Ninh Binh, often referred to as the “Ha Long Bay on Land,” is a region of breathtaking natural beauty located just a few hours from Hanoi. With its limestone karst formations, lush rice paddies, and winding waterways, Ninh Binh is a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.
While the town of Ninh Binh doesn’t boast many specific “sights,” it offers an excellent starting point for venturing into some of Vietnam’s most picturesque and unspoiled areas. Ninh Binh town typically serves as a gateway to destinations like Tam Coc, Van Long, and Hoa Lu.
Although it may not have the same level of fame as other places in the country, Ninh Binh town is a splendid choice for nature enthusiasts, thanks to its rugged limestone landscapes. As more popular destinations like Halong Bay and Sapa become increasingly crowded, Ninh Binh presents itself as an ideal option for those seeking a less-traveled path.
1. Trang An Landscape Complex
One of the defining features of Trang An is its remarkable karst landscape. Massive limestone karsts, formed over millions of years, dominate the scenery. These karsts have been shaped by erosion and contain numerous caves and grottoes waiting to be explored. The complex boasts over 30 grottos and caves, each with its own unique charm.
The caves of Trang An are a highlight of any visit. The most famous among them is the Hang Mua Cave, also known as the “Dancing Cave” due to its intricate stalactite formations that resemble dancers. Visitors can take a boat ride through this mystical cave, marveling at the shimmering stalactites hanging from the cave ceiling.
Embark on a mesmerizing journey through enchanting caves, where you can immerse yourself in breathtaking landscapes and explore ancient temples along the way.
Traveling by boat is a popular way to explore the scenic beauty of Trang An. The boat trips typically span approximately 2 hours, allowing you to immerse yourself in the tranquil surroundings. Situated just 7 kilometers away from Ninh Binh town, Trang An is conveniently accessible for a day trip.
2. Thung Nham Bird Garden
Surprisingly, the Thung Nham Bird Garden remains a hidden gem in Ninh Binh, making it a regrettable oversight for travelers seeking picturesque destinations worth exploring.
Located amidst the majestic mountains, this park is renowned for being a haven for a diverse array of indigenous bird species, who choose this sanctuary as their nesting grounds.
If you have the opportunity, consider visiting the park during the early morning or late afternoon hours. During these times, you will be able to witness a stunning display of colorful birds perched on the trees.
Besides the avian species, one can also indulge in the recreational activity of fishing within the park’s premises. Furthermore, depending on the time of year, it is even possible to partake in the delightful experience of camping.
3. Tam Coc
Situated just outside the bustling town of Ninh Binh, Tam Coc is a hidden gem for nature enthusiasts seeking an authentic travel experience in Vietnam. Despite its lack of popularity among tourists, it has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the country’s top natural destinations.
Tam Coc is a popular travel destination renowned for its breathtaking karst landscape, reminiscent of the famous Halong Bay. This enchanting region boasts picturesque limestone hills scattered amidst vibrant emerald green rice paddies, creating a truly mesmerizing sight to behold.
Halong Bay offers magnificent cliffs that are larger in size. However, it tends to be more crowded. On the other hand, Tam Coc is the perfect destination for those seeking a more secluded experience. Here, you can venture off the popular routes and immerse yourself in the tranquil surroundings. Exploring the area by boat is highly recommended and typically takes approximately two hours.
4. Phat Diem Cathedral
Located approximately 34 kilometers from the heart of Ninh Binh, Phat Diem Cathedral is a captivating destination nestled amidst picturesque canals and lush rice paddies.
Phat Diem, known as the ‘Vatican of Vietnam’ in the colonial era, was a remarkable destination for travelers, serving as the central place of worship for the commune.
The cathedral, constructed in 1898, showcases a captivating blend of Vietnamese and Western architectural influences. Its design encompasses two gothic chapels and features impressive iron wood columns.
The grandeur of the cathedral and its picturesque location make it a must-see attraction in the Ninh Binh district for travelers.
5. Van Long Nature Reserve
If you’re looking to continue your travel adventures beyond Ninh Binh, consider visiting Van Long, a captivating wetland reserve that offers a haven for avid birdwatchers.
