A useful and detailed handbook on discovering everything in Ninh Binh on your own

  • 25/11/2019

With pristine natural beauty and charming sceneries, Ninh Binh has been becoming a attractive tourist destination in the North of Vietnam. There used to be the location of Hoa Lu ancient capital which is associated with many mysterious historical sites. Whatsup Vietnam is going to help you discover this beautiful and amazing ancient capital from the beginning till the end!

  1. The best time to travel to Ninh Binh

You can come to Ninh Binh at any time of the year, but the most suitable is probably from January to March of Lunar calendar, the spring time. Then weather is neither too cold nor too hot, and it is possible to pay a visit to some temple in the beginning of the year. In addition, if you come here in April and May, you can “hunt” Cuc Phuong national butterfly season; or if it is at the end of May and early June, you are supposed to be fascinated by the golden rice paddy fields, or the vast lotus pond between the rocky mountains. But regardless of the season, Ninh Binh still bears a modest, mysterious and magical beauty!

  1. Means of transport to get to Ninh Binh 

Ninh Binh is 93km southward away from  Hanoi - where there are national highways 1A, 10, 12A, 12B and the North - South railway,; therefore, you can go to Ninh Binh by many other vehicles such as trains, buses, private cars, or motorbikes:

- Train: Hanoi - Ninh Binh train ticket price ranges from 90,000 - 200,000 VND depending on the train and seat type. Remember to book the ticker soon so that you have good preparation.

- Passenger cars: You can catch a car from Giap Bat station to Ninh Binh with prices ranging from 50,000 VND - 80,000 VND/person in about one and a half hour. Some reliable including: Sao Viet, Cuong Hung, Hoang Long, Cuong Hung, Vu Thuong, Gia Minh, Hien Tinh.

- Motorbike: If you enjoy traveling by motorbike, you can start at Phap Van - Cau Gie highway then head towards Cau Gie - Phu Ly - Ninh Binh with the estiesmated travel time around 1.5-2 hour.

3. How to get around when in Ninh Binh?

In Ninh Binh, there is currently no Grab or other bike ordering app, while buses are not really popular and convenient; therefore, the most appropriate means of transportation are motorcycle or bike. Usually the homestay or hotel will often provide bike renting service, at the rate of about 50,000-80,000 VND/for bicycle and 100,000-120,000 VND/day for motobike. Remember that before hiring, check carefully whether the device is working properly, lights, mirrors, turn signals, and if the motorbike has enough documents.

  1. Attractive tourist attractions in Ninh Binh 

Referring to Ninh Binh, people will think of famous tourist destinations such as Trang An, Bai Dinh, Tam Coc - Bich Dong, or Hoa Lu ancient capital. But Ninh Binh has many more to be explored than that, "note down" immediately those suggested spots below so you won’t regret for not having visited them when coming to Ninh Binh.

- Trang An:

It is not a coincidence that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts chose Trang An to be the shooting place for the blockbuster King Kong. With its pristineness and stunning natural sceneries, Trang An has been recognized by UNESCO as a world natural and cultural heritage. The scene here is created from the river running through the limestone mountains, creating countless natural fanciful and mysterious caves.

The ticket price was 200k VND for an adult and 100k for a child under 1.4 meter. You should go in the morning to avoid the boiling hot at noon. After buying a ticket, you can choose either to visit route 1 or route 2. Route 1 will lead you through 9 caves to Tran temple, Dark cave, Bright cave, Making Liquor cave, then climbing up the stone staircase of 500 stone steps to offer incense at Tran temple. Go back to the boat landing site, get on the boat to go through the Liquor Making cave and some other caves. Each cave, each temple that you will through has its own hidden story and impressive beauty; in addition, the water is extremely clear and cool, which enables you to see the algae at the bottom. Come here and you will understand why couples choose Trang An to be the site where their wedding photos are taken.

Over there is the Fish Temple, the first temple that you stop on route No. 1, where you can enjoy watching goldfish swimming around the steps to the temple in the crystal clear blue water. If you take route 2, you will be visiting 4 caves and going pass the island of skulls. The skull island is modeled exactly the same as in the movie King Kong, which is an Aboriginal village with about 40 pyramid-shaped tents like the Aboriginal African home, along with many long wooden boats looking like to those used by Aboriginal people. Are you ready to disguise into characters in the movie? 

