Being dubbed "Ha Long Bay on land," Trang An landscape complex is the first in Vietnam being recognized by UNESCO World Heritage Committee as a mixed cultural and natural site in 2014.
Located in Vietnam's northern Ninh Binh province, some 90 km south of its capital Hanoi, the 6,172-hectare Trang An landscape complex comprises three areas of Trang An-Tam Coc-Bich Dong ecological site,Hoa Lu imperial capital, and Hoa Lu primitive forests.
Trang An complex is a spectacular landscape of limestone karst peaks permeated with valleys, some of which are submerged, surrounded by paddy fields and villages.
According to UNESCO World Heritage Committee, exploration of some of the highest altitude caves dotted across the landscape has revealed archaeological traces of human activity dating back almost 30,000 years.
They illustrate the occupation of these mountains by hunter- gatherers and how they adapted to climatic and environmental changes.
Throughout millions of years of geological development, the site is now a combination of limestone mountains surrounded by rivers, forests paddy fields and villages.
The most attractive destination in the complex is Trang An ecological site. Many of the rivers in the site are open for tourism. Cruising a small boat along Sao Khe river in the site would be an unforgettable experience for tourists.
The water there is so clear that one can see fronds of waterweeds dancing softly below the quiet water surface of the river, as many kinds of fish swim around.
Sometimes, a waterbird dives to catch a fish, painting a lively, idyllic and vivid picture of the site.
Spending more than three hours gliding the boat through the 15 km waterway with waterlilies and bamboo along the riverside, tourists can see ancient temples resting under trees halfway up the mountains or casting their reflections on the river.
Visitors can also experience rafting for themselves through limestone caves at the bottom of mountains, with the longest one being 320 meters in length. Some of the caves' ceilings hang so low that people in the boast have to crouch down to avoid hitting their heads. During rainy season, the water level rises up and tourists have to almost lie down on the floor of the boats to pass through caves with their low-lying ceilings.
One of the properties of the UNESCO World Heritage Site is Hoa Lu imperial capital, which served as the land of the first two imperial dynasties of Vietnam -- Dinh Dynasty (968-979) and Le Dynasty(980-1009). In 1010, Ly Cong Uan, one year after founding the Ly Dynasty, transferred the capital to Thang Long (now known as Hanoi).
The glorious era furnished the land with many historic temples and shrines dating back to different historical periods.
However, Hoa Lu ancient citadel cannot survive the ravages of time. The vestiges of the foundation of the ancient palace, which dates back over 1,000 years, was found in an excavation in 1997 at the site of King Dinh and Le shrines.
Throughout the ages, the complex of Trang An, with its spectacular landscape and significant historical value, has been a place where cultural and natural history are inseparable.