Explore Vietnam’s hidden gem – Top 10 things to do in Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh, often referred to as Vietnam’s hidden gem, is a playground for adventurers and an oasis for nature lovers. This region, which was once Vietnam’s first capital, has earned UNESCO World Heritage certification. It boasts moss-covered pagodas, dramatic limestone karsts, and surreal landscapes. If you’re ready for an adventure that combines history, culture, and natural beauty, you’ve come to the right place. 

In this blog post, we will uncover the top 10 things to do in Ninh Binh, ensuring you make the most of your time in this captivating destination. Join us on an exploration of Ninh Binh’s finest attractions, where we’ll uncover the captivating experiences that transform this region into an integral part of your Vietnam adventure.

Top 10 things to do in Ninh Binh – The land of mystical nature

Ninh Binh, located about 2 hours south of Hanoi in northern Vietnam, is often associated with the broader Ninh Binh province rather than just the city itself. Often referred to as the ‘Halong Bay on land,’ Ninh Binh province is a natural wonder that shouldn’t be missed on your Vietnam journey. The primary towns within Ninh Binh province are Trang An and Tam Coc, where most visitors choose to stay. These areas showcase breathtaking landscapes characterized by karst mountains, lush green valleys, and meandering rivers. Notably, Ninh Binh gained recognition as the filming location for “Kong: Skull Island,” solidifying its reputation as a cinematic gem.

Here, we’ve meticulously crafted a selection of top things to do in Ninh Binh, offering you a chance to truly capture the essence of your journey through this gem of Northern Vietnam. Look beyond the ordinary, and you’ll unearth the extraordinary, turning your Ninh Binh visit into an unforgettable chapter in your travel story.

1. Explore Hoa Lu Ancient Village

Ninh Binh Hoa Lu citadel
Ninh Binh Hoa Lu citadel

Take a leisurely walk through the historic Hoa Lu Ancient Village, and you’ll find yourself inquisitive about the stories hidden within its brick-clad structures, adorned with lush vines. Situated a mere 20-minute drive from the Trang An area, this village once served as Vietnam’s inaugural capital city. 

Flourishing during the 10th and 11th centuries, it was strategically shielded by the surrounding karst landscape, providing natural security from potential invaders. Today, you can wander through two well-preserved relics from the ancient citadel. The village’s weathered arches, canopies of banyan trees, and meandering brick courtyards create an enchanting time-travel experience.

2. Witness Ninh Binh from the top of Hang Mua

Embark on the ascent to the summit of Hang Mua, a site perched atop a challenging steep mountain. Though the journey includes a 500-step climb and a 200,000 VND admission fee, the breathtaking rewards awaiting you are truly priceless. At the pinnacle, a sweeping 360-degree vista unfolds, revealing the picturesque Tam Coc valley below. 

While occasional mist may shroud the viewpoint, patience is rewarded as it lifts to unveil a mesmerizing mosaic of lush green rice paddies and sinuous rivers elegantly meandering around the ancient karst formations. This awe-inspiring panoramic spectacle is well worth the effort, etching an enduring memory of natural splendor in your travel chronicles.

3. Join a Paddleboat Cruises

Embark on an unmissable Ninh Binh adventure by cruising on a paddleboat tour through the stunning landscapes of Trang An or Tam Coc. A skilled boatman or woman will guide you along a tranquil waterway, beneath the towering, foliage-draped limestone formations. Along the journey, your boat will pause at temples and gracefully glide through enchanting grottoes. 

To fully savor this experience, remember to pack a snack and water, as each tour typically spans two to three captivating hours. Enjoy the serene beauty of Ninh Binh from the comfort of your boat as you explore this remarkable destination.

4. Visit at Bich Dong Pagoda

Embark on a temple trekking adventure at Bich Dong Pagoda, a captivating attraction nestled at the base of a grand mountain in Ninh Binh. As you arrive, you’ll be greeted by the ornate gate, a true icon of the region. A picturesque stone bridge spans a serene lotus pond, adorned with vibrant pink blossoms during the summer. Passing through the gate, you’ll discover a peaceful courtyard surrounding a traditional Buddhist temple.

But the true allure lies in the ascent. Follow the winding stairs that snake their way up and around the mountain, revealing breathtaking vistas at every turn. Along your journey, you’ll encounter two more temples intricately embedded into the mountain’s rock face, each with a rich history dating back to the 18th century. It’s an unforgettable exploration of culture and nature, waiting to be experienced in Ninh Binh. Remember to adhere to the dress code as it is a Buddhist site, covering your shoulders and knees, and don comfortable hiking shoes for this enchanting journey.

5. Temple trekking at the Bai Dinh Pagoda

Stroll through the grandeur of Bai Dinh Pagoda, an expansive complex renowned as the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. This remarkable site holds immense spiritual significance for Vietnamese Buddhists, particularly during Buddhist festivals when it becomes a bustling pilgrimage destination. 

