Introducing Hoa Lu
Most of the ancient citadel is in ruins, but Yen Ngua Mountain provides a scenic backdrop for two surviving temples. Dinh Tien Hoang is dedicated to the Dinh dynasty and has the stone pedestal of a royal throne. Inside are bronze bells and a statue of Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang with his three sons.
The second temple is dedicated to monarch Le Dai Hanh. It has the usual assortment of drums, gongs, incense burners, candle holders and weapons with a statue of the king in the middle, his queen on the right and their son on the left. A modest museum here features part of the excavations of a 10th-century city wall.
For a great perspective of the ruins, take the 20-minute hike up to the tomb of Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang. The access path is via the hill opposite the ticket office.
Hoa Lu is 12km northwest of Ninh Binh; turn left 6km north of town on Hwy 1. There is no public transport available, but tours can easily be set up in Ninh Binh.