• Ninh Binh Travel Guide – 2024

    Le CongMay 17, 2024
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    Ninh Binh Overview

    Ninh Binh, located 100 km from Hanoi, is a great destination for nature lovers. It has beautiful karst mountains and rivers, earning it the nickname “Halong Bay on land.” While a one-day tour is enjoyable, many travelers spend two days exploring the area.

    Ninh Binh is a charming province at the southernmost point of the Northern Delta. It is over 90 km away from Hanoi and lies along Vietnam’s important North-South national highway 1A. The North-South railway passing through Ninh Binh offers breathtaking views and is a popular tourist destination in Vietnam.

    Where is Ninh Binh?

    Ninh Binh Province, despite being small in size, offers a diverse terrain that includes mountains, rivers, plains, and seas. This variety showcases the nuances of Vietnam’s terrain on a smaller scale. The province covers a natural area of 1398.7 km2, ranking 52nd out of 53 provinces, with a population of 1,010,000. The easiest way to get to Ninh Binh is by car or bus from Hanoi. The journey takes about two hours, depending on traffic. Alternatively, you can take a train from Hanoi to Ninh Binh Station, which is located in the center of the city.

    People in Ninh Binh

    The ethnic communities living in Ninh Binh consist of 23 ethnic groups, with the majority being the Kinh ethnic group, accounting for over 98.2% of the population. The Muong ethnic group is ranked second, making up nearly 1.7%. Other ethnic groups, including Tay, Nung, Thai, Hoa, H’Mong, and Dao, each have populations ranging from a dozen to over a hundred individuals. It is truly amazing to witness such diversity among the population.

    The best time to visit Ninh Binh yellow rice fields

    Ninh Binh has a beautiful landscape that you can enjoy all year round. But the best time to visit is from late May to early July, when it’s summer harvest season, or from September to October when locals harvest the wet rice.

    Where to go in Ninh Binh

    Ninh Binh is famous for its scenic spots, and cultural and historical sites. Key attractions include Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, Tam Coc-Bich Dong tourist area, Cuc Phuong National Park, Van Long Nature Reserve, Van Trinh Cave, Kenh Ga Hot Water, Trang An Cave Area, Phat Diem Stone Church, and Dong Chuong Lake Eco-Tourism Area. There is always something to explore in Ninh Binh.

    Ninh Binh Travel Map from Vietvisit

    Accommodation

    There are many options for accommodation in Ninh Binh, ranging from homestays to luxury hotels. You can easily find these options on booking sites or Airbnb and Booking.com, with choices ranging from budget hostels to high-end resorts. Some popular choices include:

    • Ninh Binh Hidden Charm Hotel & Resort
    • Tam Coc Rice Fields Resort
    • Emeralda Resort Ninh Binh
    • Chez Loan Hotel

    Food and Drink

    Ninh Binh is known for its delicious cuisine, which features a variety of fresh seafood, rice dishes, and local specialties. Some popular dishes to try include:

    >>> Check out: 5 Best Specialties to Try in Ninh Binh

    • Ninh Binh goat meat
    • Com Chay (burned rice)
    • Chao Vịt (duck porridge)
    • Nem Yen Mac (spring rolls with pork and shrimp)

    Tip Traveling to Ninh Binh with Kids

    Ninh Binh is a great destination for families with kids. Some fun activities to do with children include:

    • Taking a boat ride through Tam Coc or Trang An
    • Visiting the Bai Dinh Pagoda complex
    • Exploring the caves at Trang An or Tam Coc
    • Renting bicycles to explore the countryside and rice paddies

    It is also worth noting that many of the hotels and resorts in Ninh Binh offer family-friendly amenities, such as swimming pools and playgrounds.

    >>> Read more: Ninh Binh with Kids: The Perfect Family Travel Destination in Vietnam

    Ways to save money in Ninh Binh

    • Stay in budget accommodations like hostels or homestays
    • Eat at local food stalls or markets instead of restaurants
    • Rent a bicycle instead of hiring a car or taking a tour
    • Visit free attractions, such as the Bich Dong Pagoda or the Van Long Nature Reserve
    • Bargain when shopping at markets or street vendors
    • Travel during the low season for cheaper rates on accommodations and tour

    Other Information

    The main religions in the province are Buddhism and Christianity. The people of Ninh Binh primarily engage in agricultural production, specifically cultivating wet rice and raising cattle and poultry. Additionally, many individuals in the province pursue traditional crafts. For instance, embroidery is popular in Hoa Lu, while weaving mats and creating fine art sedge products are common in Kim Son and Yen Khanh. Other crafts include knitting bamboo and rattan in Gia Vien and Nho Quan and producing fine art stoneware in Ninh Van (Hoa Lu).

