A Complete Guide To Vietnam’s Hoa Lu Ancient Capital

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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.

Hoa Lu ancient capital Vietnam

 

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) and the Tien Le Dynasty (founded by Le Dai Hanh), and Ly 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 stone and majestic landscapes.

Entrance fee: 20,000 VND

Hoa Lu Ninh Binh Vietnam

 

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

By train

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 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. 

By bus

  • 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. Rooms are clean and spacious, and the staff is helpful.

best places to stay in Ninh Binh Trang An Retreat

 

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.

Hoa Lu Ninh Binh Vietnam
Hoa Lu still retains many of its historical traces.

 

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.

King Dinh Temple Hoa Lu Vietnam
The middle of the temple is a statue of King Dinh. He sat on the throne imposing as if he was doing court.

There is Ma Yen mountain in front of the temple, and behind the temple is Du mountain range. The main architecture of the temple includes the North Gate, the dragon yard, Khai Thanh’s house, the front house, and the garden. 

King Dinh temple Ninh Binh Vietnam
Like other relics of Hoa Lu’s ancient capital, King Dinh Temple is part of Trang An’s world cultural and natural heritage, recognized by UNESCO in 2014.

 

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.

Le temple Hoa Lu Ninh Binh Vietnam

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.

Le temple Hoa Lu Ninh Binh Vietnam

Other places

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 at Trang An. In case 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 certain 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.

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 Hoa Lu Vietnam

  1. As Vietnam is one of my favourite countries I love reading posts about the places there that I haven’t visited and this is one of them. I love all the photos and reading about Hoa Lu has definitely made me want to put it on my itinerary for my next trip. Thanks for sharing..

  2. I had never heard of Hoa Lu before, despite having visited Vietnam three times. This tells me that there are so many more things I haven’t seen in the country. Vietnam and I have a love-hate relationship, but I really can’t wait to go again.

  3. Hoa Lu looks like a great side trip from Hanoi. And it seems it is not so well known and therefore less touristy than many other places in Vietnam. Yet full of history and atmosphere. A place I would like to visit if I travel again in Vietnam.

  4. Vietnam is still on my dream list. I was only in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia in the area. But I hope to visit Vietnam as well, and I would love to see Vietnam’s Hoa Lu Ancient Capital with its fabulous architecture and history. It’s great to know that it was capital that existed for 42 years (968 – 1010) and was associated with 3 dynasties. King Dinh temple looks fabulous with Du mountain range view. I want to photograph it and King Le temple as well.

  5. I missed visiting Hoa Lu from Ninh Binh on my trip in 2019. I had a full day in Ninh Binh but it didn’t seem enough honestly, I could have easily spend another day. I managed to explore only Tam Coc. With another day in hand I would have made it to Trang An as well as Hoa Lu, it looks so ancient and intriguing to explore!

  6. I think I did visit Hoa Lu as part of my tour when I was in Hanoi a very long time ago. I vaguely remember that beautiful architecture and the vibes. I would love to go back and visit this place again to refresh my memory. That’s good to know that one can take a train from Hanoi as well, I would probably love to travel by train in Vietnam.

  7. Hoa Lu seems replete with architecture, history, and it’s so green! I haven’t been to Vietnam but it’s definitely a place I would like to visit. King Dinh temple is so beautiful, and the Du mountain ranges behind – sounds right out of a novel.

  8. We are pretty sad we did not make it to Vietnam and Hoa Lu on our last trip in that area. That one day itinerary looks doable but would be very busy. We might try to break it up with a stay in the local area too. Then we could take our time to enjoy the temples and sights in the area at our pace.

  9. I loved visiting Vietnam but didn’t get to Ninh Binh. I’m hoping to return & would love to visit Hoa Lu. Thanks for sharing I’ll save this for later.

  10. I have been to Ho Chi Minh City but never heard of Hoa Lu Ninh Binh. Looking forward to exploring more of Vietnam soon. Thanks for sharing this lovely post.

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