- Bai Dinh Pagoda:

It lives up to its name "The largest temple in Southeast Asia" with many other records established such as the temple with the largest bronze Buddha statue, the largest bronze Maitreya statue in Asia. You will be overwhelmed in front of a large campus of 1001 Arhat statues, and on the wall is a gold-plated Guan Yin statue. Each statue, drum, and architecture here has a very impressive origin and history. Because the parking point to the pagoda is about 4km, most people choose the tram as a means of transport at the price of 30k/turn and in my experience, you should follow the tour guide to save time and gain more useful information.

- Mua cave tourist area:

The main highlight of the Mua Cave tourist area is Mount Ngoa Long, with a zigzag path of many steps winding from the foot to the top of the mountain. Ngoa Long is also known as Vietnamese Great Wall. On the top of the mountain is a dragon statue that looks very solemn, proud and extremely magical. From the top of the mountain, you can wide open your eyes at the vast sky, overlooking the immense golden rice fields, an extremely majestic scenery but also very ordinary. Entrance ticket is 100k/1 person, and remember that there is a parking lot within the resort, so you don’t have to park it outside.

- Tam Coc - Bich Dong: 

Tam Coc includes the First cave, Second cave and Third cave. All three caves were formed by the Ngo Dong river stabbing through the mountains. This place can be compared to Ha Long on land with exceptionally charming beauty. From Ngoa Long mountain, you can admire the whole Tam Coc - Bich Dong!

Top things to do in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

After finishing your journey to Tam Coc, you can visit Bich Dong Pagoda, an ancient temple associated with Asian-style rocky mountains, about 2 km from Tam Coc. Because the scenery is extraordinarily beautiful and magnificent, it is also dubbed as "Nam Thien De Nhi Dong” (The Second most beautify cave of the South), following Nam Thien De Nhat Dong (Huong Tich Pagoda). It can be said that the scenic area of Ninh Binh province is a harmonious combination between the beautiful scenery of the cave, the rugged mountains, the poetic rivers and streams and the human’s subtleties forming a unified, and inseparable complex.

  • An Tiem Cave

This is an old place but getting more popular in recent times. Most of Am Tien Cave area is a submerged valley surrounded by rocky cliffs, and the scenery is charming like in a movie. Previously, Am Tien Cave was halfway up the mountain and you had to climb up over 205 stone steps through cliffs but now there is a tunnel through the mountains to the cave. The cave looks like a dragon's mouth, so it is also known as “The dragon cave”. Many stalactites are shaped like paddy, money tree, Buddha's hand, lotus bud and drooping with water droplets. In the depths of the cave, there is an extremely sacred well. And before you enter the sightseeing area, you will go through a tunnel which is not too dark or cramped, having magical and appealing view.

- Van Long Lagoon:

Located in the middle of chaotic valleys, there are spectacular limestone mountains and many hidden undiscovered caves - Van Long lagoon is naturally beautiful and poetic. There are thousands of different species of birds gathering together with more than 40 kinds of rare langurs - the white-dwelling langurs - which reside. The climate here is fresh but romantic and sparkling all year round, especially in the summer when the ripe rice fields give off the sweet scent, the crystal clear water is calm like a giant mirror, located at the foot of the limestone mountains, so, Van Long lagoon is also known as "Bay without waves". Coming to Van Long lagoon, you can rent a boat to visit in two directions, the main direction is to go to Kem Tram - Bong Cave with scenic landscapes and the second direction is much suitable for people who have a kind interest in biology, because there are some species of rare animals (price ticket is 75,000 VND/adult taking you around one and a half hour).


- Cuc Phuong National Park:

Located deep inside the Tam Diep mountain range, there is a land that has become extremely familiar, endearing and evoking curiosity for many domestic and foreign tourists, namely Cuc Phuong National Park – the first National Park of Vietnam. In addition to the rich flora and fauna ecosystem, Cuc Phuong National Park also offers you unforgettable experience on eco-tourism, resort, campfire, adventure, research and cultural history programs. Specifically, if you come to Cuc Phuong at late April and early May, you will be immersed in the like a fairy tale scene with thousands of butterflies.

