This complete travel guide to Ninh Binh Province includes everything you need to know to make the most out of your trip to this beautiful area in Vietnam. Although Ninh Binh is a fascinating place with incredible landscapes and cultural value, it somehow gets overlooked by most of the tourists. Read below to find out which are the Ninh Binh must see attractions and get a glimpse inside this amazing place.
Why Ninh Binh is a must see
Finding destinations where you can truly experience the local culture and life is getting increasingly harder. The rise of tourism in countries like Vietnam damages the local customs and traditions and transforms them in just another source of income or even worse – completely destroys them. A good example of such a place is Sapa where people have abandoned their traditions and switched to touristic activities in order to support their families.
We, as tourists, should be more responsible and careful about what we spend our money on when traveling to a different country. Helping the local people preserve their customs and traditions should be a priority. This is why I absolutely loved Ninh Binh. Here you can still enjoy the authentic life while admiring some of the most beautiful views in Southeast Asia.
With endless rice fields, limestone mountains, beautiful temples and pagodas, Ninh Binh is a must visit when in Vietnam. I would recommend spending at least two full days in this beautiful place. There are many things to do in Ninh Binh and one day is too little to experience this place. We have spent 6 days here and although we saw some of the attractions twice, we didn’t get bored.
The best time to visit Ninh Binh
If you are wondering when to visit Ninh Binh, don’t worry – you can visit it anytime you want. The average temperature throughout the year is 24 degrees Celsius and the rain is moderate.
The best time to see the rice fields in Ninh Binh is during the months of April, May, September and October when it’s harvest time. During these months, the rice fields turn yellow and create stunning views.
Our experience in Ninh Binh in May
If you plan to visit Ninh Bih in May, I think it’s a great choice. There won’t be as many tourists compared to the high season. Therefore, you will have the chance to enjoy the laid-back atmosphere without all the crowds.
Also, the prices are more reasonable both at restaurants and accommodation.
Ninh Binh must see attractions
There are many things to see in Ninh Binh. I will list them in order of my preference. It will make it easier for you to decide where to go, depending on how much time you have in Ninh Binh.
Hang Mua Peak
A Ninh Binh must visit, Hang Mua Peak is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area due to the amazing views it offers over the Tam Coc Valley. Climbing all the stairs can be a bit challenging but the view from the peak is definitely worth it. Grab your most comfortable shoes, a bottle of water and challenge yourself to climb all the 500 stairs – you won’t regret it.
The entrance fee to Hang Mua peak is 100,000 VND per person and the parking is free if you park right after the ticket counter. The opening hours are between 7 am and 5 pm.
Discover the Ninh Binh caves at Trang An
A major Ninh Binh attraction, the Trang An boat tour will lead you through a series of impressive caves. Depending on the route you will choose, you will have the chance to see 9 Ninh Binh caves or less (read more about your options here). Also, you will stop at several temples along the way while discovering the amazing limestone mountains in the area.
The ticket to Trang An boat tour costs 200,000 VND per person and the opening hours are between 6 am and 3 pm.
Take a Tam Coc boat tour
If you want to admire the rice fields growing at the base of tall limestone mountains, then a Tam Coc boat tour is the perfect choice. Moreover, you will have the chance to experience something unique – the tour guides are rowing the boats with their feet. This fast and effective method has become an attraction by itself and it’s no wonder why.
The tickets cost 150,000 VND per boat (2 people) plus an entrance fee of 120,000 VND per person. The opening hours are between 8 am and 6 pm.
Thai Vi Temple
Although the temple itself is not very impressive, the road leading to it is goes through rice fields and tall, round mountains. There is something about this places that makes it incredibly relaxing. If you are planning to visit the Thai Vi Temple, do not hesitate to walk there – it will take you only about 15 minutes from the Tam Coc Lake.
The entrance to this temple is free.
Bich Dong Pagoda
The Bich Dong Pagoda has an unusual architecture since it consists of three pagodas built on separate layers, in a limestone mountain. To get to the top, you will have to climb a few stairs and go through the Dark Cave but the view is worth it.
The entrance to this pagoda is free. Friendly advice: beware of the parking scams. Don’t accept to pay more than 10,000 VND for parking.
Bai Dinh Pagoda
Considered the biggest Buddhist temple in Vietnam, the Bai Dinh Pagoda is one of the Ninh Binh attractions. This temple is a good opportunity to get a taste of the Vietnamese culture and beliefs. I loved the interior of the temple with the huge, golden Buddha. To get to the main temple you will have to go through a series of other temples.
The complex is quite big, so bring your comfortable shoes with you. Also, bring a bottle of water since there aren’t any stores inside. If you forget to bring water with you, you can ask one of the temple carers for one.
The entrance fee to Bai Dinh Pagoda is free. However, you will have to pay for the parking.
Where to stay in Ninh Binh Province
When talking about Ninh Binh, most people refer to the entire area in Ninh Binh Province, including Ninh Binh City. I would definitely recommend finding accommodation in Tam Coc. Tam Coc is close to all the main tourist attraction in Ninh Binh and in the same is a quiet place where you can get a glimpse into the local Vietnamese life. You can see the people taking care of the rice fields or walking with the buffaloes and enjoy the local food (don’t hesitate to try the goat dishes).
We stayed at Tam Coc Craft Homestay and we loved it. We had a huge room, with a comfortable bed and the most friendly owners which invited us to a traditional Vietnamese meal with them. I definitely recommend this place.
How to get to and around Ninh Binh
The easiest way to get to Ninh Binh, no matter where you’re coming from is by bus. The buses in Vietnam are reliable and accessible. Another alternative would be to take the train but the train stops at the station in Ninh Binh City. From there, you will have to take a bus to Tam Coc.
If you want to visit Ninh Binh from Hanoi and have a hustle free experience, you can choose a guided tour. However, keep in mind that these tours are usually more expensive than going by bus and finding your own accommodation. Below are a few examples:
Once you have reached Tam Coc, getting around is easy. The best alternative is to rent a motorbike for 150,000 VND per day (read more about motorbiking in Vietnam here). Also, if you want to visit closer attractions, you can get there by bicycle. Usually most of the hotels, hostels and guesthouses rent both motorbikes and bicycles.
You can also get around Ninh Binh by taxi but it is more expensive (15,000 VND per kilometer) and you will have to talk to the driver to wait for you while you visit the attractions.
I hope that I have convinced you that Ninh Binh is a must visit when in Vietnam. It has so many things to offer both in terms of culture and landscapes. Enjoy these Ninh Binh must see attractions and don’t forget to support the local culture by buying local products and handcrafts.
May the travel bug bite you!
More about Ninh Binh:
- Is Ninh Binh worth visiting? – 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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