Ninh Binh is almost 100 km south of the capital city, Hanoi, and offers a variety of things to do and see in the local vicinity. Popular things to see on the tours in Ninh Binh include Bich Dong Pagoda, Hoa Lu (Vietnam's old capital), Bich Dong, Cuc Phuong National Park, Phat Diem Cathedral, Trang An and Tam Coc. But for those that want to experience the colourful ranges and quiet roads, rent a motorbike or bicycle and take along a phrase-book and a map for the most unique travel experience that really lets you appreciate the scenery.
Many of the sites in Ninh Binh city are confined within a quite congested area that spans about 12 km, most of the surrounding land is flat, a lot of destinations are easily reached on a motorbike or bicycle.
Even though the actual city may appear uneventful at first glance, it is truly blessed with its stunning landscape of striking limestone outcrops and lush green paddy fields that helps to create the perfect Vietnam travel packages.
Ninh Binh travel guide highlights
• Visit Cuc Phuong National Park and listen and watch the wide range of animal species
• Take a boat trip to explore grottoes and caves of Trang An scenic landscape.
• Take a relaxing bicycle tour from Hoa Lu to Tam Coc to experience the wonderful limestone cliffs
• Hire a motorbike or bicycle to experience the more off the beaten track Vietnam tour packages
• Visit the Kenh Ga Canal and villages to watch on as the locals go about the day-to-day life
• Try goat meat which is a local food specialty
Places to stay in Ninh Binh
A visit to Ninh Binh gives plenty of relatively cost-effective accommodation options, such as the dorm rooms, but for the traveller that has a preference for luxury it may be necessary to look elsewhere. Many of the guesthouses and hotels are situated on Le Hong Phong, Truong Han Sieu, and Luong Van Tuy streets. For the really convenient places to stay (bed for the night), there are a variety of options near the bus and train stations.
Food & Drink
Crispy rice (com chay) and mountain goat meat are famous dishes served in this region of Vietnam. Most of the hotels that are intended for the tourists have menus in English, but if you want to explore the more authentic areas in Ninh Binh, you may want to remember to take along a phrase-book.
Ninh Binh city is relatively easy to reach with a 3 hour train journey the easiest option. The cost of the train journey can vary based on the type of train and class of seating - but the cost is usually in the region of 44,000 to 85,000 Vietnamese dong.
Alternative transport options include the bus service which can take in the region of 1-1/2 to 2 hours to arrive from Hanoi. But, the length of the journey can vary with the different bus routes and type of bus.
Motorbikes and bicycles are easy to hire from most of the local guesthouses or hotels, and with the mostly flat land, the journeys aren't overly strenuous. For those that plan to experience the Tam Coc tour there are plenty of taxis available, and on arrival at this destination, it is a relatively easy walk to other sites like Hang Mua and Bich Dong. Alternatively, it is also possible to hire a bicycle on arrival in Tam Coc if planning to travel on to further destinations.
For the traveller planning to visit Bai Dinh Pagoda, Hoa Lu, or Trang An it is more practical to use a taxi, motorbike, or bicycle between destinations because of the walk can be quite a stretch. Other options include the ability to organise the Ninh Binh tours which will include ongoing transportation between venues.
Places to visit in Ninh Binh:
- Phat Diem
The Phat Diem Cathedral is a combination of traditional Vietnamese and Gothic style architecture and a popular attraction for both the local and foreign visitors. This Cathedral is situated about 28 km outside the town of Ninh Binh. This Cathedral is notably different to those found in Europe and has undergone restoration to maintain its image. The easiest option to arrive at Phat Diem is by hiring a motorbike for the day. Alternatively, a car taxi or xe om (motorbike taxi) is available, but the car taxi is the most expensive at about 10,000 Vietnamese dong per kilometre.
- Tam Coc Caves
The Tam Coc Caves are about 7 km from town to give a perfect boat tour that explores the three major cave systems in the area. On average, the boat tour can take three hours to complete and gives a perfect view of the rice fields and the protruding karst limestone formations, as well as getting to observe the local villages in their daily routine.
- Trang An Caves
Similar to Tam Coc, there is another grotto area in the region and enjoyed on the Trang An tour, which is the less crowded option to experience the cave tours.
- Cuc Phuong National Park
The Cuc Phuong National Park is a beautifully maintained sanctuary that contains over 450 animal species and 50 species of wild orchids. The natural scenery is entirely entrancing and includes Muong tribe houses that are surrounded by limestone mountains. The Cuc Phuong tour is about 40 km outside of the main town and gives a completely different view of Vietnam and perfect for those looking for something different to the temples and pagodas.
The journey to Cuc Phuong can take in the region of 1 to 1 1/2 hours with the best options including the car taxi or motorbike taxi. The xe om (motorbike taxi) is the most cost-effective at about 100,000 Vietnamese Dong while the normal taxi can cost three or four times as much. Also, this Park has an information kiosk that helps with hiring a Ninh Binh travel guide, booking one or two day tours, learning the availability of homestays and renting a bicycle.