- Thung Nham: 

Another tourist attraction just 4km away from Tam Coc is "Thung Nham". Visiting the entire Thung Nham takes you up to 1-2 days depending on your time management. Coming to Thung Nham, you will explore the wildlife of nearly 40 species of about 50,000 birds. Particularly at every sunset, flocks of white storks flying continuously, occupying an entire wetland, which causes visitors to feel the authentic pristine beauty. And do not forget to check in all the places in Thung Nham: the moving Banyan tree, A thousand-year-old tree, enjoying fruits in the Garden, Love Valley, Vai Gioi Cave – Mermaid Cave - Aquarium Cave - Ba Co Cave - Primeval forest on limestone mountain.

- Hoa Lu ancient capital: 

The ancient capital Hoa Lu was once the capital of the ancient Dai Viet nation, associated with the legend of of Dinh Bo Linh. These relics include the temples of King Dinh and King Le, both are located in Truong Yen commune, and not far from Trang An. Although it was chosen as the capital of Dai Co Viet nation  in a short time (42 years), there were many events related to the destiny of the whole nation such as: associated with the career of three successive dynasties were the Dinh, the Tien Le and the Ly dynasties with historical marks: unifying the Jiangshan, beating the foreign invaders and developing the process of turning Hanoi into the capital. The stories about kings are told in a simple, respectful and proud way by the speakers at the venue, which will help you learn a lot more about Vietnamese history.

In addition to the above-mentioned tourist sites, you can visit some other temples and tourist sites such as Non Nuoc Pagoda, King Le Dai Hanh Temple, Truong Han Sieu Temple, Chau Son Monastery, Thai Vi Temple, Kenh Ga hot spring, Dong Chuong lake, Dong Thai lake, Yen Thang lake, etc.

  1. Where to stay in Ninh Binh?

In recent times, homestays has become a popular choice for people because of convenient features such as beautiful views, reasonable prices, and it is a wonderful opportunity to make many new friends. Whatsup Vietnam is about to introduce to you 4 homestays which will definitely helps your soul relax watching the idyllic mountain. These staying destination have been quite popular among international tourists.

- Chez Beo homestay:

Located in Kha Luong village (Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh), this homestay stands out because it is set amidst beautiful natural surroundings with lotus fields and majestic mountains. If you come here in the lotus season, waking up in the early morning, you will be captured by the fragrant cushion of the lotus scent, or enjoy swinging in the hammock to let the warm sunshine warm you. The scene is extremely peaceful, and tranquil suitable for those who want to hide from the world a little bit. It is also close to famous tourist attractions such as Trang An, Tam Coc - Bich Dong, Hang Dance. The price for a double room is 360k/night, which serves both homemade meals and the attitude of the staff received lots of positive feedback.

- Nguyen Shack:

Nguyen Shack Ninh Binh is located near the Mua Cave, surrounded by vertical limestone mountains, with a vast lake with fish swimming all day and birds flying close to the lake every morning.

Nguyen Shack is only 200 meters from Mua Cave, about 15 km from Van Long lagoon, 10 km from Trang An - Bai Dinh. It is quite convenient travel around, and visitors don’t have to worry about getting lost because the people here are "alive map" who are willing to show you the easiest direction. Double room price is 560K VND/night, plus free tea / coffee  and light snacks.

- Ninh Binh Valley Homestay:

This homestay is built in a large valley of peaceful countryside in Ninh Thuan commune, Hoa Lu. It is specially designed with thatched cottages, surrounded by a large lake, all made of environmentally friendly materials such as wood, bamboo, thatched roof, which makes it cool in summer and warm in winter. Anywhere in the homestay, you can also overlook the green nature. The price for a room is from 550 VND.

- Tam Coc Bungalow:

Located on Ngo Dong River leading to Tam Coc scenic spot with a prime location, TamCoc Bungalow is designed in the style of Hobbit houses in the super classic film "The Lord of the Rings" combined with materials available locally will certainly give you the most natural feeling. Reference price for wooden bungalow with lake view is about 870k on Booking.

