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Ninh Binh, located in northern Vietnam, is a captivating destination known for its stunning natural landscapes, ancient temples, and cultural heritage. Often referred to as the “Halong Bay on land,” Ninh Binh offers a unique blend of picturesque limestone mountains, vibrant rice fields, and various little rivers. This enchanting region provides a tranquil and immersive experience for travelers seeking to explore Vietnam’s lesser-known gems.
Discover the 10 best things to do in Ninh Binh for the ultimate Vietnam adventure.
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10 Best Things to Do in Ninh Binh, Vietnam
Visit Tam Coc
Tam Coc, often referred to as the “Halong Bay on land,” is a breathtaking destination located in Ninh Binh. It is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, with towering limestone karsts, lush green rice fields, and meandering rivers creating a picturesque landscape. Visiting and soaking in the beauty of Tam Coc is one of the best things to do in Ninh Binh.
The name “Tam Coc” translates to “Three Caves,” and it refers to the three caves that can be explored during a boat tour along the Ngo Dong River. The caves are formed by the erosion of limestone over centuries, and they offer a unique and enchanting experience.
A typical boat tour in Tam Coc begins at the Tam Coc Wharf, where you board a small sampan boat rowed by local boatwomen. These skilled rowers use their feet to propel the boat, leaving their hands free to steer. It’s a traditional and impressive technique that has been passed down through generations.
As you embark on the boat tour, you’ll be mesmerized by the surrounding natural beauty. The boat gently glides along the river, passing through lush rice fields that change colors depending on the season. The karst formations rise majestically from the landscape, creating a breathtaking backdrop. The boat tour lasts approximately two hours, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the tranquility of the surroundings.
The best time to visit Tam Coc and enjoy the boat tour is during the dry season, from November to April when the weather is pleasant and the rice fields are in their vibrant green color. However, Tam Coc’s beauty can be appreciated throughout the year, each season offering a unique charm.
Climb Hang Mua Peak
Climbing Hang Mua Peak is easily one of the best things to do in Ninh Binh fantastic. Hang Mua Peak, also known as Mua Cave, is a limestone mountain located near Tam Coc. The highlight of this attraction is the panoramic view it offers from the top, overlooking the stunning landscape of Tam Coc and the Ngo Dong River.
To climb Hang Mua Peak, you’ll need to ascend a series of steep stone steps, totaling around 500 steps. The climb can be moderately challenging, so it’s recommended to wear comfortable shoes and bring water with you. Once you reach the peak, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding karst formations, rice fields, and the winding river below. It’s a perfect spot to capture stunning photographs, especially during sunrise or sunset when the colors of the landscape are truly magical.
Besides the climb, there is also a temple complex located at the foot of the mountain that you can explore. The temple features ornate architecture and offers a glimpse into the local spiritual practices. On the top of the highest peak of Hang Mua, there is a stone-carved dragon watching over the valley!
Visit Trang An Landscape Complex
Visiting Trang An offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Vietnam, witness stunning scenery, and explore caves with cultural and historical significance. It’s a place where nature, history, and spirituality converge, providing a memorable experience for visitors. Visiting here is one of the top things to do in Ninh Binh that seems very similar to Tam Coc but there are distinct differences between the two. Here are the key differences.
- Landscape: Trang An is a vast landscape complex that encompasses a larger area compared to Tam Coc. It features a more diverse range of limestone karsts, rivers, caves, and lush greenery. The scenery in Trang An is often considered more varied and expansive, offering a grander and more immersive natural experience.
- Boat Tours: Both Trang An and Tam Coc offer boat tours as the main way to explore their respective landscapes. However, the boat tour in Trang An is more extensive and longer in duration, usually lasting around 3 to 4 hours. The tour in Trang An takes you through a larger network of waterways, including more caves and scenic spots, providing a more comprehensive exploration.
- Cave Systems: While both Trang An and Tam Coc have caves, the cave systems differ in terms of size and quantity. Trang An boasts a larger number of caves, including the famous Hang Mua cave, which offers a unique climbing experience. Tam Coc, on the other hand, is specifically known for the “Three Caves” (Tam Coc), where the boat tour takes you through Hang Ca, Hang Hai, and Hang Ba caves.
- Cultural Significance: Trang An has a greater historical and cultural significance compared to Tam Coc. Trang An has archaeological sites, ancient temples, and pagodas within its complex, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the region. It was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its cultural and natural values. Tam Coc, while offering beautiful scenery, is primarily known for its natural beauty rather than historical or cultural significance.
- Tourist Crowds: Due to its larger size and UNESCO recognition, Trang An tends to attract more tourists compared to Tam Coc. Tam Coc, being smaller in scale, may offer a relatively quieter and more intimate experience.
Explore Bai Dinh Pagoda
Bai Dinh Pagoda is a significant religious and cultural site located in Ninh Binh province, Vietnam. It is the largest Buddhist complex in Southeast Asia and attracts visitors from around the world. When visiting Bai Dinh Pagoda, remember to dress modestly and respectfully, as it is a religious site. It’s advisable to allocate ample time to explore the entire complex and soak in the spiritual and cultural ambiance that Bai Dinh offers.
