Magical, mysterious and watery, Tam Coc is one of the most important parts of a World Heritage site ranked by UNESCO. Moreover, if you have heard of “Halong bay” this is basically a landlocked version of it.
Tam Coc in a literal sense means “three caves,” which are Ca cave, Hai cave and Ba cave. If you have watched the movie Kong: Skull Island there is a good chance you have caught a glance of these caves since a majority of the scenes were shot there.
The director Jordan Vogt-Roberts in an interview with Channel News Asia has stated that “There’s such a raw, powerful and unspoiled beauty that general audiences hadn’t experienced on screen before.” Oscar winner Brie Larson seems to share the same opinion when she said “You’re trying to find something that is completely untouched and looks unlike anything you’ve seen before. And Vietnam is the answer to that.” If you are still trying to picture how these natural beauties look like, the descriptions below could be helpful.
Paddy fields beneath limestone caves
Ca Cave is 127 meters (417 feet) long through a large mountain; the cave is over 20 meters (66 feet) wide. Inside the cave the climate is cool and there are many stalactites hanging down in many shapes and forms. Hai Cave, nearly 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) from Ca Cave, is 60 meters (197 feet) long; its ceiling has many strange-looking stalactites hanging down. Ba Cave, near Hai Cave, is 50 meters long, with a ceiling that looks like a rock arch, and is lower than the other two caves'.
One of Ca Cave's entrances
All three of these long, dark tunnel-caves are formed by a river piercing through the mountains, which means the highlight of the trip for most people is a boat ride roaming through karst hills in engulfed scenery where river and rice paddy blend calmly into one.
Paddling along the fields
The boats take visitors along the Ngo Dong River winding through cliffs, caves, and paddy fields. It takes about two hours to go back and forth. The scenery of Tam Coc, especially on the two sides of the Ngo Dong River, can change depending on the rice season (green rice, yellow rice or the silver color of water in the field).
Another angle at the boat ride
A boat trip along the river is fun, but there are other just as exciting activities to do in this part of Vietnam. The neighboring countryside is some of the most untamed in the province, featured by jagged limestone mountains and green terrain. We suggest spending a few nights here and dig as far into the countryside as your vehicles would take you. Go and have fun with the friendly local villagers, dine on crisp mountain goat, and climb mountains for a great sight of the river.
A goat on the moutain
Best Time to Visit Tam Coc
If you want to witness the radiant colors of the ripe paddy fields, the best time is from late May to early June. That is when the paddy fields are mixed with green and golden colors which create a fascinating picture with gorgeous shades. After Tet holiday is another great time as you can see the freshly green fields stretching out to welcome the spring breeze.
Tam Coc at different times of the year
How to Get to Tam Coc from Hanoi
The distance from Hanoi to Tam Coc is around 100 kilometers (62 miles), so you can just use your own vehicles for more flexibility or take a 2-hour train.
Other Things to Keep in Mind
While on a boat, whenever you want to stop to take a photo, or find a higher place for good photo angles, please discuss with the paddler first. With their experience and knowledge, they can give you important tips for your safety.
If you don’t like the occasional rains in summer it is advised that you start your trip early in the morning, so when you arrive there is only mild sunlight with cool breezes.