- Moreover, you can find more information about other excellent homestays namely: Tam Coc homestay, Limestone View Homestay, Ninh Binh Panorama, Buffalo Eco Garden Homestay, Hoa Lu Eco Homestay.

  1. Delicious dishes not to be missed when coming to Ninh Binh?

- Goat meat

Thang Long restaurant (3.5 km from Bai Dinh pagoda and 3 km from Trang An tourist area): Goat meat here is very fresh, cooked hot by traditional method, so it is amazingly delicious. You can also try goat meat in Duc De Ninh Binh restaurant, whose quality can be compared to the former. These restaurants also sell fried rice, which crispy, delicious and bought by many customers as gift.

- Mrs. Phan's eel glass noodles

"Delicious, nutritious, good price" is what many people talk about Mrs. Phan eel glass noodle eatery. It is located on Tran Hung Dao street. The restaurant welcomes the most visitors in the morning. The menu consists mainly of 3 dishes including eel porridge, eel glass noodle and eel shrimp noodles. The price for a bowl of glass noodle is VND 40,000, with free vegetables and free iced tea.

- Grilled chicken feet on street 8 (near Luong Van Tuy High School for the Gifted)

Another delicious and cheap snack in Ninh Binh is the famous grilled chicken leg in street 8. Chicken feet here are finely marinated and then grilled on charcoal, enjoyed with spicy and sour fish sauce and served with Kim Son sticky rice wine. A very “street” experience, very “Ninh Binh” right? How amazing!

- Crab dry-fried with piper lolot

This is a popular and rustic dish in Ninh Binh, haing a countryside flavor that visitors should try when visiting the ancient capital. The crabs are carefully made, the piper lolots are washed, and then the two main ingredients are dry-fried together based on a esoteric recipe. This dish gives diners a lot of surprises, because it is the crispy taste of natural crabs combined with the typical aroma of lolots. This dish is finest when paired with hot cooked rice.

- Boiled mountainous snails

Mountainous snail is a famous specialty in Ninh Binh because of its natural and rrich sweetness since snails eat grass leaves and some precious herbs. Therefore, the mountainous snail is processed into many different dishes such as grilled, sautéed with tamarind or fried with garlic, ... but the most preferred dish is still boiled mountain snail.

- Besides, there are still many other delicious dishes that you can have a try such as: Nem Yen Mac, Kim Son wine, Gia Vien shrimp sauce, etc.

  1. Traditional festival in the ancient capital of Hoa Lu

March 8 - March 10 every year is the time for the traditional festival of Hoa Lu ancient capital in order to honor the kings and national heroes who built and developed this sacred land, establishing Dai Co Viet country in the 10th century. The festival of Hoa Lu ancient capital consists of 2 parts: the ceremony and the festival. Besides the ceremony, the festival with traditional games such as boat racing, wrestling, Cheo singing take place in an extremely jubilant and bustling atmosphere.

  1. What to buy when traveling to Ninh Binh

Deep-fried rice and Kim Son wine are quite popularly chosen because it is easy to transport and preserve. There are many souvenir stalls in the tourist areas, selling a lot of handmade products made from sedge, such as bags, lanes, box trays. There are also brocade weaving. Or you can also buy lucky charms, bracelets, lucky beans at Bai Dinh temple as gifts.

  1. Kindly note something when traveling to Ninh Binh

- Ninh Binh is a spiritual tourist destination, so when you visit it, you are supposed to dress politely. Visiting the temple of Dinh and Le kings, you need to be gentle and quiet so as to maintain the dignity of the old capital.

- You should follow the instructions of the monument management or guides if traveling in groups.

- If you go by yourself, you should bring a map with you or be able to use Google map professionally

- In the tourist season, you should call the homestays or hotels in advance to avoid all rooms are reverved. Ninh Binh has a wide variety of vcaves, so if you want to make it complete all in one trip, you should spend about 3 - 4 days to fully explore the beauty of this place.

(Written by: Quynh Nhi)

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