This blog post is about the best things to do in Tam Coc – one of our favorite places in Vietnam.
I don’t think we’ll ever get tired of driving a scooter around the towering limestone cliffs next to the riverbanks full of water lilies and green rice fields. Getting lost on the small dirt roads leading past gorgeous landscapes is mandatory for all travelers staying in Tam Coc.
Tam Coc is often referred to as, “Halong Bay on land”. However, we’ve visited Halong Bay two times (and loved it both times), yet we still found Tam Coc and its nearby areas far more superior in beauty.
And since Tam Coc is one of our favorite places in Vietnam, it’s only appropriate that we share our experiences with any future visitors out there. So this blog post is a small guide to visiting Tam Coc – how to get there, where to stay, and of course all the best things to do!
Now enough rambling – let’s get this blog post started!
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Things to know before visiting Tam Coc in Vietnam
Why you should visit Tam Coc
There are so many reasons why you should visit Tam Coc on your trip to Vietnam. But if we have to boil it down, we’d say that you should visit Tam Coc if you’re looking for beautiful landscapes, friendly locals, and pure serenity.
Plus, Tam Coc is not that far away from Hanoi, so you can easily join a day tour if you want to get out of the hustle and bustle of the big city for a day.
How to get from Hanoi to Tam Coc
You can easily take a bus from Hanoi to Tam Coc.
The distance is about 100 kilometres, and the bus only takes 1,5-2 hours. It’s super easy to find a bus – we used 12go.asia when going from Hanoi to Tam Coc. It was super efficient and professional.
You can also get your accommodation to help you book a private car or find a bus to Tam Coc for you.
Where to stay in Tam Coc
Tam Coc is a popular place for guesthouses/homestays, which is a type of accommodation where you stay in a room in a family’s home.
We’ve tried to stay in 2 different homestays in Tam Coc and we absolutely loved both!
Phi Hung’s Unique Homestay: Stay with this lovely family and get a modern and comfortable room with everything you need. Breakfast is included and you can easily rent bicycles and motorbikes from the family. The day we left, we were even followed to the bus station and Phi Hung waved goodbye as we drove off – now that’s going the extra mile for your guests!
Tam Coc Lavender Homestay: Stay with this funny family right by the lake in Tam Coc. While the rooms are a tiny bit more outdated than at the former homestay, you get so much in return from the family who lives here. We were invited to dinner for two nights in a row and ended up having the best time! The family didn’t speak a word of English, yet we managed to communicate fine with Google Translate and a wee bit of rice wine.
Maybe homestays aren’t your thing? Not to worry! There are so many different hotels you can choose from on Booking.com. Most places in Tam Coc have amazing reviews and are pretty affordable, so it should be easy to find something to your taste.
How to get around in Tam Coc
The way we see it, you have 3 options when it comes to exploring all the things to do in and around Tam Coc. You can either go by bicycle, by motorbike, or by group tour.
- Motorbike: Exploring by motorbike/scooter was our favorite way to see Tam Coc and everything the nearby areas had to offer. The feeling of driving amongst limestone cliffs and rivers full of lily pads was just amazing! We paid around 100.000 VND per day for motorbike rental in Tam Coc.
- Bicycle: Another great way to explore Tam Coc is to rent a bicycle and use the power of your legs to see the nearby areas. We did this for one day and had a really good time! The only downside is that you can’t go as far and quick as with a motorbike. We paid around 40.000 VND per day for bicycle rental.
- Group tour: The last way for you to explore Tam Coc is to join a group tour. There are several tours leaving every day to different places in and around Tam Coc. For example, check out this group tour from Hanoi, which will take you to Tam Coc, Hoa Lu, and Mua Caves – all worth a visit.
Is there an ATM in Tam Coc
After traveling around Vietnam for some time, we’ve learned that researching whether a place has an ATM or not is a valid request. Often there are none, or, as we’ve experienced a couple of times, they’re empty. That’s just the way it is in Vietnam sometimes.
