Ninh Binh has become an increasingly popular destination for travelers in Vietnam and it’s no wonder why. With endless rice fields, tall limestone mountains and amazing caves, Ninh Binh Province is a must see. If you are reading this article, you might be asking yourself: “Is Ninh Binh worth visiting?”. The short answer is yes and I am going to tell you why.
Discover the amazing Ninh Binh rice fields
Unlike Sapa or Ha Giang which are popular for the rice terraces, Ninh Binh offers a completely different view. Here, the rice fields grow on flat land. However, the limestone mountains popping out of the rice fields create a unique view. If you are lucky enough, you can even see ducks swimming and playing in between the rice.
The best way to admire the rice fields and the surrounding mountains in Ninh Binh is to take a Tam Coc boat tour. The views you will see from the boat tour are definitely some of the most popular in the area. The river flows right between the rice fields which are surrounded by tall mountains and caves. Trust me, it cannot get better than this.
Enjoy the silence at Thai Vi Temple
Out of all the amazing places you can visit around the Ninh Binh Province, Thai Vi Temple is the perfect option if you want to enjoy the silence and re-connect with nature. Although the temple itself is beautiful but not impressive, the road to it is definitely worth walking. Getting to Thai Vi Temple by foot will take you about 15 minutes from Tam Coc Lake and the views along the way are breathtaking.
Admire some of the best views in Vietnam
When visiting Vietnam, everybody talks about Halong Bay and its beauty but few people go off the beaten path. Sometimes, exploring lesser known places will lead you to some incredible landscapes and sightseeing places. This is exactly the case of Ninh Binh, also know as the ‘dry Halong Bay’.
One of the most beautiful views in Vietnam is from the top of Hang Mua Peak. Yes, you will have to climb a few stairs and it will be tiring (don’t forget to bring some water with you and a chocolate bar) but getting to the top will be worth it. The panoramic view over Tam Coc Valley was definitely one of the highlights of my trip in Southeast Asia.
Get a taste of the authentic Vietnamese culture
Apart from the rural life, the temples and pagodas around Ninh Binh are just some of the vestiges that preserve the Vietnamese culture. To get a glimpse of Vietnam’s history, I recommend visiting the Hoa Lu Ancient Capital (the capital of Vietnam between the 10th and 11th centuries), the Thai Vi Temple or Bich Dong Pagoda. If you have enough time, another place worth visiting is Bai Dinh Pagoda which is considered the biggest Buddhist temple in Vietnam (do wear comfortable shoes and appropriate clothing).
If you are in Ninh Binh, you cannot leave without tasting some of the local dishes. The most popular are the ones made from goat meat. If you will be getting around Ninh Binh by motorbike, chances are you will see local people on the side of the road selling goat meat. The presentation is totally unexpected as people display the whole cooked goat on a stand and people stop by and buy parts from it to eat. If you are feeling adventurous, you can try it. If not, you can definitely find goat dishes in most of the restaurants in Ninh Binh.
Another unique cultural practice in Ninh Binh Province is the ‘feet rowing’. Since many people rely on tourism in this area, many locals work as rowers for the local boat tours. Over time, they have developed a unique rowing style which is faster and involves less effort – feet rowing. To read more about this practice, click here.
Try some exotic fruits
You cannot leave Vietnam without trying some tasty and unusual fruits. My favorites are: dragon fruit, passion fruit. snake fruit, papaya and guava. You can find fruits at the local market or at stores along the main road in Tam Coc.
Where to stay in Ninh Binh
If you are planning to visit the main points of interest around Ninh Binh, I definitely recommend staying in Tam Coc. Tam Coc is close to the main attractions and offers a glimpse into the rural life of Vietnamese people. The other alternative would be to stay in Ninh Binh City but it is quite far from the tourist attractions and it doesn’t have the charm of Tam Coc.
We stayed at Tam Coc Craft Homestay and it was one of the best accommodations we had during our two month trip in Vietnam. The rooms are big, clean and the breakfast is delicious.
How to get to and around Ninh Binh
Getting to Ninh Binh is easy, no matter where in Vietnam you are coming from. The bus and train systems are reliable and affordable. If you are taking the bus, make sure to ask where where the bus station is (Ninh Binh City or Tam Coc). If the bus leaves you in Ninh Binh, you will have to take a taxi from there. If you are taking the train, it will stop in Ninh Binh.
There are also many tour companies which offer one day or two day tours to Ninh Binh area from Hanoi. However, getting there by yourself is definitely cheaper. Below are a few suggestions of such tours:
The easiest way to get around Ninh Binh and reach all the tourist attractions is by motorbike. You can rent a motorbike from your accommodation or from a hotel nearby for around 150,000 VND per day. Another option would be to rent a bicycle. However, getting to places which are more than 10 km away can get difficult and tiring by bicycle.
You can also take a taxi for about 15,000 VND per kilometer. However, you will have to make sure that the taxi will wait for you because you can only find taxis in Ninh Binh and Tam Coc. Getting a taxi from one of the tourist attractions is almost impossible.
I hope that I have convinced you that Ninh Binh is worth visiting. With its breathtaking natural beauty and amazing culture, Ninh Binh should be on your travel list when visiting Vietnam.
May the travel bug bite you!
More about Ninh Binh:
- Ninh Binh must see attractions – click here
- Trang An boat tour – click here
- Tam Coc boat tour – click here
- Hang Mua Peak – a view to remember – click here
- Thai Vi Temple – click here
- Bich Dong Pagoda – click here
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