Looking for the best boat route in Trang An?
Here is an extensive guide that will help you decide which route to take. In this Trang An boat tour guide, we’ve included everything you need to know to make sure you make the most of your trip. From the best time to visit to avoid the crowds to our own boat experience and updated prices so you know what to expect.
We’ve also included many of our top Trang An tips you don’t want to miss!
Planning a Last Minute Trip to Trang An?
Don’t have time to read the whole article? Here are the links to the top rated tour, hotel and other services you can book right away that will let you experience Trang An and more.
Transportation: Van Transfer (Most Comfortable)
Where to Stay: Muong Village Ninh Bình (Highly Rated)
Best Tour from Hanoi: Ninh Binh Full-Day Trip (#1 Best Seller)
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Overview of Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex
Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that features a breathtaking landscape of karst mountain peaks and submerged caves.
Because of the natural beauty of the area, Trang An has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ninh Binh, and the best way to explore it is by a boat tour.
How to Get to Trang An Complex
Trang An is a scenic area located in Ninh Binh, about 100km away from Hanoi. To get to the boat tours, head to the entrance and pay for your ticket price before you get on the boat.
Here are the two most convenient ways to reach Trang An from Hanoi:
Van: This is the most comfortable way to get to Trang An from Hanoi. Take the van that leaves daily from the old quarter and they drop you off at the entrance of Trang An complex. The van seats from 9 to 11 people and a ticket starts at 11 USD. Book your van here!
Private Car: A great option for families or a group of friends is to take a private car from Hanoi. It’s convenient and you’ll be able to leave whenever. Booking a private car costs at least 50 USD. Book your car here!
Trang An Boat Tours from Hanoi
For the most convenient way to reach Trang An, you can book day tours that leave from Hanoi that include a boat tour to the complex. We only recommend it if you don’t have much time or if you want everything to be taken care of for you. Otherwise, you can easily do the Trang An boat tour on your own.
Here are the most highly recommended Trang An Boat Tours from Hanoi:
Trang An Opening Hours
The Tràng An Scenic Landscape Complex opens daily from 7am to 6pm.
Because the boat ride takes at least two hours, we recommend starting no later than 4:30pm so that you have enough light for the entire tour.
Trang An Boat Tour Price
The ticket costs approximately 11 USD per person.
You don't need to book it in advance. Simply go to the ticket booth near where the parking is. You’ll also find stores where you can buy food and drinks before you board the boat.
After buying your ticket, you’ll get down a flight of stairs, which will take you on a path to the boat dock, where lots of local boat rowers are waiting. A staff member will ask which route you’ll take as you wait in line, and if you go alone, you'll be paired with other tourists as each boat can carry up to four people.
Best Time to Visit
You can visit the Trang An Complex anytime during the year. However, the best time to visit for the best weather conditions is between February and March. During these months, the weather in Ninh Binh is just right for a boat trip. It's not too hot or too cold.
The best time of day to take the boat tour is early in the morning, before 9am. You can also take the tour later in the afternoon around 4pm. However, it’s not a great time for photography as you won’t have much light towards the end of the tour.
Trang An is a popular tourist attraction and many people come for day trips from Hanoi. If you want to get the most out of your trip and avoid the crowds, go as early as you can before the tour buses from Hanoi arrive.
Trang An Boat Routes
Trang An Scenic Complex has three boat routes available. While each route provides unique experiences to various caves and temples, all routes provide scenic views of Trang An.
Depending on the route you take, as well as how long you decide to stay at each stop, we recommend setting aside at least 3 hours to see the Trang An complex.
Route #1: Ultimate Cave and Temple Journey
Includes: 9 Caves and 3 Temples
Duration: 3 Hours
This is the longest route in Trang An and covers the majority of the caves. The caves here do not overlap with the caves visited on routes 2 and 3.
The boat route takes you through 9 caves and 3 temples (Trinh Temple, Tran Temple, and Khong Temple - Bao Hieu Pagoda).
