Hoa Lu Ninh Binh: The complete guide of Hoa Lu Ancient Capital

Hoa Lu Ninh Binh is the ancient capital of Vietnam. It is now a rising star in the list of tourist when coming to Vietnam. Hoa Lu possesses a breathtaking ancient beauty with numerous pagodas and temples. If you are planning for your trip in Ninh Binh province, don’t miss out Hoa Lu and this complete guide of Hoa Lu Ancient capital!

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
Ninh Binh Province

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital is located in Truong Yen Commune, Hoa Lu District, Ninh Binh Province. It is now a relic complex in the North of Vietnam and was the capital of three ancient dynasties. Hoa Lu will tell you the story of a thousand-year history of Vietnam by its serene landscape and magnificent temples. It is also recognized by UNESCO as one of the four core zones of the Trang An World Heritage Complex.

But before you go to Hoa Lu, there are some things you must know:

1. The best time in the year to visit Hoa Lu Vietnam

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital is beautiful all year long, so it doesn’t matter much when you come to visit this place. However, if you want to enjoy the festive atmosphere of Vietnam, it is recommended that you go to Hoa Lu in the spring and after the Lunar New Year (around February and March). In these months, there are a lot of festivals held in Ninh Binh and the landscape will be the best in this world.

However, in spring, Hoa Lu can be overcrowded with tourists. So if you prefer a quiet and peaceful tour, you should consider planning your trip at another time of the year.

2. How to get to Hoa Lu Ancient Citadel

The most common starting point to get to Hoa Lu is, of course, Hanoi. From Hanoi, you can take the train, bus and private car to Ninh Binh. From Ninh Binh city centre, you will need to travel around 10km more to get to Hoa Lu – either by taxi or private car.

By train

If you wish to go by train, you can get the ticket offline at the station and online. The train is quite comfortable and you can get a bit of sightseeing along the journey.

By bus

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
Travel by bus

Going by bus is an economical choice. You just need to make a phone call to the bus agency and arrange the schedule. You must remember that the price of a bus ticket varies according to the type of bus you choose. A lot of bus agency do pick-up service so it will be convenient for the tourists who are not familiar with Hanoi roads.

By private car

If you planning to hire a private car, make sure you choose a reliable and trustworthy agency. Private car is expensive but it is really comfortable and you can have your own space (no need to worry about getting crammed on a bus). Furthermore, if you go in a large group, a private car will definitely better for you.

3. Where to stay in Hoa Lu Ninh Binh

Many tourists only do the one-day trip in Hoa Lu, but if you happen to stay there overnight, you can choose to stay in a homestay, hostel or resort. The resort is the premium choice with high-quality service and an unfriendly price. Homestay and hostel are much cheaper, and you will have the chance to stay with local people and learn something about their way of life here.

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
Hoa Lu Ninh Binh Homestay

4. Hoa Lu Ancient Capital Entrance Fee and Opening Hours

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital entrance fee

The entrance fee is VND 20,000 per visitor.

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital opening hours

Hoa Lu capital opens from 7.00 am to 4.00pm.

Dress code

There is no specific dress code but you should dress politely since Hoa Lu is a spiritual tourist destination. 

5. What to do in Hoa Lu Ninh Binh

The most popular activity for tourists in Hoa Lu is sightseeing. A long time ago, Hoa Lu Capital was a giant area with three parts: Outer City, Inner City and South City. Unfortunately, due to time and war, these ancient cities do not remain until today. However, you can visit a lot of historic destinations in Hoa Lu.

King Dinh temple

King Dinh Temple is one of the unique architectures to worship King Dinh Tien Hoang.

The temple was built by carved wood and stone, all were done by hands of the skillful Vietnamese folk artists. The temple will bring you the feel of hundred years ago with its peaceful, sediment and impressive beauty.

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
King Dinh Temple worship King Dinh Tien Hoang

King Dinh Temple is located at the foot of Ma Yen mountain, and you will have to climb up more than 200 steps to the top of the mountain to pay a visit to this temple. You will also have a significant panoramic view from the top of the mountain. This is no doubt a photogenic place with the lush green forest and cloudy mountains running to the horizon.

