Ninh Binh is a province roughly 2 hours away from Hanoi with Ninh Binh City being the capital. The province is famous for its karst scenery in the nearby village of Tam Coc. The city of Ninh Binh is not particularly worth visiting but is a great base to use to explore the stunning surrounding nature. Doing day trips to Tam Coc from Hanoi to see the karst mountains or “Halong Bay on Land” as it is called is very popular.
The Karst mountains are most prominently on display in Tam Coc. There are hundreds of limestone monoliths topped with dense greenery that rise from the ground.
Ninh Binh is only 95 km away from Hanoi making it the ideal first stop if doing a trip down from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. As it is a popular tourist hub it is very well connected via train and bus to all major cities in Vietnam.
Hop on the Reunification Express
If there is any time to take a train in Vietnam it is definitely if traveling in between Hanoi and Ninh Binh. The Reunification Express is a perfect way to take in the splendid scenery of Ninh Binh. The 3 hour scenic train ride is one of the
Heading to Tam Coc early in the morning is recommended to avoid the influx of tourist that come here in the later afternoon. This is by far the most popular place for tourists in Ninh Binh. The best way to enjoy a day here is to bike around the peaceful countryside or hop on a boat and be peddled around the magnificent Karst mountains.
In Trang An you can visit a maze of caves and mountains which you can only access by boat. This region is filled with stunning religious structures that combine beautifully with the stunning green nature of the area. It is also very much recommended to go here early in the morning to get the most out of your experience.
Van Long Nature Reserve
With landscape also very similar to Tam Coc and Trang An, Van Long is a little further away and barely receives any tourist making the experience visiting it a little more special. If you have some time to spare and want to avoid the crowdshead over to Van Long Nature Reserve.
Cuc Phung National Park
Cuc Phung National Park is the oldest national park in Vietnam being formed in 1962. Located on two limestone ranges, the landscape in Cuc Phung contains one of the richest ecosystems in Vietnam. Covered in a dense forest, this landscape forms the habitat of some of Asia’s rarest animal and plant species. This is one of the best spots to go hiking in Vietnam.
The ancient forest harbours over 2234 vascular and non-vascular plants, 122 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 135 species mammals, including the Clouded Leopard, Delacour’s Langur, Owston’s Civet and Asian Black Bear. There are also an incredible 336 documented bird species.
Phat Diem Gothic Church
A 40 minute drive from the town of Ninh Binh you will stumble upon one of Vietnams must beautiful Churches, Phat Diem Church. Constructed in 1892 it is a mixture of Vietnamese and European architecture styles. The church was bombed in 1972 during the American-Vietnamese War but has been fully restored since then.
Huang Mua Peak
For that perfect instagram viral shot make your way to the top of Huan Mua Peak for an elevated view of the stunning karst limestone scenery. It’s around 400 steps to get to the top so make sure you bring a bottle of water with you to the top. The climb is steep but you will be compensated by running into many friendly goats on the way that will encourage you to keep on going. Take note that there is an entrance fee of 100,000 VND to get to the top and the area is only open between 7 and 5 pm.
Ninh Binh Cuisine
The specialty of Ninh Binh is Goat. Considering the amount of goats you will run into here this hardly comes as a surprise. As the goats are fed naturally in the limestone mountains the meat from them is much more firm then in other regions. Another specialty of the region is unfortunately dog meat so beware of the many restaurants in the region offering this controversial dish.
Finding Accommodation is Easy
Ninh Binh has been steadily growing as a tourist destination in recent years so finding accommodation within your budget is very easy. Anything from hotels, backpacker hostels or homestays can be found. Dorm beds will usually start from 8 USD a night and private rooms can be as low as 15 USD a night.
When to Go?
Visiting Ninh Binh year round is perfectly fine, the climate is similar to Hanoi so expect the temperature to drop in the winter months. The dry season stretches from November to March with the average temperature being around 19 to 26 degrees. The rainy season lasts from April to October so expect it to be quite humid during these months. Typhoons are quite common here in the month of September so be sure to check the forecast before you go then.