Route #2: Perfect Mix of Caves and Temples
Includes: 4 Caves and 3 Temples
Duration: 2.5 Hours
Route 2 is ideal for those looking for a good mix of caves and religious sites. After Dai Cave, the boats from Route 2 take the same route as Route 3 to Vu Lam Royal Steps.
This route takes you through 4 caves and 3 temples (Thanh Cao Son Temple, Suoi Tien Temple, and Vu Lam Royal Steps).
Route #3: Underground Cave Adventure
Includes: 3 Caves and 3 Temples
Duration: 2 hours
This route features Dot Cave, the longest underground cave expanding 1km in Trang An. If you are claustrophobic, you might want to skip this one.
This route takes you through 3 caves and 3 temples (Trinh Temple, Suoi Tien Temple, and Vu Lam Royal Steps). This route used to stop at King Kong Island, where they used to film the movie, but as of 2020, you can no longer visit the movie set.
What is the Best Trang An Boat Route?
The best Trang An boat route ultimately depends on your personal preferences, as each route has its own unique charm and scenic views that can only be accessed by boat. Whatever route you choose, you're guaranteed to have a one-of-a-kind experience.
To help you decide, here is a quick summary of the routes in Trang An complex.
Route 1: You have enough time and are interested in visiting caves.
Route 2: You want to visit a mixture of caves and religious sites and don’t have a lot of time.
Route 3: You are interested in visiting the longest underground cave in Trang An.
What to Expect on Route #3 | Our Boat Experience
We visited Trang An near the end of May during our trip to Ninh Binh. We started the boat tour at 4:30pm and took route #3. In total, the tour took us 2 hours. Your time will vary depending on your route and how long your group spends at each stop.
Here's what to expect on boat route #3 in Trang An.
Weather in May
We visited Ninh Binh in May and there was a heat wave during the week we were there. The weather was very hot and humid, and there were days where temperatures were as high as 41℃. The midday heat was very uncomfortable and even early mornings and late afternoons were hot and humid.
Since we started later in the afternoon, there were not many people and we had to wait for about 10 minutes before we got on the boat. If you’re alone, you might have to wait a bit more before you get paired with the other group.
From the boat wharf, you will be rowing for a while until you reach the Trinh Temple, which is located at the foot of a mountain. The temple is small with three areas to visit. The main one is in the middle with a huge incense burning pot at the front.
Remember: Dress modestly if you want to enter the temples in Trang An. Shorts and sleeveless tops are not permitted inside temples and pagodas.
A short distance from the Trinh Temples is the Dot Cave also known as the Dark Cave. It is one of the features of route #3 as it’s the longest underground cave in the Trang An Complex, expanding 1000m long. It took us about 15 minutes to pass through. You might want to skip this route if you’re claustrophobic.
The cave has light bulbs scattered around, so you can see the stalactite formations. You will have to duck your head as your rower professionally manoeuvres the boat to some of the bigger gaps in the cave.
Tip: If you're tall, sit in the front row so you can get on the floor and stretch your legs over the front of the boat. This way, you won't have to keep ducking while you're in the underground cave.
After the Doi Cave, you will row for a bit to enjoy the towering karst mountains until you reach Van Cave. It is about 400 meters long and took us 4 minutes to pass. It is also much wider than Doi Cave with less stalactites to see so you don’t have to duck that much.
Wanting to experience one of the biggest cave systems in Vietnam? Read our guide to the Tu Lan Cave System in Phong Nha to discover why it's one of the most adventurous things to do in Vietnam.
Suoi Tien Temple
As you approach Suoi Tien Temple from the Van Cave, you will notice other boats from Route #2. This is a lovely temple set among limestone cliffs. You will walk past a large area with a hut at the beginning and well-kept gardens, after that you will cross a bridge to a large temple with intricately designed gates.
After the Suoi Tien Temple, you will pass through some of the best karst formations in Trang An. Although our rower did not speak English, he tried his best to point out some notable places in the complex, such as the King Kong Mountain or birds around the area.
