11 Best Things to Do in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

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With ancient roots and adventurous activities, visiting the Ninh Binh, Vietnam should be on every traveler’s bucket list. In this guide, we’ll show you the best things to do in Ninh Binh, beyond the typical tourist experiences. 

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, Ninh Binh, Vietnam
Hoa Lu Ancient Capital

Written by guest author: Alice Pham

Located in the heart of Northern Vietnam, Ninh Binh is a mesmerizing symphony of nature’s best work and historical grandeur, a must-visit place for any travelers to Vietnam. 

Often referred to as the ‘Halong Bay on Land,’ this hidden gem offers a serene escape from the bustling city life. It was also the place where the first capital of Vietnam was established. Now, this region is a paradise for cultural and historical lovers, with majestic landscapes, ancient temples, and peaceful countryside. 

In this article, we are going to share the best things to do in Ninh Binh, each promising an unforgettable experience that blends adventure, culture, and natural beauty.

Ninh Binh Travel Guide

For more tips and advice for planning your trip to Ninh Binh, Vietnam, jump to the following sections (or just keep scrolling to see it all!).

Top things to do in Ninh Binh

If you’re looking for the very best things to do in Ninh Binh, here are our top recommendations. 

  1. Discover Tam Coc
  2. Take a boat tour through Trang An Eco-tourism Complex
  3. Explore Van Long Nature Reserve
  4. Marvel at Bich Dong Pagoda

Keep reading for more detailed information on each of these things and more ideas of fun things to do in Ninh Binh, Vietnam. 

1. Discover Tam Coc

Tam Coc, Ninh Binh, Vietnam
  • Location: Hoa Lư District
  • Exact location on Google Maps
  • Hours: 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily
  • Fees:
    • Entrance fee: 120,000 VND per person (~$5 USD)
    • Boat trip: 150,000 VND per person (~$6 USD)

Tam Coc, often hailed as the ‘Halong Bay on Land’, is a spectacular destination in Ninh Binh, Vietnam. 

It is famous for a unique blend of stunning natural beauty and serene rural landscapes. Unlike its coastal counterpart, Tam Coc is adorned with majestic karst mountains that rise dramatically from lush green rice fields, creating a breathtaking panorama. 

The highlight of any visit to Tam Coc is undoubtedly the boat trip, a serene journey that takes you through an enchanting world of natural wonders. 

As local rowers skillfully navigate the calm waters, you’ll glide through towering limestone cliffs, observe mysterious caves, and be treated to picturesque views that change with every turn. 

Each boat ride can take up to two hours. You will have to pay 120,000 VND per person for the sightseeing fee and 150,000 VND per person for the boat trip. A total of 270,000 VND per trip (~$11 USD). 

2. Take a boat tour through Trang An Eco-tourism Complex

Trang An, Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Embarking on a boat trip through Trang An Eco-Tourism Complex is like navigating through a living masterpiece, a journey that takes you into the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The landscape here is a dramatic canvas of nature’s finest work: rugged, slate mountains lush with greenery, towering cliffs, and the serene, mirror-like clarity of the water. 

Gliding through this dreamlike setting, you’ll pass under natural caves that reveal the earth’s ancient stories, glide beside ancient temples that stand as silent sentinels of history, and drift across tranquil lakes that reflect the sky above.

The boat trip in Trang An also takes about 2 hours. It is a serene journey where every turn brings a new, breathtaking view. 

In Trang An, each moment on the water is said to be a step through a hidden, untouched world.

The sightseeing fee is 250,000 VND per adult (just over $10 USD). Children under 1.5 meters enjoy the price of 100,000 VND (~$4 USD). 

If you only have 1 or 2 days in Ninh Binh, consider choosing either Tam Coc or Trang An boat trip as they offer quite the same experience.

3. Explore Van Long Nature Reserve

Van Long Nature Reserve, Ninh Binh, Vietnam

A visit to the Van Long Nature Reserve also promises an enchanting experience, a serene encounter with one of North Vietnam’s most precious natural treasures. 

As the largest wetland area in the region, Van Long is a tapestry of ethereal beauty, where limestone mountain peaks rise majestically above sprawling paddy fields that stretch to the horizon. 

