Hoa Lu Ancient Capital – Ninh Binh Travel Guide

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital - Hanoi Locals Travel

Introduction To Hoa Lu Ancient Capital

As one of the four main parts of the Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex, Hoa Lu Ancient Capital serves as a popular attraction for visitors to Ninh Binh, Vietnam. Dating back over 1000 years, Hoa Lu was once the first capital of feudal governments in Vietnam. Thus, it boasts a majestic setting and, especially, numerous valuable relics.

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital Ninh Binh - Hanoi Locals Travel

Although time has left many footprints on this place, it stands tall as a national history and culture bearer. Therefore, it rarely fails to attract tourists, particularly history lovers. If you’re one of them, let’s discover all about the ancient capital of Hoa Lu with Hanoi Locals Travel right now.

Where Is Hoa Lu Ancient Capital?

Address: Truong Yen Commune, Hoa Lu District, Ninh Binh Province

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital is around 120 kilometers from Hanoi City. It’s located between Hoa Lu and Gia Vien districts in Ninh Binh Province. Besides, it’s part of the Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Hoa Lu Ancient Capital location is considered Fengshui harmonious, which embraces forest, plain, and sea. Hence, it promises travelers a poetic and nature-imbued scenery upon visit.

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital map:

How To Get To Hoa Lu Ancient Capital?

If you want to travel from Hanoi to Hoa Lu, you can choose private cars, buses, motorcycles, or trains. However, airport service is not available in Ninh Binh.

Private cars: This is the most convenient mode of transport. Besides comfortable seats and flexible time, it can take you from Hanoi to Ninh Binh, Hoa Lu, or any place in the province. Check out the below transfers by private car:

Motorcycles: This is suitable for those who want some adventures and much freedom. The route to Ninh Binh isn’t hard to find, so you’ll need about 3 hours and 4 liters of gasoline (100,000 VND).

Buses: Bus trips are cheap and highly available, but they won’t be convenient in terms of timetable. Plus, you have to catch different bus rides for different routes, as they cannot take you right to the places you want.

Trains: You can go from Hanoi to Ninh Binh by train for 90,000–230,000 VND per person. Then, you choose another vehicle for your trip to Hoa Lu or other spots in Ninh Binh.

Private tours: Some private tours can pick you up at Hanoi and take you right to Hoa Lu and other attractions in Ninh Binh. You can consider the following options:

Tours to Hoa Lu Ancient Capital - Hanoi Locals Travel

Best Time To Visit Hoa Lu

The best time to visit Hoa Lu Vietnam is in the dry season, from March to November. During this time, visitors especially prefer to go in:

  • Springtime (March and April): Various traditional festivities create a vivid atmosphere. Plus, the weather is neither too wet nor too hot, making it great for sightseeing.
  • Harvest season (May): It’s moderate and pleasant during this time. Also, paddy fields turn golden all over Ninh Binh, especially at the end of May.

Hoa Lu Ninh Binh Ancient Capital - Hanoi Locals Travel

After visiting Ninh Binh, you should visit other destinations in Vietnam. In that case, you will need our Ninh Binh private cars, such as:

Entrance Tickets And Opening Time

  • Hoa Lu Ancient Capital entrance fee: 20,000 VND per person (~ 1 USD)
  • Hoa Lu Ancient Capital opening hours: 7 AM–5 PM, every day

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital History

Hoa Lu has a special significance for Vietnamese history, as it was the first capital of an independent Vietnam. It lasted for 42 years, during which it witnessed the glorious reign of three dynasties in Vietnam: the Dinh Dynasty (968–980), the Early Le Dynasty (980–1009), and the Ly Dynasty (1009–1010).

Vietnam Hoa Lu Ancient Capital - Hanoi Locals Travel

Hoa Lu in the past wasn’t so different from what you see today. It boasts an untouched, valuable geography for military purposes: layers of mountains, bendy rivers, and large paddy fields with deep trenches.

Therefore, it contributed to the victory of Dinh Bo Linh, who later became Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang, against the twelve warlords. He established Dai Co Viet (an old name of Vietnam) and chose Hoa Lu to be its center city.

Hoa Lu Vietnam Ancient Capital - Hanoi Locals Travel

42 years later, Ly Thai To Emperor, the founder of the Ly Dynasty, decided to move the capital to Thang Long (an old name of Hanoi).

Although that decision terminated Hoa Lu’s role as the imperial capital, people continued to add more architectural structures, such as temples and pagodas, to the land. It created a precious complex of Hoa Lu Ancient Capital relics that have been preserved well until today.

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital - Hanoi Locals Travel

What Is Special About Hoa Lu Complex’s Structure?