But there is an ATM close to Tam Coc.
Most of the attractions in Tam Coc aren’t free, so always keep some cash on you when you go exploring. There is an ATM in Tam Coc, but it’s a 400 meters walk out of town. Walk on the big road towards Ninh Binh, and you’ll find the ATM on your left.
However, we suggest that you just stock up on some cash in Hanoi or Ninh Binh. You never know when the ATM is empty.
The 10 best things to do in and around Tam Coc
Now let’s dive into the best things to do in Tam Coc.
So we’ve decided to list the attractions and things to see by distance from Tam Coc town center. This means that we start with the attractions closest to Tam coc and end with the attractions furthest away.
At every attraction, we’ve also added a table with the distance in kilometers, opening hours, and entrance fees.
Just notice that some of the places don’t really have any official opening hours. In that case, just make sure to visit sometime between morning (8-9 AM) and afternoon (4-5 PM), and you’ll most likely be visiting during opening hours.
Since some of these places are too far away on foot or bicycle, you can really benefit from renting a motorbike. Just be aware that you often have to pay a small fee between 10.000 – 20.000 VND to park your motorbike at the attractions around Tam Coc. So remember to count that into your budget.
1. Tam Coc Boat Tour – From the heart of town
At the heart of Tam Coc, you can do a boat tour and explore the area from the river.
Since we did the Trang An boat tour instead of the Tam Coc boat tour, we have no experience to share of this. But it should be a beautiful ride on the riverbanks of Tam Coc where you go through caves and see the Mua Caves viewpoint from a different perspective. The tour lasts around 2 hours.
So if you don’t want to go all the way to Trang An, a boat tour in Tam Coc should be a great alternative.
Fun fact: The people that sail you around have learned to row the boats with their feet. Crazy, right?! The Vietnamese people are so impressive and inventive.
Just notice that the ticket price is a little bit complicated as it’s divided into a sightseeing fee and a boat fee. If you are two people, then the price would be set at 390.000 VND in total.
|Distance from Tam Coc to the boat tour||0 km|
|Tam Coc boat tour Opening Hours 2023||8 AM – 6 PM|
|Tam Coc boat tour Price 2023||390.000 VND for 2 people|
2. Den Thai Vi temple – A short walk from Tam Coc
The Den Thai Vi temple is only a short walk away from Tam Coc. And it’s such a beautiful trail – the scenery on this route is just stunning!
The road to Den Thai Vi actually gave us some of the best photo opportunities in all of Tam Coc, so it’s a must if you’re looking for the perfect photography spot in this beautiful place in Vietnam.
Den Thai Vi is a small temple and it won’t take long to visit. But its surroundings are very beautiful, so make sure to set aside some extra time to enjoy the landscapes.
A little tip – If you follow a small trail outside of the temple to the left, you will find yourself walking next to two massive ponds full of lily pads. Such an amazing place to go for a walk and take some pictures.
Related blog post: Den Thai Vi Temple
|Distance from Tam Coc to Den Thai Vi||1,5 km|
|Den Thai Vi Opening Hours 2023||Morning – Afternoon|
|Den Thai Vi Entrance Fee 2023||Free!|
3. Bich Dong – A pagoda in a cave
Confession time! We actually never made it to Bich Dong Pagoda in Tam Coc…
We heard that it was free to enter, and yet we were asked to pay for parking our bicycles. At this point we had paid so many ridiculous parking fees that we actually just left again. Pretty stupid I know, but sometimes you just get fed up with paying for all these small things and it just feels like you constantly get scammed by a random guy who invested in a yellow vest and a whistle.
However, that’s our loss. If you have the time to visit the Bich Dong Pagoda, then you definitely should! It’s supposed to be a beautiful temple in a mountain cave – what’s not to like about that? Plus the entrance to the pagoda is very pretty with its small archway on the riverbank.