This tranquil haven is not just a feast for the eyes; it’s a vital sanctuary for wildlife, including several primate species, most notably the endangered Langur. The reserve plays a crucial role in the rehabilitation of these animals, nurturing them back to health before they are gently released into the wild. 

As you explore this serene landscape, whether by boat or on foot, you’ll feel a deep connection to nature. The peacefulness of the reserve, coupled with the sight of wildlife thriving in their natural habitat, makes a visit to Van Long Nature Reserve a truly memorable and inspiring experience.

The sightseeing fee in Van Long Nature Reserve is quite low; just 20,000 VND per person (less than $1 USD).

4. Marvel at Bich Dong Pagoda

Bich Dong Pagoda, Ninh Binh, Vietnam
  • Location: Hoa Lư District
  • Exact location on Google Maps
  • Hours: 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily
  • Entrance fee: entrance included with your ticket to Tam Coc (120,000 VND per person (~$5 USD))

Bich Dong Pagoda is a captivating ensemble of mountain cave temples and historic shrines that date back to the 15th century. 

This architectural marvel is gracefully perched along a hill, inviting visitors to embark on a journey through time and spirituality. As you traverse the path to each monument, your efforts are rewarded with breathtaking views and a profound sense of peace. 

Each step brings a discovery, from intricately carved statues to hidden sanctuaries bathed in the soft light filtering through the cave openings. 

The entrance, marked by an iconic bridge, is a haven for photographers and Instagram enthusiasts, offering a picturesque frame of this ancient wonder set against the backdrop of lush greenery and tranquil waters.

It is free to visit this temple. Also, Bich Dong Pagoda is close to Tam Coc and you can take a bike ride between these two destinations.

5. Check out Bai Dinh Pagoda

Bai Dinh Pagoda, Ninh Binh, Vietnam
  • Location: Gia Sinh Commune, Gia Vien District
  • Exact location on Google Maps
  • Hours: 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily
  • Fees: 
    • Bai Dinh Pagoda entrance fee: free
    • Bao Thap Tower entrance fee: 50,000 VND/person (~$2 USD)

Bai Dinh Pagoda is one of the most famous temples in Vietnam, standing as a monumental testament to Vietnamese spirituality and architectural grandeur.

Recognized as the largest temple complex in Vietnam, Bai Dinh Pagoda has become a pivotal destination for both religious pilgrims and tourists drawn to its spiritual essence and Buddhist art. The pagoda’s vastness is awe-inspiring, featuring record-setting structures such as Southeast Asia’s largest bronze Buddha statue and the longest corridor of Arhat statues. 

Walking through the complex, you will be enveloped in an atmosphere of tranquility and reverence, amidst intricately designed temples and lush, serene gardens. 

The artistry displayed in the statues, carvings, and the overall layout of the complex is a remarkable representation of Buddhist philosophy and Vietnamese culture

Whether you’re seeking spiritual enrichment, an appreciation of religious art, or simply a peaceful retreat, Bai Dinh Pagoda promises to offer an enriching experience that resonates long after your visit.

6. Visit the ancient capital of Hoa Lu

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, Ninh Binh, Vietnam

The ancient capital of Hoa Lu is cradled between the majestic limestone mountains of Ninh Binh province. As the capital of Vietnam during the 10th and 11th centuries, it holds a special place in the nation’s rich tapestry of history and is said to be a place where history whispers from every corner.

Today, Hoa Lu stands as a cultural beacon, brimming with ancient pagodas, temples, and remnants of citadels that pay homage to the Dinh dynasty’s royal past. These historical structures are not just architectural marvels but also storytellers of a bygone era, offering a glimpse into the lives and times of ancient Vietnamese royalty. 

A visit to Hoa Lu is more than a journey through a scenic landscape; it’s a walk through time, where each step brings you closer to understanding Vietnam’s illustrious past. 

If you are going to visit Ninh Binh, exploring the ancient capital of Hoa Lu is undoubtedly one of the most enriching experiences.

7. Go birdwatching at Thung Nham Bird Park

Thung Nham Bird Park, Ninh Binh, Vietnam
  • Location: Hoa Lư District
  • Exact location on Google Maps
  • Hours: 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. in the summer, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in winter
  • Entrance fee: 100,000 VND/person (~$4 USD)

Thung Nham Bird Park is a hidden gem for nature enthusiasts and bird watchers. As a relatively new attraction, it offers a serene escape from the more crowded tourist spots, allowing you to immerse in the tranquility of nature. 

