Ho Tay (West Lake) is a freshwater lake in the center of Hanoi, Vietnam. With a shore length of 17 km (about 10.6 miles), this is the largest lake of the capital and a popular place for recreation with many surrounding gardens, hotels and villas. A small part of Ho Tay is divided by Thanh Nien road to form another lake – Truc Bach. The lake should be in the list of top 10 things to see in Hanoi for a visitor.

thanh nien road
Thanh Nien road

Ho Tay was created from a curved part of Red River and appeared in several Vietnamese legends. One legend suggests that it was shaped after the battle between Lac Long Quan and a nine-tailed fox spirit, that’s why the lake was once called “Fox Corpse Swamp” (Dam Xac Cao). Another folk story claimed that original name of the lake is “Golden Buffalo Lake” (Ho Trau Vang or Ho Kim Nguu) because it was formed from struggle of a buffalo after the disappearance of her calf. In the 11th century, the lake was named “Foggy Lake” (Ho Dam Dam) from its misty condition and ultimately its name was changed to “Ho Tay” in 1573 to avoid the given name of king Le The Ton g which was Duy Dam.

Ho Tay is a Hanoi must-see since you can find many nearby significant places in history of Hanoi and Vietnam. Firstly is Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest pagoda of Vietnam; built in the 6th century by Ly Nam De and located on a small island on the the lake. Near Tran Quoc Pagoda is Quan Thanh Temple, one of the Four Sacred Temples of ancient Hanoi (Tu Tran Thang Long in Vietnamese). Chu Van An High School, one of the oldest high schools in Vietnam, is also located close to the lake.

Tran Quoc Pagoda
Tran Quoc Pagoda

As Hanoi’s largest lake, located right in the center of Hanoi, Ho Tay is abundant with many gardens, hotels, restaurants and other entertainment centers.

The lake is also well-known for its lotus when the season comes. Summer is for Lotus to blossom everywhere along Vietnam, however, the lotus blooms found in Ho Tay have a distinctive fragrance. As such, locals even built a Buddhist pagoda named Kim Lien (Golden Lotus) in honors of this flower. Late afternoon is the best moment to enjoy the fresh air and have a short cycling around the lake to avoid the heat and noise from the crowded streets. Let’s come and enjoy scent there in summer time.