Known to locals as Xú Thanh, Thanh Hoa Province covers an area of about 11,130 sq km (4,297 sq mi) in Vietnam’s North Central Coast Region. Historically significant, the province is home to some of Vietnam’s earliest human civilizations as well as stunning geological formations and scenic landscapes.
With so much to learn, see, and do, Thanh Hoa is an enthralling province where visitors can dive into Vietnam’s oldest legends.
How to Get to Thanh Hoa
Thanh Hoa is the northernmost province in Vietnam’s North Central Coast Region. Covering an area that spans from the international border with Laos to the East Sea, it’s one of the largest provinces in Vietnam. The location of the Thanh Hoa, its geographical size, and its large population make it an important part of Vietnam’s northern economic region.
Green terraced landscape in the Thanh Hóa Province. Photo: Hòa Nguyễn
With landscapes that include mountain peaks, grassy hills, and seaside escapes, Thanh Hoa Province has become an idyllic destination for leisure travel. As part of the Northern Region, the capital city of Hanoi isn’t too far away, being about 160 km (99 mi) northwest. Currently, there are no domestic flight services with a direct route from Hanoi to Thanh Hoa.
Instead, travelers will have the option of commuting by private cars such as taxis, public buses, or trains. Private cars and taxis are the fastest way to get to Thanh Hoa, with the drive taking slightly less than 3 hours. More affordable, travel times by public buses and trains are longer, usually taking up to 4 hours.
With an extensive history that dates back nearly 6,000 years, Thanh Hoa Province has long been at the center of Vietnamese tradition and culture. Throughout the years, numerous cultures were born and developed long before the area became the province that it is today.
The earliest known culture, Da Bút, began in the Neolithic Age around the two rivers, Sông Dáy and Sông Ma. In the subsequent ages, additional cultures developed including the Dong Son, which became the Hung Kings. Rulers of the Van Lang Kingdom, the Hung Kings lived in Thanh Hoa about 2,000 years ago.
A street in the Thanh Hoa Province in 1927. Photo by: manhhai.
The province is considered to be their sacred land and under their rule, four Vietnamese dynasties emerged. This includes the Nguyen Dynasty, which was the last ruling dynasty in Vietnam. Thanh Hoa Province was also home to many national heroes including Emperor Lê Loi and the female warrior, Triêu Thi Trinh.
Under French colonialism and American imperialism, the province stood against invading forces. The locals are credited with contributing to multiple battles including ones that happened at Diên Biên Phu and Ham Rong. When the August General Uprising occurred in 1945, Thanh Hoa Province’s old administration was reformed and modernized.
The results of the uprising split the province into 2 cities, 2 district-level towns, 23 rural districts, 28 commune-level towns, 579 communes, and 30 wards.
- As of 2019, the total estimated population of the Thanh Hoa Province is 3,640,128 people.
- The name Thanh Hóa is derived from Sino-Vietnamese and translates to “The Land of Thanh”.
- The dominant ethnicities in the Thanh Hoa Province are Vietnamese, Muòng, Thai, Thô, Dao, and H’Mông.
Bearing the same name, Thanh Hoa City is the capital of the province. Situated inland from the East Sea, the city sits on the Sông Ma River about 160 km (99 mi) to the southeast of Hanoi. Though currently the capital of Thanh Hoa Province, the city’s history as a capital dates back to the Trân and Hô dynasties.
Remains of the Citadel of the Hô Dynasty. Photo: manhhai
The Citadel of the Hô Dynasty was the capital of both the Trân and Hô Dynasty from 1398 to 1407. Still standing, the citadel has become a historic site in the province. As the capital and largest city in the province, Thanh Hoa is the main hub of activity for business and leisure.
Travelers who are touring the province will often start in Thanh Hoa City before venturing to more rural communities in the mountains or along the coast. The top tourist attractions in and around Thanh Hoa City are the Citadel of the Hô Dynasty, Sâm Son Beach, Museums Thanh Hóa Province, Ba Triêu Temple, Long Quang Cave, and Nhôi Mountain.
Thanh Hoa City has an extremely well-developed tourism sector, which means that travelers will have easy access to quality accommodations. There are numerous highly-rated resorts, hotels, and hostels throughout the city ranging from affordable to luxury.
The best places to stay in Thanh Hoa City are the Vinpearl Hotel Thanh Hóa, Muong Thanh Hotel Grand Thanh Hóa, Central Hotel, Dai Viet Hotel, and the FLC Luxury Resort Sâm Son. While many hotels will have at least one on-site restaurant, travelers may want to get out and explore the city’s cuisine too.
Dai Viet Hotel. Photo: DAI VIET HOTEL
There are a lot of places that have infused menus featuring both traditional Vietnamese cuisine and international dishes. Thanh Hóa City’s best restaurants include Vincom Plaza, Today Bistro & Café, Hutong Thanh Hóa, Tâng 34 SkyView Café and Bar, and the Pizza Company Nguyen Kim Thanh Hóa.
Famous Places in Thanh Hoa
Aside from the capital city, there are a few places in the province that have become popular destinations for tourists. Some of the most famous places to visit in Thanh Hoa Province include Bá Thuôc District, Luong Ngoc Village, Tinh Gia District, and Sam Son. Most of the attractions are in rural districts, towns, or communes, excluding the beach resort town of Sâm Son.
