Unveiling Vietnam's Founding City: A Half-Day Tour Exploring Hoa Lu Ancient Capital

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital | Introduction

Hoa Lu (Hoa Lu Ancient Capital) stands as the inaugural capital of ancient Vietnam, marking the commencement of a rich tapestry of dynastic rule. The ancient capital witnessed the reigns of three dynasties – the Dinh Dynasty, the Early Le Dynasty, and the Ly Dynasty. Its status as the capital endured from 968 until 1010 when the Ly Dynasty relocated to Thang Long (present-day Hanoi).

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital | Transportation

Generally, if you are on a multi-day tour in Ninh Binh, you will stay in Ninh Binh city or in the Three Valleys. No matter where you stay, it should be quite convenient to call a Grab or ride a bike to Hualu Lüc Ancient Capital, which is about 12 kilometers from downtown Ningping, and only about 20 minutes' drive from Sangu, which is a little bit south of the city. It is recommended to arrange the trip to Hualuxu Ancient Capital on the same day as the Chang'an Resort, as they are very close to each other, with a journey time of about 7 minutes.

If you plan to ride a scooter, do double-check your navigation route to ensure you're heading towards the main entrance. We unexpectedly took a detour through a smaller road since Google Map led us to enter through a side gate from the west. For more information on renting vehicles or transportation within Ninh Binh city center, you can refer to my Ninh Binh travel guide.

Find a stay in Tam Coc:

Find a stay in Ninh Binh:

A day trip from Hanoi to Hoa Lu Ancient Capital is also an excellent option. The following are a few recommendations.

Ninh Binh Day Trip: Hoa Lü / Trang An / Mua Cave

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital | Attractions

The primary attractions at Hoa Lu Ancient Capital are the temples of the founding monarchs of two dynasties: Đinh Tiên Hoàng - the first emperor of the Dinh Dynasty, and Lê Đại Hành - the first emperor of the Early Le Dynasty.

As you enter the ancient capital, the limestone mountain terrain that once made Hoa Lu strategically defendable is a breathtaking landscape. There are many visitors cycling around these picturesque hills. You can also take the hiking trail on the left side of the entrance. There's an observation deck that provides a panoramic view of Hoa Lu Ancient Capital.

hoa lu ancient capital 華閭古都

Ding Tien Hoang Temple

Dinh Tien Hoang, also known as Dinh Bo Linh, was Vietnam's first emperor and the founder of the Dinh Dynasty. He rose to power during the Tang Dynasty in China when Northern Vietnam was under Chinese occupation. Dinh established his capital in Hoa Lu in the south, successfully driving out Chinese forces around modern-day Hanoi.

Dinh secured recognition from the Song Dynasty, which succeeded the Tang Dynasty in China. This recognition signified a momentous milestone as it solidified the Dinh Dynasty's status as Vietnam's first independent ruling dynasty, setting the stage for the Vietnamese history that followed.

The restoration of Dinh Tien Hoang Temple began in the 17th century. The main building is adorned with an exterior dragon bed, which is where the Emperor is interred. Inside the temple, there are bronze bells and statues of Dinh Tien Hoang and his three sons.

Le Dai Hanh Temple

Le Dai Hanh, whose given name is Le Hoan, was the founding emperor of the early Le Dynasty. It was customary in Vietnam not to directly address the emperor by his given name. Hence, he is referred to as Emperor Dai Hanh based on his reign title. The architectural design of Le Dai Hanh's temple closely resembles the style of Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang. Next to the emperor's temple, there is also a smaller temple dedicated to his wife Dương Vân Nga.

The story of Dương Vân Nga is an intriguing one. She was first married to Ding Tien Hoang during the short-lived Dinh Dynasty. After a series of internal conflicts and external threats, her son ascended the throne. Le Tai Hanh was originally a general of Dinh Dynasty, and defended Vietnam against the Song Dynasty's aggression. When Le Tai Hanh eventually usurped the throne, founding the early Le Dynasty, which replaced the Dinh Dynasty, she married him and became the empress of the early Le Dynasty. She is a unique figure in Vietnamese history, honored as dual empress of both dynasties.

hoa lu ancient capital, 華閭古都 27

Archaeological Exhibitions

The Dinh and early Le Dynasties both date back to the 10th and 11th centuries. The temples have been restored since the 17th century. The original bricks and tiles from the 10th century are now showcased in the archaeological exhibition hall.

Further reading

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