Tam Coc-Bich Dong in Ninh Binh

Located on Ngu Nhac Son mountain range, Hoa Lu district, Ninh Binh province, this is the majestic Bich Dong pagoda and Tam Coc cave complex, one of 21 important tourist destinations in Vietnam.

Tam Coc-Bich Dong stands out with its tropical climate, with 2 seasons. The cold and rainy season lasts from May to October, the dry and hot season from November to April. The average annual temperature is 23.5oC. Located at the foot of the Red River Delta Triangle, this is a half-mountain, half-plain area with an 18 km long coastline.

1. Historical value of Tam Coc-Bich Dong

Historical Values of Tam Coc-Bích Động

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Bich Dong is a beautiful pagoda on nearby Ngu Nhac mountain dating from 1428 during the Le dynasty, consisting of three architectural works: Ha pagoda, Trung pagoda and Thuong pagoda, in ascending order.

In 1773, Mr. Nguyen Nghiem (father of great writer Nguyen Du) visited this cave. He was very impressed by the entire majestic scenery of mountains, rivers, fields and sky covered with blue mist. So he gave it a very beautiful and romantic name, Bich Dong, literally meaning “Green Pearl Cave”.

This picturesque landscape is added by the Tam Coc section. It originates from its name consisting of 3 caves (Hang Ca, Hang Hai and Hang Ba); “Tam” means 3, “Coc” means cave. The Tam Coc or “Three Caves” part is extremely charming and mysterious, inviting visitors to come and explore!

To start the journey, visitors must line up at Tam Coc wharf to board a boat along the river. The wharf is crowded with tourists from morning to afternoon. People who come here all have the same pleasant feeling of a beautiful picture with a classic communal house, ancient banyan tree, well-grown moss, marble and friendly people.

Tam Coc-Bich Dong
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2. Tam Coc A Mysterious Grotto

Tam Coc A Mysterious Grotto
Tam Coc A Mysterious Grotto

Tam Coc Cave, about 2km from the pagoda, is a place that will make visitors feel like they have just disappeared from the real world to get lost in such a hidden fairy tale place.

Tam Coc is 3 km from Ben Van Lam. Now, take a boat from Van Lam Wharf to reach Tam Coc Cave, including Fish Cave, Hang Hai and Hang Ba. You can take 3 hours on a small boat along the Ngo Dong River, starting from Van Lam village and passing through beautiful scenery with rice fields and limestone towers.

The largest cave is 125m long with a ceiling about 2m above the water surface. This cave is decorated with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites of different shapes and colors that sparkle like gems.

Now when floating along the gentle Ngo Dong River under the Cave, you can feel the deeply fresh atmosphere with the special smell of fresh river water and cool air from the limestone mountains as you come to each of the three caves.

Among the three caves, Hang Ca is considered the most beautiful because it is the longest and contains the most fascinating natural art deep inside. The cave is about 127m long, the cave mouth is 20m wide.

When leaving Hang Ca, just turn around and look again, you will feel like a gray-haired old man sitting fishing. Vietnamese legend says that this is Thien Dia, where fishermen – considered fairies – live, flying above Heaven is a flock of fairies wearing graceful white dresses! You may be so enchanted by the beautiful fairy tale scene that you won’t even think of turning back at that point!

Hang Hai is nearly 1 km from Hang Ca. This is the second stop on your waterway journey, where a series of colorful sparkling stalactites can be found falling from the cave ceiling. This cave is about 60m long. The last but not least important cave is Hang Ba, right nearby, about 50m long, with a lower ceiling than the above two caves, looking like a dome-shaped dome.

Now exiting the entire cave, looking out at the vast landscape, you can see majestic mountains and rivers covering the endless land. Going another 4 km, you will reach “Fairy Stream”, a stream as clear as a mirror, you can see through the stream bed to admire flocks of fish swimming freely, hidden in layers of moss. Fairy tales say that in the past, fairies often came here to swim, so it was called “Fairy Stream”.

3. Bich Dong Grotto


Bich Dong Grotto
Bich Dong Grotto

ow turn in the opposite direction, you will soon come to Bich Dong Pagoda located on the majestic Ngu Nhac mountain. The pagoda is divided into three levels: Ha pagoda (lower pagoda), Trung pagoda (middle pagoda) and Thuong pagoda (upper pagoda).

