Located at the end of the Red River Delta, Ninh Binh owns many rivers and tributaries stretching over the lands collected in lakes and diverse topography of both mountainous and coastal areas. It is also the destination that has many beautiful landscapes with limestone peaks surrounded by the vibrant colors of a dreaming river, the open sky, yellow ripe rice fields, and dark mysterious caves. Ninh Binh also offers tourists the historical myths and legends of the old capital of Vietnam. Spending about 3 hours traveling to Ninh Binh from Hanoi, your Vietnam tour will be worth your while or even beyond your imagination.
Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex
The most well-known tourist resort of Ninh Binh with special values in culture, history, geological tectonics, and natural landscapes has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Natural and cultural heritage site in 2014. Trang An comprises majestic limestone mountains, miraculous caves, and the melting pot of valleys and rivers creating a marvelous and fanciful space. It can be said that Trang An is a masterpiece of nature on one side and a museum of history, culture, and geography on another side.
Tam Coc (Three Islands)
Consider “the Halong Bay on the ground”, Tam Coc – Bich Dong was named Nam Thien De Nhat Dong (the most beautiful cave in Vietnam). During the trip to Tam Coc-Bich Dong, you should stop at Vu Lam, the former military base of the Tran dynasty. With the green scenery and silence, surrounded by the nature of Trang An forest, tourists can learn more about the history of the dynasty which defeated the strong Mongol army three times in the 13th century. When tourists visit the Vu Lam, they will be guided walking to the famous “King Kong”. Standing between the majestic mountains and forests, nearly 30 indigenous bamboo houses are preserved from the filming of “Kong”, which makes visitors feel like straying into the ancient world. Especially, there will be aboriginal imitation as well in the movie awaiting your exploration.
The most convenient transportation for sightseeing in Tam Coc is a boat. It will take you to three Tam Coc caves, including the Ca Cave (127 meters long), Hai Trung (60 meters long), and the Ba Cave (50 meters long). Tam Coc is beautiful in all seasons. In spring, the green paddy fields stretch along the banks of the river, turning into smooth yellow in April in the lunar calendar. In summer, traveling on the Ngo Dong River, visitors will enjoy the attractive lotus aroma and listen to the legend about each cliff or mountain in the shape of a turtle or dragon head through locals.
Opening hour: 8 am to 6 pm
Entrance fee: VND 120.000 (about $5) for a ticket and VND 150.000 (about $7) for hiring a boat
Bich Dong Pagoda (The Pagoda of Emerald Grotto)
Located 3 km to the East of Tam Coc, Bich Dong pagoda lies on the Truong Yen Mountain Range with a panoramic view of rice paddles and Truong Son River. The pagoda has a unique architecture with three pagodas built at three different heights leaning on the mountain. Each one has distinct structures, statues, and historic stories of its origin. Bich Dong pagoda is the symbol of Vietnamese Buddhism, Vietnamese history as well as Vietnamese traditional architecture.
Opening hour: 8 am to 5 pm
Entrance fee: VND 10.000
Hoa Lu Old Capital
Because of the mountainous area in Ninh Binh which is easy to defend against invaders, Hoa Lu was chosen by Dinh and Le Dynasty as the capital of Dai Viet (the old name of Vietnam) in the 10th century. The old capital includes 47 relics especially, including the temple of King Dinh Tien Hoang and King Ly Thai To, the tombs of Dinh Kings, and King Le Dai Hanh. Your trip to Hoa Lu will be told the interesting stories of history during the greatest period of Vietnam.
Opening hour: 8 am to 6 pm
Entrance fee: VND 20.000 (about $1)
Bai Dinh Pagoda
History of Bai Dinh Pagoda
In the 10th century, three dynasties in Ninh Binh (Dinh, Le, Ly) built a lot of pagodas to show their worship of Buddhism, and Bai Dinh was the biggest one. In 2003, the pagoda was rebuilt with many constructions which makes it become the largest pagoda in Southeast Asia.
