Nestled in the Red River Delta of Northern Vietnam, Ninh Binh is a captivating destination that offers a perfect mix of natural beauty, rich history, and cultural significance. If you are planning a trip to the S-shaped country, make sure to include Ninh Binh at the top of your Vietnam travel itinerary.
1. An overview of Ninh Binh Province in Vietnam
Ninh Binh is a province located in the northern region of Vietnam, approximately 90 kilometers south of Hanoi. It is famed for its stunning natural beauty, rich history, and unique cultural heritage.
Ninh Binh province boasts many popular tourist attractions, such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Trang An Landscape Complex, the stunning Tam Coc that is often called "Ha Long Bay on land", the breathtaking Bai Dinh Pagoda, and many more.
In addition to its natural beauty, Ninh Binh also has a rich history dating back thousands of years. It was once the capital of Vietnam during the Dinh and early Le dynasties, and many of the historical relics and monuments from this time period can still be seen today.
Ninh Binh has a humid subtropical climate, with hot and rainy summers from May to September. The winters are cold and dry from November to March, with transitional periods of spring and autumn occurring in April and October. The temperature averages about 23.5 degrees Celsius, making it a great destination to visit at any time of the year.
2. When is the best time to visit Ninh Binh Vietnam?
Ninh Binh is a year-round destination, but two periods of the year stand out for their breathtaking scenery:
- From January to March: Ninh Binh enters the spring season with slightly cool and refreshing weather, making it the perfect time for sightseeing trips to majestic mountains and temples during the first days of the new year.
- From April to June: Ninh Binh boasts fluttering butterfly flocks throughout Cuc Phuong National Park and picturesque rice fields in Tam Coc. This season offers the perfect opportunity to appreciate the stunning scenery here.
>>> Check out the best time to visit Vietnam to fully experience all the incredible things this country has to offer!
3. How to reach Ninh Binh and get around during the tour?
3.1. To go to Ninh Binh
To reach Ninh Binh from Hanoi, you can take a bus from Giap Bat Bus Station or a limousine bus, with tickets ranging from 100,000 to 150,000 VND. The travel time from Hanoi to Ninh Binh is about 2 hours.
For those coming from Ho Chi Minh City, flights to Hanoi are available on airlines such as Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet Air, and Jetstar, followed by a bus journey to Ninh Binh using the same options as above. One-way ticket prices range from 900,000 to 1.3 million VND.
Tourists from other provinces can also take the train, with tickets available for purchase on the website of Vietnam Railways or at the train station. The Ninh Binh train station is conveniently located in the city center.
If you prefer to drive, follow the Giap Bat – Phap Van – Cau Gie expressway from Hanoi and head towards Phu Ly, which will lead you to Ninh Binh.
3.2. To explore Ninh Binh
To get around the city, it is recommended to rent a motorbike for around 100,000 to 150,000 VND per day, as the tourist attractions in Ninh Binh are quite far from each other. If you are traveling in a group, calling a taxi is a more cost-effective option.
4. The 10 top-rated places to visit in Ninh Binh Vietnam
Ninh Binh boasts a wealth of captivating attractions to explore. The following is a list of the top 10 must-visit places in the region:
4.1. Cuc Phuong National Park in Ninh Binh
Exploring the natural beauty of Cuc Phuong is one of the best things to do in Ninh Binh. As Vietnam's first national park, it boasts a diverse array of flora and fauna, including rare and endangered species that are sure to captivate nature enthusiasts.
One of the park's most spectacular attractions is the butterfly season that occurs from April to June, when thousands of colorful butterflies can be seen fluttering around. If you happen to be here during this time, you can take guided tours through the park to witness this beautiful spectacle and learn about the park's ecology.
Besides the butterfly season, visitors can also explore the park's many hiking trails, visit the Endangered Primate Rescue Center, and discover the ancient caves and limestone formations scattered throughout the park.
4.2. Trang An Ninh Binh Vietnam
Trang An is a popular vacation spot in Ninh Binh, known for its stunning karst formations that include limestone mountains, caves, and rivers. Its exceptional beauty has made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a filming location for the movie Kong: Skull Island.
To explore Trang An, you can take a boat tour along the winding riverways, passing through several caves to marvel at the stunning natural beauty here. Alternatively, you can hike up one of the mountains for a panoramic view of the area. The hiking trail is well-maintained and easy, making it accessible to most visitors.
