Hoa Lu ancient capital : A former ancient capital of Vietnam

Hoa Lu Ancient capital is an unique traditional capital of Vietnam, which draws travellers from far and wide. These tourists are able to appreciate the beauty of the wholesome topography and the invaluable memorials in these atavistic grounds.

It is located in Truong Yen commune, Hoa Lu district, Ninh Binh province, about 100km away from the south of Hanoi, Hoa Lu ancient capital is a national relic. It is the foremost ancient capital of the feudal that amalgamates in Vietnam where there are countless Old landmarks. Although, it was selected as the capital of Dai Co Viet (the former name of Vietnam) for a short period of time- around 42 years, Hoa Lu Ancient capital witnessed historical events through a long term Vietnamese history

Hoa Lu ancient capital

Hoa Lu ancient capital – Top attraction in Ninh Binh

The history of Hoa Lu ancient capital – The former capital of Vietnam since the 10th century

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital was formerly a strong military base of three successive dynasties in the history of Vietnam: Dinh Dynasty, Ly Dynasty and Early Le Dynasty. The ancient capital is a spectacular, impressive and lofty palace that is encompassed by the Rocky Mountains that are arc-shaped, beautiful landscape and a number of serene lakes.

All these make a pleasant and idyllic environment, coupled with the enchanting features makes it a very common spot for travelers embarking on Ninh Binh travels. Hoa Lu Ancient capital has a breadth of around 300 hectares, along with the inner, outer and southern castle that has a lot of beautiful karst mountains and charming landscapes surrounding it. The outside capital is around 140 hectares in breadth and it doubles as the major palace where Le Temple and Dinh Temple is centered.

Hoa Lu ancient capital has two layers of the citadel next to each other and adjoining mountainous areas. Following the design of the Dinh Le Dynasty, three layers were separated into the eastern, west and southern castle.

In the meantime, the other keeps house palaces that can also be called Hoa Lu Ancient capital. By the time King Ly Thai To had relocated the capital to Thang Long Hanoi in 1010 Hoa Lu was officially known as the Ancient capital.

The appearance of Hoa Lu Ancient Capital is different from what it used to be and it has been substituted with shrines and temples. The temple of King Dinh, King Le was erected on the basis of Hoa Lu Ancient capital accordingly.

These two temples have about 300m between them so travellers and visitors sometimes refer to the Hoa Lu Ancient capital as the Temple of King Dinh, King Le. Now Hoa Lu complex archives houses about 30 relics, two of those are King Le and King Dinh Temples. You can also find numerous pavilions and temples that are thousands of years old that show the architectural quality and durability of the palace.

Where is Hoa Lu ancient capital?

The ancient capital located in Hoa Lu Dist, Ninh Binh. 90 kilometres (60 miles) within 2 hours drive from Hanoi.

The Hoa Lu ancient capital map

This is a google map of the ancient capital

How to get to Hoa Lu ancient capital from Hanoi

Hanoi to Hoa Lu by shuttle bus

You can easily get to Hoa Lu by taking a seat in a coach tour from Hanoi with daily departures. There is also a limousine bus company called Ninh Binh Excursion which offers daily bus to Ninh Binh and pick up from Hanoi Old Quarter. The ticket values at 200k per person. 

Hanoi to Hoa Lu by local bus

Taking a taxi from your hotel to Giat Bat bus terminal for taking a bus to Ninh Binh. The fare is about 70k to 100k. Please keep in mind that, they only drop you off at the J-Junction which is 6 kilometres from the ancient capital so that you need to take another taxi ride to get to the temple. In my opinion, it isn’t a good way to go. The total cost includes taxi ride and ticket fare is higher than taking a shuttle tourist bus from the Old Quarter of Hanoi

Hanoi to Hoa Lu by motorbike

You can also ride a motorbike along National highway no 1, crossing Phu Ly city and heading to Ninh Binh

Hanoi to Hoa Lu by train 

Please see detailed information about the train from Hanoi to Ninh Binh includes train number, rate, departure and arrival time as followings. Please bear in mind that the train stop at Ninh Binh city, so you need to take another taxi ride to Hoa Lu which costs around 80k

DepartArrive Train number Ticket fare
9.0011.18SE5143k (Soft seat with air conditioning)
19.3021.44SE3143k (Soft seat with air conditioning)
20.1022.22SE19143k (Soft seat with air conditioning)

What to do in Hoa Lu ancient capital

Here is suggested what to do in Hoa Lu ancient capital

Learn more about the history of King Dinh temple

A special building in the Ancient capital is the Temple of King Dinh where worshipers come to give reverence to King Dinh Tien Hoang, was built in the 17th century. The Le Dynasty was later rebuilt and returned the temple to a spot, some hundreds of meters away from the bottom of Ma Yen Mountain.

The sanctuary has remained majestic and serene for over 400 years because of its impressive architecture like The Ngo Mon Gate, Lotus Pond, Floral Garden or Inner Gates.

There are also three pavilions inside the temple, the one outside is an altar, the one in the center is referred to as Thien Huong worshipping 4 pillars of the majestic grounds which are called Dinh Dien, Nguyen Bac, Trinh Tu, Luu Co and the internal worship centers King Dinh Tien Hoang in the chancel with three princes namely: Dinh Lien, Dinh Toan, and lastly, Dinh Hang Lang. 

The walls and paths around the temple have been covered with algae and are now encompassed by rich and flourishing greens. There are also particular monolithic Long Sang (king’s beddings) and clear shellfishes in the fore of the main entrance to the temple.