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital Complex stretches 300 hectares, including various priceless heritage structures imbued with high cultural and historical significance. Basically, it consists of three zones:

  • Specially protected zone: It covers the whole inner part of the Hoa Lu Complex, which includes Dinh Tien Hoang Emperor Temple, Le Dai Hanh Emperor Temple, emperors’ tombs, Phat Kim Princess Temple, Co An Pagoda, Nhat Tru Pagoda, Sao Khe River, a part of the Trang An Complex, etc.
  • Buffer zone: It features the landscapes along the Sao Khe River and Trang An Complex. There are some temples, Am Tien Cave, and a series of other natural caves.
  • Side-relic zone: It includes several related relics with important roles during the Dinh Dynasty, such as Bai Dinh Pagoda, South Gate, Dinh Bo Linh Temple, and other worship sites.

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital Ninh Binh - Hanoi Locals Travel

With a glance, we can see the diversity in Hoa Lu’s structure. It gathers a complex of distinguished relics of both nature and human hands, from temples, tombs, and pagodas to rivers and caves. Each item evokes a sense of nostalgia, reflecting a proud part of Vietnamese history.

Things To See In Hoa Lu Vietnam

Dinh Tien Hoang Emperor Temple

The temple of Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang is an important relic of Hoa Lu’s specially protected zone. It’s located on a large, historic ground with special Fengshui characteristics: the majestic Ma Yen Mountain in the front and the solemn burial area in the back.

Temple of Dinh Tien Hoang Emperor - Hanoi Locals Travel

Dinh Tien Hoang was the first emperor of independent Vietnam after Chinese rule. After his enthronement, he chose Hoa Lu as the imperial capital. Later, his worship site was set up right at the most agreeable spot in this land.

Its first impression on visitors is its traditional, vintage architectural designs. It’s a combination of epic structures, such as Meridian Gate, lotus lake, garden, courts, etc. If you look closer, you can admire intricate decorations, ornaments, sculptures, and valuable antiques. These show how clever and meticulous Vietnamese artisans were during the 17th century.

Dinh Tien Hoang Temple - Hanoi Locals Travel

Worship Site Of Le Dai Hanh Emperor

500 meters from Dinh Tien Hoang Temple, the Temple of Emperor Le Dai Hanh is also an unmissable attraction to tourists.

It stands amidst the central square of Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, mountains, and a river trench meandering around. Therefore, although its scale is not as large as Dinh Emperor Temple’s, its surroundings give visitors a space for tranquility and comfort.

Le Dai Hanh Temple - Hanoi Locals Travel

Le Dai Hanh Temple has three buildings: the main hall for worshipping Le Dai Hanh Emperor, a ceremony house, and a worship house for Pham Cu Luong, who helped Le Dai Hanh get his throne.

Its structures were adorned with delicate carvings, engravings, and ceramic items. Nowadays, those have been preserved well in the temple and the museum on the left.

Temple of Le Dai Hanh Emperor - Hanoi Locals Travel

Phat Kim Princess Temple

The Temple of Princess Phat Kim is situated in a narrow space, near the north gate and Nhat Tru Pagoda, bordering Yen Thanh Ancient Village. This temple is supposed to settle on the base of Vong Nguyet Palace, where Phat Kim, the daughter of Dinh Tien Hoang Emperor, used to live.

Phat Kim Princess Temple - Hanoi Locals Travel

Its structure includes three buildings arranged like the letter “門” (Gate). Moreover, there is a sizeable hexagon well where Phat Kim Princess is believed to have committed suicide. People set up this temple to worship and show respect to the kind but miserable princess.

Hoa Lu Tu Tran Temples

Hoa Lu Tu Tran Temple is used to worship the guardian gods, who protect the three citadel zones of Hoa Lu Ancient Capital. Besides, it acts as a commemorative place for national heroes. Particularly, they are:

  • Thien Ton God in the East: The Dinh Emperor made a ceremony to wish for his blessings before the battle against the twelve warlords.
  • Cao Son God in the West: He protects people’s peaceful lives, especially during foreign invasions.
  • Quy Minh God in the South: He gained lots of honor titles from the emperors in the past.
  • Duc Thanh Nguyen God in the North: He built and restored numerous structures in the ancient capital.

Hoa Lu Tu Tran Temple - Hanoi Locals Travel

Ancient Pagodas

As an unparalleled World Cultural Heritage Site, Hoa Lu Ancient Capital Ninh Binh reflects the traditional features of Vietnamese culture, especially through pagodas. It boasts various remarkable pagodas of Vietnam, such as the Bai Dinh Pagoda, Golden Pagoda (Vang Pagoda), Tam Chuc Pagoda, Nhat Tru Pagoda, etc.

