Tràng An is simultaneously a World Heritage site, a major tourism attraction, an extremely important archaeological and historical site and a massive nature reserve. As the Trang An Landscape Complex, it encompasses over 6000 hectares including the Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, the Trang An-Tam Coc-Bich Dong Scenic Landscape, and the Hoa Lu Special-Use Forest, joined together by “special use” land corridors.
Outside of these protected areas, it can be a maze of both paved and unpaved roads, winding streams and walking tracks that link together the hundreds of small villages and farming communities gathered in the surrounding rich alluvial plains. But as a town, it barely exists at all.
In many ways, Trang An is Ninh Binh. Or rather, Ninh Binh provides the support system for Trang An. Designated as “of global significance” by UNESCO in 2014, due to its stunning karst landscape and a long history of some 30,000 years of human habitation, the Complex itself covers a massive area. However a further 6000 hectares have also been set aside as a “buffer zone” surrounding the area, protecting the natural beauty and keeping the biological diversity intact.
With the addition of the Van Long Wetland Nature Reserve, the Cuc Phuong National Park and the recent plans for expansion of the Day River Estuary Biosphere Reserve in Kim Son, Ninh Binh Province is curating a massive chunk of Vietnamese cultural and geological history. Rebuilding many architectural and historical sites includes promoting eco-tourism as a viable industry, both as a means to fund the program but also a way to retain this unique environment for future generations.
The ravages of covid forced the closure of many local businesses and many locals suddenly made redundant. We live in hope that International and domestic tourists will return again in such numbers to continue the viability of this natural and ancint dream world as one of the crown jewels of Vietnamese tourism.
Trang An Boat Rides
Perhaps the most well-known and loved part of the Trang An eco-tourism area is the famed boat rides along a tributary of the Hong River (itself a tributary of the Red River). The journey through rice fields, over sparkling water gardens and through half submerged underground caves has thrilled thousands. The 2016 Hollywood block buster King Kong featured many scenes filmed in Tam Coc and Trang An, further enhancing its image and until Covid, helped create a booming influx of visitors.
Similar to its older cousin at Văn Lâm in Tam Coc, the Trang An Boat Wharf offers three separate routes, all showcasing the stunning natural panorama that is Ninh Binh’s signature claim to fame. While many pundits will compare Trang An to an inland Halong Bay, here at Discover Ninh Binh we believe that it is much more than that. While the romance and adventure of an overnight cruise on Halong Bay is undeniably attractive, Trang An offers a way to get up close an intimate with the heartland of North Vietnam’s unique and diverse natural beauty plus the opportunity to interact with the temples, pagodas and shrines that witnessed the very foundation of the Vietnam nation.
Geographically speaking, Trang An has been submerged by sea, not once but several times in its 250 million year history. Even now it is subject to intermittent flooding and an intricate series of dykes and sluice gates have been developed over the years to counter the numerous fresh water river systems that provide Ninh Binh with the foundations of its rich fauna, flora and aquatic diversity. A pleasant result has been the return of huge numbers of birds, plants and animals as well as providing a rich breeding ground for all things aquatic.
A simple boat ride from Trang An will introduce even the most jaded traveler to an most enjoyable, unique and exciting journey through one of the most interesting and beautiful environments in Vietnam, if not the world. More tightly controlled than its counter-part in Tam Coc, Trang An also shows that sustainable, non-intrusive and entertaining tourism is possible and indeed, profitable.
Trang An Wharf is around 7 km from Ninh Binh city and is reached easily along good all weather roads. Priced at around 250k VND for adults and 120k for children between 1 and 1.3 meters in height (below this travel free), you have a choice of three different routes.