These Long Sang are carefully designed with beautiful mosaics, pictures of nature and flowers. Visitors usually encounter a saddle like a mountain before getting to King Dinh Temple. Visitors will see the tombs of King Dinh when they climb 265 steps to ascend the mountain. It is located at the summit of the mountain surrounded by lush greens and is made from gray rocks. Mostly, travellers can experience the extensive sights of the Hoa Lu archive complex in ink painting form

Check out King Le temple

King Le temple is a bit close to the tabernacles of King Dinh and King Le Dai Hanh is worshipped here. Le temple is not as big and complex, though. There are three statues in the temple; Queen Duong Van Nga on the left, King Le Dai Han on the center and King Le Long Dinh on the right.

The touch of Old architecture can still be noticed through the elaborate and impeccable plaques. These valuable antiques are stored away in the museum of the temple. Hoa Lu antique house a lot of magnificent temples like Nhat Tru Pagoda (200 meters away from King Le temple) and Ngan Xuyen Pagoda (close to Ma Yen foothill) which attract many travellers or tourists.

Hoa Lu Ancient capital is not the only unique national monument complex, but one of the three areas that form the Trang An picturesque scenery and complex that have been recognized by UNESCO as world heritage. When they return to Hoa Lu, tourist and travelers will be enchanted by the impressive aesthetic that is possessed by this revered place and also appreciate the remains of Hoa Lu Ancient capital and learn more about, the art, culture, lifestyle and architecture of Vietnamese. It also advertises Ninh Binh tourism to local and foreign tourists.

Hiking to Cot Co peak

If you like hiking, let’s make it to Cot Co peak by climbing the steps where tomb of king Dinh Tien Hoang located to see a panoramic view of the temple its self, lush green rice paddy field and nearby villages or check out closeby village by keep walking pass by king Le temple to a village gate. 

 Hoa Lu ancient capital Entrance fee

The entrance fee ticket costs 20.000VND per adult and 10k per child. 

Opening hours : 7.30 am to 5. 00pm  

 Hoa Lu ancient capital travel tips

  • If you want to take pictures, there are local photographers that will offer to take your pictures when you are leaving the temple. They charge 1USD per photo
  • It costs between 2000VND and 3000VND per person to use the toilet
  • Flash photographs are not allowed in the main hall
  • Hats and sunglasses are not allowed in the main hall
  • Follow the dress code like avoiding shorts and sleeves to show reverence
  • Keep your voice down within the complex
  • If you want to be away from the big crowd of tourists, visit the temple in the afternoon from 2.00pm to 5.00pm because most of bus tours from Hanoi departs Hoa Lu in the morning. 

Best time to visit Hoa Lu 

You can visit Hoa Lu all year around. What I think, if you like to enjoy the peaceful scenery and tranquil settings, then avoid travelling during the period of annual festival as mentioned above or pay a visit in the afternoon from 2.00 pm to 4.30 pm because most of the tour groups from Hanoi will visit Hoa Lu in the morning. 

What to eat in Hoa Lu 

Please see a list of must-try food in Ninh Binh which is available in most of the restaurant in the area

  • Com Chay (Burned rice topped with pork floss in Ninh Binh style)
  • Half cooked goat meat with lime sauce
  • BBQ goat meat
  • Mountain snail 

Nearby restaurants to eat in the Hoa Lu area

Truong An restaurant

Thang Guong restaurant

Where to stay in Hoa Lu 

If you like to stay in a peaceful area away from tourist trail, then the Trang An area is a good choice whist most of travellers stay in the Tam Coc area.

Please see top choice accommodation in Ninh Binh

The annual festival of Hoa Lu ancient capital 

The annual festival in Hoa Lu is organized in March in the Lunar calendar. It is started in the river of Hoang Long which is known as the most famous river in the Ninh Binh area, where King Ly Thai To had relocated the capital to Thang Long (former Hanoi) in 1010, and finish at the two king temples: Dinh Tien Hoang and Le Dai Hanh. There are 3 main parts in the festival including the ceremonies, folk games a trade fair.

The festival showcases the rich history of Vietnam from 968 to 1010 with three dynasties: Dinh, Le, Ly 

Hoa Lu ancient capital review

A historical place

You won’t see much of the ancient buildings but you can learn more about the rich history of the temple. Tranquil settings, stunning rural landscape with rice paddy field

A great place if you go on a guided tour

If you are travelling on your own, you feel like just another temple in Vietnam. But going with a guide who will introduce about its history, structure and region which is much more interesting. I also suggest to check out the foundation in King Le temple

Hoa Lu ancient capital Q & A

1. Why did the King Dinh Tien Hoang choose Hoa Lu as the ancient capital of Dai Co Viet (Former name of Vietnam in the 10th century)?

First of all, king Dinh was a local in Hoa Lu region so he knew the land very well. Secondly, thanks to its great location, mountains, and forests in the back, river and delta in the front which makes harmony in Fengshui and defending in term of military purpose  

2. Why did the King Ly Cong Uan relocate Hoa Lu capital to Thang Long?

Because King Ly realized the significance of a citadel which effects the destiny of the nation. Hoa Lu is narrow and high humidity, which isn’t good for developing rice farming, a main field of the economy in the old day.

3. What does Hoa Lu mean?

Flower of Reed (Lau) . When king Dinh was a child, he practiced battling game with other kids in the village by using reeds as flags. 

4. How long was Hoa Lu the capital of Vietnam?

42 years from 968 to 1009 with 2 dynasties: Dinh and Le

Nearby tourist attractions to combine with Hoa Lu

  • Bai Dinh Buddhist temple
  • Trang An Eco-tourism site
  • Tam Coc boat ride and Bich Dong Buddhist temple
  • Am Tien cave
  • Mua cave
  • Explore nearby rural villages  

See also : Phat Diem Stone Cathedral – A masterpiece of art

The perfect Ninh Binh itinerary

For for information please see ultimate Ninh Binh travel guideHynam Travel also offer day tour to Ninh Binh 

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