Enjoy Local Vietnamese Food
Enjoying local Vietnamese food is one of the top things to do in Ninh Binh that allows you to savor the flavors and culinary traditions of the country. Here are some popular Vietnamese dishes that you should try:
- Banh Mi
- Bun Cha
- Banh Xeo
- Com Tam
- Cha Ca
Visit Bich Dong Pagoda
Bich Dong Pagoda is a beautiful and historic Buddhist temple located in Ninh Binh. Nestled at the base of a limestone mountain and surrounded by picturesque scenery, this three-tiered pagoda showcases a blend of Vietnamese and Chinese architectural styles. As you ascend through the cave-like passages, you’ll discover ornate halls, altars, and statues. Visiting here is one of the top things to do in Ninh Binh.
The serene atmosphere, with tranquil ponds and towering karsts, creates a perfect setting for meditation and reflection. From the higher levels, breathtaking views of the countryside, including rice fields and winding rivers, can be enjoyed. With its rich cultural significance and stunning beauty, Bich Dong Pagoda offers an opportunity to experience Vietnamese spirituality and immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Ninh Binh.
Cycle through the Countryside
Cycling through the countryside is one of the top things to do in Ninh Binh. This is a captivating experience that allows you to immerse yourself in the region’s natural beauty and rural charm. As you pedal along scenic routes, you’ll be treated to breathtaking vistas of lush green fields, limestone karsts, and meandering rivers. The tranquil atmosphere and authentic village life provide a glimpse into the traditional way of living in Vietnam.
Passing by rice paddies, encountering friendly locals, and exploring cultural sites add depth and cultural immersion to your cycling adventure. With flexible itineraries and the freedom to explore at your own pace, cycling through the countryside in Ninh Binh offers a rejuvenating escape and an opportunity to connect with the serene landscapes and rich heritage of the region.
Explore Cuc Phuong National Park
Visiting Cuc Phuong National Park offers a unique opportunity to delve into the remarkable biodiversity, stunning landscapes, and cultural heritage of Vietnam. Whether you’re interested in wildlife, adventure, or simply seeking a serene escape into nature, Cuc Phuong National Park provides an unforgettable experience.
Drink Coffee With a View
Indulging in a cup of coffee with a view of Ninh Binh is a delightful experience that allows you to embrace the region’s natural beauty. Whether you choose a café overlooking the mesmerizing karst landscapes and winding rivers of Tam Coc, or opt for a tranquil spot within the Trang An complex, the breathtaking scenery adds an extra layer of enjoyment to your coffee break.
Alternatively, in the lush surroundings of Cuc Phuong National Park, you can find a peaceful refuge amidst the verdant forests to sip your coffee while being serenaded by nature’s symphony. Enjoying a specialty coffee with a view of the lush mountains is easily one of the best things to do in Ninh Binh.
Admire Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
Hoa Lu Ancient Capital of Ninh Binh is a captivating destination where history comes alive. As the former capital of Vietnam during the Dinh and early Le dynasties, it holds immense historical and cultural significance. Exploring Hoa Lu allows you to admire the remnants of majestic temples, pagodas, and royal palaces, showcasing the architectural grandeur of the past. It is one of the top things to do in Ninh Binh to see and experience the rich history of the region.
Surrounded by picturesque landscapes of rice paddies and limestone karsts, the ancient capital offers a serene and enchanting ambiance. Whether you’re immersing yourself in the historical narratives, marveling at the intricate imperial architecture, or simply taking in the scenic views, a visit to Hoa Lu Ancient Capital is a journey back in time and an opportunity to appreciate the rich heritage of Vietnam.
Where To Stay in Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh offers a range of accommodation options to suit different preferences and budgets. Here are some popular areas and types of accommodations to consider when choosing where to stay in Ninh Binh:
- Ninh Binh City: The city center of Ninh Binh provides a convenient base for exploring the region. Here, you’ll find a variety of hotels, guesthouses, and homestays offering comfortable accommodations with easy access to amenities, restaurants, and transportation options. This is a good choice if you prefer a more urban setting.
- Tam Coc (BEST OPTION): Tam Coc is a popular tourist area known for its stunning limestone karst landscapes and river views. It offers a range of accommodation options, including boutique hotels, resorts, and homestays, many of which provide picturesque views of the surrounding countryside. Staying in Tam Coc allows you to be close to popular attractions and enjoy a tranquil atmosphere.
- Trang An: Trang An is another scenic area in Ninh Binh with its limestone formations and river routes. There are accommodations available in this area, providing easy access to Trang An Landscape Complex and nearby attractions. Staying in Trang An allows you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the region.
- Cuc Phuong National Park: If you’re interested in exploring the national park, you may consider staying within or near Cuc Phuong National Park. There are lodges, bungalows, and guesthouses available that offer closer proximity to the park’s trails and wildlife. This option is ideal for nature enthusiasts and those seeking a peaceful retreat.
When to Visit Nihn Binh
The best time to visit Ninh Binh is during the dry season, which typically lasts from November to April. During this time, the weather is generally pleasant, with lower humidity and less rainfall. The months of March and April, in particular, offer comfortable temperatures and beautiful landscapes as the region is lush and green after the rainy season.
It’s worth noting that Ninh Binh can get crowded with tourists during peak travel periods, so if you prefer a quieter experience, it’s advisable to visit during the shoulder seasons of November to December or February to March. However, do keep in mind that weather patterns can vary, and it’s always a good idea to check the forecast before planning your trip.
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