    Best Things to Do in Ninh Binh

    Enjoy a bike ride

    This is the best and easiest way to enjoy Ninh Binh. Bike rental services are highly popular in Ninh Binh, with many hotels and homestays offering bike rentals, some even free of charge. Unlike Hanoi, where traffic can be chaotic, Ninh Binh offers peaceful roads surrounded by rice fields and mountains adorned with beautiful lotus flowers. Before starting your ride, make sure to carefully check the bike and enjoy your ride!

    Hang Mua – Mua Cave

    Hang Mua, also known as Mua Cave, is a stunning tourist destination located in the core area of Trang An World Heritage Complex in Ninh Binh province, Vietnam. With its unique geological features and breathtaking views, Hang Mua has become a must-visit for travelers.

    To reach the top of Mua Mountain and enjoy the panoramic scenery, visitors need to climb approximately 500 stone steps. From Hang Mua, you can easily explore other famous landmarks in the Ninh Binh tourist route, such as Trang An, Thung Nham, Tam Coc Bich Dong, and Van Long Lagoon.

    Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Hang Mua Observation Deck, the only natural observatory in Ninh Binh, offering mesmerizing views of the surrounding landscape.

    Tham Nhung Bird Valley

    Tham Nhung Bird Valley is a hidden gem in Ninh Binh. Located about 15 kilometers from Ninh Binh city, this peaceful valley is home to a variety of bird species, making it a paradise for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.

    Visitors can explore the valley by walking along the trails and observing the birds in their natural habitat. The best time to visit is in the early morning or late afternoon when the birds are most active. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars and camera to capture the beauty of the birds and the surrounding scenery.

    Tham Nhung Bird Valley offers a tranquil escape from the bustling city and provides a unique opportunity to connect with nature. Take your time to enjoy the serenity and appreciate the diverse birdlife in this picturesque valley.

    Trang An

    Trang An is a popular tourist destination in Ninh Binh. It is renowned for its breathtaking natural landscapes, limestone karsts, and cave systems. Trang An holds the prestigious status of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized for its exceptional value in terms of both cultural and natural heritage.

    One of the main attractions in Trang An is its boat tours, allowing visitors to explore the area’s waterways, caves, and grottoes. These tours take visitors through a network of rivers and limestone formations, providing stunning vistas of the surrounding scenery. The tour guides navigate the boats using oars, creating a tranquil and serene experience.

    Hoa Lu

    Hoa Lu is the ancient capital of Vietnam and a must-visit destination in Ninh Binh. It was the capital of the Dinh and early Le dynasties in the 10th and 11th centuries. The site is rich in historical and cultural significance, with ancient temples, palaces, and tombs to explore. Hoa Lư offers a glimpse into Vietnam’s feudal era and provides a serene and picturesque setting surrounded by limestone karsts and lush greenery.

    Don’t miss the chance to visit the temples dedicated to the Dinh and Le kings, as well as the beautiful landscapes that make Hoa Lư a truly enchanting place to visit.

    Tam Coc

    Tam Coc, also known as “Three Caves,” is a popular tourist destination in Ninh Binh. It is famous for its scenic landscape of limestone karsts, rice fields, and winding rivers. Tam Coc is often referred to as the “Halong Bay on land” due to its resemblance to the famous Halong Bay. The best way to explore Tam Coc is by taking a boat ride along the Ngo Dong River, passing through three natural caves: Hang Ca, Hang Hai, and Hang Ba.

    As you glide through the calm waters, you will be mesmerized by the breathtaking beauty of the surroundings. The boat rowers often use their feet to paddle, which is a unique and traditional technique. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the stunning views along the way!

    >>> Check out: Tam Coc and Ninh Binh Travel Basics from Wanderingwheatleys

    Bich Dong

    Bich Dong Pagoda, constructed during the Le Dynasty, is known for its impressive size. The monks who built the pagoda are buried in tomb towers located on the temple grounds. During the Canh Hung period, the pagoda underwent restoration and expansion, resulting in the Lower Pagoda, Middle Pagoda, and Upper Pagoda. Each pagoda is built on the mountainside and follows the architectural style known as “Three Fonts”. One of the highlights of the pagoda is the “Bich Son bowl scene”, which showcases eight stunning scenes of Bich Dong.

    Bich Dong Pagoda

    To enter Ha Pagoda, visitors must cross a three-span stone bridge that stretches over a lotus pond. The pagoda itself features impressive architecture with five compartments, two floors, and eight curved roofs. It is situated on elevated ground at the base of the mountain. The stair columns and railings are predominantly made of green stone, enhancing the pagoda’s aesthetic appeal. Inside the temple, Buddha is worshipped, and there is a large picture in Chinese characters, “Mao Co Than Thanh,” displayed outside.

