Ninh Binh Vietnam Overview
Just 100 kilometers to the south of capital Hanoi, Ninh Binh has gained some popularity in recent years as the hidden gem of Northern Vietnam. Known as Halong Bay on land, Ninh Binh is famous for its picturesque natural scenery and beautiful historical and religious sites. This landscape offers similar landscape views as like Halong Bay with limestone karsts, but much less touristy and untouched by human.
There are not many sights in Ninh Binh itself, but this is a great place to visit if you want to get out and about and spend time immersed in nature, relax your mind and breathe in some fresh air. Here bellowed are the top things to do in Ninh Binh. Don’t miss it!
Sampan harbor in Tam Coc – where you will enjoy your boat trip along Halong Bay on Land
Ninh Binh Highlights
Ninh Binh is surrounded by a stunning landscape of lush green paddy fields and striking limestone outcrops with main tourist sites including Tam Coc, Trang An, Bich Dong, Bai Dinh Pagoda – A biggest Pagoda in Vietnam, Van Long Nature Reserve and Cuc Phuong National Park, Hoa Lu Ancient Capital – Oldest Capital of Vietnam, Phat Diem Stone Catheral, Thung Nham Bird Garden…The cycling activities is a best way to really appreciate the striking scenery along the roads.
Boat trip through caves in Tam Coc Ninh Binh
Best time to Visit Ninh Binh
Visitors can travel to Ninh Binh province in every season of the year; however, the most ideal time is from January to March according to the lunar calendar.
- In spring, its weather is not too cold or too hot, so travelers can combine travelling , going on a pilgrimage, and going to the church to pray for luckiness and happiness.
- In the summer, it is very hot and you have to be out of doors all day so you should bring a hat and sunscreen. Especially for boat trips you should bring a thin coat which will also protect against sunlight.
- In winter, it can be cold and rainy during the day so you should prepare a hat and a jacket. If you set plan to climb Mua Caves Ninh Binh , the weather may be cold on the top of the mountain. It will be better for you with a thin coat and climbing shoes.
You should bring a little Vietnamese cash to purchase need necessities like food and clothing,… or tips for tour guides because there are not many ATMs and currency exchange counters around area
Apart from this, at the end of May and June is the occasion for ripe rice on the fields in Tam Coc. Besides that, Trang An is a good place for travelers to take photographs as well.
How to get to Ninh Binh from Hanoi
Ninh Binh is around 100 kilometers to the South from Hanoi city, visitors can go there by different means like: by train, buses, private cars or even motorbikes.
Hanoi to Ninh Binh By Bus
In case you travel to Ninh Binh by coach, there are dozens of trips for every single day, departing from 5:00 am to 6:00 pm , provided by coach owners. Some good brand names are Cuong Hung, Cat Loi, Vu Thuong, Gia Minh, Hien Tinh, etc…
It takes around 2 hours to travel to Ninh Binh, and the price ticket is around 80.000 VND/a person.
You can book a Ninh Binh Tour that includes transportation, you don’t need to worry about how to go anymore. Take a look at our Ninh Binh Tours to the most popular destinations in Ninh Binh.
Hanoi To Ninh Binh By train
It takes 2.5 hours to get here and the train stops at the station at Ninh Binh City Center. About $3.5 USD is you need to pay for a one-way ticket from Hanoi Train Station to Ninh Binh train station.
Hanoi To Ninh Binh By Motorbike
If you visit Ninh Binh by your own means, for instance, by motorbike or by Private Car, you can follow Gia Phong street, go through Giap Bat Station, turn into Phap Van-Cau Gie highway, continue following Phu Ly direction, then you reach Ninh Binh. It takes not over 90 minutes to arrive Ninh Binh province. You can hire a private car or Motorbike through Cozy Vietnam Travel and go straight to the destination in Ninh Binh.
19 Best things to do in Ninh Binh, Vietnam
Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
Used to be the ancient capital of Vietnam in the 10th century, Hoa Lu Ancient Capital today is a national-level cultural center filled with ancient pagodas and citadels. Hoa Lu gives off a mysterious yet nostalgic vibe as it’s surrounded by high arc-shaped rocky mountains, spectacular scenery and numerous calm lakes. This charming and tranquil landscape always leaves a strong appeal for anyone visiting.nInside the complex, there is an iconic archway in the entrance on the bridge leading into the capital. Because of wars, there are not many remaining except some temples built on the old sites which are King Dinh and King Le Temples. Hoa Lu Ancient Capital is for everyone want to know and dig deeper into the culture, history and ancient Viet architecture.
Dinh King Temple in Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
Bai Dinh Pagoda
Bai Dinh Pagoda is the largest pagoda complex in Southeast Asia which covers 530 hectares of land. The whole complex consists of the original old temple for Buddhist privileges and a newly created larger temple for tourists visiting. As a spiritual complex, Bai Dinh Pagoda offers pleasant sights and gives off a peaceful feeling. Temples, shrines and pagodas are spread out over the hillside with fantastic views over the surrounding countryside.
