The town of Tam Dao sits between the mountaintops at center of Tam Dao National Park. The town was established by the French colonists in early 1900s as a hill resort. Tam Dao has maintained it’s French charm with red-brick built houses and European-style town square.
Tam Dao has remained a popular weekend getaway by Hanoians as it offers an escape from Hanoi’s busy streets and summer heat. The town usually stays few degrees cooler than Hanoi due to it’s elevation, making it a popular destination during the summer. The 85km journey from Hanoi can be made in 2-3 hours depending on whether you take a bus, car or motorcycle.
Tam Dao has a population of about 65,000 people and receives roughly 1,000,000 visitors a year. It is often nicknamed little Da Lat due to its resemblance to Da Lat with its French colonial style houses and town square.
Tam Dao is a great Northern Vietnam destination, particularly if you want to stay close to Hanoi. Tam Dao is rather expensive so expect to pay considerable more for things such as food and drinks compared to Hanoi.
How To Get To Tam Dao From Hanoi
There are several travel agencies in Hanoi that offer organized tours to Tam Dao. But you can also make the journey on your own, either by bus, taxi/grab or motorcycle.
You will have couple of options for taking a bus to Tam Dao, but the best option is to take a direct bus from Hanoi to Tam Dao. There are 2 different companies providing private bus service to Tam Dao. The two companies are Nhat Nam Limousine and Green Limousine. The trip takes about 2 hours and will cost you VND 130,000 – 140,000.
If you don’t like the direct option, there is also the option of taking a public bus from Hanoi to the town of Vinh Yen. Vinh Yen is at the base of the mountain, about 45 min drive from Tam Dao. From there you can take a taxi or grab up the hill to Tam Dao town. Taking the bus from Hanoi via Vinh Yen will take you about 2,5 hours in total. Expect to pay VND 50,000 for the bus ticket and VND 300,000 for the taxi ride.
Taxi / Grab
The most convenient, and the most expensive way to travel from Hanoi to Tam Dao is by taking a taxi or a grab car. It should take less than 2 hours as long as you don’t get stuck in traffic. Grab will cost you about VND 700,000 each way while taxi will cost closer to VND 1,000,000.
Motorcycle / Scooter
The fun way of traveling from Hanoi to Tam Dao is by motorcycle or scooter. You can rent a motorcycle in Hanoi for 2-3 days and do some sightseeing on the way.
The 85km drive from Hanoi to Vinh Yen is mostly highways so it may not be the most enjoyable ride. But once you get to Vinh Yen, you’ll have the freedom to travel and explore the surrounding area. The drive from Vinh Yen to Tam Dao town is a challenging uphill drive so we don’t recommend 2 persons per scooter. A 125cc scooter might struggle making the uphill journey. You will be better off renting a 150cc motorcycle.
Traveling from Hanoi on a motorcycle will take you around 3 hours. The cost will be USD 10-35 per day depending on the bike you choose.
Things To Do In Tam Dao
The town is small and there isn’t a whole lot to do. You can easily explore the area in 1-2 days.
The Stone Church (Queen of Peace Church)
One of Tam Dao’s most famous monuments is the old stone church. Located in center of town, the church and the 18 meter high bell tower can be seen from anywhere in the town. The church was originally built in 1906 and then rebuilt in 1937 with stone in Gothic style. Much of Tam Dao’s colonial building where destroyed during the anti-French resistance in the early 1950s but the church was left alone as per Ho Chi Minh’s instructions. The church was repaired in 2008 and renamed Queen of Peace Church.
Thác Bạc waterfall
A popular place for selfies, Thác Bạc (silver) waterfall is located short hike from center of town. The waterfall might not be the most impressive one you’ll see but at 50m tall, the tall and narrow waterfall is worth visiting. It gets more impressive during the rainy season.
The Night Market
The night market as the name suggests is a night, an weekend, market in center of Tam Dao. In the market you can find local BBQ delicacies such as chayote and bamboo-tube rice (com lam). You will also find locally produced and handmade souvenirs, clothes, scarves, bracelets and crafts.
The Central Square
Tam Dao has a great central square that becomes very lively in the evening and on weekends with street vendors selling anything from milk tea to toys. Karaoke is popular on the square and don’t be surprised to hear people singing as early as 9am until late in the evening. The town square is always buzzing with people.
What To Eat
As with other Vietnamese regions, Tam Dao has its own specialty dishes that are typical to the area. Grilled vegetable and meat dishes are very common, particularly in the downtown market and square. You can find several restaurants offering similar BBQ dishes such as grilled pork, chicken, chayote and bamboo tube rice.
Chayote (Su Su)
Due to the cool mountain climate, chayote is widely grown in the mountainous region and can be seen everywhere when traveling around the national park and the neighboring hillsides. It is said to have a more distinctive flavor than chayote in other areas. You can both get it boiled with fish- or soya sauce or fried with meat.
Bamboo Tube Rice (Com Lam)
The Tam Dao version of sticky rice is rice cooked in bamboo tube and considered a delicacy in the area. It’s a great combination of the sticky rice, bamboo, banana leaf and often coconut milk and sesame added for sweetness.
Where To Stay
If you decide to spend the night in Tam Dao, you’ll have plenty of options for accommodation, whether you want to stay in hotels, Airbnb’s or homestays. Websites such as hotels.com and booking.com lists several hotels in the area. But don’t expect any 5 star hotels. Airbnb also lists several accommodation options that might be better suited than the hotels in town.
Be careful when booking accommodation in Tam Dao as many of the options provided on websites such as hotels.com and airbnb.com are near Vinh Yen at the base of the mountain, rather than in the town of Tam Dao on top of the mountain.