Ninh Binh, a must-visit destination, is located in the south of the Red River Delta region in northern Vietnam, 100 km from Hanoi.
There are many religious sites and beautiful natural landscapes: Hoa Lu –Ancient capital of Vietnam 968-1009 ,Phat Diem Stone Cathedral ,Tam Coc – Bich Dong – a place for romantic scenery boat trips ,Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex – a filming location of Kong: Skull Island with an amazing grotto system,Van Long Natural Reserved , Bai Dinh Pagoda – the largest pagoda in Vietnam , Cuc Phuong National Park – the oldest nature reserve of our country, etc.
So from Hanoi , you can visit Ninh Binh for one day trip , 2 days or longer base on your times that this place offer you most of things you may like to discover !
Basically, you can take a tour to Ninh Binh anytime a year but the best times in Ninh Binh are from November to March.
- Spring (February – April):The weather is cool in this city in spring; you can enjoy some cultural festivals and pray for luck at a pagoda. Don’t forget to visit some famous religious spots such as Hoa Lu , Bai Dinh, Bich Dong and Duyen Ninh pagodas in this festive time of the year.
- Summer (May – August):Ninh Binh is affected by the monsoon during summers. April to the beginning of May is the best time for you to take picture of golden ‘rice carpets’ during harvesting time in Tam Coc and ‘butterfly season’ in Cuc Phuong National Park.
- Autumn and Winter or September and October Autumn : They are the low season here,bit coller for some shower you can enjoy the tranquil atmosphere of limestone mountains, Rice paddy field ,dreamy rivers and quaint pagodas in Ninh Binh .
Ninh Binh main attractions:
- Bai Dinh Pagoda
Located in Gia Sinh Commune, Gia Vien District, Bai Dinh Pagoda was built to commemorate King Ly Thai To who decided to move the capital from Hoa Lu to Hanoi in 1010.
Bai Dinh is the largest complex of Buddhist shrines, temples, and pagodas in Vietnam. It contains the original old temple and a newly-constructed larger one. Bai Dinh Pagoda is a sacred place to pray for peace, prosperity and fortune. You cannot miss this place when traveling to Ninh Binh, especially during the Lunar New Year. Bai Dinh is also known as ‘The Temple of Records’ for possessing:
- The largest bronze Buddha statue in Asia
- The longest Arhat corridor in Asia
- The largest bronze Maitreya statue in Asia
Through the gate into the pagoda, both alley ways you will be surprised of the 500 Arhat statues, each 2.4 meters high and 4 tones weight on both sides. Especially, don’t forget to see the 13-storey stupa of Bai Dinh Pagoda which reserves Buddhist relic procession from India and Myanmar.
- Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex
Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex is the most well-known tourist attraction in Ninh Binh. It was recently recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Covering an area of 6172ha, Trang An Complex has an extraordinary beauty with a harmonious combination of quintessential limestone mountains and unspoiled tropical forests, surrounded by temples or pagodas ,beautiful aquatic flowers and plants.
Taking a boat trip through Caves or Grottos ,bringing you amazing natural world .River network in this area is well-developed with Hoang Long River to the north, Chanh River to the east, He River to the south, Ben Dang River to the west and river systems of Sao Khe, Ngo Dong and Den Voi in the center of Trang An. You can have a chance to admire the karst tower mountain landscape here which is one of the most awe-inspiring limestone systems in the world.
- Hoa Lu Ancient Capital 968-1009.
After 1000 years Chinese occupation ,Hoa Lu was the capital of Dai Co Viet (literally ‘Great Land of Ancient Viet people ) under the Dinh-early Le dynasty. Hoa Lu was chosen for its imposing limestone mountains surrounding the area which were considered as a natural city wall against Chinese invaders. With the total area of around 14 square kilometers, this is a must-visit place for history lovers when coming to Ninh Binh.
There are two temples here built in 17th century which are dedicated to King Dinh with gate name BAC MON THOA DUOC-Close the gate to the North and King Le. The distance between them is 500 meters. The Temple of King Dinh has stunning architectural works with three pavilions, while the Temple of King Le is smaller and simpler.