Bai Dinh Pagoda Ninh Binh Province ( Chùa Bái Đính)
Bich Dong Pagoda
Visiting Bich Dong Pagoda is another favorite thing to do in Ninh Binh. Bich Dong Pagoda is a beautiful ancient temple built in the 15th century. Not a usual pagoda, Bich Dong consists of 3 separate layered pagodas which are Ha, Trung and Thuong Pagoda on different levels and you have to climb up the hillside to explore each of them. Climbing up to each pagoda may be tiring but when you reach the top, the views are well worth it.
Thuong Pagoda at the top of hillside of Bich Dong Pagoda ( Chùa Bích Động )
Peaceful main entrance of Bich Dong Pagoda Ninh Binh ( Chùa Bích Động)
The Trang An Grottoes consist of a variety of caves, rocks, and temples surrounded by canals, lakes. Take a scenic boat ride through the river networks and you’ll be greeted with amazing sights of the extraordinary natural land forms. Trang An Boat Tour, It’s simply mesmerizing.
Taking a boat trip is one of the most popular things to do in Ninh Binh for tourists. Trang An boat tour takes around 2 hours and you will be carried around by a skillful lady. They not only peddle by hands but also by their legs. How incredible they are!
Tam Coc Ninh Binh
Tam Coc or “Three caves” became popular after Indochina movie won the Oscar in 1993, and word spread that some scenes were shot in Tam Coc. Compared to Trang An, Tam Coc is more popular for tourists and has been known long before Trang An is recognized. Framed by lush green rice fields and limestone karsts, the area is a stunning, yet peaceful.
Tam Coc boat ride is one of the must-do in Ninh Binh Vietnam
Tam Coc Boat Trip
This 2-hour boat ride which runs through Ngo Dong river will take you through caves, rice fields, and unique karst rocks. You will feel like you’re in a movie scene cruising down a natural kingdom like this.
The single most fascinating thing about the boats in Tam Coc is the women that row the wooden paddles. They use their feet to ride the boats. This is a special technique that takes months to master. Hoa Lu Tam Coc Tour is a tremendous chance to explore the ancient beauty of Hoa Lu Ancient Capital and stunning scenery in Tam Coc.
Boat trip in Tam Coc tour, Halong Bay on Land
Ninh Binh biking
Tam Coc cycling around the rice paddies – Top things to do in Ninh Binh. Cycling around peaceful villages is among top things to do Ninh Binh. Ninh Binh is a tranquil, peaceful countryside and tourist-friendly. The roads are mainly flat and not crowded like Hanoi and it’s easy to cycle around.
Many hotels and guesthouses offer free bicycles for tourists or ones to rent for a few dollars. Or there’re some tour operators offer Ninh Binh tour that includes cycling activity in their itinerary.
Biking in Tam Coc Ninh Binh, A good choice to relax
Cuc Phuong National Park
Cuc Phuong National Park is a preserved tropical rainforest and also the largest nature reserve in the country. This is home to over 300 species of rare birds and 2000 species of plants well-protected to maintain the untouched wildlife of Ninh Binh.
If you visit Cuc Phuong from May to July, you will be in time for “Butterfly Season”
For anyone loves nature, this is a suitable place to discover and definitely listed in Ninh Binh things to see. There are many ways to explore Cuc Phuong National Park via the densely rain forested road.
Biking and hiking are the best choices to slowly stroll through the jungle. Other than the fauna and flora, there is a cave of prehistoric man found in the jungle and worth paying a visit.
Cuc Phuong National Park Tour
Turtle Conservation Center in Cuc Phuong
Located inside Cuc Phuong National Park is the Turtle Conservation Center which houses more than 1000 terrestrial, semiaquatic and aquatic turtles representing 20 of Vietnam’s 25 native species. Not one of the famous things to see in Ninh Binh but if you’re already in Cuc Phuong National Park, pay a visit to this place.
Many of the residents here were saved from poachers or smugglers who have been driven by demand from the domestic and Chinese markets – eating turtle is thought to aid longevity. Visitors can see turtles in tanks and incubators, as well as in ponds in near-wild settings.
Turtle Conservation Center in Cuc Phuong
Endangered Primate Rescue Center
Located inside Cuc Phuong National Park, the Endangered Primate Rescue Center is taken care by Frankfurt Zoological Society and Cuc Phuong National Park staff. The animals here were rescued to save them from illegal traders and the focus of the facility is to educate visitors on how to protect wild animals in Vietnam. Today, this is home of around 180 primates representing 15 species. Come here as you will have a chance to observe rare animal species. You can also visit the Turtle Conservation Center at the same time as the rescue center using the same ticket.
Pangolin – one of the most endangered species in Vietnam and Asian
Mua Caves Ninh Binh
Without a doubt, Mua Caves Ninh Binh is one of the most alluring views in Ninh Binh. Mua Caves is located at the foot of the Mua mountain and you have to climb up to the top in order to admire the panoramic view.