    Best Things to Do in Ninh Binh

    1. Visit Trang An: Take a serene boat ride and explore the stunning waterways, limestone karsts, and caves of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
    2. Hike up Hang Mua (Mua Cave): Climb the 500 stone steps to the top of Mua Mountain for a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape.
    3. Explore the Ancient Capital of Hoa Lu: Immerse yourself in Vietnam’s history by visiting the ancient temples, palaces, and tombs in Hoa Lu.
    4. Bicycle Ride through the Countryside: Enjoy the peaceful roads, rice fields, and beautiful landscapes of Ninh Binh on a bike ride.
    5. Birdwatch at Tham Nhung Bird Valley: Early morning or late afternoon visits offer the best opportunity to observe a variety of bird species in their natural habitat.
    6. Take a Boat Ride in Tam Coc: Known as the “Halong Bay on Land,” Tam Coc offers a scenic boat ride along the Ngo Dong River, passing through three natural caves.
    7. Visit Bich Dong Pagoda: Explore the three pagodas built into the mountainside during the Le Dynasty for a glimpse into Vietnam’s past.

    Here is the top local experiences to join in Ninh Binh

    Ninh Binh full day – Trang An boat trip – Dragon Mountain

    This popular tour takes you to Hoa Lu, Trang An, and Mua Cave (Dragon Mountain), where you can explore Vietnam’s 10th-century capital and its historic architecture.

    Hoa Lu – Trang An – Mua Cave ( Dragon Mountain) is the most popular tour offering you a opportunity to visit the Ancient Capital of Vietnam in the 10th Century under the reign of King Dinh Bo Linh and Le Hoan with talented queen Duong Van Nga who devoted her life for the country. You may visit the solemnly temples dated back to the 17th Century with old architecture.

    Herbal Bath & A Visit to Bodhi leaves Art & Herbal Workshop

    Enjoy a hot, authentic herbal bath with condensed extracts of essential oils and herbs from Sinh Duoc cooperative. Soak in stone bathtubs amidst greenery for a natural experience.

    Join the local experience in Ninh Binh on Airbnb Experience

    The herbal bath boosts circulation and digestion, providing relaxation in a serene setting. Enjoy bathing for up to 1.5 hours, adjusting water temperature to your liking.

    Complimentary snacks include herbal tea, cereals, and fruits served before or after the bath.

    Visit our Bodhi Leaves art display house, symbolizing awareness and enlightenment, and try our homemade apricot wine. Lastly, our nearby workshop welcomes you with health care products made from local herbs, enveloping you in the relaxing scent of essential oils.

    Hanoi: 3-Day Ninh Binh, Ha long, & Lan Ha Bay 5 Star Cruise

    Embark on a multi-day luxury cruise from Hanoi to discover Vietnam’s stunning landscapes. Visit Ninh Binh and Lan Ha, swim in azure waters, kayak through marine landscapes, and learn to cook traditional Vietnamese dishes. Immerse in local culture and create lifelong memories.

    Day 1: Hanoi – Ninh Binh Begin in Hanoi, travel to Ninh Binh, visit Bai Dinh Temple and UNESCO Heritage Site Trang An. Enjoy a boat ride, sightseeing in Tam Coc, and overnight at Ninh Binh Bungalow.

    Day 2: Ninh Binh – Ha Long Bay – Lan Ha Bay Transfer to Ha Long Bay after breakfast. Cruise through islets, Lan Ha Bay, and partake in kayaking, swimming, and cooking demonstrations. Relax onboard in the evening.

    Day 3: Lan Ha Bay – Ha Long Bay – Hanoi Start with Tai Chi on deck, kayak at Ao Ech or visit Trung Trang Cave. Enjoy Vietnamese lunch and speedboat back.

    Conclusion

    Ninh Binh is a fantastic travel destination with its stunning natural landscapes, rich history, and cultural attractions. Whether you’re exploring the karst mountains and rivers, visiting ancient temples and pagodas, or taking boat tours through caves and grottoes, Ninh Binh offers a diverse range of experiences for travelers. Don’t miss the chance to visit Hoa Lu, Trang An, Tam Coc, and Hang Mua. These attractions showcase the beauty and charm of Ninh Binh. Plan your trip to Ninh Binh and get ready for an unforgettable adventure!

    Is Ninh Binh, Vietnam worth visiting?

    Ninh Binh is a popular destination in Vietnam with rice fields, limestone mountains, and caves. It’s definitely worth a visit.

    Is a day trip to Ninh Binh worth it?

    Ninh Binh is definitely worth visiting, but it’s important to carefully choose which attractions to visit. Tam Coc is often overcrowded with tourists throughout the week, as it is the only destination offered by group tours in combination with Hoa Lu. On weekends, domestic tourists add to the crowds.

    Is it better to stay in Tam Coc or Ninh Binh?

    When visiting the Ninh Binh region of Vietnam, consider staying in the small town of Tam Coc instead of Ninh Binh town proper. Tam Coc is popular for its comfortable homestays and delicious restaurants.

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