Bai Dinh Pagoda – Hanoi Locals Travel

Each pagoda will offer visitors different charms to see. They will lead visitors to sacred Buddhist spaces, historic and sophisticated architecture, and an underlying cultural treasure. Your busy mind will fade away with their solemnity and tranquility.

Tuyet Tinh Coc (Am Tien Cave)

Furthermore, you can walk or ride a bike across Tuyet Tinh Coc and Am Tien Cave to embrace an incredible vista imbued with Ninh Binh’s features. It offers visitors a spreading, peaceful lake with green mountains rising from the water.

Tuyet Tinh Coc Ninh Binh - Hanoi Locals Travel

Its beauty has struck visitors as a natural gift, with soft breezes, green trees, and gentle water. Therefore, it promises you an extremely relaxing time. You can visit this place for 2 USD per person and hire a bike to travel around (2 USD/bike).

Traditional Festivals

Almost every festivity in Ninh Binh takes place in Hoa Lu, its cultural center. Hoa Lu traditional festivals usually occur during the third lunar month, which will be around April in the solar calendar. Several festivities include:

  • 8–10th of the third lunar month: Hoa Lu Ancient Capital Festival (ceremonies, boat races, wrestling, cheo singing, etc.)
  • 10–13th of the third lunar month: Truong Yen Festival to celebrate the great merits of emperors Dinh Tien Hoang and Le Dai Hanh (water parade, Dinh Bo Linh’s maneuver stage recreation, traditional competitions, etc.)
  • 14–17th of the third lunar month: Thai Vi Temple Festival (big float processions, ceremonies, folk games, etc.)
  • 18th of the third lunar month: Quy Minh Dai Vuong Festival (water parade, ceremonies, animal liberation, colorful boat marching, etc.)

Hoa Lu Festivals - Hanoi Locals Travel

Nearby Attractions In Ninh Binh

Mua Cave

9 kilometers from Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, Mua Cave is a top-list destination when it comes to Ninh Binh travel. It’s known for the majestic Ngoa Long Mountain, with a 486-step staircase leading to the mountaintop, where a miraculous scene appears.

Indeed, its awe-inspiring view of Ninh Binh from the top is a charming idea to many travelers, especially nature enthusiasts.

Mua Cave Ninh Binh - Hanoi Locals Travel

Tam Coc – Bich Dong

Besides Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, Tam Coc-Bich Dong is another famous tourist attraction in Ninh Binh that you should add to your trip. It strikes many hearts as a picturesque venue, where colossal mountains, meandering rivers, golden paddy fields, natural caves, and an open sky are beautifully put together.

No one should miss out on a boat trip around this core attraction of the Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex.

Tam Coc - Bich Dong Ninh Binh - Hanoi Locals Travel

Bai Dinh Pagoda

If you love local culture, history, and architecture, Bai Dinh Pagoda will become your must-see spot. It’s an enormous complex of Buddhist sites, including iconic structures that set many records in Vietnam and Asia.

It’s characterized by intricate shrines, towers, sculptures, statues, etc. that are impressive in both size and look.

Bai Dinh Pagoda Ninh Binh - Hanoi Locals Travel

Van Long Wetland Nature Reserve

Van Long Wetland Nature Reserve is 17 kilometers from Hoa Lu Ancient Capital. It’s not a part of Trang An Complex but features the typical poetic beauty of Ninh Binh. It gives visitors an incredible scene of untouched, rustic nature and a diverse ecosystem.

More interestingly, its landscape is so gorgeous that it was featured in a Hollywood film called “Kong: Skull Island.”

Ninh Binh Van Long Wetland Nature Reserve - Hanoi Locals Travel

Helpful Travel Tips

  • As Hoa Lu is a historical, cultural, and spiritual venue, your dress code should be decent clothes with comfortable but not too revealing items.
  • Please show respect by keeping the spaces clean, avoiding loud noises, and showing a respectful attitude.
  • You will move around outdoors a lot when visiting such a big place like Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, so we suggest you bring hats, apply sunscreen, and take bottled water along.
  • You should keep a physical map or Google Maps with you to keep track of where you’re going.
  • Going on a tour with a tour guide will help you understand the underlying significance of relics in the ancient capital better.
  • What to eat when visiting Hoa Lu Ninh Binh: scorched rice, mountain goat meat dishes, mountain snails, nem Yen Mac, eel noodles, Kim Son liquor, Gia Vien shrimp sauce, etc.


As the first capital city of Vietnam, Hoa Lu Ancient Capital has a whole collection of treasured structures. It reminds people of Vietnam’s epic history, rich culture, and proud civilizational development. In addition, its dream-like natural landscape makes your visit to this special destination even more memorable.

Hanoi Locals Travel hopes that holidaymakers have something for their next trips to Ninh Binh through our travel blog. Thanks for reading.