Next time we go on a trip to Vietnam and visit Tam Coc, we will definitely pay the Bich Dong pagoda a visit! And add a picture to this blog post.
|Distance from Tam Coc to Bich Dong Pagoda||3 km|
|Bich Dong Pagoda Opening Hours 2023||All day (but best around 8 AM – 5 PM)|
|Bich Dong Pagoda Entrance Fee 2023||Free!|
4. The secret cave temple – A small hidden gem
It was a coincidence that we stumbled upon this small cave temple. And we loved it!
It didn’t take us longer than 10 minutes to visit this little hidden gem, but it was worth it. Especially if you’re already heading towards Bich Dong Pagoda or the Thung Nham bird park – it’s kind of on the way.
We parked our bikes right in front of some steps leading into a small cave opening. We entered the cave and it was full of bats! How exciting?! There was also a small shrine in the cave for those who wants to pray.
If you climb onto some of the rocks before you enter the small shrine, then you can get a nice little viewpoint over the river and limestone cliffs in front of the cave.
We totally recommend this small stop if you have a few extra days exploring Vietnam’s wonderful Tam Coc.
If you want to find this small cave temple, then you have to download Maps.me on your phone (it’s free) and look around for interesting spots on the map not far from Bich Dong Pagoda. Then you should find a pinpoint to this hidden cave temple. We can’t really explain it better. Sorry.
|Distance from Tam Coc to the Cave Temple||3 km|
|Cave temple Opening Hours 2023||All day and night|
|Cave temple Entrance Fee 2023||Free!|
5. Mua caves – A fantastic viewpoint over Tam Coc
Mua caves is probably the most popular tourist spot in all of Tam Coc. This is where you will find the incredible viewpoint over limestone cliffs and rice fields, which you often see in pictures of Tam Coc.
The viewpoint can be reached by walking up the almost 500 steps. It seems like a lot of work, but it’s completely worth it!
There are actually a lot of things to see at Mua Caves apart from the viewpoint.
Once you pay the entrance fee, you walk into a recreated park full of small sculptures, swings, ponds, caves and whatnot. It’s honestly a bit odd, but we liked it!
Apart from the viewpoint, another highlight at Mua Caves is the lily pad trail that’s shaped like a heart. This is a great place to take some pictures.
In our honest opinion, we think Mua Caves is one of the top viewpoints we’ve ever been to!
However, the place gets overly crowded by sunset. So why not try to visit this attraction very early in the morning just when the Mua Caves opens? You can also stay in Mua Caves Ecolodge and go whenever you want.
Related blog post: Full guide to Mua Caves
|Distance from Tam Coc to Mua Caves||4 km|
|Mua Caves Opening Hours 2023||6 AM – 7 PM|
|Mua Caves Entrance Fee 2023||100.000 VND|
6. Thung Nham bird park – For the bird enthusiasts
Not far away from Tam Coc is the Thung Nham bird park.
To be honest… I skipped this trip in exchange for some leisure time in Tam Coc. However, Glenn did go. He said that it looked like a recreational park made for tourism, and it definitely wasn’t a highlight in his Vietnam trip.
However, the Thung Nham bird park still earned a spot on the list of the best things to do in Tam Coc because of its impressive amount of storks and intriguing limestone cave.
So if you want to walk through a 500 meter long cave, explore a garden with beautiful scenery, and see a lot of storks nesting, then you should visit the Thung Nham bird park on your trip to Tam Coc.
Next time I’m in Tam Coc, I will definitely check it out. Promise!
|Distance from Tam Coc to Thung Nham bird park||7 km|
|Thung Nham bird park Opening Hours 2023||7 AM – 6 PM|
|Thung Nham bird park Entrance Fee 2023||150.000 VND|
7. Trang An Boat Tour – An amazing UNESCO experience
The boat ride in Trang An is one of our absolute favorite things to do in the Tam Coc area! It’s such an incredible experience, and it’s no wonder that area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are 3 different boat tours in Trang An and they all cost the same. You choose the boat tour according to how many caves and temples you want to see on the way.