Navigating the entirety of this complex will require ample time, as you’ll encounter a breathtaking array of thousands of Buddha statues, intricately crafted bells, and a towering 13-story watchtower that provides panoramic vistas of the surrounding countryside. Prepare to be profoundly moved and amazed by the sheer scale and intricate beauty of Bai Dinh Pagoda, an experience that promises to be both spiritually enriching and visually captivating.

6. Hiking in Cuc Phuong National Park

Hiking at cuc phuong national park

Embark on an enriching hike through Cuc Phuong National Park, a mere hour’s journey from Ninh Binh City. This venerable national park, with an entry fee of just 20,000 VND, unfolds a world of exploration. Along the way, you’ll encounter rehabilitation centers dedicated to reptiles and primates, and enticing trails leading you into the heart of the park. Here, you’ll encounter a cluster of ancient trees, some of which have graced the earth for over a millennium.

Allocate half a day to immerse yourself in the rejuvenating embrace of this forested wonderland. Your efforts will be rewarded with a local lunch served within the park’s serene confines. Cuc Phuong National Park promises an adventure that blends natural beauty, wildlife encounters, and a deep sense of tranquility, making it an unmissable addition to your Ninh Binh itinerary.

7. Discover the Enchanting Van Long Wetlands

Nestled beneath the imposing presence of a colossal limestone mountain, Van Long Wetlands beckon as a mystical and marshy sanctuary. This reserve has garnered fame among avid birdwatchers, serving as a haven for diverse avian species. 

Embark on a boat tour to explore the secluded landscapes and gain a unique insight into this tranquil haven. As you glide through its waters, you’ll be treated to a front-row seat to the vibrant birdlife and the serene beauty of this remarkable reserve, creating an unforgettable and serene experience.

8. Embark on a bicycling tour

Embarking on a bicycling tour in Tam Coc, Ninh Binh, is an enchanting way to explore the mesmerizing landscapes of this Vietnamese gem. The region is known for its breathtaking natural beauty, characterized by limestone karsts, lush rice paddies, and serene waterways. 

As you pedal through the countryside, you’ll find yourself surrounded by picturesque scenes straight out of a postcard. The winding roads take you through quaint villages, where you can witness the daily lives of friendly locals and discover traditional Vietnamese culture. 

The highlight of the journey is often a leisurely ride along the Ngo Dong River, where you’ll pass through stunning cave formations and marvel at the captivating Tam Coc landscape. Whether you’re an avid cyclist or just looking for a serene way to connect with nature, a bicycling tour in Tam Coc offers an unforgettable and peaceful experience in one of Vietnam’s most beautiful regions.

9. Experience the local life in a homestay

Opt for a local homestay experience in Ninh Binh, where the city’s vibrant beer corners and local eateries are just a short cycle away from tranquil havens like Trang An and Tam Coc. These homestays are nestled amidst expansive rice paddies and lush landscapes, providing an authentic retreat. The warm-hearted locals of Ninh Binh are eager to share their insights into the area’s treasures. 

For a memorable escape from the bustling city, consider accommodations like Emeralda Resort, Chez Beo, or Nguyen Shack, where you can immerse yourself in the serene beauty of Ninh Binh while still having easy access to the city’s vibrant spots.

10. Indulge in Local Delicacies

Don’t miss the opportunity to savor Ninh Binh’s culinary treasures. Delight in the province’s iconic dishes: Com Chay and De Tai Chanh. Com Chay, a crispy fried rice crust, serves as a delightful snack or a perfect companion to a hearty stew. De Tai Chanh, crafted from succulent goat meat, Ninh Binh’s favored protein, undergoes a light curing process in zesty lemon juice, complemented by chilies, fragrant lime leaves, and toasted sesame seeds. To experience an authentic local breakfast, relish a plate of Banh Cuon – delicate rice paper rolls generously stuffed with diced pork and mushrooms, accompanied by refreshing mint and a gentle fish sauce. These flavors will undoubtedly add a delicious dimension to your Ninh Binh journey.

Final thoughts

Ninh Binh, with its breathtaking landscapes and rich cultural heritage, truly deserves its place as a hidden gem in Vietnam. The top 10 things to do in Ninh Binh we’ve explored in this guide promise an unforgettable adventure.

For travelers seeking a deeper connection with this enchanting region, Viland Travel’s customized tours are the key. They can tailor your journey, ensuring it aligns perfectly with your interests and desires. With Viland Travel, you’re not just a tourist; you’re an explorer on a personalized adventure, discovering the heart and soul of Ninh Binh. So, embark on this journey, savor the flavors, admire the vistas, and soak in the rich history of Ninh Binh. It’s a place where memories are etched in the stone of ancient temples and the lush greenery of the countryside. 

Don’t hesitate; let Viland Travel be your guide to uncovering the hidden treasures of Ninh Binh.