On the top of the mountain there is a statue of a Mandarin scholar looking towards the horizon hoping to see the majestic scenery of Hoa Lu. When visiting Bich Dong cave, visitors have the opportunity to return to the legends of the Later Le Dynasty.

From the top of the pagoda, there is a view overlooking the most magnificent Bich Dong, romantically charming in both architecture and history. The site for this temple was chosen in 1428 after two monks were fascinated by the river and mountain views. Later, King Le Canh Hung wrote a poem praising the beautiful scenery of the temple.

Bich Dong means “Green Cave” or “Pearl Cave”, which reveals its majestic natural beauty. The colors, shapes, and sounds of the bright stalactites converge so magically that no one can refuse to touch, knock, and admire them. Respectfully, among the most attractive caves in Vietnam, “Fairy Cave” belonging to the Bich Dong complex is known as “Paradise on earth”.

“The four-season mountain is full of water,

The rattan boat floats gently,

The clouds cover the temple scene.”

Those are beautiful lines of poetry offered to the cave of Bich Dong Pagoda, a rare work of natural art.

4. “Sun Valley” – Attractive eco-tourism

This is the final destination on your meaningful waterway journey – “Sun Valley”, an ideal eco-tourism destination for nature lovers. Inside the valley there is an ancient limestone temple with exquisitely carved stone architecture. Visiting this valley, you can relax on your small boat, sunbathe, and frolic in the quiet and fresh atmosphere.

What to eat in Tam Coc Bich Dong

Ninh Binh is not only famous for its breathtaking scenery but also for its goat meat. Therefore, once visiting Tam Coc-Bich Dong in Ninh Binh province, the must-try dish you should try is goat meat. Local people prepare goat meat in many attractive ways.

For example, goat meat is eaten with herbs such as lemon, chili, seasoning powder and ginger. Grilled goat meat with sesame and rare goat meat mixed with basil, coriander and fig leaves. A menu with goat meat will definitely stay in your memory for a long time.

In addition, Tam Coc-Bich Dong is also famous for burnt rice, eel vermicelli and drunk wine from jars through tubes. Almost every restaurant here serves all types of dishes mentioned above. So you can have the opportunity to taste the typical dishes of this mountainous province right in one place.

Where to stay in Tam Coc Bich Dong

Accommodation in Tam Coc-Bich Dong is very popular. Depending on your schedule, you can choose a location close to where you want to go. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Hidden Charm Hotel & Resort Ninh Binh

This hotel and resort is 0.4 km from Tam Coc and is rated the best value among nearly 150 hotels in Ninh Binh. It only takes a few minutes to walk from here to Tam Coc Wharf, Bird Valley, Bai Dinh Pagoda, Phat Diem Cathedral, Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, etc.

  • Thanh Dat Homes

If you have a tight budget but still want to admire all the wonderful beauty of Tam Coc-Bich Dong, this homestay is truly an ideal choice for you. 0.3 km from Tam Coc and costs nearly 400,000 VND. In addition, the homestay also serves 24/7 to create satisfaction for visitors when staying here.

  • Nan’s house

Another great choice for your stay is Nan House. This is an authentic homestay located in the heart of Tam Coc-Bich Dong, Ninh Binh. This place is covered with a small garden filled with flowers, a swimming pool and a playground for children’s activities. Its design is a combination of modern and traditional styles with views of pagodas, mountains and rowing grounds. So this is a great place for you to relax after a tiring day.

How to get to Tam Coc Bich Dong

From Hanoi, take a bus or train to reach Ninh Binh province in 2.5 hours. Then, drive about 5 km from Ninh Binh center to Tam Coc-Bich Dong. Here, if you want to enjoy other activities, you need to join a boat tour with the locals.

Best time to visit

Tam Coc-Bich Dong still retains its unique beauty all year round. However, the best time to visit is in spring, when the skies are clear, temperatures are pleasant, and the fields are vast and green. This is also the time when Vietnamese people organize many festivals to celebrate Tet, so the atmosphere is really wonderful.

Why are you still hesitant to come to Tam Coc-Bich Dong? This place is truly a mountain river legend, a fresh and safe destination for every tourist.