Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi Overview

Hoan Kiem Lake, or Turtle Lake, is a serene spot in Hanoi, ideal for unwinding after a long day. Surrounding the Ngoc Son Temple, with its iconic red bridge, it paints a pretty picture. On the northern shore is a small island where the Ngoc Son temple is located. The lake is also home to an iconic tortoise which is a sacred animal in Hanoi.

Located close to the Old Quarter, the lake is bursting with life early morning and late evening, when people can be seen exercising, casually hanging out, or even practicing tai chi and line dance. Elderly and children alike are seen enjoying themselves, and the lake also has a local legend full of royalty, treasure, and swords. The refreshing surroundings qualify as the best place for morning and evening walks. If you make it early, at around 6 in the morning, you can catch locals practising tai chi by the banks. On Fridays and Saturdays, the nearby traffic is ousted from 7 pm until midnight, giving way to a fresher vibe to take over the entire lakeside.

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Legend of Hoan Kiem Lake

Legend has it that in early 1428, when one day, Emperor Le Loi was sailing across the lake water in a boat, a Golden Turtle God (Kim Qui) rose to the surface of the water. The Turtle God commanded the emperor to return the Magic sword- Heaven’s Will to the Dragon God, with which he defeated the Chinese Ming Dynasty. Le Loi followed the command and returned the sword to him, the Turtle God then disappeared into the lake water. To commemorate the return of Turtle God to the lake, Le Loi christened it as Hoan Kiem Lake. Today, if you peer down from the Huc Bridge a little, you can see groups of turtles swimming inside.

Geography and Location of Hoan Kiem Lake

The lake covers a total area of 12 hectares where - the north-south length scales up to 700 meters and the east-west width upto 200 meters. The lake water is bordered by Dinh Tien Hoang street and Le Thai To street in the east and by Hang Khay street in the south. The Hoan Kiem Lake is also the site of the magnificent Cau The Huc and Thap Rua, two of Hanoi's most iconic landmarks. Swing by here at night to see the lake take on a completely magical vibe.

The Hoan Kiem Lake Turtle Story

Hoan Kiem Lake was formerly known as Luc Thuy Lake which meant Green Lake - after the color of the lake water. The lake is shrouded in the stories of the past were a legend in the 15th century named Le Loi who said to have encountered a God-sent jewelled hilt on a Banyan tree and a sword caught in a fisherman's net. Since after, he used the magical sword to drive the Minh invaders and freed the civilians. After the victory, he was titled the king of Vietnam under the name Ly Thai To. After almost a year, the king was sailing on a boat in the lake (then named Luc Thuy Lake) when a Golden Turtle God appeared and asked him to return the sword to the Dragon King (in Vietnamese, Long Vuong). Le Loi returned the sword and to mark this incredible event, he renamed Luc Thuy Lake to Hoan Kiem Lake (Sword Lake).

Attractions at Hoan Kiem Lake

The Huc Bridge

The scarlet-painted wooden bridge dominates the rippling green lake. It depicts a classical Vietnamese design and is a renowned symbol of Buddhist architecture. Another name for the iconic Huc Bridge is the Rising Sun Bridge. It makes the Ngoc Son Temple on the Jade Island accessible to the devotees and travelers by connecting the island to the Lake bank. The locals fondly call it “the bridge where light is absorbed” and is considered holy as it connects the sacred Ngoc Son Temple. As you walk over the bridge, you can see the tortoise island and the temple in the distant skyline.

The Huc Bridge, Hoan Kiem Lake
The Huc Bridge Over Hoan Kiem Lake (Source)

Turtle Tower

The turtle tower is also known as Thap Rua Tower. It was constructed in the year 1886 in the memory of the local king, Le Loi. In spite of being the most iconic landmark on the Hoan Kiem Lake, the tower is inaccessible to the public so you can only take a glance from the bank or the Huc Bridge.

Hoan Kiem Lake, Thap Rua
The Turtle Tower at Night (Source)

Ngoc Son Temple

Ngoc Son Temple which translates as the "Temple of the Jade Mountain" was built in the 18th century on Jade Island in the centre of the lake. It was built to mark the bravery of military leader Tran Hung Dao in the battle against the Yuan Dynasty which took place in the  13th century. This centrally located pagoda also pays homage to scholar Van Xuong and Confucian master Nguyen Van Sieu. One has to cross the Huc Bridge to reach the temple that is recognized by two distinct towering posts embellished with Chinese writing. Inside the pagoda, there are altars dedicated to Tran Hung Dao.

Ngoc Son Temple Near the Hoan Kiem Lake

How To Reach Hoan Kiem Lake

The central location of the Hoan Kiem Lake makes it within reach of the people living around the city. From Noi Bai Airport, a 40-minute drive can get you here. Hoan Kiem sprawls in Hanoi's Old Quarter and is quite close to the Temple of Literature.

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