Ninh Binh is a region of spectacular rural beauty. You will find beautiful landscapes, rock formations so similar to those found in Ha Long Bay but on land, temples and many of them very hidden, large temples, caves, lagoons, rivers where it is possible to navigate, stories, legends...
Ninh Binh is a very quiet area, where you hardly find tourism (except very specific months such as July and August) there are months that you may not come across any other traveler.
You have many options of places to visit. I have visited Ninh Binh twice. The first time we spent 3 days touring all the popular places and on my next trip we spent 6 days, we rented some motorbikes and toured the entire area looking for small caves, hidden temples, we crossed rice fields, we had much more time to talk with local…
How many days are needed to visit Ninh Binh?
In this list I add the most beautiful places to see in Ninh Binh. All of them, if you travel in a quiet month with not much tourism, you can visit them in 3-4 days. And if you have time, I would even add one more day so you can take the opportunity to disconnect, wander aimlessly through rice fields, go for a bike ride or take the opportunity to indulge yourself in one of its hotels.
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES TO SEE IN NINH BINH
Tam Coc is an area of the Ninh Binh province, it is a beautiful area that if you have visited Ha Long Bay it will be very familiar to you.
Tam Coc is a huge area full of rice fields, crossed by the Ngo Dong River and surrounded by karst mountains. To be able to enjoy this wonder, one of the best ways is to take a ride in some small boats.
On the tourist maps provided by the hotel, the pier appears as Tam Coc Boat Ride. The ticket price is 120,000 dong and the boat price is 150,000 dong. Throughout the journey you have a guide who will navigate the boat throughout the journey and will make some stops. They are generally women who only speak Vietnamese, so you can only enjoy the place, but they will not explain anything to you.
During the tour you will cross three caves that give the name to this region: Hang Ca, Hang Giua and Hang Cui. In some the ceiling is so low that you have to bend down to avoid colliding with them. The walk is well worth it.
It is not the only option where you can take a boat ride, there is also Trang An, one of the best places to see in Ninh Binh. (I'll explain it later).
If you have few days or no transportation in Ninh Binh, a good option is to book an excursion that includes some of the most beautiful places. There is an option with a guide in Spanish:
Bich Dong Pagoda
It is one of the most amazing temples in Vietnam. It is a very cool place and we were lucky enough to visit it alone (we visited it in May) and the environment is a very special place. It is a complex embedded in the mountain. In it are the pagodas: Ha Pagoda, Trung Pagoda and Thuong Pagoda, on different levels.
Embedded in the mountain are the stairs to go up the levels. You will find altars with offerings and from the top you will have beautiful views of Tam Coc.
Admission is free, parking to leave the motorcycle at the entrance is about 20,000 dong.
It is a place that transmits a lot of peace. I personally loved it and it is one of the most essential places to see in Ninh Binh.
Hang Mua and his dragon
This is the perfect place to visit before sunset. And although it is the most visited destination at the moment, I recommend it. If you travel in high season, you may find a lot of people.
Before arriving, the road is full of rice fields on both sides with the mountains in the background. The incredible thing is that you can stop anywhere and go through them. The magic that is breathed in this place is incredible. In addition, you will be able to see the day laborers working and plowing the rice, even in the middle of the road you will find delimited areas where they dry the rice, just like that, right there in the middle.
Hang Mua is a small cave at the base of the Mua karst mountain in which hundreds of stairs have been set up to take you to the top. At the top, you will have incredible 360 degree views of the Tam Coc and Trang Anen region. In addition, you will find a stone dragon, which is why in English many know this place as Lying Dragon Mountain.
The entrance fee is about 20,000 dong and it is well worth it. You can't leave it out of your way!
Before going up the irregular stairs, you will find a small garden area, the entrance to the cave, several small altars and a swing to take a picture in a privileged place, surrounded by rice fields and mountains.
We went up about 2 hours before sunset and we really enjoyed the experience. Perhaps not so much margin is needed, but having this margin you will be able to enjoy the moment of light where the mountains and fields are greener and also the magical moment where everything is dyed orange. Here you have the spectacular views from above, of Tam Coc.
