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[Photos] Exploring Hanoi's Eerie 'Skeleton Cave'

Halfway between Hanoi and Ba Vi National Park lies Thay Pagoda, a Buddhist temple technically within the city limits. It’s a beautiful building in its own right, but what’s more fascinating is Cac Co Cave, which you can access through the temple grounds.

Famous not only for its wild beauty, the cave was once also used as a tomb for over 3,600 soldiers who fought for General Lu Gia during a war against the Han Dynasty over 2,000 years ago. Lu’s army lost the battle and sought refuge inside the cave. The Han army couldn’t find a way in, so they used huge stones to block the entrance and left the men to die. 

In 1993, the monks of Thay Pagoda and local villagers removed the stones and entered the cave, before creating an altar to honor the men who died there. Behind it, the skeletal remains of the soldiers can still be seen. 

To access the cave, visitors must go through the temple and climb over 200 stone steps to the top of a nearby mountain. The cavern is a dark and slippery place, so you’ll need to bring a flashlight and appropriate footwear. Sandals are available to rent from vendors in front of the cave, and you can also buy incense to burn at the altar.

It only takes about 30 or 40 minutes to reach the pagoda from central Hanoi, making it the perfect place for a day trip out of the city.

A view of Thay Pagoda.

The water shrine on the pagoda's grounds.

The entrance to Cac Co Cave lies inside the temple grounds.

The stairs leading to the cave entrance.

The path is rocky at times and requires sturdy footwear.

The cave's eerie entrance.

Some areas of the cave are lit up with colored lights.

In other areas, natural light floods through the roof.

Striking rock formations abound.

The altar dedicated to Gia's men built by local monks.

Many people burn incense in the cave as offerings.

Stunning colors and stalactites are everywhere.

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