Lying 93 km away from the south of Ha Noi, Ninh Binh is considered the bridge of the North and Central Vietnam. This province to the utter southern of Red River Delta lies in the neighborhood of Ha Nam and Nam Dinh to the east and northeast respectively, of Hoa Binh and the East Sea to the north and south in the same order.
In terms of size, Ninh Binh is 1,390 square kilometers with a capacity of 950,000 citizens and a possession of up to 1,499 time-honored historical and cultural relics, recognized provincially and nationally.
2. BEST TIME TO VISIT
Ninh Binh owns a pleasant atmosphere all year round with typical weather of northern Vietnam: dry and cool season during November-April, and the humid and hot period from May to October.
The most preferable time to enjoy Ninh Binh in its greenest scenery is between April and May and all rice fields are fully ripe, covering the whole landscape in its blossoming beauty.
Then from September to October, paddy fields come into harvest, turning from the rich green into glowing yellow.
Try to avoid December and February as there may come a lot of drizzles and don’t opt for peak season around Tet as it is usually overcrowded.
3. THINGS TO DO
Boat trips at Tam Coc and Trang An
Nothing can beat a boat trip as the best way to immerse in the charming of the natural surroundings.
Starting off at the most popular points Tam Coc and Trang An, small boats paddled by small but strong local women ride along a path of lakes and rivers, passing by various caves, paddy fields for tourists to enjoy the best Ninh Binh can offer.
Actually, there are other routes, depending on your itinerary. As Trang An is one of the most famous attractions in Vietnam, take into account the overcrowded, especially if you plan your trip at weekends and Vietnamese holidays.
The price range is around VND150,000 is for renting the boat/ maximum two people, and sometimes rises up to 200,000 in Trang An and there is no limit number of seats, normally over 4 passengers.
Once the former capital under the kingdom of Dinh and Le Dynasties in the 11th century, Hoa Lu is now among the most popular tourist hotspots in Vietnam, captivating tourists with its tranquil vibe and natural favor.
Although the whole complex may be a bit monotonous with only some old temples of Emperor Dinh Bo Linh and his sons and Le Dynasty royal temple, the surrounding landscapes and the melancholy of a bygone era are worth noticing.
To get the most insightful understanding into the historical and cultural value of this site, it’s highly recommended that you have an English fluent tour guide, who may help to bring out the best of Hoa Lu complex.
The price is about 10,000 VND for entry and 15,000 VND for parking.
A highly recommended complex of pagodas and caves is Bich Dong. Used to be the hiding spot of Viet Nam army under French invasion of the First Indochina War, the caves are enticing with a variety of Buddha images carved stalactites and hollow stalactites to create intriguing sounds as the wind flows by.
As climbing up the summit of the outcrop, you can enjoy the stunning panoramic views of the whole landscapes with the peaks glistening from the reflection of rice paddies. A little more efforts are required should you love to visit Quan Am statue and a shrine lying atop of the hill. Take exactly 500 steps and you won’t be dissatisfied by the whole view.
Bai Dinh Pagoda
Deemed as Vietnam’s biggest pagoda complex, Bai Dinh Pagoda, although fairly new, is captivating not by historical attraction but indeed an amazing temple. Situated on a hillside, this pagoda requires many challenging steps to reach but totally worths your visit.
En route, there is a multitude of Buddha statues built from large stones along the stairwells, leading all the way to majestic gold-covered statues and shrines at the top buildings.
Apart from the stunning view, the trip is also fascinating for other reasons. You can discover the cultural significance of family hangout in Vietnam, as different families enjoy an outing day at this pagoda. Another reason is that you can experience funny golf cart driving as you are transferred from the parking area to the pagoda.
Regarding the entrance fee, there is no charge, but there is a 30,000 fee for transport back and forth.
Phat Diem Cathedral
This cathedral plays a vital role in religious life in Vietnam as marking the introduction of Catholicism into Vietnam by French and Portuguese missionaries.
Established around 1875-1899 in the Sino-Vietnamese architecture style, the overall size of the main building is about 74m in length and 11m in height with an intricately carved stone entrance, surrounded by huge pillars in Ironwood, which all adds up into an impressive architecture. There are 3 masses per day, at 6:00, 10:00 and 16:00.
Cuc Phuong National Park
If you love to discover wildlife, it is a must that you visit Cuc Phuong National Park, a rich site of natural values with tropical forests and various caves, in which lots of ancient tools and tombs have brought into discovery.
