Tam Coc is known as the ‘Halong Bay on Land’. Hundreds of karst limestone cliffs dot the countryside of Nihn Bihn, primary around the sleepy village of Tam Coc; a UNESCO world Heritage Site just two hours from Hanoi.
We planned our travels through Tam Coc using many great recommendations from my Vietnam Marco Polo Spiral Guide.
How to Get Around Tam Coc
Grab is not a good option in Tam Coc, so you’ll need to rent either a bicycle or motorbike to get around. Usually, I would not even consider a motorbike, too many people I know have been in accidents and I just don’t think they’re worth the risk.
However, if you are going to rent one anywhere, I’d recommend here. The roads are good, not much traffic and easy to navigate. It’d probably be the best place to learn if you ever wanted to.
We opted for a bicycle with no regrets. Actually, one of the highlights of our trip was cycling from place to place, taking in the beautiful scenery along the way.
Tip: Many homestays come with bicycles, so when booking your accommodation, check first to see whether they’re offered to guests. However, if you’re planning any early morning cycles, inform the homestay owner as they lock up the bicycles at night.
Best Instagram Spots in Tam Coc, Nihn Bihn
Hang Mua Caves
For incredible views of the limestone cliffs, rice paddy fields and brown rivers of Tam Coc, head to Hang Mua Caves and hike up Lying Dragon mountain. Entrance is 100k VND per person, about €3.50, and you can do the climb in just 20 to 30 minutes. Choose your trail, or do them both, Hang Mua Caves offers two separate hikes. I opted for the one with the best view point. Go left to take this route.
Tip: Relax after your hike on one of the many Instagrammable swings dotted around the base of the mountain. I opted for the one with the best view, which is located just before the entrance gates. It’s a cute and easy shot to get given that you’ve already made the journey to get there, so it’s worth the extra bit of time to take a few photos here before you leave.
Tam Coc Boat Ride
Head to Tam Coc Village to take the 1 hour boat ride along the river. Choose early morning or late evening to get the best light and to avoid the sweltering heat of the day. They’re also the quietest times to go as tour buses operate between 11am and 4pm. Trips are for two people, costing 200,000 VND (€6.50) per person, and a local lady (or gentleman) will row the boat for you with their feet, yes, their feet! Our boat tour was during 38 degrees temperatures and very hard on the woman who was rowing. Recommended tip is 50,000 VND (€1.50) but we chose to give 100,000 for the sheer difficulty of the journey.
Also, you’ll stop during the trip at a boat where you’ll be asked to purchase drinks and snacks. If you don’t want to purchase anything, simply say “no, thank you”. They’ll try to push that you should buy the person rowing your boat a snack or drink, for all her work. Again, say “no, thank you”. This is a tactic to get you to buy with a significant mark-up. The minute we moved on without buying anything, the lady rowing our boat opened her cool-a-box and had a drink.
Tam Coc Village Boats
If you’re staying overnight in Tam Coc, take the opportunity to photograph the hundreds of parked boats lined up along the lake. A sunrise or sunset setting will add some extra magic to this beautiful and interesting sight.
Bich Dong Pagoda & Scenic Roads
Cycle along the most scenic stretch of road for a couple of kilometres from Tam Coc village to get to this beautiful temple. Give yourself time as you’re certain to stop once or twice to take a photo with the dramatic limestone cliffs and intense green rice paddy fields in the background.
The walk bridge entrance that leads to the cluster of cave temples is beautiful, and has so much character. We spent quite a bit of time taking photos here. We were lucky enough to see this beautiful place in water lily season, making the photos from this part of Tam Coc all the more dramatic. Taking a shot here without people isn’t hard, just requires a little bit of patience.
After you’re finished, take a little trip up to the caves on top. There’s a beautiful viewpoint (typically at the very top) that looks over the countryside. It’s worth the extra effort to see.
Best Places to Eat in Tam Coc and the Best Cafes
Chookies is certainly the trendiest restaurant in town. One of the only places to serve western food and coffees like lattes, cappuccinos, etc. The decor of the restaurant is a trendy, shabby chic with colourful furniture and friendly staff. We tried the pizza here and loved it. It’s not heart of Napoli style pizza but it was very tasty, and a lovely place to wind down after a long day of sightseeing.
We’re not exaggerating when we say we ate in this restaurant every night. The prices are fair, the food is delicious and the staff are great. This is a family run restaurant and every dish is lovingly prepared. We tried many things, like the steamed vegetable spring rolls, the hotpots, but the Stir-Fried Beef with Pineapple is a standout dish. Highly recommend you order it if you end up eating here.
Brick Coffee Shop
Literally the only dedicated coffee shop in town, but a great option to get your Vietnamese coffee fix in a creative and stylish setting. Brick House coffee shop is a two-story cafe with an artisan look and feel. They serve Vietnamese coffee, smoothies, and cocktails. No cappuccinos, lattes or anything of the Italian variety. For your latte fix, go to Chookies.
Where To Stay in Tam Con
We stayed at Tam Coc Boutique Garden, a more comfortable and modern take on a traditional homestay with air conditioned glass walled room within the garden. A mountain was accommodation’s backdrop and giant Jackfruit grew from the trees.
Bikes were offered complimentary to all guests, and motorbikes can be sourced through them. They also provide Wi-Fi, complimentary in-room snacks and they sell drinks at the reception for as cheap as anywhere you’ll find in Tam Coc.
How To Get to Tam Coc
There are numerous options to get to Tam Coc, you can either go by bus, by train or hire a private transfer. We opted for the train as it’s a little faster than the bus, with no stop offs in souvenir shops along the way. Commonplace with any tour bus or shuttle bus en route to major tourist sites, like Tam Coc and Halong Bay.
Best Time to Go to Tam Coc
Vietnam is best travelled to between October and March. Be warned that we went during deep summer, in July and it did affect our trip. The beautiful walks, hikes, cycles in Tam Coc were in 40 degrees heat, and more difficult than they needed to be. Opt to travel at a cooler time of year to get the most out of this beautiful part of the world.
Tam Coc is one of the most serene and beautiful parts of Vietnam. There are so many hikes, walks and cycles and with the Marco Polo Guides, I was able to make the most of my short trip of just two nights in the stunning countryside.
Thanks to Marco Polo Guides for sponsoring this post.