Holidays in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

The Ninh Binh Province, often referred to as 'Halong Bay on Land', is a varied landscape of towering limestone karsts, lush farmlands and paddy fields. While the town itself is unremarkable, the surrounding landscape is home to some classic Vietnamese scenery and intriguing sites, including the pagodas of Dich Long cave and the ancient capital city of Hoa Lu.

Ninh Binh

Located about 2 hours from Hanoi, Ninh Binh is definitely worth visiting particularly if you’re in northern Vietnam. Its towering limestone cliffs and winding rivers contribute to the mesmerising countryside that has earned it the nickname ‘Halong Bay on land.’ The ethereal setting meanders past hidden caves and historic sites, including the ancient capital city of Hoa Lu. Tranquil sampan trips down the Red River offer a glimpse at traditional rural life, while the flat paddy fields are perfect for cycling around. Adventurers, families, and keen walkers will love Ninh Binh.

Things to See and Do in Ninh Binh

Leave behind busy city life in Hanoi for the absolute serenity of Ninh Binh, where the best things to do embrace the peace and quiet of this green and watery landscape.

“The perfect way to explore Ninh Binh is to hop on a bike and meander the little streets, surrounded by rice paddies and the most incredible limestone karsts.” - Hannah Mackie, Senior Travel Consultant, Asia.

Mua Cave

Mua Cave is a natural wonder known for its steep 500-step climb, which offers one of the best panoramic views of the Tam Coc Valley, making it a popular destination for hikers and photographers. Inside the cave, visitors can marvel at intricate stalactites and a temple dedicated to military leader Tran Hung Dao, a revered Vietnamese hero who fought off two out of three Mongol invasions.

Van Long Nature Reserve

Found amongst Ninh Binh’s limestone pinnacles are these peaceful wetlands that are popular with birdwatchers. Rare, black-faced spoonbills, cotton pygmy geese and white-browed crakes have all been spotted here. Van Long is also one of the last places you can see the endangered Delacour’s langur in the wild (it is thought that there are only 120 left), thanks to the lack of predators in the reserve. Take a trip on a rowing boat to explore the serene ecosystem, which is a haven for nature lovers and keen ornithologists alike.

A boat trip on Tam Coc or Trang An

While Trang An is the official UNESCO World Heritage Site, both this area and Tam Coc are beautiful waterways lined with enormous, forested limestone karsts, best seen by boat. Either route will take you past grottoes and caves, while Tam Coc is sandwiched between verdant rice paddy fields and a boat trip in Trang An meanders past ancient temples. It can also include a stop to explore Hoa Lu. Both are top of our list of things to do in Ninh Binh.

“One of the most iconic things to do in Ninh Binh is a sampan ride along the river and through the caves, the local women on these boats often use their legs to row, which is amazing to see.” - Hannah Mackie

Hoa Lu

What was once the capital city of Vietnam in the 10th and 11th centuries is now a collection of ancient pagodas and temples. There’s a kind of fairytale feel to Hoa Lu, with its classic Vietnamese architecture, adorned with intricate carvings and vibrant colours that tell stories of a time gone by. Make sure you see Hoa Lu with a guide to really learn all about its interesting history.

Indulge in local cuisine

Ninh Binh is known for its distinctive cuisine, which differs from other parts of Vietnam and may be less familiar to you. Com Chay (burnt rice) is a particular specialty, made by charring rice to create a crispy texture which is served with various toppings and sauces. Some of the other regional cuisine includes mountain goat, geoduck clams and fermented pork rolls.

Hike to Bich Dong Pagoda

Nestled at the base of a karst mountain is Bich Dong Pagoda, a beautiful complex of temples and caves dating back over 300 years. Hike up the mountain to reach the higher pagodas, which offer stunning vistas of the surrounding countryside and fascinating examples of Buddhist traditions. People often make pilgrimages here to pray and meditate, donate money to the offering bowls, light incense, or recite chants and songs, particularly during religious festivals.

When to Go to Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh weather is split into two main seasons; cool and dry (October to April) and hot and humid (May to September). But even in the cool and dry season, temperatures are between 20C and 30C. The best time to visit is September, October, November, February, and March when there is the least rainfall, plus the rice paddies are at their greenest in October and November. December and January can be foggy, which is not ideal for boat trips, hiking, and making the most of the natural surroundings.

Read more about the best time to visit Vietnam.

Where is Ninh Binh? 

Ninh Binh is in the north of Vietnam, about 2 to 2.5 hours from Hanoi and can be visited on a day trip or a stopover for several days. If you’re wondering how to get to Ninh Binh from Hanoi, you can either make the journey with a private car and driver or go by train – both take about the same amount of time and Scott Dunn will arrange your transfers. Vietnam’s railway connects Saigon in the south and Hanoi in the north efficiently and, for those who love trains, it’s one of the ultimate travelling experiences, during which you will see a snapshot of authentic Vietnamese life unfold before you. One of the example tours that we have put together, Epic Vietnam, sees guests travel from Ninh Binh to Halong Bay for a two or three-night cruise on its emerald waters, before heading to one of the beautiful central beaches and then finally to Saigon.

Where to Stay In Ninh Binh

Tam Coc Gardens is an ideal place for those looking for somewhere to stay in Ninh Binh. The charming boutique hotel is right in the heart of the area and with just 16 bungalows and villas, it has an intimate village feel to it. Fully immersed in the green surroundings, the hotel embraces nature in all it does, from the materials used to build the bedrooms to the food in the restaurant. It has bicycles to borrow for whizzing around the countryside and is especially good for families.

FAQs About Ninh Binh

  • How far is Ninh Binh from Hanoi?

    Ninh Binh is about 56 miles south of Hanoi, Vietnam's capital city. The distance may vary slightly depending on your specific starting and ending points within Hanoi and Ninh Binh, but the journey typically takes around 2 to 2.5 hours.

  • How do you get from Hanoi to Ninh Binh?

    The best way to get from Hanoi to Ninh Binh is by train or car, both take the same amount of time. The train offers up an authentic Vietnamese experience, in which you can witness life and scenery as you pass through the beautiful landscape, while driving allows for a bit more flexibility and privacy.

Meet Our Vietnam Specialist

Call us on 020 3918 3595 to start planning your holiday

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