Ninh Binh is just a small province in Vietnam with modest acreage, but it boasts quite a few attractive tourist spots. Its strengths in tourism lie in its history and natural landscapes, including mountains, caves, and forests. This article will introduce you to some basic information about Ninh Binh tourism, as well as the best places to visit in Ninh Binh.
Overview of Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh is located in the Red River Delta region of Vietnam, about 100 kilometers from Hanoi capital. It covers a natural area of approximately 1,386 square kilometers and has a population of around 952,000 people. This is a city with a rich history and numerous beautiful landmarks. With three-quarters of its area covered by hills and mountains, Ninh Binh has diverse limestone karst landscapes and a rich flora and fauna, which have given rise to many tourist destinations with stunning natural scenery that attract travelers. Some of the famous places include Tam Coc – Bich Dong, and Cuc Phuong National Park.
One of the most special tourist attractions in Ninh Binh is Trang An. This area features numerous limestone karst formations that resemble those in Halong Bay, but since there’s no sea, it’s often compared to “Halong Bay on land.”
Best Time to Visit Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh is located in northern Vietnam, just 100 kilometers from Hanoi, so its climate is quite similar. It experiences four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. The winter season is characterized by dry and cold weather, while the summer season is hot and humid with frequent rainfall. The most favorable time for sightseeing in Ninh Binh is from November to March, with an average temperature of around 23 degrees Celsius. This period also sees many festivals and events taking place in the area.
Transportation to Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh doesn’t have an airport, but it’s relatively close to the capital, Hanoi, so you won’t need much time to travel there. You can choose to travel from Hanoi by car using the highway system, which takes only about an hour to reach the tourist destinations in Ninh Binh.
The second option is to take a train. However, this is not a very popular choice for tourists because it may not be very convenient in this case, as you would have to depend on the train schedule and it could take more time.
Best Places to Visit in Ninh Binh
To fully explore Ninh Binh, you shouldn’t miss the following must-visit places:
Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex
Trang An is the most famous tourist destination in Ninh Binh, attracting millions of visitors each year. In 2014, the Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex became the first and only mixed heritage site in Southeast Asia to be recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural and Natural Heritage. This area was also chosen as a filming location for the spectacular and mystical scenes in the world-famous movie “Kong: Skull Island.”
The breathtaking landscape of Trang An is formed by winding rivers flowing through limestone mountains, complemented by hundreds of natural caves, which lend a mystical beauty to the area. To explore Trang An, you will sit on a boat and travel along the meandering river to admire the majestic natural scenery all around. There are a total of three different routes to choose from, depending on your preferences, with the starting and ending point being the Trang An boat pier.
You can refer to the Hanoi – Ninh Binh – Trang An – Hoa Lu tour to explore Tràng An in one day from Hanoi.
Tam Coc – Bich Dong
Tam Coc means “Three Caves,” with a chain of three caves including Hang Ca, Hang Hai, and Hang Ba, formed by the Ngo Dong River cutting through the mountains. Bich Dong is located 2 kilometers from Tam Coc. Tam Coc – Bich Dong is also a location within the Trang An tourism complex. The typical itinerary for exploring this area usually involves visiting Bich Dong Pagoda to get an overview from a high vantage point, and then you can take a boat ride down the Ngo Dong River to explore Tam Coc, admiring the caves and the golden rice fields on both sides.
View tour: Hanoi – Ninh Binh – Hoa Lu – Tam Coc
Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
Hoa Lu Ancient Capital is an important historical relic in Vietnam. It is also one of the four core zones of the Trang An UNESCO World Heritage site. This is where various historical architectural structures, fortifications, caves, tombs, and ancient temples have been preserved for hundreds of years.
Cuc Phuong National Park
Cuc Phuong National Park covers a total area of 22,000 hectares, making it one of Vietnam’s most important nature conservation areas. With a diverse ecosystem featuring over 300 rare bird species and the conservation of 2,000 unique plant species, Cuc Phuong National Park is one of the most remarkable places in Ninh Binh that you shouldn’t miss.
