The best things to do in Ninh Binh

Famous for its beautiful scenery and incredible landscapes, from ancient temples to hidden caves and green rice fields, Ninh Binh is one of the top destinations in Vietnam. It is also called Halong Bay on land. Some of the best things to do in Ninh Binh consist of boat trips on the rivers, cycling through the countryside, and visiting ancient temples and pagodas.

5 reasons to visit Ninh Binh

Take a rowing boat trip on the river at Tam Coc and Trang An.
Enjoy a panoramic view at Mua Cave.
Learn about the century-old dynasties at the ruins of the ancient capital Hoa Lu.
Explore the beautiful landscape of Ninh Binh in one of the National Parks.
Go wildlife and bird watching

Practical information

Recommended days to stay
Ninh Binh is a great place to stay a bit longer. If you just want to visit some of the highlights then two or 3 days can be enough. But this area is also perfect for a longer stop to recover from traveling around. Enjoy a day sitting at the pool or in a hammock overlooking the rice fields, lotus lakes, and mountains

ATMs & money exchange
In the city of Ninh Binh, there are plenty of ATMs, but in the countryside such as Tam Coc and Hoa Lu, there are non. Resorts accept credit cards, but most local restaurants in Ninh Binh don’t.

Local events and holidays
Phong Sinh: a big festival in Buddhist temples with lively street processions and lanterns used to decorate pagodas. Complexes such as Chua Bai Dinh near Ninh Binh host lavish parties. The fifteenth day of the fourth lunar month.

Best time to visit

Rice fields season: There are two periods to see the green rice fields. This is from May to early July, when the locals harvest the rice, and from September to October.
Dry season: From November to April you can enjoy quite cool and dry weather, but bring something warm.
Rainy season: From May to October the weather is warmer and more humid and the chance of rain is higher.

10 best things to do in Ninh Binh

This province has many sights and things to do, including boat rides, cycling between the rice fields, visiting ancient temples, bird watching, or exploring a national park. To help you out we made a list of the 10 best things to do in Ninh Binh.

1. Boat trip on Tam Coc river
Tam Coc is also called the Halong Bay of the Vietnamese islands. The mountains here are not surrounded by the ocean, but by green rice fields and wild nature. By far the best activity you can undertake in Tam Coc is taking a boat trip. Board a rowboat and let the locals paddle you through the green area. Karst mountains, caves, and beautiful views pass you by, and in roughly 2 hours you will close this region to your heart.

2. Boat trip in Trang An
The landscape of Trang An has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is certainly no exaggeration. The detached mountains are formed from slate that is richly overgrown and the steep cliffs in relation to the mirror-smooth clear water give it an extra dramatic effect. You get on a small rowboat with which you sail for 2 hours through and along caves, temples, and lakes.

3. Enjoy the viewpoint at Mua Cave
As the name suggests there is a cave to be found, but the highlight of the Mua Cave is the panoramic view from the top. At the viewpoint, you can enjoy stunning views over the Tam Coc river, with mountains around you and the rice fields below. It is only a short 15-minute walk of 500 steps, so it is definitely one of the best things to do in Ninh Binh.

4. Cuc Phuong National Park
Cuc Phuong National Park is one of the most important places of biodiversity in Vietnam. As the largest nature reserve in the country, the preserved rainforest houses more than 300 species of rare birds and 2000 species of plants that are well protected to preserve the unspoiled nature of Ninh Binh. You can even stay a night or two on the park grounds with local Muong people, an ethnic group living in the mountainous regions of northern Vietnam.

You can also visit the Endangered Primate Rescue Center. This sanctuary is dedicated to the rescue and conservation of the most endangered primate species in Vietnam.

5. Cycling through the countryside of Ninh Binh
The best way to see Ninh Binh is from the saddle of a bicycle. Many hotels lent bicycles for free or rent bicycles for just a dollar. If your accommodation doesn’t do that, check out the nearby hotels and shops. The most important sights in Ninh Binh can easily be explored by bicycle.

Cycling around the area is rewarding. The roads along the rice fields are especially beautiful. There are also some lotus lakes and small villages where you can stop for a drink. On the way, you might have to evade a stray goat or water buffalo.

6. Van Long Nature Reserve
The Van Long Nature Reserve is the largest wetland area in North Vietnam. With peaks of limestone mountains and paddy fields reaching the horizon, it is certainly a memorable place to visit. The nature reserve is also home to many primate species, including the endangered Langur. Rehabilitation of animals takes place here and they are released back into the wild after treatment.

7. Hoa Lu
Nestled between two towering limestone mountains you will find Hoa Lu. The city was the capital of Vietnam in the 10th and 11th centuries. Today Hoa Lu is a cultural center full of ancient pagodas and citadels. Most of these were built in honor of the Dinh dynasty royalty. A visit to this place is one of the best things to do in Ninh Binh.

8. Bai Dinh Pagoda
The Bai Dinh temple complex is the largest complex of temples in Vietnam. It is a major destination for religious pilgrimages and an even more popular Ninh Binh landmark for tourists interested in spirituality and Buddhist art.

9. Bich Dong Pagoda
Bich Dong Pagoda is a cluster of majestic mountain cave temples that gracefully line the area. These ancient shrines and historic pagodas are scattered along the hill, some dating back to the 15th century. You have to walk and climb to get to every monument, but the route along the way is totally worth it. The bridge entrance is a well-known spot for Instagrammers.

10. Thung Nham Bird Garden
Thung Nham Park is a relatively new attraction in Ninh Binh, but it is a nice place to visit without too many tourists. The park is particularly known for the many birds that live here. The best time to go is late afternoon or early morning before the birds leave. The birds return home at about 4 pm, but the park is large so there is plenty to do before you look at the birds. Boat trips are available to take you to the forest where the birds return every evening.

Food & Drinking

Restaurant options in Ninh Binh city are few, but you can still enjoy plenty of good food from northern Vietnam here. Eat early as many restaurants close at about 8 pm.

If you are out and about during the day, you will see many local restaurants serving Ninh Binh’s signature dish “De Nui” – mountain goat. This is definitely recommended.

You will probably also eat at your hotel, especially if you are staying in remote places.

How to get around?

The most recommend a way to get around Ninh Binh is by bicycle. Cycling is fun and easy and most sights in Ninh Binh are not too far from each other. The roads in the area are flat so it’s not exhausting and there is almost no traffic. Bicycles are often free at the accommodation.

You can also use motorbikes/scooters instead of bikes. You can rent them almost anywhere, including directly to your accommodation. The prices for renting a motorbike in Ninh Binh start from 100,000 VND.

As an alternative, you can rent a car with a driver to drive you to the sights. It is very comfortable and makes it easier to go to further sights, such as Cuc Phuong National Park and the wetlands of Van Long.

For short distances between your accommodation and the train station, you can take a taxi.

Itinerary 2 days in Ninh Binh
Below you can see an example of 2 days in the Ninh Binh itinerary.

Day 1
Morning: Boatride in Trang An (start early to avoid the crowds)
Late morning/Early afternoon: Cycle from Trang a to Hoa Lu and visit the ancient buildings.
Late afternoon: Take a taxi to Van Long in the late afternoon so you can see the storks flying back to their nests.
Day 2
Morning: Enjoy a boat ride in Tam Coc (also start early to avoid the crowds).
Afternoon: Cycle along the rice fields and visit Bich Dong Pagoda
Late afternoon: When the heat is getting less, climb up to the viewpoint at Mua Cave.

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