We’ve tried Route 1 and Route 2 and they were both amazing! So we don’t really think that you can choose wrong. Just go for what sounds most interesting to you, or settle it like adults by playing rock-paper-scissor (That’s how Glenn and I make big life decisions).
The boat trip takes 2,5-3 hours, and it guides you through many caves in the limestone cliffs and past a handful of old temples. At some of the temples, you can even get out of the boat to stretch your legs and do some exploration.
We 100% recommend the Trang An boat tour – it’s just such a beautiful experience!
Related blog post: Trang An Boat Tour
|Distance from Tam Coc to Trang An Boat Tour||8 km|
|Trang An boat tour Opening Hours 2023||7 AM – 4 PM|
|Trang An boat tour Price 2023||250.000 VND|
8. Hoa Lu – Historical heritage near Tam Coc
1000 years ago, Hoa Lu used to be Vietnam’s capital. Therefore Hoa Lu is probably the most historical place you can visit near Tam Coc.
But to be completely honest, we actually don’t know much about the history of this place. We visited two very old temples, which we could tell were hiding hundreds of years old stories. So this would be a great place to hire a guide to get the full experience!
We visited the place without a guide, and we would have loved to know more about the beautiful stonework in the temples and the many artefacts.
But with our without a guide, Hoa Lu is still worth a visit!
Important notice: We’re not quite sure about the opening hours and ticket price for Hoa Lu in 2023. Last time we visited, the price was 20.000 VND per person, but researching the current price, it looks like it may have become free. The opening hours may have changed as well. Dear Reader, if you go, then feel free to let us know in the comment section below.
|Distance from Tam Coc to Hoa Lu||12 km|
|Hoa Lu Opening Hours||7 AM – 5 PM (unsure)|
|Hoa Lu Entrance Fee||20.000 VND/Maybe free|
9. Bai Dinh – The largest pagoda in Vietnam
Just about 20 kilometers away from Tam Coc, you can visit the largest Pagoda in all of Vietnam – it’s actually one of the largest Buddhist complexes in all of Southeast Asia!
Bai Dinh is a massive religious site and you can easily spend a full day exploring the many temples here.
The highlights of Bai Dinh are the big main temples, the 10 meter tall Buddha statue made of bronze, and of course the 100 meter tall Pagoda with an amazing bird’s eye view of the whole temple complex.
If you want to know more about the place, then you can easily hire a guide. However, the guides are a bit expensive, and if you’re a budget traveler like us, then you can always just go explore the place by yourself.
When you arrive at the Bai Dinh entrance, you have the option to buy a seat in a golf buggy to take you to the religious complex. But it’s actually only a 10-15 minute walk, so we suggest that you just walk there by yourself. It’s super easy – just ask for directions.
|Distance from Tam Coc to Bai Dinh||20 km|
|Bai Dinh Opening Hours 2023||7 AM – 6 PM (unsure)|
|Bai Dinh Entrance Fee 2023||Free entrance if you walk (50.000 VND for the tall pagoda + 30.000 VND one-way in an electric buggy to main entrance)|
10. Go get lost among the limestone cliffs
One of the ultimate best things to do in Tam Coc is to just go get lost on a motorbike. We often went down small dirt roads on our scooter and found some of the most beautiful sceneries we’ve ever seen.
Sometimes there was even a bar in the middle of nowhere next to these beautiful landscapes. A cold Bia Hanoi amongst limestone cliffs, rice fields, and riverbanks. What’s not to like about that?
So after you’ve spend a few days exploring all the things there is to do and see in Tam Coc, why don’t you end your time in this wonderful place with some random riding around the dirt roads?
Tam Coc is one of the few places in Vietnam where we actually enjoyed getting lost! You should try it.
Tam Coc is still one of our favorite places in Vietnam and we’ll keep coming back here – no doubt about it.
We hope you enjoyed this blog post about the best things to do in Tam Coc. Feel free to shoot away in the comment section below with any questions you may have.
Thanks for reading and happy travels!