Tam Coc: Ultimate Visiting Guide 2024

Tam Coc is one of my favourite places I visited during my month-long trip throughout Vietnam.

It’s popular amongst backpackers like me because it’s cheaper than the closeby Ninh Binh, but offers pretty much the same experience.

If you’re considering visiting or already have your trip booked, I’ve created a complete guide with everything you need to know before visiting.

Where Is Tam Coc?

Tam Coc is a small town in the north of Vietnam in the Ninh Binh province. You’ll see it written as Tam Cốc on signs in Vietnam.

It’s about 7km outside the city of Ninh Binh and it’s popular amongst budget travellers because it’s where most of the hostels are – that’s the reason I stayed there.

When you think of Ninh Binh, you imagine nature and peacefulness with those huge jungle-topped limestone landscapes. In reality, Ninh Binh itself is a city, but Tam Coc is a small town in and amongst all of that beautiful nature.

A quiet country road runs beside a tranquil river with towering limestone karsts on either side, in the serene Vietnamese landscape of Tam Coc.

Tam Coc is often nicknamed the “inland Halong Bay” and having visited both, I agree. I even prefer it to Ha Long Bay – it’s much quieter and still has that sense of tranquillity you should get when you’re amongst nature, but is lost in so many places thanks to its popularity.

The town is part of the Trang An Landscape Complex UNESCO Site, which I think speaks to just how beautiful it really is.

How To Get To Tam Coc

The easiest way to get to Tam Coc is to make your way to Ninh Binh.

No matter where you are in Vietnam, you will always be able to get to Ninh Binh. The country is incredibly well-connected, and you can go anywhere from anywhere.

There are two main options, trains or buses. While I usually travelled by bus in Vietnam, I opted for a sleeper train since I was going overnight to Ninh Binh from Phong Nha (Dong Hoi).

A close-up of a vibrant blue and purple Vietnamese train locomotive, D19E-947, parked at a train station.
My sleeper train to Ninh Binh.

The sleeper trains are an experience in themself and I would recommend trying one at least once during your trip.

Once you get to Ninh Binh, it’s just a short taxi ride of about 10 minutes to Tam Coc. It should cost around 100k dong, so try to meet people on the train to split the fare with like I did.

You could also get a Grab, which is the equivalent of Uber in Vietnam.

Is Tam Coc Worth Visiting?

Yes, Tam Coc is definitely worth visiting.

I travelled in Vietnam from south to north, so I had spent a lot of time doing lots of activities in Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Hue and a few other places, so a place to relax was a really welcomed stop for me.

It’s hard to put into words the atmosphere in the area. It’s so peaceful and even though there are obvious signs of humans, it still has an “untouched” sense to it.

Lush green rice fields spread across the flat lands of Tam Coc, Vietnam, with local farmers working and limestone mountains rising in the backdrop.

I really really liked Tam Coc and I would go back in a heartbeat. I love the outdoors and nature so if you’re like me, it’s the perfect place for you.

And I didn’t even visit when the weather was nice. It was February and cloudy all the time, and I still loved it – which I think is a testament of how beautiful it really is.

If someone asked me for my top 3 destinations in Vietnam, Tam Coc would be in the running for sure.

How Many Days In Tam Coc?

Tam Coc isn’t a place you want to rush. It’s a place to relax, take it slow and spend a few days resetting.

I stayed in the town for 4 days and I felt like that wasn’t really long enough. Sure, I got to do most things, but not everything, and I didn’t have as much time to just chill as I wanted.

A winding stone stairway leading up to a pagoda atop a limestone hill in Mua Cave, adorned with red flags, overlooking the panoramic Ninh Binh countryside.

Honestly, if you can afford it time-wise, I would stay here for a week and just take it easy. If not, then like me, 4 days is enough time to see most things.

It’s hard to beat waking up with views worthy of a postcard each morning, having the opportunity to go for a walk through the rice fields and have a smoothie bowl in a garden to start the day.

Where To Stay In Tam Coc

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When I visited Tam Coc, I stayed in Tam Coc Riverside Homestay and I would highly recommend it. As the name suggests, it’s a small homestay by the river in Tam Coc.

It has just one dorm room and a few private room options and I really enjoyed my stay. The free breakfast was tasty, I booked my bus to Cat Ba from the hostel, and I met some nice people – it has all the characteristics of a good hostel.

Inside view of a hostel dormitory with green curtains and wooden bunk beds in Tam Coc Riverside Homestay, Vietnam.

There’s something that my favourite hostel in Thailand and my favourite hostel in Vietnam have in common and that’s an owner that goes above and beyond.

The owner of the hostel, Nam, gives you a map and he annotates it with you, giving you all of the best things to do and their distance from the hostel.

I rented a bicycle every day to explore, but you can also rent a motorbike if you feel confident enough.

Handheld tourist map of Ninh Binh Province with various attractions like Mua Cave, Bai Dinh Pagoda, highlighted alongside a promotional sticky note for Tam Coc Riverside Homestay.

Book your stay at Tam Coc Riverside Homestay

Things To Do In Tam Coc

There are so many things to do in Tam Coc, and it would be impossible to list all of them. But to give you a rough idea, here are some of the best things to do.

1. Take a boat tour

It would be impossible to visit anywhere in the Ninh Binh region without taking a boat ride. It’s a must-do, no doubt about it.

I opted for the Trang An Boat Tour because I visited at a time of year when the rice paddies weren’t growing, but if you visit when they are green, then Tam Coc Boat Tour is the recommended route.

The boat rides last for a few hours and they take you through all of the limestone cliffs along the gorgeous turquoise-emerald water. It’s such a peaceful thing to do – and it will really leave you feeling like it is the inland Ha Long Bay.

