Bich Dong Pagoda in the Ninh Binh / Tam Coc area of northern Vietnam is definitely worth a visit.
What makes Bich Dong stand out from other temples is the joy of walking through incense filled caves and exiting to the beautiful views of the landscape below. Combine this with the other lovely buildings in the complex, ornamental lake and karst landscape in the background and you have yourself a calm, enjoyable outing.
There are three pagodas – lower, middle and upper. The upper pagoda is accessed after going through a cave!!
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Where is Bich Dong?
The gorgeous Bich Dong pagoda is located under 1 km from Tam Coc (or 9 km from Ninh Binh) or 100km (around 2 hours drive) south from Hanoi. If you are short on time then squeeze in a day trip to the area, otherwise try and stay a few nights and really explore!
This is a seriously beautiful area of Vietnam and a visit to Bich Dong can easily be combined with other attractions in the Ninh Binh / Tam Coc area such as Trang An Grotto boat tour, Mua Caves, Hoa Lu Ancient Capital and plenty of other temples.
PLAN | Are you Australian and not sure where to start with getting a tourist Visa? Check out the post for how to organise your Visa via post before you go.
What to expect
Firstly, don’t go by what social media shows for Bich Dong as you will think the only interesting part is the main entrance with the pond and arch style entrance. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great photo location – it is currently the banner on my home page!
The majority of Instagram photos focus on the main entrance, but Bich Dong has so much more to offer!
Once past this front entrance there is a lovely path that follows a stone wall with views of the mountains in the background. The path opens out into a courtyard area with various building and the lower pagoda.
Follow the stairs to the middle pagoda then continue into the cave temples for some incense infused exploring. Emerge into the humid air to a lovely view point and forest-like surrounds. A set of steps leads to the upper pagoda.
Travelling with children
Bich Dong was a great outing with a 9 year old as the caves were fun to explore and it’s not too much walking. Don’t bother trying to take a stroller/pusher for younger children as the stairs and narrow cave paths are definitely not accessible.
Getting to Bich Dong
From Ninh Binh
Hiring a car with a driver was the easiest option as we were staying in Ninh Binh. However, the Ninh Binh / Tam Coc area is a great place to hire a scooter (you can hire a scooter with a driver if you are not comfortable to drive).
From Tam Coc
Walk or cycle if you are active, or hire a scooter/car.
Many tour companies offer daytrips from Hanoi to the Ninh Binh area but there is so much to see that staying at least one night is well worth it.
Otherwise catch the train to Ninh Binh (2.5 hours) and then hire a car. There are also options for buses or mini-bus to the area but check the tip below before booking.
TIP | If you are traveling to the Ninh Binh / Tam Coc area make sure you are clear with the driver or bus company which town you are going to. Ninh Binh and Tam Coc are often grouped together on bus lists but they are around 9km apart.
We actually took a bus from Cat Ba Island to Ninh Binh which was super easy. So don’t feel that getting to Ninh Binh or Tam Coc can only be achieved from Hanoi! Vietnam is wonderful to travel around and the opportunities are endless. I would love to have the confidence to ride a scooter and really explore more!
There is no cost for visiting Bich Dong but parking near the entrance will incur a small fee. Incense can be purchased at the entrance so you can add more incense to the already incense filled caves.
Where to stay
Not doing a day trip to Bich Dong from Hanoi and want to stay overnight? The main options are around Ninh Binh and Tam Coc.
Ninh Binh is large and not that interesting but has some great home stays and accommodation options on the outskirts. Tam Coc has a smaller relaxed vibe and is under 1km from Bich Dong.
If you stay out of town it is easiest to hire a scooter as there are limited options for taxi etc and you may feel a bit limited. We stayed at Trang An Precious Homestay and they were super helpful with organising transport, but there were limited options for food nearby without making a trip into Ninh Binh.