The city of Ninh Binh itself is not pretty and there’s basically NOTHING to see there. Two strong reasons to find accommodation elsewhere. All major attractions are outside, concentrated in four different areas.
Go on a boat ride in Trang An
This was the first thing I did in Ninh Binh and turned out to be one of my favorite things of the whole trip. You basically hop on a small rowing boat and a lady rower takes you on a 2-hour journey through caves, temples and lakes. They usually wait for a group of four to assemble.
The technique needed to maneuver the boat inside the underwater caves is impressive , watch your head! During the whole trip, the scenery is mesmerizing.
Trang An is usually the second choice of travelers in Ninh Binh in terms of boat rides. Most people do Tam Coc only (HUGE mistake in my opinion, see below why) so you can expect fewer crowds.
Still, it’s advisable that you make your way there early in the morning or late in the afternoon where most day trippers coming in gigantic bus excursions are not there.
Ride a bike
Just renting a motorbike and explore the surroundings is already a reason to visit Ninh Binh. What we did was to look in the map where the next sight was and choose a longer and more unconventional way to get there. By skipping the main roads, you’re on to enrich your travel experience much more!
Wander through the tiny paths in the rice fields or the dirt roads leading to local communities and villages. Ninh Binh is one of those places where the children wave and say “Hello” to you when you pass in front of their houses.
It’s fascinating to see where people live, how do they work on the fields and how do they spend their day. As a bonus, there are loads of cute animals too!
Scattered across the rice fields, enclosed in mountains on sitting on top of them, there is no shortage of temples in Ninh Binh.
Perhaps the most dramatic is Hang Mua. Sitting on top of hill 500 steps above ground, this temple is both a challenge and a delight. While the temple is somewhat unimpressive, the views over Tam Coc are stunning.
If you’re looking for something less challenging, but equally impressive, the recently built Bai Dinh Pagoda is a good option. This Buddhist temple is HUGE and is mostly visited by Vietnamese people.
But there are more. Bích Động Pagoda is a set of 3 temples carved into a limestone mountain next to Tam Coc.
Despite the fact it has been heavily destroyed, the ancient city of Hoa Lu, the former capital of Vietnam during the Dinh and the Le dynasties (1st century), is also worth a visit.
Visit the Thung Nham Bird Garden
We only heard this place when our lovely friend who worked as a receptionist on our hotel mentioned it. She actually took us there and offered to be our guide. Thanks so much Trang!
Almost no one visits Thung Nham Bird Garden but it’s a shame because it’s a true beauty. Tucked away in the mountains, this natural park is basically where most of the birds of the region make their nest. If you visit during early morning or late afternoon, you’ll see the trees absolutely PACKED with all types of birds. It’s a true sight and a wonder of nature.
The park also has several caves and hiking trails and is perfect for take a bit of fresh air and go on a relaxing walk. It’s just 5km from Tam Coc center.
Go wild in Cuc Phuong National Park
Cuc Phong is a rare well-preserved rainforest. The place is known for its Botanical Garden and the Endangered Primates Rescue Centre, which has around 150 primates from all over Vietnam.
It’s a great place for biking, hiking and observe a wild range of animals, from birds to an amazing variety of colorful butterflies. The National Park sits 45km from Ninh Binh and there is a mandatory 20,000 dong fee to hire a guide.
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