Hoa Lu is some 110km or two hours from Hanoi. Located near the town of Ninh Binh, Hoa Lu is the site of a 10th-century capital of an ancient Vietnamese Kingdom called Dai Co Viet. This small Kingdom covered an area of only 300 hectares, and reigned from the 10th century, during the Dinh and Le dynasties, to the 11th century, during the Ly Dynasty. The Kingdom was enclosed by a citadel. The citadel and the Yen Ngua limestone hills provided good defence for this kingdom against the Chinese.
As the capital of the country for 41 years, Hoa Lu has many palaces, pagodas, tombs and pavilions that were built by different dynasties. One of the most popular pieces of architecture is the Bao Thien Tue Palace, which was plated with gold and silver. However many vestiges have been destroyed due to time and weather.
Not much of this ancient kingdom is left standing. Whatever that remains of the palaces and shrines would only be of interest to archaeologists. The Royal Court was built in an area of 150 hectares in the eastern part of the capital while the western part served as a site to educate and protect children. The surrounding to be quite picturesque, with its ponds and limestone range forming a jagged horizon. There are two 17th century temples, modelled after their 11th-century originals that are on most itineraries to Hoa Lu. They are the Dinh Tien Hoang Temple and Le Hoan Temple, dedicated to the founder of the Dinh Dynasty and to its successor, reachable after a climb of more then 200 steps. I shall describe these two temples separately on their respective pages.