Dai Cave is the shortest cave you will pass in route #3. It’s only about 300 meters long and takes at least 3 minutes to pass.
Vu Lam Royal Steps
It will become busier as you approach the Vu Lam Royal Steps. It's because right in front of the Royal Steps is one of Trang An's most iconic temples: the temple in the middle of the lake.
Tip: Ask your rower to take you close to the temple so you can get a better look.
The Vu Lam Royal Steps are made up of four large temples, with the main one in the center and in the back. Roofs and step railings are beautifully designed. You’ll find few people going around the temple because most are drawn to the temple in the middle of the lake.
You will head back to the wharf after visiting the Royal Steps. It’s a bit of a long paddle back, so you might want to help your rower back to the wharf.
Tam Coc or Trang An Boat Tour?
Both Tam Coc and Trang An boat tours offer unique and beautiful views of Ninh Binh. Choosing between the two depends on what you want to experience and your personal preference.
We recommend taking the Trang An boat tour if you want to explore more caves and temples, and the Tam Coc boat tour if you want to see beautiful limestone cliffs and rice fields.
Read more about our Ultimate Guide to Tam Coc in 2023 so you can decide which boat tour is right for you!
Where to Stay Near Trang An
There are plenty of great options available in the area close to Trang An Complex. From budget-friendly guesthouses to comfortable bungalows, you can find a wide range of accommodation options to choose from. Here are the most highly rated accommodations close to Trang An Complex.
Where to Eat Near Trang An
There are many food options you can choose from if you’re looking for places to eat near Trang An Complex. There are many shops by the ticket booth where you can buy food and drinks. There are also shops by the boat wharf and at the temples that sell cold drinks and small snacks.
Another popular option is the Trang An Riverside Garden Restaurant, which offers local food at reasonable prices. We recommend trying out their braised pork and also their selection of fresh juices. Apart from the food, the restaurant overlooks the peaceful lake and karst mountains.
If you’re looking for Korean food, there is a popular Korean Restaurant located in Ninh Binh City. It’s about a 10 minutes drive from the Trang An Complex but worth the drive if you’re craving for authentic Korean dishes.
Other highly rated restaurants in the area include the Nhà Hàng Xuân Thắng and Moon Garden Restaurant.
Top Trang An Travel Tips
Here are our top travel tips for visiting the Trang An Scenic complex in Ninh Binh Province to make the most out of your boat tour.
1. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes: You'll be climbing in and out of the sampan boat. Also, if you want to enter the temples, don't wear shorts or a sleeveless shirt.
2. Bring sun protection: Trang An can get quite hot, especially during the summer months. Don’t forget to bring sun protection such as sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to avoid getting sunburnt.
3. Start early: Trang An can get quite busy, so we recommended starting your tour before 9am to avoid the crowds and the midday heat.
4. Stay hydrated: Bring water. You can buy bottled water at the temples, and there are also restroom facilities available.
5. Bring small cash: So you can buy some snacks while on tour and also to tip your rower at the end. You can find an atm machine by the ticket station.
6. Use the paddles: Each boat has four extra paddles that you can use. This will not only help your rower, but you’ll also get to experience paddling in calm waters.
7. No reception: You won't have any reception while you're on a tour. So make sure you're not expecting anything important during that time and plan accordingly.
8. Taxi Fares: There are many taxi drivers waiting at the front. Expect to pay around 4USD one way and 8USD for a round trip. To avoid the hassle, organize a driver with your accommodation.
Looking for more Vietnam travel tips? Read our 17 things to know before you travel to Vietnam to fully prepare for your next trip!
And that’s the comprehensive guide to visiting Trang An in Ninh Binh!
Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below. In the meantime, check out our ultimate Vietnam itineraries to help you plan your Vietnam trip. It’s designed for first time travelers and we’ve included the must-visit places in Vietnam!
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