Whether you are looking for adventure, nature, or cultural tourism, Ninh Binh is still a worthwhile stop on your trip to northern Vietnam. Let’s explore what you can do and see in Ninh Binh in the following travel guide.

General Information

Ninh Binh is divided into seven districts, which are located between the Red River and the Ma River: Gia Vien, Hoa Lu, Kim Son, Nho Quan, Tam Diep, Yen Khanh, and Yen Mo. It is home to 23 different ethnic groups, with the Kinh accounting for more than 98% of the population.

Ninh Binh Location - IDC Travel Guide

Ninh Binh Location – IDC Travel Guide

This province is located in the Red River Delta of Vietnam and is known for its lotus flower lakes, towering limestone mountains, rice paddies, and vast untouched forests. Hoa Lu, a district of Ninh Binh, served as Vietnam’s capital in the 10th century. Cuc Phuong National Park in Ninh Binh is one of Vietnam’s best-preserved national parks and served as the starting point for the legendary Ho Chi Minh Trail during the Vietnam War.

When visiting Ninh Binh, we can combine the Red River Delta Authentic Countryside Trip with the Cuc Phuong Park Eco Tour, the Hoa Lu Historical Tour, and visits to Kenh Ga, Tam Coc, Bich Dong, and Thung Nang. We can also travel to Phat Diem’s Catholic quarter to worship at the Phat Diem Cathedral, which is mostly made of stones.

Weather and Best time to visit Ninh Binh

In general, Ninh Binh can be visited at any time of year. From November to March, we see an increase in the number of Western tourists planning their Ninh Binh tour.

Ninh Binh Weather and Best time to visit

Ninh Binh Weather and Best time to visit

Spring (February – April) 

The weather is mild and pleasant in the spring. If you visit Ninh Binh during this time, you can participate in cultural festivals and try your luck in pagodas. During this festive season, don’t forget to visit some famous religious sites such as Bai Dinh, Bich Dong, and Duyen Ninh pagodas.

Summer (May-August)

Ninh Binh is influenced by the monsoon, so the climate is hotter in the summer. April to early May is the best time to photograph golden rice fields in Tam Coc during harvest season; it is also butterfly season in Cuc Phuong National Park.

Winter and autumn

Ninh Binh, located in northern Vietnam, is colder in the autumn and winter. On the other hand, you can relax in a cool and quiet environment. Because it is the dry season in the north, your trip to Ninh Binh will be unaffected by the rains.

Getting to Ninh Binh

By private motorbike or car

The best way to reach Ninh Binh is by car from Hanoi. 

If you are traveling by motorbike or car from Hanoi, head to Phap Van – Cau Re expressway.

Another popular route is Halong – Ninh Binh

  • From/ to Hanoi: 95km. Duration: 1 hour
  • From/ to Halong: 220km. Duration: 4h30
  • From/ to Mai Chau: 150km. Duration: 3h45′

By bus/coach

There are numerous buses that travel to Ninh Binh. You can take a bus every 30 minutes from Giap Bat, My Dinh, or Nuoc Ngam Bus Stations. From Hanoi, go to Giap Bat Bus Station on Giai Phong Street, then take the Phap Van – Cau Re expressway. From there, you travel to Phu Ly (Ha Nam Province) and then to Ninh Binh.

By train

The train is the most secure mode of transportation to this city. From Hanoi to Ninh Binh, tickets range from VND 80,000 to 120,000 dong. The train arrives at Ninh Binh’s new train station, so consider the distance between there and your planned attractions and hotels.

Ninh Binh Main Route

  • Hoa Lu – Tam Coc – Bich Dong
  • Hoa Lu – Trang An – Bai Dinh
  • Ninh Binh – Cuc Phuong
  • Kenh Ga – Van Long

You’ll need at least 3 – 4 days to see everything in Ninh Binh. If you are short on time, one day in this province is sufficient to visit two attractions; however, ensure that all attractions are on the same route. You can visit 4 to 5 attractions in 2 days.

If you take a 1-day Hanoi – Ninh Binh daily tour, you can choose this itinerary.

