An often overlooked destination in Vietnam, Ninh Binh is a small city in northern Vietnam roughly two and a half hours from Hanoi. The limestone scenery and breathtaking natural landscape are just a couple of reasons why Ninh Binh should be on your list of destinations to visit. It’s also a fantastic base to visit popular nearby sites such as the nation’s biggest pagoda, Bai Dinh Pagoda, and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Trang An grottoes.
There are several ways to reach Ninh Binh from Vietnam’s capital Hanoi. You can travel by train, bus, taxi or motorbike. Travelling by train offers up a unique experience as you can take in the scenes of the countryside from the comfort of your train carriage. The train takes around two and a half hours from Hanoi and there are about five to six trains running daily on the route.
When arriving in Vietnam you’ll likely be landing in one of the three international airports; Hanoi, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City. Make sure you’ve arranged your visa prior to travelling and have triple checked your visa requirements. Depending on how long you plan on travelling for, an E-Visa may be perfect for you. This allows you to travel for up to 30 days. If you’re looking to travel for a longer period of time then a Visa on Arrival is the best option. Evisa-Vietnam.com can help take care of all your visa worries and arrange everything for you. They can arrange both E-Visa’s and Visa on Arrival and make sure you select the right option.
Where to stay
When staying in Ninh Binh, there are plenty of accommodation options. The Emeralda Resort is a luxurious place to stay and is located on the edge of Van Long Nature Reserve. With an onsite kids club, it’s perfect for families. Another alternative is Tam Coc Garden where you’ll be surrounded by limestone cliffs and rice paddies. Tours, cooking classes and fishing are available from the hotel.
Start your day with a boat trip through Trang An. The scenic and beautiful region is filled with karst mountains, natural streams and stunning caves to explore. Heading to the Trang An Grottoes early in the morning can keep the crowds to a minimum. A standard boat tour lasts around three hours and costs $9.
Bai Dinh Temple and Hoa Lu Citadel
The Bai Dinh Temple and Hoa Lu citadel are all in relatively close proximity making it very convenient to visit all three attractions on the same day. After your boat ride, head to the Bai Dinh temple complex housing several temples and over 500 carved statues of Buddha. Covering 530 hectares of land, it’s now considered the largest pagoda in South East Asia. Make your last stop of the day the Hoa Lu citadel, a historical site that dates back to the 10th and 11th centuries. Finish your evening off with a visit to Trung Tuyet Restaurant and enjoy some authentic Vietnamese food.
Tam Coc and Bich Dong Pagoda
Spend day two visiting the fascinating Tam Coc, despite being more crowded with tourists it’s a great place to explore. Book onto a boat tour that visits Hang Ba cave, Hang Hai cave and Hang cave and head out early in the morning. To get a panoramic view of Tam Coc, climb almost 500 steps at Hang Mua Cave. The steps are built into the mountain, remember to bring a large bottle of water for the challenging climb. The Bich Dong pagoda is nearby and is a complex of pagodas that are beautiful to explore.
After two days of boat trips, exploring and taking in the sights of Ninh Binh, head back into town and relax. Wander around the alleys, speak to locals or maybe even do some karaoke in the evening. Be sure to rent a motorbike or bicycle from your hotel and explore Ninh Binh at your own speed.