Trang An Landscape Complex, Vietnam

The blend of towering mountains draped in natural rain forest, with large internal basins and narrow cave passages, creates an extraordinarily beautiful and tranquil landscape

Trang An Landscape Complex (2014) by Trang An Landscape ComplexUNESCO World Heritage

Located in North Vietnam’s Ninh Binh Province, near the southern margin of the Red River Delta, the Trang An Landscape Complex covers 6,226 hectares within the Trang An limestone massif and is surrounded by a 6,026-hectare buffer zone of mostly rural land with rice paddy fields.

Trang An Landscape Complex (2014) by Trang An Landscape ComplexUNESCO World Heritage

Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2014, Trang An is a mixed cultural and natural property contained mostly within three protected areas: the Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, the Trang An-Tam Coc-Bich Dong Scenic Landscape, and the Hoa Lu Special-Use Forest.

Limestone karst peaks of Trang An (2014) by Trang An Landscape ComplexUNESCO World Heritage

The spectacular landscape of Trang An is dominated by extensive tropical rainforest, limestone karst peaks of up to 200m high and cliff-enclosed valleys which are connected by an intricate system of subterranean waterways, some of which are navigable by small boat. 

Green and yellow rice paddies at Trang An (2014) by Trang An Landscape ComplexUNESCO World Heritage

This blend of features creates a beautiful and tranquil panorama which is enhanced by an array of contrasting and ever-changing colours- deep green tropical rainforests, grey limestone rocks and cliffs, blue-green waters, green and yellow rice paddies, and the bright blue sky.

Thung Binh 1 Cave (2014) by Trang An Landscape ComplexUNESCO World Heritage

The exploration of caves at various altitudes has revealed archaeological traces of human activity and interaction with the natural landscape over a period of more than 30,000 years, during some of the most turbulent climatic and environmental changes in the Earth’s history. 

Trang An Landscape Complex (2014) by Trang An Landscape ComplexUNESCO World Heritage

The sea’s inundation transformed the massif into an archipelago during some periods. These fluctuations in sea level are evidenced by erosion notches at varying heights on the cliffs, caves at varying elevations, beach deposits and marine shell layers.

Trang An Landscape Complex (2014) by Trang An Landscape ComplexUNESCO World Heritage

Caves that were used by prehistoric people had to be located above the level of the sea at that time. One such example is the Hang (cave) Trong which, at an elevation of 140m, is the highest cave that is known to have been occupied during the Upper Paleolithic.

Boi Cave (2014) by Trang An Landscape ComplexUNESCO World Heritage

Located at around 80m above sea level, another cave, Hang Boi, is believed to have formed during the early to middle Pleistocene. The stalagmites, curtains, columns and other flowstone formations which line its walls bear testimony to its age.

Moi Cave (2014) by Trang An Landscape ComplexUNESCO World Heritage

Along with Trong and Boi, Hang Moi has also played an important part in providing essential evidence from the past. Located in the heart of Trang An, it likely provided shelter to its inhabitants when the nearby now-dry doline, or depression, was flooded from edge to edge.

Aerial view of the Trang An Landscape Complex (2014) by Trang An Landscape ComplexUNESCO World Heritage

The story of human occupation continues throughout the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, up to the current historical era. Much evidence of this later occupation can be found within the boundaries of the property, in the form of temples, pagodas, paddy-fields and small villages. 

Trang An Landscape Complex (2014) by Trang An Landscape ComplexUNESCO World Heritage

Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of Viet Nam, was strategically established here in the 10th and 11th centuries AD, and was associated with the Dinh, Early Le and Ly dynasties. Despite a long and turbulent history, many monuments of great cultural and historical value have survived:

King Dinh Tien Hoang Temple (2014) by Trang An Landscape ComplexUNESCO World Heritage

King Dinh Tien Hoang Temple was built in the 17th century in the traditional architectural style of the time. Facing east, the temple is located at the foot of the Ma Yen mountain, where the tomb of King Dinh Tien Hoang can be found. 

Trang An Landscape Complex (2014) by Trang An Landscape ComplexUNESCO World Heritage

The Royal Step-over Palace of Vu Lam was established by the kings of the Tran Dynasty as a base for consolidating their forces in the fight against the Mongolian army. The palace was used for storing food and weapons but was also an important Buddhist centre for these kings.

Bai Dinh Pagoda (2014) by Trang An Landscape ComplexUNESCO World Heritage

Bai Dinh Pagoda is known for being the largest Buddhist pagoda in Vietnam. Located approximately 15km northwest of Ninh Binh City, this complex is comprised of various religious buildings and temples, as well as a number of enchanting caves which are also used for worship.  

Bich Dong Pagoda (2014) by Trang An Landscape ComplexUNESCO World Heritage

Bich Dong Pagoda is one of the most famous beauty spots of Trang An and enjoys stunning panoramic views. With a long history which stretches back hundreds of years, it is located on three different levels - at the foot, in the middle and at the top of the Bich Dong mountain.

Trang An festival (2014) by Trang An Landscape ComplexUNESCO World Heritage

Today, the area has around 14,000 inhabitants, the majority of whom are involved in agriculture and living in small traditional villages. Much of the property, however, is uninhabited and continues to exist in the same undisturbed and natural state as it has for many millennia.

Credits: Story

This exhibit was created by the Trang An Landscape Complex Management Board: 
tranganlandscape.vn

More on the Trang An Landscape Complex and World Heritage:  whc.unesco.org/en/list/1438/

Photos: The Trang An Landscape Complex Management Board, Ryan Rabett, Đào Minh Tiến, Lê Việt Khánh, Vũ Đức Phương, Ninh Mạnh Thắng 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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