Getting around Ninh Binh

Because it is quite far between different destinations in Ninh Binh, the best way to get around is by taxi or motorbike. In this city, there are some well-known brands:

  • Taxi Ninh Binh: 0229.3.633.788
  • Taxi Mai Linh: 0229. / 0229.6.251.888
  • Taxi Minh Long: 0229.
  • Taxi Xuan Thanh: 0229.
  • Taxi Thuy Duong: 0229.
  • Taxi Hoa Lu: 0229.2.211.444

By motorbike

Most hotels and homestays offer motorbike rentals for about $15 per day.

By bicycle

Cycling is recommended when visiting nearby attractions because the roads are flat. A bicycle can be rented for VND 50,000 – 80,000 dong per day.

Where to Stay in Ninh Binh

There are many hotels, hostels, and guest houses in this city, but a homestay near Tam Coc and Trang An is recommended if you want to get close to nature and locals. Imagine waking up early in the morning, listening to the birds sing, inhaling fresh air, and admiring the stunning view of the river; this is an unforgettable experience that you will not find anywhere else.

Some homestays in Ninh Binh that we recommend:

  • 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 48

Places to Visit in Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh has many easily accessible tourist attractions that are ideal for a family vacation in Vietnam. You can find solace in a Buddhist pagoda, unwind on a rowboat, explore unspoiled jungles, and learn about our unique stalactites and stalagmites system.

Bai Dinh Pagoda

Bai Dinh Pagoda

Bai Dinh Pagoda

Bai Dinh Pagoda, located in Gia Sinh Commune, Gia Vien District, was built to commemorate King Ly Thai To, who changed the capital from Hoa Lu to Hanoi in 1010. Bai Dinh is Vietnam’s largest complex of Buddhist shrines, temples, and pagodas. It houses both the original old temple and a newer, larger temple. Bai Dinh Pagoda is a sacred site where people can pray for peace, prosperity, and good fortune. This is a must-see when visiting Ninh Binh, especially during the Lunar New Year. Bai Dinh is also known as “The Temple of Records” because it houses:

  • Asia’s largest bronze Buddha statue
  • Asia’s longest Arhat corridor
  • Asia’s largest bronze Maitreya statue

Tourists entering the pagoda cannot help but notice the 500 Arhat statues, each 2.4 meters high and 4 tons in weight on both sides. Don’t miss seeing the 13-story Bai Dinh Pagoda, which houses Buddhist relic procession from India and Myanmar.

Trang An Landscape Complex

Trang An Complex

Trang An Complex

Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex is Ninh Binh’s most well-known tourist attraction. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Trang An Complex has an extraordinary beauty with a harmonious combination of quintessential limestone mountains and unspoiled tropical forests, surrounded by beautiful aquatic flowers and plants, covering an area of 6172ha.

The river network in this area is well-developed, with the Hoang Long River to the north, the Chanh River to the east, the He River to the south, the Ben Dang River to the west, and the Sao Khe, Ngo Dong, and Den Voi river systems in the center of Trang An. When visiting this heritage, taking a sampan around the river and caves is a must-do activity. You can admire the karst tower landscape here, which is one of the most impressive limestone systems in the world.

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital

Hoa Lu was the capital of Dai Co Viet (literally ‘Great Viet Land,’ Vietnam’s old name) during the Dinh dynasty, the Early Le dynasty, and the beginning of the Ly dynasty. Hoa Lu was chosen because of the surrounding imposing limestone mountains, which served as a natural city wall against Chinese invaders. With a total area of about 14 square kilometers, this is a must-see for history buffs visiting Ninh Binh.

There are two temples dedicated to King Dinh and King Le here. They are separated by 500 meters. The Temple of King Dinh has three pavilions and stunning architectural works, whereas the Temple of King Le is much smaller and simpler.

Cuc Phuong National Park

Cuc Phuong National Park

Cuc Phuong National Park

Cuc Phuong National Park is Vietnam’s oldest national park, having been established in 1962. The park is a lush mountain rainforest that is home to 97 mammal species, 300 bird species, 110 reptilian species, 11 fish species, and thousands of insects. Many rare animals listed in the Red Book can be found here, including Asian black bears, golden leopards, and the unusual red-bellied squirrel. From late April to early May, Cuc Phuong is inundated with thousands of butterflies of various species.