- Cuc Phuong National Park
Established in 1962 with 222,00 km² , Cuc Phuong National Park is the oldest national park in Vietnam. The park is a lush mountain rainforest which is the home to 97 species of mammals, 300 species off birds, 110 reptilian species, 11 species of fish, and thousands of kinds of insects. Many kinds of rare animals listed on the Red Book can be found here: Asian black bears, golden leopards, and unique red-bellied squirrels.
This park attracts a large number of domestic and international travelers who fond of trekking and hiking. There are dozens of trails in the forest for your 1-day or 2-day trekking: you can take a journey to Dinh May Bac (Silver Cloud Peak) and the Cave of Prehistoric Man (Dong Nguoi Xua) where you can see several prehistoric human remains.
- Tam Coc (The Three Grottoes) and Bich Dong Pagoda
Tam Coc attracts a large number of tourists for its harmonious combination of natural sceneries and the talent of humans. This place is praised as a ‘Halong Bay on land of the Rice Fields, mountain views, tranquil water, and spectacular caves, which is an inspiration for poets and painters. Coming here in May, you can see golden rice fields during harvesting time which look like a winding carpet embracing karst mountains.
About 2 km from Tam Coc Wharf, you will come across a pagoda called Bich Dong,once called Nam Thien De nhat Dong –the most beautiful cave under the southern sky !. Its architecture is inspired by the Oriental style: all pillars were made from ironwood and there is a pond near the entrance. There are three pagodas in Bich Dong complex: Ha (Lower) Pagoda, Trung (Middle) Pagoda and Thuong (Upper) Pagoda-Great for hiking or exercise with amazing view !
- Phat Diem Stone Cathedral
Located in Kim Son District, Phat Diem Cathedral is one of the most spectacular churches in Vietnam which is the combination of Western style and Vietnamese religious buildings. Constructed from 1875 to 1898, it was built totally by stone and wood which are available in karst mountains around Ninh Binh.
This attraction consists of a lake, a cathedral, a stone church, Phuong Dinh Bell House and three artificial grottoes. The highlight of this place is Phuong Dinh Bell House which was transported from Thanh Hoa Province. Unlike round or square-shaped bell towers which can be found in Western churches, Phuong Dinh is in a shape of a communal house with 25 meters high and 17 meters wide.
- Thung Nham Bird Par for Bird lovers!
Thung Nham, also known as Thung Chim, is the home to a thousand kinds of birds and plants. Located in Ninh Hai Commune, Hoa Lu District, Thung Nham Bird Park is about 5km from Tam Coc – Bich Dong and 12km to the west of the city. In this park, you can immerse yourself in a peaceful atmosphere of many tropical forests, river, and caves and listen to the birds singing. 46 species of birds inhabit in Thung Nham and many of them are listed in the Red Book. Birds usually concentrate in this area from July to September, so prepare your time!
- Hang Mua (Mua Cave)
Mua Cave has recently become a popular place in Ninh Binh with beauty and peaceful atmosphere. Located on the foot of Mua Mountain.
Mua Cave is praised as a ‘Great Wall of Vietnam’ for its 500 white-stone stairs leading to the peak of the mountain. On both edges of the stairs, you can see the symbol of dragon or phoenix inspired by Tran dynasty’s art. It is said that when Tran King established Thai Vi Temple in Ninh Binh, he often came to Mua Cave to enjoy performances by odalisques. On the top of Mua Cave, tourists can admire the spectacular breathtaking view of Tam Coc area, especially the golden winding rice paddies during harvesting time here in May and June.
- Kenh Ga Hot Spring (Chicken Village)
Kenh Ga is one of the most worth-visiting hot springs when you travel to Vietnam. Located in the foothills of Canh Ga Mountains and surrounded by three rivers namely Boi River, Lang River and Hoang Long River, Kenh Ga looks like a small and separated islet. This hot spring contains a high amount of sodium chloride, potassium chloride, and calcium, which is perfect for soaking in hot mineral water and retreat yourself from stressful daily life.