Bai Dinh Pagoda Today
The Old Bai Dinh Pagoda
Located 800m to the South of the new Bai Dinh pagoda, the old one has still preserved the traditional architecture of the 10th century. The pagoda consists of the temples worshipping God and its founder – monk Nguyen Minh Khong. Visiting the old Bai Dinh pagoda is a mistake unless you explore the Dark Cave and Light Cave where you can find the altars worshipping the Fairies and Gods in Heaven at every corner of the caves. Besides, Gieng Ngoc (Jade Well), one of the largest wells in Vietnam which has never been drying up is also a must on your trip to Bai Dinh pagoda.
The New Bai Dinh Pagoda
The new pagoda was constructed in 2003 and finished in 2010 including hundreds of bronze and stone statues, multi-story towers as well as magnificent palaces. The architecture of Bai Dinh pagoda is characterized by large, monumental blocks bearing the imprint of Vietnamese architecture such as the use of local materials. Its most distinctive feature compared to Chinese architecture appears in a curved dark brown arch like the tail of the phoenix. The architectural details of the pagoda are also bearing the stamp of famous traditional villages in Vietnam. Bai Dinh Pagoda is built by over 500 outstanding artisans, including many craftsmen from well-known villages such as Phuc Loc woodcarving, Ninh Van stone carving, Y Yen bronze casting, and Van Lam embroidery, and Lac Dang lacquer. Moreover, Bai Dinh pagoda holds a dozen records for the biggest statues and highest towers in Asia.
Opening hour: 6 am to 21 pm daily
Entrance fee: VND 150.000
Cuc Phuong National Park
Covering an area of over 22,000 hectares in the Northwest of Ninh Binh, Cuc Phuong National Park is the first one to be ranked in the top 5 largest national parks and an interesting destination for tourists in search of natural adventures. The visit to the green lung of Northern Vietnam will give you the relaxing moments in the paradise of nature.
Visiting Cuc Phuong, tourists not only discover the wild and mysterious forest of a primitive forest with thousands of ancient trees, and caves bearing history but also experience the fountain. It is attractive with ecotourism programs, convalescence, trekking, campfire, adventure, research, and cultural history.
Opening hour: 8 am – 5 pm
Entrance fee: VND 60.000 (about $3)
Van Long Nature Reserve
Not only is the nature reserve, but Van Long wetlands also have attractive scenes. Van Long is known as the “bay without waves” because the surface of the water is silent when you travel. However, Van Long’s water is not as blue as the sea, the clear water reveals the moss beneath that makes the watercolor-dyed green.
Coming to Van Long to live in the beautiful natural, romantic, full of natural the environment of wetland ecology. This is the home to thousands of different birds and more than 40 langur rare species that many species are listed in the Red Book. Thank rich ecosystems, Van Long’s climate is fresh, poetic, and sparkling all year, especially in the summer when the rice fields are filled with incense mixed with an idyllic scenery of the river and clouds. Tourists will feel really peaceful and relaxed when paying a visit to this amazing place in Ninh Binh.
Opening hour: 8 am to 6 pm
Entrance fee: VND 20.000 for a ticket and VND 60.000 for hiring a boat
Thung Nham Bird Garden
The ecosystem is located in Ninh Hai commune, Hoa Lu district, Ninh Binh province. This place mixes all the elements: culture, spirituality, and biodiversity. Traveling by boat and visiting the lagoon to admire over 40 species of birds will leave you a wonderful experience.
Thung Nham bird garden is the most beautiful in the sunset when all the birds fly in the sky. There is no doubt that this is the most pristine and peaceful beauty you have ever experienced. The valley is magnificent in all four seasons, but its beauty is glowing in the autumn, when the temperature is cool and a thin layer of fog covers the whole area, creating a romantic beauty.
Opening hour: 8 am to 5 pm
Entrance fee: VND 100.000 (about $5)