You may either rent a motorbike, a bike to venture out in the park although the riders are required to pull more energy in hilly roads. Don’t choose to explore it on foot since the park center is quite far.
En route, there are many things to enjoy like the Mac Lake, the prehistoric cave with bats occupying now. If you love to discover inside, there is torch rented nearby at VND 10,000.
Upon reaching the park center, you can walk a few kilometers to a thousand-year-old tree, a botanical point for discovery taste and an ideal stop for rest. Another option is to visit the Palace Cave. Otherwise, there are a variety of choices for restaurants, cafes and shops inside the park for wandering around.
Biking in Nho Quan
In the northwest of Ninh Binh Province, Nho Quan is a little district but possesses breathtaking landscapes and ancient Asian constructions, such as Dong Chuong lake, Yen Quang Lake, Cuc Phuong national park, Van Trinh Cave, etc.
The scene is attractive with limestones and the bending river, it is considered as a top natural view in Viet Nam. Biking trip becomes common in the area, tourist can easily find bicycle hiring agencies with reasonable charge.
For more detail, bike renting is provided at Tam Coc, Van Lam, Ninh Hai, Hoa Lu Ninh Binh quay. Price at 4 USD/day.
Boat trip in Van Long Nature Reserve
The wetland of Van Long Nature Reserve owns itself picturesque landscapes that would make you blurt out the word “woah!!”. It is also the residence for many species and mammal-like birds, monkeys, reptiles, etc.
A trip on the rowing bamboo boat, which takes tourists slowly on the mellow water through magnificent limestone karts and hidden caves would be the best worth cruising ever. Moreover, tourists can explore the wildlife of diverse local flora and fauna.
Climbing Mua Cave
Being extolled as the “Vietnamese Great Wall”, Mua Cave is a beautiful natural place of Hoa Lu district, Ninh Binh. Tourists not only contemplate the breathtaking panorama of endless yellow fields, scattered limestones, and the stunning Ngo Dong river but also admire the greatness of ancient heritage. Not to forget the journey of 500 steps to the mount peak for time-honored Quan Am altar and the stunning vista.
Explore Thung Nham Bird Garden
This is a must-visit destination in Ninh Binh to anyone who loves to emerge in the wild environment with the good-natured avians. Moreover, tourists are able to spend the day camping, fishing and hiring a boat to enjoy the scenic view.
You will have to pay a small amount of entrance fee, about 4 dollars per person, restaurants are also built in the area.
On the occasion that you are going to travel with Asia Links Travel, we definitely can guarantee that you will have the most brilliant and quality time in Ninh Binh - the former capital of Vietnam.
4. HOW TO GET THERE
From the capital of Ha Noi, it is easy to transfer to many captivating natural wonders by any means of transport. To visit Ninh Binh (about 90 km away), you can choose one of these options:
- By bus/van: Takes 2.5 hours. Cost from 3.5$ (depends on bus company and class). Available for seat and bed tickets with air-conditioner. Tickets available every day. Van takes faster. Cost from 4$.
Company: Hoang Long, Queen Café, Dong Chin, Sao Viet, Hoang Thin, Anh Dong, Ngoc Hung, etc.
- By train: Takes 2.5 hours. Cost from 3$ (depends on class). Air-conditioner provided, good service. Tickets available every day.
The train station in Ha Noi: Ha Noi Railway Station 120 Le Duan street.
Train Station in Ninh Binh: Ninh Binh Railway Station 1 Hoang Hoa Tham.
- By motorbike: Takes 2.5 hours. Cost from 5-8$ per day (fuel is on you).
Bike renting website: chothuexemayhanoi.net, motorbikeshanoi.com.
- By taxi: Takes about 2 hours. Cost 60-130 USD for one way (1-3 people in the vehicle).
5. DOS AND DON'TS
Do prepare to walk
As most of Ninh Binh’s tourist attractions are natural heritages, walking is the most ideal way to explore stunning sites. As you spend a good many hours under sun exposure, make sure to prepare proper clothes and footwear.
Don't forget to bring cash
Don’t expect to withdraw money from convenient ATMs among nature and laid-back villages. Therefore, bring more cash than you may need in case of an emergency.
Do well-plan your trip
Like other destinations in Viet Nam, Ninh Binh offers such a multitude of attractions that without careful preparation and plan, you would certainly miss out on some must-see. As a result, plan out all your stops, things to do and things to buy for a perfect trip.
Do getting around by bike
For a budget trip, you may opt for renting your own motorbike as it is more affordable than cars and packaged tours. However, make sure you can drive well and be highly cautious due to Vietnam's crazy traffic.