I also saw lots of temples along the way as there were lots of stops throughout the ride, and we went through some really long caves too which was cool.

2. Hike up Mua Cave

Another must-do when in the area is to hike up Mua Cave.

I have a personal grudge against this place because I had my expensive camera set up on a tripod and a gust of wind knocked it over, breaking one of my lenses, but even with this grudge, I can’t deny how incredible the views are.

The cave itself is pretty underwhelming, but the view from the top is one of the best in Vietnam no doubt about it, even on a foggy day like I got.

The climb to the top doesn’t take too long either which is always nice. I went at sunrise and I had the place to myself for about 20 minutes which was a pinch-myself moment to say the least.

A man stands proudly with a red flag at the peak of Mua Cave overlooking the misty landscape of Ninh Binh Province, Vietnam.

3. Visit Bich Dong Pagoda

Bich Dong Pagoda is a really cool and unique pagoda, one of the most unique I saw during my month in Vietnam.

It’s nestled into a limestone cliff and you go inside caves in the cliff as part of the pagoda. It also has free entry which is a bonus.

Make sure you are always dressed respectfully (shoulders and knees covered as a minimum).

4. Cycle through the countryside

What I love about Tam Coc is that everywhere is so picturesque. Past the attractions, past the famous views, past everything, it’s still so beautiful.

And one of the best ways to explore the area is on a bicycle. I hired a bicycle every day and I never planned to go anywhere, I just cycled wherever I felt like it.

It’s impossible to find a bad view here – everywhere looks like it could be a shot for a postcard, like this photo I took below.

A red vintage bicycle with a front basket parked on a dirt path next to a young, green rice field in Tam Coc, with limestone karsts in the background.

5. Visit Hoa Lu Ancient Capital

Hoa Lu was the capital of Vietnam in the 10th and 11th centuries, so if you’re a history lover like me, it’s a place you can’t miss.

It felt kind of similar to Hue to me but also very different at the same time. It’s a bit of a journey from Tam Coc, but it’s so worth it.

There are lots of old buildings, temples, pagodas, bridges, etc. to see here. And if nothing else, the rice fields and limestone mountains are as pretty as always.

6. Walk through the rice fields

Anywhere in the countryside in Vietnam is filled with rice field paddies. It’s likely what you picture when you imagine Vietnam.

They’re so much nicer to look at than the fields we have back home in the UK, even when they’re out of season like when I visited in February.

The best time to see them is between March and June, which is when they’ll be growing and look even more scenic.

Scenic view of a flooded rice field in Tam Coc, Ninh Binh, reflecting the sky with limestone hills in the distance and power lines above.

7. Go birdwatching

Thung Nham Bird Valley is a hidden gem in Tam Coc. Most people won’t visit, but it’s a great way to spend a few hours.

It’s a nature reserve with an opportunity to see hundreds of birds and many different species. The entry price is 150k dong, so it’s pretty expensive by Vietnam’s prices, but it’s worth it.

On top of the wildlife-spotting opportunities, I really liked the landscapes here. There are pretty lakes and forests, and of course, limestone karsts.

8. Take a cooking class

When backpacking in Vietnam, I wanted to try and experience lots of new things and dive head-first into new cultures, as many backpackers do. I found one of the best ways to do this was through food.

Vietnam’s cuisine is delicious, there are so many amazing meals to try. And one of the best ways to learn more about the cuisine is to learn how to make the meals yourself.

My cooking class included learning how to make a Vietnamese pancake, spring rolls, chicken papaya salad and a fish dish. The best bit is I got to eat everything I made afterwards!

A vibrant Vietnamese cooking class in action with tourists and a local instructor around wooden tables, preparing traditional dishes on red portable burners.

9. Hike in Cuc Phuong National Park

Cuc Phuong National Park is a good bit away from Tam Coc, but it’s worth making your way there because it’s the largest nature reserve in Vietnam and the very first national park. I think this says enough about how incredible the area is.

If you liked the birdwatching, you will love this national park. It’s huge and you can see so many different types of wildlife here, as well as lots of different plants and greenery.

I really enjoy hiking, and there are lots of opportunities here, but I would recommend doing it with a guide so you see the best parts because the park is so big that it would take weeks to explore all of it.

10. Explore Ninh Binh City

While the main reason to visit Tam Coc is the nature, you should also spend a few hours in the city of Ninh Binh.

To be honest, there aren’t tons of things to do or a lot to see, but it’s still a nice place to walk around and see what you can find.

If nothing else, there’s a big massive supermarket named Go! which has really cheap snacks for a fraction of the price that they normally cost. I definitely stocked up for a week’s worth!


Below are some questions related to Tam Coc along with my answers to each question.

Is it better to stay in Tam Coc or Trang An?

Tam Coc and Trang An are very similar and very close by. In fact, Tam Coc is considered part of the UNESCO Site of Trang An. When the rice fields are green, Tam Coc offers a better boat ride. At other times of the year, Trang An is better. But it’s always best to stay in Tam Coc town.

When should I visit Tam Coc?

Between March and June is the best time to visit Tam Coc. The weather will be dry and warm and the rice paddies will be beginning to grow which is when they are most beautiful. It’s also not the busiest time of year so it will be affordable.

What is Tam Coc known for?

Tam Coc is known for its stunning landscapes like serene rivers surrounded by towering limestone karsts and of course, lush rice paddies. It’s often nicknamed the “Halong Bay on Land”.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it, a complete guide to visiting Tam Coc.

As I said, it’s one of my favourite places in Vietnam and I love it there – I can’t wait to go back on my next trip.

It’s the perfect place to relax and reset, which is important to do especially if you’re travelling long term to avoid burnout.

Speaking of travelling long-term, there are plenty of other places I recommend visiting as part of the Banana Pancake Trail. Where will you go next?

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