is just a short journey south of Hanoi. It is home to some of Vietnam's most stunning scenery.
Cuc Phuong National Park
is located 100 km south of Hanoi. The best time to visit is from December to April. The park is secluded by the surrounding limestone cliffs, the highest being May Bac, meaning "silver cloud," with a height of 656 m. Visitors are greeted by a breathtaking vista upon entering the park, with a beautiful lake appearing to the right of the road upon entering the park. 20 km into the park you can stay in the rustic, yet comfortable park centre and stilt house and sample the delights of the locally brewed apricot wine. Clear your head the following day with a short trek. Wildlife thrives in Cuc Phuong. There are an estimated 2,000 different species of flora and the 450 species fauna, accounting for a staggering 38% of the national fauna. The vegetation cover is classified into three types. One of the highlights of a visit to Cuc Phuong includes a chance to touch the thousand-year-old cho xanh and sau trees, measuring up to 70m high. Orchids in particular are abundant with 50 species, some of which blossom and have aroma all year around. The Park is also home to 71 animal species, 319 bird species, 33 reptile species, and 16 amphibian species. A large area, for half-natural breeding, is reserved for raising wild animals such as the spotted deer, deer, golden monkey, flying squirre and for research.
Bich Dong-Tam Coc
is famous for it's limestone karts hills and a meandering river which makes it way through three caves before unveiling a secluded, if watery valley. As you wend your way through the waterway on a sampan, make sure you keep an eye out for plunging Kingfishers or nimble footed mountain goats silhouetted against the skyline and rough stone. Here, the river merges seamlessly into rich green rice fields, and farmer’s dwellings can be seen, closely hugging the cliff faces of the rocky outcrops. The boats are ably rowed by locals who often employ their feet.
is a cave pagoda, stone cut steps, overgrown with banyan trees lead up a cliff face scattered with small shrines on the ascent to the cave entrance. Bich Dong Pagoda, built on Ngu Nhac Mountain, is divided into three levels: the lower Ha Pagoda, the middle Trung Pagoda, and the upper Thuong Pagoda. On the mountain peak stands the statue of a Mandarin scholar looking at the horizon in hope of viewing the spectacular landscapes of Hoa Lu.
Green Pearl Grotto
from the upper pagoda offers one has the most magnificent view of Bich Dong. The location for this pagoda was chosen in 1428 after two monks were charmed by the view of the river and the mountains. Later, King Le Canh Hung wrote a poem in honour of the beautiful pagoda and landscape. On the rock above, three statues of Buddha remain untouched. If you carry on walking through the cave to the third and final temple you'll be rewarded with a stunning view of the surrounding countryside.