Since this is a travel destination, you will be delighted to explore the abundant local flora and fauna in this protected area. If you are a nature enthusiast, make sure to include it in your itinerary to witness the vibrant Vietnamese wildlife.
When traveling to Vietnam, you will have the opportunity to explore the vibrant wetlands, which serve as a natural habitat for a diverse range of species including monkeys, reptiles, and birds.
6. Bich Dong Pagoda
Just beyond Tam Coc lies a captivating pagoda that has stood since the 15th century, making it one of the most intriguing landmarks in the area.
Located on the side of a mountain, the Bich Dong Pagoda beckons travelers with its enchanting allure. This remarkable site comprises three distinct levels, known as the Ha, Trung, and Thuong Pagodas, each offering a unique and captivating experience.
These temples are ingeniously integrated with caves that you can also venture into during your visit.
When embarking on a thrilling journey to reach the summit of these magnificent pagodas nestled within the rugged cliffs, one can anticipate a challenging ascent. However, the reward lies in the breathtaking vistas that await at the pinnacle.
7. Hoa Lu
Hoa Lu is a fantastic destination for travelers looking to explore the beauty of Ninh Binh. While some tourists may choose to visit nearby Tam Coc and Van Long instead, Hoa Lu should not be missed.
Did you know that Hoa Lu served as the ancient capital of Vietnam in the 10th century? It boasts a magnificent citadel, brimming with picturesque temples waiting to be discovered at your own pace.
For that reason, it is well worth traveling here if you are in the region.
8. Cuc Phuong National Park
Cuc Phuong National Park, established in 1962, stands as a prominent national park in Vietnam. It plays a vital role in preserving the extensive protected areas in Ninh Binh, primarily addressing the conservation needs of the local wildlife, which has faced significant threats due to poaching.
The park now encompasses an impressive expanse of 222 square kilometers, characterized by lush tropical forests that provide a habitat for a diverse range of wildlife. During your visit, you can encounter a remarkable variety of fauna, including 307 bird species, 133 mammal species, and 122 reptile species.
Moreover, the park boasts an astounding array of over 2,000 plant species, making it an absolute must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts.
9. Admire Chua Bai Dinh
Chua Bai Dinh is a vibrant Buddhist temple complex situated on a picturesque hill near Ninh Binh town.
Constructed in 2014, this temple has swiftly risen to prominence as one of the region’s premier attractions.
As you embark on your journey, you’ll traverse pathways adorned with 500 stone arhats, representing enlightened Buddhists. As you venture further, you will discover the magnificent Phap Chu Pagoda, gracefully spanning across three tiers.
Notably, the temple houses a colossal bronze Buddha weighing 100 tons and standing at a majestic height of 10 meters. Additionally, you’ll find two smaller gilded Buddhas within its premises.
10. Mua Cave
Situated in the vicinity of picturesque rice paddies lies the Mua Cave, offering breathtaking vistas of the nearby peaks.
You will encounter a stone staircase that leads you to the entrance of the cave, where you will pass by mysterious karst formations.
Once you have traveled up the 500 steps, you will reach the summit where the altar of Quan Am awaits. Quan Am is a highly respected deity known as the Goddess of Mercy. From this vantage point, you will be treated to breathtaking views that stretch all the way down to the Ngo Dong River.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Ninh Binh: Best Areas & Hotels
Q: Is Ninh Binh suitable for solo travelers?
A: Absolutely! Ninh Binh offers activities and experiences for solo travelers, including hiking and boat tours.
Q: When is the best time to visit Ninh Binh?
A: The best time to visit Ninh Binh is during the dry season from November to April when the weather is pleasant.
Q: Are there any eco-friendly tours available in Ninh Binh?
A: Yes, Ninh Binh promotes eco-tourism, and you can find eco-friendly tours that support conservation efforts.
Q: What should I wear when visiting religious sites in Ninh Binh?
A: It’s respectful to wear modest clothing when visiting temples and pagodas, covering your shoulders and knees.
Q: How can I book a boat tour in Ninh Binh?
A: You can easily book a boat tour through local tour operators or your accommodation in Ninh Binh.