Tam Coc, Alternative to Vietnam’s Halong Bay

Hanoi, Vietnam

The limestone karsts that line the river in Tam Coc is often compared to that of Halong Bay. As a matter of fact, the Tam Coc riverway is often referred to as Halong Bay on Land (or Halong Bay on River).

Since we had such a crappy weather in Halong Bay the previous day, I thought it would make a good opportunity for us to see what we missed out on there.

Tam Coc is about 2 hour drive from Hanoi. As soon as we purchased our ticket (140000 dong or $7), we were herded onto one of the many metal boats that were waiting.

Boats to go to Tam Coc

The local people who run these boats can row with either their arms or legs. It was an interesting spectacle. It made me think of one of those core strengthening techniques where you lift your legs in the air and pretend you’re rowing a bicycle.

Boat rower on Tam Coc

The view along Tam Coc

The view along the river was gorgeous. The round-backed limestone cliffs are covered with green vegetation. They soar above the river. Tall enough to make you feel small in your rickety little row boat.

Tam Coc river outing, Vietnam

Part of the way, we siddled up close to another boat carrying a group of tourists on their way back. The boat ladies then proceeded to transfer a large metal box from their boat, to ours, tipping our boat precariously on one side. Just when we thought we were gonna lose our balance, the boat righted itself. Phew!

The boat took us pass 3 grottoes. So low was the ceiling that we had to duck our heads down.

One of the grottoes on Tam Coc river

Tam Coc, Vietnam

The sales pressure can be high. Drink sellers ambush tourists right after the 3rd cave and boat drivers would stop the boat and try to sell you some souvenirs (turned out that’s what the metal box contains).

Tam Coc river outing

But the view of this Halong Bay on Land was worth all of the hassle.


Travel info
How to get to Tam Coc: From Hanoi, take the bus to the city of Ninh Binh. From Ninh Binh, we took a taxi to Tam Coc.
Alternative to Tam Coc: The caves/grottoes of Trang An would make a good alternative providing similar sceneries. We didn’t go there, but you pass through more caves (and bigger too) and it supposedly has less crowds.

16 Replies to “Tam Coc, Alternative to Vietnam’s Halong Bay”

  1. Nice! We really enjoyed this area, too. The scenery is truly beautiful. We stayed in Ninh Binh for a few days on the way north to Hanoi. We rented bicycles and rode down to where the boats take off at Tam Coc, stopping at several spots along the way. It made for a great day trip.
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  2. What a lovely tidbit! I've had Halong Bay on my fantasy itinerary for some time, despite all the warnings about weather and crowds. I love the idea of going to this place instead (or in addition). Thank you for the insight. 🙂

  3. Beautiful shots – riding a boat through scenery like that must have been a wonderful experience.

  4. Very beautiful and very much like Halong Bay. I'm glad you two enjoyed the boat ride even with the annoying sales pressure.

  5. Nice pictures. I'm so happy (and jealous) that you two are enjoying your trip of a lifetime!

  6. I've also never heard of this place before. Glad the weather cooperated better with you two this time.

  7. Beautiful pictures! But I know you didn't have a good time in Halong but I still kind of like the pictures from there better 🙂

  8. Great shots! I kayaked Halong Bay just after the FREEZING cold giant snow storm a few years ago, in January. We could see our breath as we ate dinner on board our boat. Still – magnificent scenery.

  9. We had the exact experience. There was a storm in Halong Bay so we were diverted to Tam Coc (unfortunately we heard that some people still went to Halong, it really depends on who you're booking your tours with). It's so scenic, isn't it?
    My only regret is not trying to row the boat with the feet. Such a skill!

  10. I didn't know about this place. Is this in a National Park?. I have read about a place inland very similar to Halong Bay but I don't remember the name. The photos look really similar to what you find in Halong Bay. You would have tricked me.

    1. It's not a National Park. There are a couple of areas that have similar view as that of HB – this and Trang An. I'm glad we went here since we had a crappy weather in Halong Bay.

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