The lush Red River Delta in northern Vietnam creates the dreamy landscape of Ninh Binh, often referred to as “Ha Long Bay on Land”. Known for its karst mountains and hidden grottoes, cave temples, green valleys and shimmering rice fields, Ninh Binh is an incredible insight to the simple beauty of the Vietnamese countryside. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tam Coc and Trang An Scenic Landscape complex are best visited by rowing boat, while the Cuc Phuong National Park contains incredible vistas along its hiking trails. For an epic panoramic view of the river running through rice fields, climb the stairs to the top of Hang Mua. Nearby is the river gateway to Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of Vietnam in the 10th and 11th centuries. The largest complex of Buddhist temples in Vietnam exists here, consisting of Bai Dinh and Bich Dong Pagoda, as well as Phat Diem Stone Cathedral.
Time to visit
Visit Ninh Binh between April and November for spectacular sweeping vistas of northern Vietnam landscapes. Measure the passage of time by observing the rice paddies change from flooded mirrors and vibrant green hues to the rich gold of autumn harvest. If undertaking a climb to the top of Hang Mua or rowing through the caves and grottoes of Trang An and Tam Coc Complexes during the hot and humid months of late May to the end of August, make sure to join the activities in the early morning and late afternoon to protect yourself from these intense summer days.
There are many boutique hotels and homestays to choose from with an overnight stay in Ninh Binh. Resorts run between 100 – 200 USD per night, while small boutique hotels and family-run homestays run from 15 – 40 USD per night. A few hotels have swimming pools and many homestays offer BBQ services when booked ahead of time.
Food & drink
Ninh Binh has a variety of specialty meals to choose from, including a rare kind of goat meat called Tai De and com chay, a pan-fried sticky rice seasoned with spices, meat, and vegetables. Homestays usually provide meals for guests although whether it is included in the price or a small additional expense depends on the accommodation. Expect to pay between 2 – 3 USD per meal in Ninh Binh at local restaurants.
Wi-fi is available in most cafes, hotels, and overnight ships although sometimes the service can be spotty when sailing through the limestone islands. SIM Cards can be bought from main brands such as Viettel, Mobifone, and Vinaphone from 2 – 3 USD and internet data for 1 – 25 USD at nearly every shop on the street. In case of emergency, dial 113 for the police, 114 for fire, 115 for ambulance and first-aid.
Ninh Binh is easily reached from Hanoi by bus, car, and train. The train takes a little over 2 hours and costs between 3 – 6 USD one-way depending on type of seat booked. Going by road with the local bus also takes around 2 hours, costing 5 – 8 USD for a seat one-way, while a private 4-seat car will cost 60 USD roundtrip.
How to get to Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh is 100 km southeast of Hanoi. The easiest way is to start from Hanoi. Bus and train take more than 2 hours while the private car takes under 2 hours. Ninh Binh’s bus station is near the railway station, which is a 15-minute drive from Trang An.
Recommended length of stay
2 days is the ideal time to discover highlights of Ninh Binh. However, if you don’t have much time and want to see as more as possible, one day tour is still fine.
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