Tour 1 is the longest of the three, taking 3 to 5 hours to thoroughly explore all of the attractions, including spiritual and exhilarating caverns. A mix of scenic travel, caves and temples, the itinerary here is as follows:
Boat wharf – Trình Temple - Hang Tối (Dark Cave) – Hang Sáng( Morning Cave) – Nấu Rượu ( cooking alcohol ) Cave – Trần Temple – Ba Giọt Cave - Hang Seo (Seo Cave) - Hang Sơn Dương (Son Duong Cave) – Phủ Khống ( Khong temple) – Chùa Báo Hiếu (Bao Hieu Pagoda )- Hang Khống (Khong Cave) – Hang Trần (Tran Cave) - Hang Quy Hậu (Quy Hau Cave) – return to the marina
The second route winds through Lam, Vang, Thanh Truot and Dai caves, Suoi Tien tempe. Route 2 will transport visitors “back in time” to the 13th century, taking in sites and temples from the Tran Dynasty (1226-1400). Known as a strong, progressive and artistic dynasty that fought off the Yuan (Mongol) Dynasty attacks and consolidated the Dai Viet nation, with the Hành Cung Vũ Lâm (Vu Lam palace) as an iconic example of their architectural brilliance.
This tour focuses on the historical and religious relics from that period as well as several caves and, of course, the fantastic scenery. The trip’s final destination will be to pass by the well-known Hollywood filming site of Kong: Skull Island and overall the tour takes around 2-3.5 hours, dependent on how long you and your fellow passengers stay at each site. Tour 2’s itinerary is as follows:
Boat wharf - Hang Lãm( Lam cave) - Hang Vàng( Golden cave ) - Hang Thánh Trượt ( Thanh Truot cave) - Đền Suối Tiên ( Suoi Tien temple) - Hang Dài ( Dai cave)- Hành Cung Vũ Lâm ( Vu Lam palace) – go back boat wharf
Route 3 focuses on the geological and aquatic wonders of the Trang An experience. Guests will visit many caves with the highlight being Hang Mây , a natural cave with a length of more than 1000m with crystals and stalactites extending like jewels. Route 3 typically takes from 2 to 3.5 hours, again dependent on how long you and your fellow passengers stay at each site. Route 3 itinerary is as follows:
Boat wharf - Trình Temple - Hang Mây ( Cloud Cave ) the longest cave - Đền Suối Tiên ( Suoi Tien temple) - Hang Địa Linh ( Dia Linh Cave) - Hang Đại ( Dai Cave) - Hành Cung Vũ Lâm ( Vu Lam palace) - Kong film studio (aboriginal village) - back to the boat station.
As all tours take several hours to complete, guests are reminded to wear loose clothing, bring a hat or umbrella, a waterproof bag for any electronics, and some liquid refreshments. There are some wonderful spots for an impromptu picnic and times where you will exit the boat and explore the temples and gardens.
The sun reflecting off the clear stream can heat things up considerable so staying cool and hydrated is important. While you are surrounded by cool, fresh water, Trang An is a nature reserve and no swimming or bathing is allowed.
In an attempt to improve the experience, your guide will often present guests with a survey of their experience. Alternatively, if you have anything that makes you unhappy or dissatisfied during your trip, please contact the management via social network or the hotline number mounted on the boat.
Ticket price (for any of the routes):
People over 1.3m tall 250,000 VND/person
Children from 1m - 1.3m 120,000 VND/person
Children under 1m tall Free of charge
Private boat 1,250,000 VND/ 1 boat
Private Tour guide 300,000 VND/ 1 route
A new attraction is the availability of individual kayak hire. You cannot enter any caves and must keep clear of the official tour boats, otherwise you are free to explore the river and the magnificent Karst scenery at your own pace. Kayak Rental cost are as follows:
Single Kayak ticket: 2 hours 250,000 VND/boat
Single kayak ticket: 3 hours 300,000 VND/boat
Double Kayak ticket: 2 hours 350,000 VND/boat
Double Kayak ticket: 3 hours 400,000 VND/boat
If you drive to Trang An wharf, there is a large parking area at around 25k VND per motorcycle. To one side of the parking area is a “market” place selling souvenirs and refreshments, so if it is a hot day and you have forgotten your hat or water bottle, you have the opportunity to make any last minute purchases.
Stated opening hours are 7:00 AM – 4:00 PM. Generally the attraction is most busy between the hours of 10am and 3pm when the tour buses from Hanoi will arrive and depart.