In the mountains outside of Hanoi, in northwest Vietnam, visitors can find the Tam Dao National Park. Encompassing the Tam Dao Mountain Range, this national park was once a popular resort area for French colonists.
Today, the park continues to have a flurry of human and animal activity. Boasting both remote and developed areas, the national park is an ideal location for travelers looking to head out of the big city and enjoy the Vietnamese countryside.
Suitable for a day trip from Hanoi, Tam Dao National Park is only 53 miles outside of Vietnam’s capital city. The national park protects over 91,000 acres of land and borders three provinces: Thai Nguyen, Vinh Phuc, and Tuyen Quang.
Developed sections of the park include the heavily visited town of Tam Dao and the Tay Thien area. The town once served as a hotspot for French colonists, meanwhile, Tay Thien is famous for its temple and pagodas.
The name Tam Dao is derived from the three nearby mountains that stand like islands as they rise above the clouds: Thien Thi, Thach Ban, and Phu Nghia. All of these peaks are more than 3,300 feet (1,005 meters) tall and are one of the reasons French colonists were attracted to the area during the early 20thcentury.
Having fallen in love with Tam Dao, the colonists built villas throughout the countryside. These buildings eventually formed the Tam Dao town, which was established in 1907. A second town called Tam Dao 2 was created near Rung Rinh Peak, but it ultimately failed to flourish.
The popularity of the town led the Vietnamese government to create the Conservation Forest Tam Dao in 1977, with Tam Dao being officially recognized as a national park in 1996. Throughout the park’s history, Tam Dao has remained a popular tourist destination, great for a short holiday away from Hanoi.
What to Do
Featuring well-established tourist sites and eight different types of forest, including artificial and natural, there is a lot to explore in the national park. Visitors can also stay overnight in the town of Tam Dao before heading off to the park’s more remote regions.
An Ideal Holiday
A mere 6.2 miles away from the national park is the town of Tam Dao. Part of the Vinh Phuc Province, this town was built by French colonists in the early 1900s. Most of the 200 buildings are still standing, providing housing for overnight tourists.
Highlights in Tam Dao town include the night market, outdoor swimming pool, telecommunication tower, temple, and Thac Bac – the Silver waterfall. All of these activities are located in or close by to the town, although, Some, like the telecommunication tower, are harder to access than others.
For activities just outside of town, visitors can hire a motor-taxi or regular taxi to transport them to their destination. In Tam Dao, most of the town’s features will have paths or roads that are safe to walk along, which means that paying for transportation is not necessary.
To the Temple
The second well-developed tourist area in Tam Dao is Tay Thien. Featuring the Tay Thien Quoc Mau Temple, which translates as the ‘Temple of East Heaven National Mother’, this area is known for its tranquility. Alongside the temple, there are several pagodas.
The temple and nearby structures play a central part in Vietnamese Buddhism. Truc Lam Tay Thain Zen Monastery is home to Buddhist monks and open to the public. With large gates and an annual festival, the monastery has become a popular tourist destination where visitors can study Vietnamese Buddhist culture.
Spread throughout the mountainside, there are seven structures that tourists can visit. Some of these include the monastery and several temples while others, like the Banyan Nine Tree, are scenic areas. Visitors can walk between all of the buildings or buy a ticket for either the tram or cable car.
Take a Hike
Visitors who want to escape the crowds of Tam Dao and Tay Thien will enjoy the park’s more remote, isolated areas. While short hikes between temples or to nearby waterfalls are suitable for travelers of any age, remote trails in the park are often best left to experienced trekkers.
Unlike other national parks or conservation areas in Vietnam, Tam Dao has not been touched by agriculture. Instead of seeing rice paddies or tea plantations, those who venture deep into the park will be met with diverse wilderness areas.
From evergreen forests to high mountains, bamboo forests, and lowland bush terrain, there are plenty of opportunities to stroll through Tam Dao’s natural beauty. With a cooler year-round climate, hikers will enjoy taking a break from the hot and humid weather that frequently blankets the country.
Hiking tours are the best way to explore Tam Dao and local guides can be hired at the hotels in town. While some walking trails are well marked, weather often changes the visibility and condition on the paths. Local guides are an excellent resource for travelers and they can be booked for overnight adventures.
See the Bears
Moon bears have helped make Tam Dao famous due to the Vietnam Bear Rescue Center sitting high in the hills surrounding the town. Officially a part of the national park, this center offers a unique experience and is a favorite amongst traveling families.
The center focuses on rescuing, rehabilitating, and educating visitors about Vietnam’s bears.
Many of the 200 bears that are housed from the sanctuary were rescued from the bile harvesting industry. By visiting the sanctuary, tourists can help spread the word of this harmful industry and promote the protection of these special animals.
Plants and Wildlife
Seeing a wild bear in Tam Dao National Park is unlikely, but there are plenty of other plant and animal species that you might encounter on your journey. Growing in the park are over 2,000 plant species including rare woods and unique floras. Some of these plant species can only be found in the national park.
Living amongst the plants are nearly 900 species of animals, many of which can only be found in the park, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. The Amphiesma angeli and Boiga multitempolaris, for example, are two types of snakes that are unique to the national park.
Visitors who want to observe Tam Dao’s wildlife will have the best chances by hiring a guide. Due to the popularity of Tam Dao town and Tay Thien, most of the animals live deep within the park and local guides can help navigate to the more remote areas.
How to Get There
Tam Dao National Park is one of the closest untouched areas outside of Hanoi. With no agricultural development and only two resort areas, the vast majority of this national park has been left wild. About 1 hour and 15 minutes outside of Hanoi, Tam Dao National Park is easy to access.
Travelers from Hanoi can hire a private driver, rent a car, or use local transportation to get from Hanoi to Tam Dao. Another option is to take the train. Being a short distance, travelers can easily take a day trip to Tam Dao, however, with the availability of hotels and restaurants in the town, the national park is also an ideal destination for a weekend getaway.
Local transportation in the town of Tam Dao and Tay Tien is available. Once you are within the park boundaries, access becomes more restricted and due to the underdevelopment of the land in Tam Dao, visitors should be prepared to walk through most of the park.
When to Visit
Located north of Hanoi, Tam Dao National Park is often described as having a cool climate throughout the year. Mostly escaping the high heat that settles in Hanoi, the park is a welcome relief during the year’s hottest months.
June, July, and August are when temperatures soar in Vietnam, but in Tam Dao, the air is slightly cooler. Due to the climate and more people having vacation time, summer is one of the most popular seasons for Tam Dao. Fall is also busy as the cool and dry climate is ideal for hikers.
Spikes in tourism to the park are at their highest from September to November, as rainfall is less frequent. If you’re trying to avoid the rain, and the crowds, the driest time to visit is during the winter months, from December to May.
Balancing a mix of resort tourism and remote adventures, Tam Dao National Park is an all-encompassing destination. Ideal for those looking to escape Hanoi for a few days, the park’s list of activities is nearly endless. From the quiet streets within the town of Tam Dao to the winding jungle paths, Tam Dao National Park is a truly alluring site.
Address: Đại Đình, Tam Đảo District, Vinh Phuc Province, Vietnam