9 Best Things To Do in Ninh Binh Vietnam – Travel Guide 2024

Vietnamese Woman Paddling, Van Long

In this blog guide, you will find the 9 best things to do in Ninh Binh and Tam Coc that you can’t miss and everything else to plan your trip.

Ninh Binh is known for having the most incredible landscapes and being an escape from chaotic Hanoi City. Because of its popularity, we didn’t expect this: it’s still a place where you can connect with nature without crowds and experience the laid-back countryside of Vietnam.

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Is it Worth visiting Ninh Binh?

fisher man at van long wetland nature reserve

Whether you’re only visiting North Vietnam or traveling throughout the entire country, Ninh Binh is definitely worth a visit, especially for nature lovers.

River boat trips are clearly the best things to do in Ninh Binh to admire the limestone formations, rice fields, and wild nature. Know that there is still one boat trip completely off the beaten path. More about this later.

Convince yourself with our YouTube video.

8 BEST Hotels in North Vietnam

North Vietnam has many amazing places to visit, each with its best places to stay. Here are some handpicked recommendations.

  • Ha Giang: Connect with adventurous travelers at the Lotus Hostel

Is Ninh Binh similar to Ha Long Bay?

van long wetland nature reserve
Ninh Binh
Limestone Mountains, Floating Market, Cat Ba Island
Ha Long Bay

People call Ninh Binh “Ha Long Bay on Land” due to the similar karst formations that both have. Both are stunning landscapes you shouldn’t miss, the difference is that in Ha Long Bay you will experience beaches and islands, while in Ninh Binh you will experience rivers and rice fields.

Another difference is that Ha Long Bay is way more crowded than Ninh Binh. Anyway, we don’t recommend doing a Ha Long Bay Cruise, better to go visit Cat Ba Island and the less packed Lan Ha Bay.

5 BEST Tours in North Vietnam

Check out our handpicked tours in North Vietnam and tick off some must-see attractions.

  • Ban Gioc Waterfall: Explore Ban Gioc Waterfall and more in Cao Bang with this 2D/1N Tour
  • Hanoi Streetfood: Join a local Food Tour in Hanoi with visit to Train Street
  • Ninh Binh: Discover Ninh Binh on this small-group guided Full Day Tour from Hanoi

Where is Ninh Binh located?

a drone view of trang an, vietnam

Only 90 kilometers or a 2-hour drive from Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city, Ninh Binh provides the perfect escape from the urban hustle.

Ninh Binh on Map

Best Time to visit Ninh Binh

Smiling Women on Van Long Boat, vietnam motorbike trip

Firstly, it’s better to avoid the rainy season from May to October, except in one exceptional case, which is explained below. This season has the warmest days and the highest humidity.

The best time to visit Ninh Binh is during the dry season, which runs from November to April. However, do keep in mind that December and January can be quite cold. The optimal months in the dry season to visit are November, February, March, and April, with February and March being the peak months.

To experience the most vibrant rice fields, you’ll have to visit during the rainy season, especially from late May to early June when the lush paddy fields start to turn yellow.

How many Days should I spend in Ninh Binh?

van long wetland nature reserve

We would recommend at least 3 days to enjoy the best things to do in Ninh Binh, like the boat trips, viewpoints and temples. However, more time would be better, as the attractions are spread out, and you’ll want enough time to fully immerse yourself in the countryside.

Is a Day Trip to Ninh Binh enough?

While a day trip is possible from Hanoi, we only recommend it if you have limited time and no other options. This is the highest-rated one-day tour from Hanoi.

How to Get to Ninh Binh?

boat transport of tradition womens in tam coc

There are three ways to get to Ninh Binh: by bus, train, or motorbike, depending on your personal preference.

The most common way to reach Ninh Binh or Tam Coc is by taking a bus or minivan from Hanoi, which takes 2-3 hours. There are also sleeper buses for longer distances coming from other destinations.

If you decide to stay in Tam Coc instead of Ninh Binh, you can select Tam Coc as your destination when booking a bus or minivan online. Alternatively, you can easily take a cheap and short Grab ride when you arrive in Ninh Binh City. If your bus brings you to Tam Coc, most accommodations will be a short walk away.

The nearest airport to Ninh Binh is Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) in Hanoi, Vietnam, located 110 km away from Ninh Binh. From the airport, you can take a bus, or minivan, or arrange a private transfer with your accommodation or through gettransfer.com to reach Ninh Binh.

Another option to get to Ninh Binh is taking the train from Hanoi, a 2-3 hour journey that offers a scenic ride through the countryside with better views than the one from the road.

Another option is to bring your motorbike. It’s a 2-hour motorbike ride from Hanoi. This allows you to explore independently and have the freedom to stop where you want. If this sounds interesting to you, check out our two blogs.

Bus Station in Ninh Binh

In Ninh Binh, there is a main bus station located in the city center, where all buses from Hanoi and other cities in Vietnam drop off passengers. From here, we recommend taking a Grab to your accommodations to avoid getting overcharged.