Bai Dinh Pagoda, the most essential place to see in Ninh Binh
Bai Dinh Pagoda is a huge complex where you will find temples, gardens and pagodas. It is the largest temple complex in Vietnam. To visit it in its entirety, I recommend that you plan your day to spend 2 or 3 hours here.
In it you will find the largest bronze Buddha statues in Asia and a bell considered one of the largest in Southeast Asia.
It is a place full of history, culture and art that is priceless. It is a place of pilgrimage for locals and Asians, they consider it a sacred place of worship.
Some of the most impressive places in the enclosure are the immense pagoda, the Temple of the Three Times and the endless row of 500 statues of Arhant with a thousand positions of legs, arms and head that means that there is not a single one like it. In it, each one demonstrates the state of the soul of the Buddhist doctrine: anger, joy, hate and love.
Outside you will find a parking lot that you will have to pay for when you leave your car, motorcycle or bicycle. We did not have to pay an entrance fee because it was a time out of high season, but if you travel during the holiday months you will have to go through the ticket office.
Inside the enclosure, if you don't want to walk a lot, you can do the circuit with electric golf carts. You can buy the ticket and get on and off as many times as you want.
Trang An is a natural park through which you will take a boat ride (Tam Coc style) you will pass through caves and visit several temples that are built between the river and the mountains, with the only access being by boat.
If you don't have time to do the tour of Tam Coc and Trang An, and you can only choose one option, I would definitely go with Trang An.
The route is quite long, with the stops, it will take about 3 hours. We who went with very young children and at 40 degrees in the middle of May, the poor people ended up a little exhausted. But it is certainly a worthwhile activity.
Once you arrive at the pier, you must pay for the boat. Each boat can carry a maximum of 4 people.
During the tour you will be surrounded by mountains, you will pass through caves where you will have to crouch down, you will see birds, fish... and the coolest thing, you will find temples along the way. One of the most beautiful temples, it is a small temple in the middle of the water, the only one that cannot be visited. You will pass closely to appreciate it.
Van Long Nature Reserve is very similar to Tam Coc and Trang An, but hardly known by foreign tourists. We visited it on our second time in Ninh Binh, because it was one of the places that remained pending for us and although it has nothing to envy its neighbors, it is not worth making both visits unless you have many days in the region of Ninh Binh.
The landscape is characterized by its karstic mountains, the rice fields at the foot of the river and its traditional boats to navigate its waters.
The best time to take the boat ride in this area is at sunset. But beware! Both sunrise and sunset are the perfect time to die from mosquito bites. There is a lot! So, if you go at this time, don't forget the repellent and long-sleeved clothing.
Hoa Lu Citadel, capital of Vietnam in the 10th century
Hoa Lu Citadel was the capital of Vietnam in the 10th century during the Dinh and Le dynasties. It is located between limestone mountains, which were once the perfect defense. They were natural barriers to human traffic.
The entrance to the citadel and the bridge are new. It is a reconstruction of what is estimated to have been in the past.
Once inside the enclosure, you find the Dinh tiet Hoàng Temple. One of the few that remains in the citadel in good condition. This temple was built by local residents near the center of the old capital in order to honor Dinh Bo Linh, the first emperor of Vietnam, and is located on the grounds of the former main palace of the royal citadel.
Continuing the tour you will find the Temple of Le Dai Hành, one of the best preserved temples in the citadel. As you follow the path there are several temples that are not so well preserved but that convey the essence of the place, small altars, garden areas...
Get lost in Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh, like the rest of Vietnam, has very beautiful places that do not reside in temples or cultural places to visit. Its greatest beauty is the natural environment where it is located.
One of the things that I liked the most about this region and that is why we returned years later, were its paths between rice fields, its landscapes of limestone mountains, small temples that you find hidden...
Honestly, I couldn't pinpoint an exact location for you on a map. It is about renting a motorcycle, taking a bike… and getting lost. Entering the dirt roads, meeting the locals... and enjoying this wonder of a place.
PLAN YOUR TRIP STEP BY STEP
I hope you enjoy your trip to Ninh Binh very much and that this article has been useful to you. You can continue reading many more related articles on the blog.
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A hug and see you soon!