Ba Thuoc District
Home to unique ecosystems and marvelous mountain peaks, Bá Thuôc District is a must-see destination for ecotourists. Featuring the Pu Luong Nature Reserve, Bá Thuôc has a mix of wild and developed landscapes. When visitors aren’t exploring the nature reserve, they may be relaxing at the local hotel or hiking to the waterfall outside of the Ban Hieu village.
Luong Ngoc Village
Visitors at the Cam Luong Fish Stream. Photo by: .
A quiet village that’s 80 km (50 mi) north of the provincial capital, Luong Ngoc has become famous for the Cam Luong Fish Stream or Ngoc Stream. Holding fish with rare colorations, the stream isn’t very wide or long, but visitors come from all over to view the unique wildlife. Fishing in the stream is not allowed, however, visitors can feed the fish and enjoy the scenery.
A small coastal district-level town, Nghi Son, formerly Tinh Gia, is only 40 km (25 mi) outside of Thanh Hoa City. Recently discovered by international travelers, the town is becoming famous for its white-sand beaches and vibrant ocean hues. Around the town are small communities of fishermen, who use nets to harvest the seafood before serving it at local restaurants and stalls.
Sâm Son is a beach resort city that sits on the coast of Thanh Hoa Province. Situated a mere 16 km (10 mi) from the provincial capital, Sâm Son City and the accompanying beach is the most popular attraction in the province.
Well-developed and with a thriving tourist industry, there are many resorts, villas, and hostels located on the beachfront. Visitors can spend their time on the sand or explore some of the city’s other attractions like the Truòng Lê Mountain, Co Tien Mountain, or Doc Cuoc Temple.
Clear day at Sâm Son Beach. Photo by: Nguyễn Thanh Quang.
Beyond the well-known destinations, there are several attractions that are quickly gaining notoriety in the Thanh Hoa Province. With plenty of options to fill travel itineraries, visitors enjoy exploring Ben En National Park, the Dong Son Ancient Village, or Nhôi Mountain.
Ben En National Park
Featuring the massive Lake Song Muc, Ben En National Park is renowned for its unique landscape. Boasting 21 islands, various caves, and several ethnic villages, popular activities include hiking and biking tours as well as visiting the Ben En Museum. Located at the welcome gate, the museum details the park’s history, ecosystems, plants, wildlife, and local communities.
Dong Son Ancient Village
In a rural part of the province, Dong Son Ancient Village sits on the Ma River’s south bank. The village is the home of the Lac Viêt culture, which started during the Bronze Age. Frequently ranked as one of the “most beautiful ancient villages in Vietnam”, Dong Son has also become an educational destination where ancient cultures are preserved and passed down through the generations.
Outside of the Nhôi village, the nearby mountain has been named as a national monument and landscape. Standing at 100 m (328 feet) tall, Nhôi Mountain has a rocky summit that has long been shrouded in ancient myths. Said to look like the torso of a man, other shapes seen in the rocks include a mother carrying her son and a giant elephant.
Tourism to the mountain has picked up in recent years as travelers are eager to hike to the summit and explore the temples that sit at its base.
Landscape around the Sông Ma River in the Thanh Hóa Province, Vietnam. Photo by: Hòa Nguyễn.
To promote tourism and keep ancient culture alive for the next generations, Thanh Hoa hosts various unique festivals throughout the year. Normally held at sacred temples or in the big cities, popular festivals in the Thanh Hoa Province include Mau Tam Phu Festival, Dong Co Temple Festival, Mai An Tiem Festival, and Cau Ngu the Whale Festival.
Hoping to keep tourism alive, the Thanh Hoa Province also creates new festivals each year. Up-and-coming festivals in the province include the Phu Trinh Temple Festival, Hô Citadel Heritage Festival, and the Trong Mai Love Festival.
The Thanh Hoa Province has a typical monsoon climate, which means that during the summer months the weather is hot, humid, and very rainy. June, July, and August are the hottest months with temperatures reaching into the 90s. However, September is the rainiest month of the year with up to 16 inches of precipitation.
For most of the Thanh Hoa Province, the tourist off-season is during the summer months because of the weather. However, crowds of tourists are still around, especially in coastal areas like Sâm Son. For better weather conditions and to avoid the monsoons, tourists should visit the Thanh Hoa Province from November to April.
During these months the temperatures are much cooler and there is less rain to interfere with sightseeing or beach day activities. December and January tend to be some of the busiest months for tourists in Thanh Hóa because of the pleasant weather and special holidays including the Lunar New Year.
Sunset at the Hai Hòa Beach. Photo: Bùi Thế Tâm
A cradle for ancient Vietnamese civilizations, the Thanh Hoa Province continues to develop its tourist industry as it draws in visitors with its rich history, extensive coastline, and magnificent landscapes. Though large in scale, many of the attractions in the Thanh Hoa Province feel intimate as they tell the stories of national heroes, ancient myths, and preserved cultures.
For travelers who love to learn on their journeys, you won’t want to miss out on exploring Vietnam’s oldest cultures in the Thanh Hoa Province.
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