Bai Dinh Pagoda
The Bai Dinh Pagoda complex was built in 2003 and spans over 500 hectares, surrounded by majestic limestone mountain arcs. It is the largest spiritual complex with unique architecture in Vietnam. You can explore it on foot or by electric vehicle due to its extensive size.
When visiting Bai Dinh Pagoda, you’ll have the opportunity to see numerous relics and prominent spiritual sites, including the Jade Well, the largest bronze bell in Vietnam, and many fascinating legends.
Mua Caves is a cave located at the base of Mua Mountain in Hoa Lu district, about a 15-minute drive from Trang An. To reach the summit of Mua Caves, you’ll need to climb about 500 stone steps, but the reward is well worth it. From the top of Mua Caves, you can enjoy a stunning panoramic view of Ninh Binh, with its meandering rivers, ripe golden rice fields, and majestic mountains. You can spend around 2-3 hours at the tourist site for exploration and photography.
Am Tien Cave
Am Tien Cave is situated in Hoa Lu district, more than 10 kilometers from the center of Ninh Binh city. It is nestled within a valley surrounded by majestic limestone cliffs, with a refreshing blue-water lake in the middle. Access to this scenic spot can be a bit challenging. In the past, the only way to reach it was by climbing a mountain into the valley. Nowadays, you can reach the area through a tunnel that goes through the mountain.
Phat Diem Stone Cathedral
Phat Diem Cathedral, located 28 kilometers from the center of Ninh Binh city, is a unique architectural masterpiece with intricate details and exquisite carvings. This site has a history of over 120 years and took 30 years to complete.
Hotels and Resorts in Ninh Binh
The accommodation options in Ninh Binh are quite diverse for you to choose from. In the budget segment, you can choose from various homestays near tourist attractions with costs ranging from around 10-20 USD per night, such as Ninh Binh Palm Homestay, Ninh Binh Friendly Homestay, Hang Mua Family Homestay, and more.
If you prefer a more luxurious experience, including amenities like swimming pools, spas, gyms, bars, etc., you can opt for 4-5 star hotels or resorts here, which typically cost around 80-200 USD per night. Examples include Emeralda Resort Ninh Binh, Tam Coc Lavender Homestay, Ninh Binh Hidden Charm Hotel and Resort, Aravinda Resort Ninh Binh, and others.
Ninh Binh Cuisine
Cuisine in Ninh Binh doesn’t offer a wide variety of choices, but there are two famous dishes in Ninh Binh that every traveler must try: Goat meat and Crispy Rice.
Goat meat from the Ninh Binh mountains is a specialty here. The goats are raised on the hills of Ninh Binh, and their meat is used to create various dishes, such as grilled goat meat, lemon-marinated goat meat, stir-fried goat meat, and more. Enjoyed with a special dipping sauce, it makes for a very enticing dish for tourists.
Ninh Binh’s crispy rice is also a popular choice for many meals. This dish is made from rice and goes through multiple processing stages to achieve a crispy and crunchy texture that melts in your mouth when you eat it.
Here are some places you can consider:
- Duc De Ninh Binh Restaurant – 446 Nguyen Hue, Ninh Binh
- Chinh Thu Goat Meat Restaurant – Khe Thuong, Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh
Notes When Visiting Ninh Binh
Prepare appropriate clothing for the weather and terrain in Ninh Binh. It’s best to wear sneakers or sports shoes, shorts, a T-shirt, and add a jacket if it’s cold. Common activities when visiting Ninh Binh include walking, hiking, cycling, and rowing.
When sitting on a boat to explore the caves, you must follow the instructions of the boatman to ensure safety. Additionally, you should wear a life jacket and adhere to the regulations of the tourist area.
With its convenient geographical location near the capital city of Hanoi and its beautiful landscapes, Ninh Binh is an ideal travel destination for those with limited time. In just one or two days, you can explore most of the main tourist attractions in Ninh Binh, including Trang An, Tam Coc, and Bich Dong, which are must-visit locations. We offer day tours to Ninh Binh from Hanoi for families; please contact our consultants if you’re interested.