This park attracts a large number of domestic and international travelers who enjoy trekking and hiking on weekends. There are dozens of trails in the forest for 1-day or 2-day treks: you can go to Dinh May Bac (Silver Cloud Peak) and the Cave of Prehistoric Man (Dong Nguoi Xua) to see prehistoric human remains.

Tam Coc and Bich Dong Pagoda

Tam Coc - Ninh Binh rice field

Tam Coc – Ninh Binh

This place draws a large number of tourists due to its harmonious combination of natural scenery and human talent. This location is known as the “Halong Bay of the Rice Fields” because of its endless mountain views, tranquil water, and spectacular caves, which inspire poets and painters. If you come here in May, you can see golden rice fields that look like a winding carpet embracing karst mountains.

Bich Dong Pagoda is located 2 kilometers from Tam Coc Wharf. Its architecture is Oriental in style, with all pillars made of ironwood and a pond near the entrance. The Bich Dong complex contains three pagodas: Ha (Lower) Pagoda, Trung (Middle) Pagoda, and Thuong (Upper) Pagoda.

Phat Diem Cathedral

Phat Diem Cathedral

Phat Diem Cathedral

Phat Diem Cathedral, located in Kim Son District, is one of Vietnam’s most spectacular churches, combining Western and Vietnamese religious architecture. It was built entirely of stone and wood from 1875 to 1898 in the Karst mountains surrounding Ninh Binh.

A lake, a cathedral, a stone church, the Phuong Dinh Bell House, and three artificial grottoes comprise this attraction. The Phuong Dinh Bell House, which was transported from Thanh Hoa Province, is the highlight of this location. Unlike the round or square-shaped bell towers found in Western churches, Phuong Dinh is shaped like a communal house and stands 25 meters tall and 17 meters wide.

Thung Nham Bird Park

Thung Nham Bird Park

Thung Nham Bird Park

Thung Nham, also known as Thung Chim, is home to over a thousand different species of birds and plants. Thung Nham Bird Park is located in Ninh Hai Commune, Hoa Lu District, about 5 kilometers from Tam Coc – Bich Dong and 12 kilometers west of the city. In this park, you can relax in the peaceful atmosphere of many tropical forests, rivers, and caves while listening to the birds sing. Thung Nham is home to 46 bird species, many of which are listed in the Red Book. Birds usually congregate in this area from July to September, so plan accordingly!

Hang Mua (Mua Cave)

Mua Cave

Mua Cave

Mua Cave, though not as well-known as Tam Coc – Bich Dong or Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex, has recently gained popularity in Ninh Binh due to its imposing beauty and peaceful atmosphere. This beautiful cave, located at the foot of Mua Mountain, was built to serve customers on ecotourism trips to Vietnam.

Mua Cave is regarded as Vietnam’s “Great Wall” due to its 500 white-stone stairs leading to the mountain’s peak. On both sides of the stairs, there is a dragon or phoenix symbol inspired by Tran dynasty art. It is said that when Tran King established the Thai Vi Temple in Ninh Binh, he frequently visited Mua Cave to watch odalisques perform. Tourists can admire the breathtaking view of Tam Coc from the top of Mua Cave, particularly the golden winding rice paddies during harvest season in May and June.

Kenh Ga Hot Spring

Kenh Ga Hot Spring

Kenh Ga Hot Spring

When visiting Vietnam, one of the most worthwhile hot springs to visit is Kenh Ga. Kenh Ga appears to be a small and isolated islet located in the foothills of the Canh Ga Mountains and surrounded by three rivers: the Boi River, the Lang River, and the Hoang Long River. This hot spring contains a high concentration of sodium chloride, potassium chloride, and calcium, making it ideal for soaking in hot mineral water and unwinding from a stressful day.

Van Long Wetland Nature Reserve

Van Long Wetland Nature Reserve

Van Long Wetland Nature Reserve

Van Long is not only a nature reserve but also a beautiful lagoon with breathtaking scenery. Van Long is the largest wetland nature reserve in the Red River Delta, covering an area of 3,500ha. It is known as a ‘Waveless Bay,’ because when tourists take a boat trip to this area, the tranquil water surface looks like a giant mirror. The 32 grottoes in Van Long Nature Reserve are named after their shapes: Meo Cao (Cat), Mam Xoi (Glutinous Rice Tray), Hom Sach (Book Trunk), Da Ban (Rook Table), Nghien (Slab), Co Tien (Fairy), and so on.

