a Ninh Binh Tour.
Ninh Binh is about 100km south of Hanoi, and thanks to the decent road condition, you don’t need to worry much about transportation.
By train, there are 6 trains running daily from Hanoi to Ninh Binh (SE5, SE7, SE19) and each takes about 3 hours. A ticket from Hanoi to Ninh Binh is about 80,000VND for a soft seat.
By coach/bus, you must start from My Dinh or Giap Bat bus stations which both have buses and vans running to Ninh Binh every day. Sleeper buses are available and cost about 100,000-160,000VND per person. Traveling by bus will be half the time traveling by train.
If you love traveling by yourself, you can ride a motorbike from Hanoi to Ninh Binh without too many hassles.
Or, to fully discover Ninh Binh with safety and comfort, you can book a Ninh Binh tour from Hanoi to enjoy the landscape, the heritage and the culture.
What to see in Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
Hoa Lu Ancient Capital might not be the most highlighted attraction in Ninh Binh but the complex makes the destination even more attractive with an identity of culture, architecture, and history.
Dinh and Le Temples
Dinh and Le temples were built back in the 17th century and the two worshipping places of Dinh Tien Hoang as known as Dinh Bo Linh (Dinh Temple) and Le Dai Hanh (Le Temple). Le temple is about 50m away from Dinh Temple and both places boasts as the quintessence Vietnamese traditional temple architecture.
The two temples are also known for its distinctive art of stone carving which was also the art that built Hoa Lu Ancient citadel.
The most sophisticated piece of stone carving and the architecture here is the Main Gate to King Dinh temple. A two-part gate consisting ‘Outer Triumphant arch’ and ‘Inner Triumphant Arch’.
Nhat Tru Pagoda
Not far from King Dinh Tien Hoang temple lies Nhat Tru Pagoda or One-Pillar Pagoda– an active Buddhist sanctuary. Nhat Tru Pagoda has so many stories associated with the history of Hoa Lu ancient capital, of which the most special is the story about Princess Kim.
As a national monument, Nhat Tru Pagoda, located in Truong Yen commune, the pagoda is a relic of historical value and unique artistic architecture, renowned of Hoa Lu ancient capital. Nhat Tru Pagoda is well-known for its ‘Dinh’ (丁) layout and architecture style which was the typical and famous temple architecture style during 17th century.
Hoa Lu Traditional festival
Hoa Lu traditional festival will be held on 8th and 10th March every year. The festival celebrates the kings and national heroes that built and defend the citadel of Hoa Lu.
Aside from the solemn ritual and ceremony, you can also enjoy many exciting and fun activities like traditional games such as boat racing, wrestling, singing…. It’s a great chance to enjoy the atmosphere and discover the beauties of Vietnamese culture.
And don’t miss these places…
Trang An Landscape Complex
Vietnam’s first UNESCO’s protected world heritage of both nature and culture – Trang An has so many things to offer – from surreal landscape scenery to traditional cultural heritage.
And the fact that Trang An is just a few kilometers away from Hoa Lu will make Trang An even more attractive destination.
To visit Trang An, you’ll hire a sampan boat, rowed by a local rower to go see around a complex so vast you can’t possibly visit all of it in just one time. You’ll have to choose a route in the three routes in Trang An and each route has their little different features from others.
|>>> Find out which route should you take when visit Trang An, see our exclusive Trang An Travel Guide.|
Same same but different, Tam Coc is another place you shouldn’t miss out when visiting around Ninh Binh, except only when you already visited Trang An.
The physical features of both places are not really different, they’re both limestone mountains flooded by local rivers. However, Tam Coc is actually a three water cave system, one lie after another along the waterway, unlike Trang An which is a gigantic maze of limestone mountains and rivers…
You’ll also have to ride a boat to visit the beautiful caves of Tam Coc. The best sight of Tam Coc is the floating rice fields on the entrance waterway turn golden in harvest season. Which explains why May – June is the best time to visit Tam Coc.
|>>> For more detail on how to see Tam Coc, see our Tam Coc Travel Guide|
|>>> And for why should you visit Tam Coc in the harvest season, see Best Time to visit Ninh Binh|
If you’re not fancy of boat rides, come to Hang Mua (Mua Caves) to have a little trek up to the top of Lying Dragon Mount and enjoy the view from Hang Mua Viewpoint toward Tam Coc.
Once you’re on the top of the mountain, you’ll see a long stone statue of a dragon. And from there, the view is even more beautiful, especially in sunset moment.
Thung Nham Bird Garden
Another beautiful part of Hoa Lu is Thung Nham Bird Garden – a worthwhile place to spend your time appreciating nature and wildness.
Thung Nham garden is located in the core of Trang An Landscape Complex, about 12km east of Ninh Binh city.
What to see in Thung Nham Garden: Buddha Cave, Vai Gioi Cave, Bird Garden…. There are about 40 species of birds living on the damp, trees, and limestone cliffs. A boat ride will get you closer the birds and nature at its best.
A Mermaid Cave would be the favorite spot for those who love a little thrill in your trip.
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