A Complete Guide To Vietnam’s Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
Hoa Lu was the capital of Vietnam in the 10th and 11th centuries. It witnessed many important historical events in the early days: the union of Vietnam after the rebellion of 12 warlords, the war with China’s Southern Han Dynasty, and the formation of Hanoi.
Visiting Hoa Lu, you can explore several historical remarks, including the architectural system of worship, walls, citadel, caves, and other magnificent architecture.
About Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh
Hoa Lu became the capital and the economic, political, and cultural center of Dai Co Viet (an old name of Vietnam) in the 10th century.
This capital city existed for 42 years (968 – 1010). It was associated with three dynasties: the Dinh Dynasty (founded by Dinh Tien Hoang), the Tien Le Dynasty (founded by Le Dai Hanh), and theLy Dynasty.
Following the demise of the Le Dynasty in 1010, Ly Cong Uan, the founder of the Ly Dynasty, moved the capital to Thang Long (now Hanoi), and Hoa Lu became the “ancient capital.”
The ancient capital Hoa Lu was about 300 hectares wide, consisting of Thanh Ngoai, Thanh Noi, and Thanh Nam, surrounded by a series of arched stones and majestic landscapes.
Entrance fee: 20,000 VND.
How to get to Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh
Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh is a convenient spot from Phong Nha or Hue to Hanoi. Or, if you are already in Hanoi, you can easily get to Ninh Binh, as it’s only 90km south of the city.
Getting to Ninh Binh
Vietnam Railway offers daily trains from Ninh Binh.
- Hanoi to Ninh Binh: From Hanoi, trains depart at 6 am, 3:20 pm, and 7:25 pm. The train journey takes about 2 hours 20 minutes. Book your train ticket here.
- Hue to Ninh Binh: The train journey takes about 12 hours and 44 minutes. Book your train ticket here.
- Phong Nha to Ninh Binh: The journey takes about 9 hours. Book your train ticket here.
- Sai Gon to Ninh Binh: You can take the morning train at 6 am, and you’ll get to Ninh Binh at 4:10 pm the day after.
- From Hanoi: Trang An limousine and Truly Hagiang offer several buses departing from Hanoi. The journey takes about 1.5 hours. Book your bus ticket here.
- From Hue: The bus ride takes about 10.5 hours from Hue. Book your bus ticket here.
Getting from Ninh Binh to Hoa Lu
After getting to Ninh Binh by train or bus, you can rent a motorbike or take a taxi to Hoa Lu. The ancient capital is about 15 km from Ninh Binh city center, so it takes about 25 minutes to get there.
You can also combine your trip with other destinations in Ninh Binh, such as Tam Coc Bich Dong, Trang An, and Bai Dinh temple.
Where to stay in Ninh Binh
We love our stay at Trang An retreat, a lovely resort surrounded by mountains. Although its location is a bit far from the center, we love its serene and peaceful atmosphere. The rooms are clean and spacious, and the staff is helpful.
Best time to visit Hoa Lu
March to May is a lovely time to visit Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh. This time is the dry season, and the weather is usually mild and still relatively cool.
Also, if you’d like to combine your trip with other locations, visiting Hoa Lu at the end of May is a great choice to see the rice season.
Furthermore, after the Lunar New Year is the festive season. If you want to experience the bustling and crowded atmosphere of this festival, visit it in spring.
Things to see in Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh
Although the old Hoa Lu citadel no longer exists, relics associated with the three dynasties, Dinh, Le, and Ly, are still intact.
For example, you can see the temple of Dinh Tien Hoang, the temple of King Le Dai Hanh, the vestiges of East, North, and South gates.
The most important places to visit here are the two temples of Dinh Tien Hoang Emperor and the Le Dai Hanh Emperor.
King Dinh temple
King Dinh temple was built on the main hall of the capital city of Hoa Lu, with a total area of about 3 acres in the North.
This is the only place in Vietnam that worships King Dinh Tien Hoang, his parents, sons, and generals of the Dinh dynasty.
There is Ma Yen mountain in front of the temple, and behind the temple is Du mountain range. The prominent architecture of the temple includes the North Gate, the dragon yard, Khai Thanh’s house, the front house, and the garden.
King Le temple
King Le temple is located about 500 meters from King Dinh Temple, in the East citadel. This temple has a smaller scale than King Dinh Temple.
In front of the temple is the central square of Hoa Lu, and behind the temple is a moat to protect the ancient capital running at the foot of De mountain.
Here, people have found relics of the old palace and some ancient ceramics. These precious artifacts are kept in the museum room on the left side of the temple complex.
Hoa Lu relic area also has some pretty pagodas such as Ngan Xuyen Pagoda (near the foot of Ma Yen mountain), Nhat Tru pagoda (about 200 meters from Le king temple), and other pagodas.
Hoa Lu 1-day itinerary
Here is my suggestion for a 1-day itinerary: Hanoi – Trang An – Bai Dinh – Hoa Lu.
In the morning, depart from Hanoi to Ninh Binh by bus or train. The journey takes about 1.5 to 2 hours.
If you take a bus, you can ask the bus provider to drop you off at Trang An. If you take a train, you can get there by taxi or bike.
Around 9 am, you will start exploring Trang An by boat. Depending on the schedule, it takes about 2-3 hours to explore this place.
After leaving Trang An, head Hoa Lu ancient capital. You should visit the temple area of King Dinh and King Le. Lunch break at a restaurant.
Then, visit Bai Dinh pagoda in the afternoon. Bai Dinh is a very famous temple complex in Vietnam. Finish your journey back to Hanoi.
This looks like the kind of site that I would absolutely love to explore for the day. Thanks for the tips – they’ll be really useful for when I visit!