Whether you choose to explore Trang An by boat or on foot, you will be treated to an unforgettable experience. Admission to Trang An costs 250,000 VND for adults and 100,000 VND for children under 1.4 meters, while a tour guide is available for an additional fee of 300,000 VND.
4.3. Mua Caves Ninh Binh
Mua Caves, also known as Hang Mua, is an outstanding attraction among the many Vietnam caves, offering breathtaking views from the top of Mua Mountain. Legend has it that Emperor Tran Thai Tong used to watch dance performances at this site, which led to the name "Hang Mua," or "dancing cave".
To reach the summit of Mua Mountain, you will embark on a steep climb of around 500 steps. However, the climb is well worth the effort, as you will be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the surrounding majestic mountains and vast rice fields. The caves themselves feature intricate carvings and ancient shrines, adding to the overall charm and historical significance of this tourist spot.
For the best experience, you should visit Mua Caves early in the morning or late afternoon, when the sun is not as intense and the view is at its best. The entrance fee to Hang Mua is 100,000 VND per person.
4.4. Tam Coc Bich Dong Ninh Binh
Tam Coc Bich Dong is a nature lover's paradise. It boasts picturesque limestone karsts rising from rice paddies and the tranquil Ngo Dong River that flows through the area. During the rice season, the fields turn golden yellow, adding to the stunning views that earned it the nickname "Ha Long Bay on land".
The name "Tam Coc" means "three caves" in Vietnamese, and it refers to the three natural caves that can be explored by a Ninh Binh boat tour. The boat ride will take you through a winding riverway, with the caves on either side. The scenery is stunning, with lush green rice paddies and rural villages visible in the distance.
The area is also home to the remarkable Bich Dong Pagoda. It was built into a mountain and consists of three levels. Surrounded by lush greenery and a tranquil pond, this pagoda offers an ideal location for quiet reflection and meditation. It was constructed in the 15th century and is still actively used for worship today, adding to its cultural and historical significance.
Admission to the area costs 120,000 VND per person, while a boat ride in Tam Coc costs 150,000 VND per trip.
4.5. Bai Dinh Ninh Binh Pagoda
Bai Dinh Pagoda is a must-visit site in Ninh Binh for those interested in Buddhism and Vietnamese culture. Covering 539 hectares, it is one of the largest temple complexes in Southeast Asia.
The complex was constructed between 2003 and 2010, with a combination of ancient and modern architectural works, including the old Bai Dinh Pagoda and the newly built one. Coming here, you can enjoy the peaceful and serene atmosphere of the pagoda, which is surrounded by beautiful natural scenery.
A massive bronze Buddha statue is the highlight of the complex, standing 10 meters tall and weighing 100 tons. This makes it the largest bronze Buddha statue in Vietnam and a popular attraction for both locals and tourists. Additionally, the complex features 500 Arhat statues, each with a unique facial expression.
Exploring the complex can be done on foot or by taking an electric car for a fee of 30,000 VND per person per trip.
4.6. Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
Hoa Lu Ancient Capital is an unmissable attraction in Ninh Binh for history enthusiasts and nature seekers. It was the capital of Vietnam during the Dinh and early Le dynasties, spanning from the 10th to 11th centuries.
The ancient capital has an extensive collection of well-preserved relics and monuments, including the temples of Dinh Tien Hoang and Le Dai Hanh, two former kings of Vietnam. Coming here, you can immerse yourself in the rich history of the ancient capital through the various exhibits and artifacts on display, gaining insight into the culture and traditions of the feudal Vietnamese dynasties.
Besides its historical significance, Hoa Lu is also known for its breathtaking natural beauty. The capital is surrounded by towering limestone mountains and picturesque rice paddies. To enter the ancient capital, you can purchase an entrance ticket for 20,000 VND.
4.7. Van Long Lagoon
Located in Gia Vien District, Ninh Binh, Van Long Lagoon is a serene and picturesque natural wonder. Spanning over 3,500 hectares, it is the largest wetland reserve in Northern Vietnam.
Coming here, you can embark on a boat ride and indulge yourself in the tranquil waters, taking in the awe-inspiring views of the surrounding limestone mountains and rice fields.
The lagoon is also home to a diverse range of wildlife, including rare and endangered species such as the Bonelli eagle, langur monkey, and black-faced spoonbill, making it an enticing destination for nature enthusiasts.
The entrance fee for Van Long Lagoon is 20,000 VND per person, and visitors can enjoy a boat ride for two people for 60,000 VND.