- Van Long Nature Reserve
Not only is a nature reserve, Van Long is also a beautiful lagoon with spectacular landscapes. Covering an area of 3,500ha, Van Long is the largest wetland nature reserve in Red River Delta and is praised as a ‘Wave less bay’ because when tourists take a boat trip to this area, the tranquil water surface looks like a giant mirror. Van Long Nature Reserve has 32 grottoes which are named according to their shapes: Meo Cao (Cat), Mam Xoi (Glutinous Rice Tray), Hom Sach (Book Trunk), Da Ban (Rook Table), Nghien (Slab), Co Tien (Fairy), etc.
Getting to Ninh Binh:
- By motorbike/car:For Adventure lovers ,If you travel by private motorbikes but best way is by cars rougly 2 hours , from Hanoi, head to Giai Phong Street to Giap Bat Bus Station, turn to Phap Van – Cau Re expressway. From there, you head to Phu Ly to Ninh Binh.
- By train:Train is the safest way but take time to travel to this city. The train stops at Ninh Binh’s new train station, so take into account the distance from there to your planned attractions and hotels.
Where to Stay in Ninh Binh:
There are many hotels with good standards from 3 star to 4 star or Resorts too, hostels and guest houses in this city, however, if you desire to get close to nature and local people, a homestay near some attractions such as Tam Coc and Trang An is recommended. Imagine that you wake you in the early morning, listen to the birds singing, inhale the fresh air and enjoy the beautiful view of the river; this is a one-of-a-kind experience which you cannot find anywhere else.
Homestays in Ninh Binh:
- Tam Coc Westlake Homestay
Address: Ninh Hai Commune, Hoa Lu
Phone number: +84 98 365 33 86
- Ninh Binh Valley Homestay
Address: Dong Cung, Khe Ha Village, Ninh Xuan Commune, Hoa Lu
Phone number: +84 97 536 86 65
- Ninh Bình Panorama Homestay
Address: Ninh Xuan Commune, Hoa Lu
Phone number: +84 94 844 36 16
- Tam Coc Mountain Lake Homestay
Address: Ninh Hai Commune, Hoa Lu
Phone number: +84 167 839 2682
- Ham Rong Homestay
Address: Ninh Xuan Commune, Hoa Lu
Phone number: +84 94 330 74 4
What to Eat in Ninh Binh:
- Ninh Binh’s eel vermicelli (Mien Luon Ninh Binh)
The most famous eel vermicelli’s restaurant chain in Ninh Binh belongs to Mrs. Phan’s offsprings. When she got older, Mrs. Phan passed on her cooking skills and recipes to her three sons so that they can carry on the family business. You can find their three restaurants around Ninh Binh city center: Tran Hung Dao crossroad, near Rong market and near Ninh Binh General Hospital.
The soul of this dish is fresh and lean eels with brownish pink backs and yellow bellies. Beside the eels, banana flower and vermicelli are carefully selected to produce a savory and mouth-watering dish. There are many other spices to enhance its flavors such as fish sauce, shrimp sauce, lemon, pepper, chili powder and other herbs.
- Goat meat
Surrounded by limestone mountains, Ninh Binh is a suitable place to raise goats. There are many kinds of goat dishes you can find here: rare goat meat mixed with lemon (de tai chanh), steamed goat meat, stir-fried goat meats (de tai lan), grilled goat brisket, goat hotpot, and roasted goat, etc. Among which, rare goat meat is the most unusual and delicious dish.
Don’t forget to try these gastronomic dishes when you visit Trang An, Tam Coc and Hoa Lu. Goat meat is nutritious with a high amount of protein and served with many fresh and healthful herbs.
- Yen Mac fermented spring roll (Nem Chua Yen Mac)
Nem chua Yen Mac is a special delicacy of Ninh Binh. This food is made from lean pork and served with fish sauce mixed with chili, lemon and garlic. The cooking process is really strict so that nem chua can be preserved for a week without being degraded. Covered in banana leaves, this food possesses a fresh smell with the greasy taste of meat. You can buy nem chua as a gift to your relatives and friends.
- Burned cooked rice (Com chay)
Com chay is a delicious dish you should try in Ninh Binh. However, the local cooks do not burn it in the fire when making com chay. Instead, com chay is made from deep-fried rice and you can dip it in a special soup served with this food. Com chay can be eaten both in the main course as well as for snack. The taste of com chay is impressive and unforgettable, especially when eating with savory meat and a little bit of chili.