10 Things to Do in Ninh Binh on Your First Visit

10 Things to Do in Ninh Binh on Your First Visit

Forget Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City! Ninh Binh in Northern Vietnam will leave you in awe with its stunning natural scenery, quaint villages, and historical buildings!

Image credit: Chris Goldberg

Just 100km south of the capital city of Hanoi is the lesser-known gem of Northern Vietnam. Ninh Binh is a quaint city famous for its picturesque natural scenery and beautiful historical and religious sites. Also known as the “Halong Bay on Land”, it offers similar landscape views, but with the benefit of being much less touristy and untouched. Categorised into the four main areas, Ninh Binh is full of charming experiences. Here are 10 amazing things to do when you visit Ninh Binh:

Trang An

1. Trang An Grottoes

Image credit: Richard Mortel

One of the most popular places in Ninh Binh, the Trang An Grottoes is a stunning complex of valleys and crosswater caverns. Take a scenic boat ride through the river networks and you’ll be greeted with amazing sights of the extraordinary natural landforms, hidden caves, and beautiful riverside temples.

2. Bai Dinh Temple Spiritual and Cultural Complex

For monster film buffs, this temple might look a tad familiar – it was recently featured in Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ 2017 reboot of the King Kong franchise: Skull Island! The Bai Dinh Temple compound is the largest complex of temples in Vietnam. It is a major destination for religious pilgrimages and an even more popular attraction for visiting tourists who are interested in spirituality and Buddhist art.

3. Hoa Lu

Image credit: Richard Mortel

Nestled between two towering limestone mountains is the ancient capital of Hoa Lu. The city used to be the capital of Vietnam during the 10th and 11th century. Today, Hoa Lu is a cultural centre filled with ancient pagodas and citadels. Most of these were built in honour of the royals of the Dinh dynasty. Depicted here is the iconic archway on the bridge leading into the city, a must-see when touring Ninh Binh!

Tam Coc

4. Mua Cave

Image credit: Nestor Lacle

The highlight of the Mua Caves would be the panoramic view of the mountains and rice fields from the very peak of the area. It’s just a short 15-minute trek up 500 steps,  so it’s definitely one of the most worthwhile activities to spend time on in the area.

5. Tam Coc Boat Ride

Image credit: Tom Caswell

Take a break from the bustling city life and hop on for a boat trip down Tam Coc River. As you cruise along the river, you’ll be rewarded with awe-inspiring natural landscape and a chance to see the rural religious sites hidden away from view. The journey is the perfect respite from busy city life and offers you the chance to truly appreciate the natural beauty of Ninh Binh.

6. Bich Dong Pagoda

Image credit: Jean-Paul Navarro

Bich Dong Pagoda is a cluster of majestic mountain cave temples elegantly residing around the area. These ancient shrines and historic pagodas are scattered in intervals along the hillside, some dating back to as early as the 15th century. You’ll have to walk and climb to get to each monument, but the journey en route treats you to lavish views of the valley and luscious greenery.

Van Long

7. Van Long Nature Reserve

Image credit: Gavin White

The Van Long Nature Reserve is the biggest wetland reserve in Northern Vietnam. With pinnacles of limestone bedrocks and paddy fields that reach the horizon, it’s certainly a memorable place to visit. The nature reserve is also home to many species of primates, including the endangered Delacour’s Langur. Rehabilitation of animals take place here and they are released back into the wild after treatment.

8. Kenh Ga Floating Village

Image credit: gmacfadyen

Ever wonder what’s it like to live as a local of Ninh Binh? Visit the Kenh Ga wetlands for a first-hand perspective of the local life of the village people! Also known as the Chicken Canal, you may even be able to catch some wild chickens running around the area as you experience the simple yet charming village life.

Cuc Phuong

9. Cuc Phuong National Park

Image credit: Jeff B

Cuc Phuong National Park is one of the key sites of biodiversity in Vietnam. As the country’s largest nature reserve, the preserved rainforest is home to over 300 species of rare birds and 2000 species of plants well-protected to maintain the untouched wildlife of Ninh Binh. You can even stay a night or two on the park grounds with local Muong people, an ethnic group that inhabits the mountainous regions of Northern Vietnam.

10. Phat Diem Cathedral

Image credit: Gavin White

The architecture of this Catholic church is a delicate fusion of Western motifs (reminiscent of Gothic architecture from mid-12th century Europe) and local traditional aesthetics. The unique blend of east and west certainly offers a fascinating window into the religious history and architectural heritage of Ninh Binh.

With all these interesting places to visit, why not take a trip to Ninh Binh and experience the rich culture and natural scenery yourself? Trust me, you won’t regret it!

About Author

Stephanie Lauw
Stephanie Lauw

Stephanie is an English literature and film student who has succumbed to the occupational hazard of over-analysing her favourite TV shows. She enjoys theatre and music, and dabbles with both by writing bad plays and experimenting with her band. Her current dream is to island hop the filming locations of all the seasons of Survivor.

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