Staying in Ninh Binh City vs staying in Tam Coc

water reflexion in trang an, vietnam

You need to decide where to base yourself during your time in Ninh Binh. Typically, people choose between Ninh Binh City and Tam Coc.

Staying in Tam Coc offers a relaxing and laid-back vibe amidst beautiful nature with limestone mountains, lush greenery, and a river. Both times we visited, we chose Tam Coc and would highly recommend it to anyone. 

Staying in Ninh Binh City can be a better choice if you prefer a more urban vibe with more transportation links, accommodations, and restaurants. However, to be honest, there are so many restaurants and hotels in Tam Coc that you won’t miss anything there. Tam Coc also offers some of the best things to do in Ninh Binh, just a short bicycle ride away.

Other options for accommodation areas are Trang An or somewhere in the countryside.

How to Get Around in Ninh Binh / Tam Coc?

woman paddling through van long wetland reserve in ninh binh

One popular choice to get around in Tam Coc is renting a bicycle for max. 50 VND (≈ 1.90€) per day. The roads in this area are flat, and there is almost no traffic. Navigating through the picturesque countryside is already one of the best things you can do.

Another recommended way to get to the best things to do in Ninh Binh is renting a motorbike for around 100 VND (≈ 3.80€) per day. This gives you the freedom to explore on your own and stop wherever you want.

You can also:

  • Use Grab for short distances.
  • Opt for a private car with a driver for more comfort and longer distances.

Where to Stay in Ninh Binh?

In Tam Coc and Ninh Binh City, you have a wide range of choices, including hotels, resorts, and hostels. Homestays and guesthouses are excellent options if you prefer staying with a local family for a more authentic experience.

Check out top-rated and handpicked accommodations in different price ranges.

Best Accommodations in Tam Coc

Best Accommodations in Ninh Binh City

What to Eat in Tam Coc?

Best & Cheap Local Food:

Best Banh Mi:

Best Coffee:

What to Eat in Ninh Binh City?

Best local food: Restaurant Trung Tuyet 

Best Tours in Ninh Binh

Traditional Women, Tam Coc Boat

Short on time? Don’t want to plan and arrange everything by yourself? Want to connect with new people?

Organized tours always ensure a stress-free and enjoyable experience. Some tours even combine must-see places, such as Mua Cave, Tam Coc, Bich Dong Pagoda & Hoa Lu District, making it possible to explore more attractions in one day.

Discover top-rated and handpicked Ninh Binh tours.

Discover Ninh Binh on this full-day small-group guided tour from Hanoi.

Explore the charming Ninh Binh countryside on a 10-hour Motorbike Tour.

9 Best Things to Do in Ninh Binh

These are the attractions we highly recommend in Ninh Binh and its surroundings.

1. Van Long Nature Reserve Boat Trip

things to do ninh binh, vietnam

The number one thing to do in Ninh Binh is a beautiful boat tour among limestone mountains and lush greenery, you can choose between 3 boat trips: Trang An, Tam Coc, and Van Long. All three places are breathtaking, but only the Van Long Wetland Nature Reserve boat trip offers a non-touristy, peaceful, and authentic experience. Unfortunately, the other two are more crowded.

The Van Long Nature Reserve is the largest wetland area in North Vietnam and is home to many primate species, including the endangered Delacour’s langurs and many species of birds, making it ideal for bird watchers.

This is the most remote option of all the boat tours, located 30 minutes from Ninh Binh City, perfect for those who want an untouched and relaxed vibe. It costs 100k VND (≈ 3.80€) per person, they arrange 2 persons per boat, and the trip goes through caves, taking 1.5 hours.

2. Tam Coc Boat Trip

Tam Coc River from Above
Tam Coc River in October

Another boat trip to admire the landscape of karst mountains and wild nature is the one in Tam Coc with water caves under the mountain cliffs. The picture with rice fields and a river you often see in combination with Ninh Binh is from here.

A small traditional boat, rowed by a local with his feet, will take you and up to 4 people per boat around. The trip takes 1.5-2 hours and costs around 200k per person.

Illuminated Tam Coc River, Vietnam
Tam Coc River in May

The most important thing is to go early in the morning to avoid the crowds, as it gets very touristy during the day.

3. Trang An Boat Trip

Trang An Temple, Ninh Binh

Trang An is the third option for a boat trip and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s also the biggest and most famous boat trip possibility in the region. 

Here you can enjoy karst mountains, reflecting waters, and caves, plus stops at beautiful temples.

The trip takes 2-3 hours, and you can choose between visiting 4 or 8 caves. It costs 250k VND (≈ 9.60€) per person, and 4 people can go on each traditional boat hand-rowed by a local.

drone view, trang an temple

Also, the famous movie “Kong: Skull Island” was filmed here.

4. Hang Mua Viewpoint (Mua Cave)

mua cave mountain in ninh binh, vietnam
mua cave viewpoint, ninh binh, vietnam

The best panoramic view in Ninh Binh is Hang Mua Viewpoint, also called Mua Cave Viewpoint. The Mua Cave itself is not so interesting; it’s all about the viewpoint, from where you can see the Tam Coc River, surrounded by mountains and rice fields.