King Le Temple

Nearby King Dinh Temple is the Temple of King Le. This temple is often considered as a smaller King Dinh Temple. The whole architecture is divided into three parts: the front shrine, Thien Huong house and the sanctum worshipping Le King.

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
King Le Long Dinh Statue

There are statues displaying in both of the temples. They were sculptured a long time ago – maybe hundreds of years ago – but generally they are intact and beautiful as ever. You should not miss the chance to take photos of them!

Nhat Tru Pagoda

Nhat Tru Pagoda is a 1,000-year-old pagoda with such an interesting story. It was the meeting place for the monks that the king invited to help him solve national problems.

Nhat Tru literally means “One column”. It is because this pagoda has an octagonal column carved with the writings of Buddha’s words and it is one of the Vietnamese national treasures. Interesting, isn’t it?

5. Places to visit near Hoa Lu Ninh Binh

Hoa Lu is one of the most popular attractions that you can select for your trip to Ninh Binh. Besides, there are other destinations nearby, so you can customize and prolong your schedule to travel to these recommended places.

Ninh Binh Province possesses a great number of beautiful attractions such as Mua Cave, Tam Coc – Bich Dong, Trang An tourism complex, Bai Dinh temple complex.

Mua Cave

Mua Cave, literally meaning is “The Dancing Cave”, is an eco-tourism complex located in Hoa Lu District, Ninh Binh Province, Vietnam. Nowadays, this attraction is a must for hiker and photographer tourists to visit in Ninh Binh.

The way leading to the peaceful, natural Mua Cave is a 500-step zigzag stone staircase. At the end of the staircase is an altar of Quan Am (the Goddess of Mercy). And when you conquer the staircase, you can stand at the peak of mountains with a stunning view of Ninh Binh.

Tam Coc – Bich Dong: Hoa Lu Tam Coc tour is recommended

The area of Tam Coc (or “The Three Caves”) charms tourists with its magnificent landscapes. To get the best experience at Tam Coc, you can choose to travel by motorbike or you can board on a boat.

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
Bich Dong pagoda in the mountain

Bich Dong is a pagoda surrounded by a water trench with blooming lotus. The path to the top of Bich Dong goes right through a cave decorated with impressive statues.

Bai Dinh Pagoda Complex

Bai Dinh Pagoda Complex has three levels. The first level is the bell tower pagoda, the second one is the giant golden Buddha statue and the last one is Bai Dinh pagoda.

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
View on the top of Bai Dinh Pagoda

You will be impressed by the religious, out-of-this-place and appealing beauty of Bai Dinh temple complex. There is even a 36-ton bronze bell in the Bell Tower! If you love ancient Asian architecture, you should mark this place on your map.

Trang An Tourism complex: Hoa Lu Trang An tour is recommended

Trang An complex is not an unfamiliar name with travel lovers – it is certainly one of the best places to visit in Northern Vietnam.

Though smaller in size comparing to Halong Bay, you will be lost in a wonderland with the karst mountains, lush green forests, sparkling and crystal-clear river and the endless rice field running to the horizon in Trang An. This place is so beautiful that it was chosen as the film site of the worldwide blockbuster “Kong: Skull Island”.

6. What to eat in Hoa Lu Ancient Capital

Ninh Binh province’s cuisine is simplistic and basic – but it is still wonderful with the countryside and unique taste. You should not waste the chance to get a bite of the local food there.

Scorched Rice

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
Scorched rice

Ninh Binh scorched rice, also known as crunchy rice, is a thin and crispy layer of browned rice cooked at the bottom of the pot on direct flame or heat. In 2012, this dish was recognized as one of the most excellent dishes of Vietnam and Asia.

Mountain Goat

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
Goat meat served with chili soya sauce to dip in

Dishes from mountain goat is the second thing you should try. In Ninh Binh, there are a lot of restaurants specialised in cooking goat meat with secret family recipes. The dishes are tasty and are one of the brand-name local food.