Hoan Kiem lake

Hoan Kiem Lake, or the Lake of the Restored Sword, is located directly in the centre of Hanoi. The name is derived from a legend involving Emperor Le Thai To, in which he came across a giant tortoise while cruising on the lake. The tortoise took his sword that had secured victory against the Chinese aggressors of the Minh Dynasty. The emperor named the lake after this episode.

The tortoises of Hoan Kiem lake: Fact or Fiction?

Unbelievably, there are tortoises in the mysterious and murky waters of Hoan Kiem Lake.

Surfacing on rare occasions, and bringing luck to anyone fortunate enough to see one, the Sword Lake tortoise Rafetus leloii is not just your common garden-variety tortoise - it is a huge animal.  A specimen that died in 1968 weighed in at 250kg and was 2.1m long! Its preserved remain: are on show in the Ngoc Son Temple complex, together with a photo taken of a tortoise that appeared in the take in 2000. No-one is sure how many there still are, or how they have survived in this urban setting. Rumours abound.

Are these really the lake-dwelling descendants of the golden tortoise of Le Loi? Or are they safeguarded in enclosures elsewhere and transported to the lake from time to time, where their occasional appearance is simpiy an orchestrated ploy to keep the legend of the lake alive?

Those ripples on the lake surface will never seem so innocenl again.


Every morning, the surrounding park fills with locals who arrive to exercise and play badminton. By the way, there still are a few tortoises who call this area home.

Hoan Kiem was already considered the most beautiful lake in Hanoi.