The 15-30 minute climb up is steep with 500 steps but very rewarding, and there are many places to stop and take a break. About halfway up the staircase, it splits in two. On the right, you will reach a tower at the lower point, and on the left, you’ll reach the highest point with a white dragon sculpture. We recommend wearing proper shoes, as the stairs can be slippery after rain and there are sharp rocks.

The entrance fee costs 100,000 VND (≈ 3.80€), and parking is around 10,000 VND (≈ 0.38€). It is best visited for sunset, but expect many visitors at that time of the day. There is also a beautiful boardwalk over a field of lily pads.

Many tours include this viewpoint; this is the best-rated one.

5. Cycling through Countryside

Vietnamese Woman Cycling, Ninh Binh
Old Man with Dog, Ninh Binh

Cycling around in Tam Coc’s countryside is one of the best things to do in Ninh Binh. Even though there are a lot of mountains, the area and the streets are all flat and perfect for cycling.

There is no better way to explore the landscapes. The rice fields, limestone mountains, lakes, and temples offer endless photo opportunities and you will also encounter animals like goats or water buffalos.

Sometimes, bicycles are available for free at your accommodation, otherwise you can rent one very cheaply for 30-50k per day.

Some places you can cycle to are the Hang Mua Viewpoint, the Bich Dong Pagoda, and the Ben Thanh Viewpoint, where you can observe the traditional rowing men on their Tam Coc Boat trip.

Don’t forget to bring water, snacks, and sun protection.

6. Bich Dong Pagoda

Bich Dong Pagoda, Ninh Binh, Vietnam

The stone bridge and big entrance gate of the Bich Dong Pagoda with the natural background are a stunning sight. Entry is free, and parking costs 10k VND (≈ 0.38€). 

If you choose to climb the steep stairs, you can visit three small ancient pagodas built in caves between the limestone mountains. Remember to dress with covered shoulders and knees.

If you’re interested in more temples (unfortunately, we’re not), visit the Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, Vietnam’s first capital (10th Century), with ancient temples, or the Bai Dinh Pagoda, Southeast Asia’s largest temple complex spanning 700 hectares.

7. Cuc Phuong National Park

Cuc Phuong National Park is considered the first national park in Vietnam and one of the most important for the biodiversity of the country.

This park was established to care for the wildlife in the region and is home to some endangered species like delacour’s langur, golden-headed langur, and black-crested gibbon. Inside the national park, there are rescue centers for monkeys, langurs, gibbons, and turtles.

You can explore it by foot, on a bike, or with an organized tour that will provide guidance.

8. Local food

Try delicious local food. Ninh Binh has many traditional specialties worth trying like com chay (burned rice), de nui (barbecued goat meat), and bia hoi (local draft beer)

9. Sunsets

Vietnamese Woman, Bai Boi Sunset

Watch the sunset as often as you can. There are many places where you can enjoy it; we recommend Hang Mua Viewpoint and the viewpoint near Trang An called Bai Boi Ninh Xuan.

3 days Itinerary Ninh Binh

Day 1: Trang An & Van Long (motorbike)

boat tour in van long wetland nature reserve
  • Boat Trip in Trang An (start early to avoid the crowds)
  • Lunch in Trang An
  • Boat Trip in Van Long (late afternoon for the best light and birds)
  • Viewpoint Bai Boi Ninh Xuan (best for sunset)

Day 2: Tam Coc (bicycle)

tam coc river drone shot
  • Boat Trip in Tam Coc (start early to avoid the crowds)
  • Lunch in Tam Coc
  • Cycle around the countryside and visit Bich Dong Pagoda & Ben Thanh Viewpoint
  • Viewpoint at Mua Cave (best for sunset)

Day 3

fisherman standing one boat in ninh binh
  • Cuc Phuong National Park
  • Explore any other activities or attractions you still want to do.

Packing, Tips & Costs​

Vietnamese Woman Paddling, Van Long

After 2 months and 4000 km on a North Vietnam Motorbike Trip, we’ve put together the ultimate packing list, tips, and costs to help you plan your trip.

Where to go after Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh is a must-visit place when in North Vietnam, but there are many other breathtaking places worth considering. Here are our top recommendations:

Depending on your next destination after Ninh Binh, you might need to return to Hanoi first and then catch a bus to your next stop. You can check on 12go to see if there’s a direct bus option. If not, plan your journey through Hanoi. 

If you enjoy riding a motorbike, consider visiting Ninh Binh as part of a North Vietnam Loop. Our motorbike tour in North Vietnam was one of the most thrilling experiences of our two years of travel in Asia.

Conclusion

Temple in Lake, Ninh Binh at Sunset

We stayed in Tam Coc (Ninh Binh) for 2 weeks and loved it. We think it’s the perfect place for an extended stay, slowly covering all the best things to do in Ninh Binh and enjoying the nature-connected, laid-back vibe. Let us know your questions and experiences in the comments!

Boat Tour in Van Long, Vietnam

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