4.8. Thung Nham Bird Garden
Thung Nham Bird Garden is a popular destination in Ninh Binh for bird watchers and nature enthusiasts. The garden covers approximately 334 hectares of limestone mountains, caves, and wetlands, providing an ideal habitat for a diverse range of bird species.
You can take a boat ride through the wetlands to observe the various bird species, such as stork, heron, mallard, forktail, flamingo, etc. Apart from bird watching, you can also participate in other activities, such as hiking, exploring caves, and enjoying the local cuisine.
The entrance fee to Thung Nham Bird Garden is 100,000 VND per person, and the boat ticket for bird watching is 20,000 VND per person.
4.9. Phat Diem Stone Church
Phat Diem Stone Church is another must-see attraction when visiting Ninh Binh. This stunning architectural masterpiece is built entirely of stone, blending Vietnamese and European styles. It has a bell tower, a main cathedral, and smaller chapels and statues.
The church was built by Father Tran Luc, a Vietnamese priest who combined his knowledge of European architecture with local construction techniques to create this remarkable structure. After its establishment, it has become a significant pilgrimage site for Catholics in Vietnam.
In addition to its religious significance, Phat Diem Stone Church is also a popular tourist attraction, offering visitors the chance to marvel at its intricate design and learn about its rich history. The church is located in the heart of a picturesque rural landscape, surrounded by rice paddies and limestone mountains, adding to its charm and allure.
Entrance is free, and visitors are welcome to explore the grounds and admire the church's unique beauty.
4.10. Am Tien Cave
A journey to Ninh Binh is incomplete without a visit to the enchanting Am Tien Cave. This place promises to give you an unforgettable experience, with its breathtaking blend of majestic limestone mountains, a serene lake, and lush vegetation.
As you step into the cave, prepare to be captivated by the pristine beauty of Ao Giai Lake, which lies at the entrance of the cave. The crystal-clear water reflects the surrounding mountains, creating a mesmerizing spectacle.
In addition, don't miss the chance to explore the cave's interior, where you can admire the stunning stalactites and stalagmites that have been formed over thousands of years.
In the past, reaching Am Tien Cave required climbing the mountain. However, nowadays, visitors can easily access the cave by going through a tunnel and ascending the mountain to explore its wonders. The entrance fee to Am Tien Cave is 20,000 VND per person.
>>> Read more: Vietnam where to go for a truly unforgettable vacation!
5. What to eat in Ninh Binh? – Top mouthwatering dishes to try once
Ninh Binh cuisine offers a delicious array of Vietnamese foods known for their unique flavors. Here are some must-try foods in Ninh Binh:
- Goat meat dishes: Ninh Binh is well-known for its goat meat dishes, such as goat meat hotpot, grilled goat meat, and stir-fried goat meat with lemongrass.
- Ninh Binh rice crust: This dish is made from rice flour and is fried until crispy. It is usually served with a variety of toppings, such as minced pork or shrimp. It is a popular snack or appetizer in Ninh Binh.
- Eel vermicelli soup: This is a traditional noodle soup that features thin rice noodles and tender pieces of eel. The broth is usually flavored with a combination of herbs and spices, and is often served with fresh herbs.
- Nem Yen Mac fermented pork roll: This is a popular dish made from sliced and crushed pork rump meat. It is typically served with guava leaves, fig leaves, and aromatic vegetables, along with a dipping sauce made from garlic, lemon juice, pepper, and chili.
- Sticky rice with ant eggs: This is a unique dish made from sticky rice and ant eggs. The eggs are usually cooked with a variety of herbs and spices, then mixed with the sticky rice.
- Ninh Binh mountain snail: A true delicacy of the region, these snails are harvested from the mountainous areas surrounding Ninh Binh. The dish can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, such as stir-fried with lemongrass, steamed with ginger, or grilled with chili.
After exploring the stunning scenery of Ninh Binh province in Vietnam, don't forget to discover the country's other captivating destinations. From the tropical paradise of Phu Quoc, the coastal city of Nha Trang, the heritage-rich town of Hoi An, the vibrant city of Da Nang, to the picturesque bay of Ha Long, there are countless places to choose from. To ensure you have the best experience possible, it is essential to plan ahead and choose the perfect place to stay.
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Ninh Binh, a picturesque destination in Vietnam, allures travelers with its plethora of activities and attractions. From the stunning limestone karsts of Tam Coc to the ancient temples of Bai Dinh, you can explore a range of cultural and natural wonders. Plan your trip to Ninh Binh today and embark on an unforgettable adventure into the heart of Vietnam's natural beauty!
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