To reach the top of Mua Caves, visitors will cross a small bridge over the stream gently flowing, then a paved way covered with green trees and about 500-steps stair up to the top. Standing on the top of Mua Mountain, visitors will admire the most magnificent scenery. In May and June, the entire landscape of paddy fields is minimized in your view. Don’t miss the spectacular view from the top of Mua Cave
Mua Caves Ninh Binh, perfect viewpoint over Tam Coc valley
Phat Diem Cathedral
Phat Diem Cathedral is 34 kilometers away from Ninh Binh center and sits in the middle of scenic canals and rice paddies. The cathedral is built of stones is a very beautiful mixture of eastern & western gothic architecture which includes 2 gothic chapels and some massive ironwood columns. Phat Diem Cathedral is one of the top things to see in Ninh Binh. When visiting Phat Diem Cathedral, you should combine it with a trip to Trang An or Tam Coc.
The blend of architecture between Vietnam and the West in Phat Diem Cathedral
Van Long Nature Reserve in Ninh Binh
Van Long Wetland Nature Reserve is another spot for nature lovers who want to discover Vietnam wildlife. Van Long Nature Reserve is actually the biggest wetland reserve in Northern Vietnam which is home to a number of Vietnamese species like monkeys, reptiles, and especially birds. Some of them are the endangered ones. It is a unique complex and charming landscapes with heaving rock islands standing in immense water. As the transition region between the plain and the mountainous region, the reserve retains the diverse and varied terrain, including a tropical forest ecosystem in karst and the vast system of marshes.
Lunch at Cho Bop Market
Having lunch with local cuisine is a thing to consider while you’re in Ninh Binh. If you want to find some cheap local bites, go to Cho Bop market – the central market in town. Here you will find a number of carts and small cafes serving Vietnamese dishes such as toothsome noodle soups and other fried goodies. You can also find fresh fruit and vegetables here in Cho Bop Market if you go here in the early morning.
Shop at Van Lan – Things to do around Ninh Binh
Van Lan is a small village located near the famous Hoa Lu Tam Coc tourist site. In addition to its rich cultural and historical tradition, the village is famous for its traditional embroidery craft.
Wandering around the village, you can find many handicraft products including napkins, pillowcases, tablecloths and even t-shirts. Go to Van Lan Village and you will find some souvenirs. However, you need bargaining skill to shop at the best price.
Traditional embroidery craft at Van Lan village
Try the mountain goat meat
If snail dishes are not your thing, then you can try goat meat – another special cuisine of Ninh Binh. Ninh Binh’s goat meat tastes better than other regions because the goats are raised by the local here as this area is very suitable to raise goats. And the locals know how to cook the goat meat to produce the best goat meat dishes.
The meat has a gamey flavor and it is usually barbecued to produce a smoky and delicious dish that is a must-try while you are in Ninh Binh.
Com chay Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh has many specialties and one of these is called “com chay”. Com chay is burnt rice then scraped off the bottom of a cooking pot. This may not sound like the most appetizing dish, but it produces a nutty and crunchy result.
Com chay Ninh Binh is sold everywhere in Ninh Binh especially near a popular tourist site. Look for the big stalls that sell “com chay” so that you won’t be scammed for a higher price than normal.
Kenh Ga Floating Village
If you want a glimpse of an authentic fishing village in Vietnam then head to Kenh Ga Floating Village.
Quite similar to Van Long Nature Reserve, Kenh Ga Village is year-round covered with flooded water. Farmers here can only have one rice harvest in a year and they live on fishing in the rest of the year. Visit Kenh Ga Village, you will catch a scene of locals rowing their boats with their feet.
Travel to Kenh Ga, you will take an engine boat tour along the river, viewing the local villages, churches, scenic limestone formations & local farming or fishing activities.
Kenh Ga Village is also the place famous for its hot springs which are very good for health. If you have time, you can have a mineral bath on those hot springs.
Thung Nham Bird Garden
With more than 50 species of bird, Thung Nham Bird Garden is the best choice for the nature lovers. Thung Nham Bird Garden is an ecotourism resort with accommodations, restaurants, and activities that you can spend a whole day or an overnight trip. This place is as picturesque as other places in Ninh Binh that is worth a visit. Thung Nham Bird Garden is located in the mountains and is known as a place where a huge number of indigenous species of birds make their nests. Top attractions in the area include some caves like But Cave, Vai Gioi Cave, bird sanctuary which you can visit by boat ride or walking nearby to view hundreds of birds, storks & herons flying around.
Boat trip through Thung Nham Bird Garden
Hike to Silver Cloud Peak
If hiking is your favorite thing to do, then make your way to Cuc Phuong National Park to enjoy some hiking to Silver Cloud Peak. To hike up the top, it takes around four hours and you need to be in relatively good shape. The panoramic view at the top will worth it in the end. You can either hike with a ranger which is recommended or go it alone if you are feeling adventurous.