The park is a haven for a diverse array of bird species, making it a prime spot for observing these feathered creatures in their natural habitat. 

The most magical times to visit this tourist destination are early morning or late afternoon, when the birds are most active, either setting out at dawn or returning at dusk in a spectacular display. Around 4 pm, the park becomes a stage for the birds’ return, creating a mesmerizing scene against the backdrop of the setting sun. 

Besides bird watching, the park offers boat trips that glide through the lush forest, enhancing the experience with the beauty of the surrounding landscape, and connecting you with the subtle yet profound wonders of the natural world.

8. Have an adventure in Cuc Phuong National Park

Butterflies in Cuc Phuong National Park, Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Cuc Phuong National Park is renowned as an institution of biodiversity in Vietnam and a must-visit if you are passionate about nature and conservation. 

As the country’s largest nature reserve, this lush rainforest sanctuary is a vibrant tapestry of ecological wonders, home to over 300 species of rare birds and an astounding 2000 plant species. The park’s commitment to preserving the unspoiled beauty of Ninh Binh is evident in every corner of its sprawling expanse. 

You can visit the park within a day tour from Hanoi. Or, if you are seeking an immersive experience, do a homestay with the local Muong people, an ethnic group indigenous to the northern mountainous regions of Vietnam.

A visit to the Endangered Primate Rescue Center within the park adds another layer to your experience. This sanctuary plays a crucial role in the rescue and conservation of Vietnam’s most endangered primates, where you can get a rare glimpse into the efforts to protect these precious species. 

9. Explore the Mua Cave

Mua Cave, Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Mua Cave is also a breathtaking destination of Ninh Binh that captivates visitors with its natural beauty. 

While the cave itself is a fascinating feature, the true highlight of Mua Cave is the panoramic view waiting at the top of its viewpoint. 

After climbing about 500 steps, you will be rewarded with a stunning vista that stretches across the Tam Coc River. This vantage point offers a picturesque scene, encompassing the surrounding mountains, verdant rice fields below, and the serene river winding through the landscape. 

10. Sample delicious local cuisine

Com chay - Vietnamese food
Com chay

Indulging in the local culinary specialties is a must when visiting Ninh Binh. Among these, com chay and de tai chanh stand out as iconic dishes that capture the essence of the region’s flavors. 

Com chay, a delightful fried rice crust, is a popular snack in this province. Crispy and savory, it can be enjoyed on its own or dipped into a warm, flavorful stew, offering a unique textural experience.

Equally famous is de tai chanh, a dish that showcases Ninh Binh’s most favored protein: goat meat. 

This delicacy involves lightly curing the goat meat in lemon juice, which is then tossed with a vibrant mix of chilies, lime leaves, and sesame seeds. The result is a refreshing and zesty dish that perfectly balances the robust flavors of the meat with the tangy and spicy accents. 

Psst! Calling all foodies!! We have a complete guide to Vietnamese street food that includes everything you’ll want to eat during your visit!

11. Take a cooking class

Ninh Binh Vietnam cooking class (GYG)
Image source: Get Your Guide

If you have more time in Ninh Binh, why don’t you consider participating in a cooking class with a local? This is a fantastic way to learn about local ingredients, traditional cooking techniques, and the cultural significance of various dishes.

To start your cooking lesson, you will follow a local tour guide to the market to buy the ingredients, including fish, pork, fresh vegetables, and other kinds of herbs. 

Then, return to the Buffalo Cave, where you will meet with a local chef and start to cook some traditional Vietnamese dishes, like rice paper rolls, grilled fish, Vietnamese spring rolls, etc. 

This is not only a chance to enhance your cooking skills but also a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the local culture and lifestyle of Ninh Binh. 

What you need to know:

What guests are saying:

Amazing class, great hosts. Would recommend to anyone!” – Charlotte, Feb. 2024

Best time to visit Ninh Binh

Van Long Nature Reserve, Ninh Binh, Vietnam

The best time to visit Ninh Binh is during the spring (February to April) and autumn (September to November) seasons. During these periods, the weather is typically mild and pleasant, making it ideal for exploring the stunning landscapes and historical sites of the region. 