Things to Do in Ninh Binh

  • Refresh your body and soul at a religious site.
  • Take a boat trip to Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex or Tam Coc – Bich Dong.
  • Discover Cuc Phuong National Park during butterfly season.
  • Trekking and hiking to limestone mountains.
  • Relax in a rustic bungalow near the river.

What to Eat in Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh’s eel vermicelli (Mien Luon Ninh Binh)

Eel vermicelli

Eel vermicelli

Mrs. Phan’s descendants own the most well-known eel vermicelli restaurant chain in Ninh Binh. Mrs. Phan passed on her cooking skills and recipes to her three sons as she grew older, so they could carry on the family business. Their three restaurants are located in the center of Ninh Binh: Tran Hung Dao crossroad, near Rong Market, and near Ninh Binh General Hospital.

Fresh and lean eels with brownish-pink backs and yellow bellies are the heart of this dish. Aside from the eels, banana flower,s and vermicelli are carefully selected to create a savory and delectable dish. Other spices that can be used to enhance the flavors include fish sauce, shrimp sauce, lemon, pepper, chili powder, and other herbs.

Goat meat

Steam goat

Steam goat

Ninh Binh, surrounded by limestone mountains, is an ideal location for goat farming. You can find a variety of goat dishes here, including 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, among others. The most unusual and delicious dish is rare goat meat.

When visiting Trang An, Tam Coc, and Hoa Lu, don’t forget to try these delectable dishes. Goat meat is high in protein and is served with a variety of fresh and healthy herbs.

Yen Mac fermented pork (Nem Chua Yen Mac)

Fermented pork roll

Fermented pork roll

Ninh Binh’s specialty is nem chua yen mac. This dish is made with lean pork and served with chili, lemon, and garlic fish sauce. The cooking process is extremely strict so that nem chua can be stored for a week without spoiling. This food has a fresh smell and a greasy taste because it is wrapped in banana leaves. You can purchase nem chua as a gift for family and friends.

Ninh Binh scorched rice (Com chay)

Ninh Binh scorched rice - com chay

Ninh Binh scorched rice – com chay

Com chay is a delectable dish that you should try while visiting Ninh Binh. However, when making com chay, local cooks do not burn it in the fire. Instead, com chay is made from deep-fried rice, and it is served with a special soup. Com chay can be served as a main course or as a snack. The flavor of com chay is impressive and memorable, especially when combined with savory meat and a dash of chili.

Some famous restaurants in Ninh Binh:

Thang Long Restaurant

  • Address: Chi Phong Village, Truong Yen Commune, Hoa Lu
  • Opening hours: 9 am – 11 pm
  • Phone number: +84 1238 880 606 / +84 974 155 458

When tourists visit this city, this is one of their top choices. Thang Long Restaurant is well-known for its fresh goat meat marinated in the traditional way. This food tastes best when combined with cm cháy. Because this restaurant is large, you won’t have to worry about running out of tables.

Duc De Restaurant

  • Address: 446 Nguyen Hue Street, Ninh Binh City
  • Opening hours: 8 am – 22.30 pm
  • Phone number: +84 30 3874 858

This restaurant is well-known for its delicious traditional goat dishes such as rare goat meat mixed with lemon (dê tái chanh), stir-fried goat meat (dê tái lăn), lemongrass and coconut goat, steamed goat meat, grilled goat brisket, goat hotpot, goat gruel, and roasted goat, among others. It is located in the city center and can be reached after visiting some attractions.

Hoang Giang Restaurant

  • Address: Hang Ca, Truong Yen Commune, Hoa Lu
  • Opening hours: 8 am – 10 pm
  • Phone number: +84 915 437 028 / +84 987 719 509

It is one of Ninh Binh’s rustic restaurants with the best view. Hoang Giang Restaurant, located next to the enchanting Hoang Giang River, provides a breathtaking view of Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex, and Bai Dinh Pagoda.

Other restaurants in Ninh Binh that we recommend. Take note that the most well-known restaurants are concentrated in the Hoa Lu District and in the city center. Don’t hesitate to contact us and plan your own trip right now!

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