In spring, the climate is comfortably warm with occasional light rains, enhancing the lush greenery of the rice fields and mountains, creating a picturesque setting perfect for photography and outdoor activities. This is also the time when the countryside is vibrant with life, as local farmers engage in their rice cultivation, bringing you a chance to get a glimpse into the rural life of Vietnam.

Autumn, on the other hand, brings cooler temperatures and less rainfall, providing comfortable conditions for sightseeing and outdoor adventures. The landscape transitions into a golden hue as the rice harvest season begins, offering a different yet equally enchanting backdrop. 

Both seasons avoid the extreme heat of the summer and the chilly, wet conditions of the winter, ensuring a more enjoyable and fruitful visit to this breathtaking landscape of Vietnam.

Psst! For an in-depth guide on the seasonal weather patterns and other factors, check out our complete guide on the best time to visit Vietnam.

How to get to Ninh Binh from Hanoi

Ninh Binh, Vietnam
Trang An Eco-tourism Complex

There are several ways to travel from Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam to Ninh Binh. The means of transportation you choose should depend on your preference for comfort, speed, and experience.

By bus

The most convenient way is by bus, which is fast and economical. Buses to Ninh Binh depart from various stations in Hanoi, including Giap Bat and My Dinh bus stations, with the trip taking approximately 1.5 to 2 hours.

By train

Another popular and safe way to get to Ninh Binh is by train. The journey takes about 2 to 2.5 hours and offers a chance to see the picturesque countryside of Vietnam. Trains to Ninh Binh leave regularly from Hanoi Railway Station, and you can choose between different classes of seats for varying levels of comfort.

By car

For those seeking more flexibility and convenience, hiring a private car or taxi is a great option, though more expensive. This way, you can enjoy a direct route to Ninh Binh with the freedom to stop along the way.

By motorbike

Lastly, if you are an adventurous traveler, renting a motorbike to drive to Ninh Binh will be an exhilarating experience and a chance to truly immerse yourself in the Vietnamese landscape. 

This option is best suited for experienced riders and those comfortable with navigating local traffic.

What to pack for traveling to Vietnam

Lotus flower in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

We know it can be overwhelming packing for a trip to a new destination. That’s why we spent hours creating this super helpful PDF just for you.

In this free SE Asia packing list PDF download, we’ve provided packing checklists for everything from clothing and toiletries (for both women and men!) to what shoes to pack and extra medicines you may want to have on-hand just in case.

Plus, we’re sharing tons of packing hacks and tips for traveling in Southeast Asia that you won’t find anywhere else!

SE Asia Packing List PDF download | Two Wandering Soles

Round up of the best things to do in Ninh Binh

Here’s a recap of all the best things to do in Nonh Boing, Vietnam so you can see everything in one place.

  1. Discover Tam Coc
  2. Take a boat tour through Trang An Eco-tourism Complex
  3. Explore Van Long Nature Reserve
  4. Marvel at Bich Dong Pagoda
  5. Check out Bai Dinh Pagoda
  6. Visit the ancient capital of Hoa Lu
  7. Go birdwatching at Thung Nham Bird Park
  8. Have an adventure in Cuc Phuong National Park
  9. Explore the Mua Cave
  10. Sample delicious local cuisine
  11. Take a cooking class

About the guest author

Guest Author Alice Pham

Alice Pham is a passionate travel enthusiast and seasoned blogger with a deep love for exploring the hidden gems of the world. With a keen eye for detail and a zest for adventure, Alice brings to life the unique experiences encountered on her journeys.

Her blog is a treasure trove of travel tips, insightful narratives, and vivid photography, capturing the essence of each destination she visits. Her adventures are a testament to her belief that travel is not just about places, but about the stories and connections created along the way.

Are you planning a trip to Vietnam?

We have TONS of resources on travel in Vietnam and destinations throughout the country. Check out our Ultimate Vietnam Travel Guide for all the answers to your most burning questions, or read some of our favorite articles below.

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Things to Do in Ninh Binh Vietnam | Two Wandering Soles
Things to Do in Ninh Binh Vietnam | Two Wandering Soles

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