7 Wondrous Places and Exciting Activities in Ninh Binh
November 09, 2019
Ninh Binh boasts a spectacular landscape and is easily accessible from Hanoi. Jayden and I took a private car from Hanoi to Ninh Binh, and it took approximately 2 hours via the expressway. The duration also depends on the traffic condition. To get around Ninh Binh’s attractions, you can either rent a bicycle, a motorbike, or hire a private car with driver. Here’s a list of 7 things you can consider doing when in Ninh Binh.
#1 – Explore Bai Dinh Pagoda, Southeast Asia’s largest Buddhist complex
The Bai Dinh Pagoda is a huge Buddhist complex featuring several temples and more than 500 intricately carved Buddha statues. This temple is flooded with local devotees and tourists throughout their operating hours thus, it’s better to visit early in the morning. For those who are curious and interested, you can get your fortunes told by the resident monks (but you’ll need to have someone translate for you).
The highlight of Bai Dinh Pagoda for Jayden and I was being able to go into the Stupa, and go all the way up the Stupa. There’s an impressive shimmering golden statue inside the Stupa. From the top, we admired the stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and villages in Ninh Binh.
Bai Dinh Pagoda
Address: Xã, Gia Sinh, Gia Viễn, Ninh Bình, Vietnam
Opening Hours: Daily 7am to 6pm.
Admission Fee: There is no entrance fee to visit Bai Dinh Pagoda, but I recommend paying for the electric car instead of walking into the pagoda from the carpark. It costs 80,000 vnd (return trip) and includes a visit up the tower.
#2 – Enjoy a Boat Ride at the Van Long Wetland Nature Reserve
It felt so good to escape the busy and noisy city of Hanoi for Ninh Binh’s untouched nature and peaceful rural life. I’ve visited Halong Bay two years ago, but found the area too touristic and overrated. I preferred taking the boat ride at the Van Long Wetland Nature Reserve. You’ll get a splendid view of limestone mountains and fascinating caves which is pretty similar to Halong Bay. Instead of the usual big boats, you’ll get to experience sitting in a local sampan made of bamboos for around 90 minutes around the nature reserve. Moreover, the entrance fee is way cheaper than Halong Bay.
Van Long Wetland Nature Reserve
Address: Gia Viễn District, Ninh Bình Province 432269, Vietnam
Opening Hours: Daily 8am to 6pm.
Admission Fee: 20,000 vnd per person for entry into the nature reserve and 60,000 vnd per person for a boat ride.
#3 – Take a Hike Up to the Mua Mountain Peak
For a bird’s eye view of the countryside, head to Hang Mua and climb all the way up to the Mua Mountain Peak. We ascended hundreds of white stones steps to get to the peak of the Mua Mountain. There is a total of three peaks and each peak gives a different view of the surrounding countryside. While one of the peaks showcases a winding river with mountains on both sides and boats floating dreamily down the river, the other peak opens up to endless green fields.
Furthermore, there is a temple standing atop one of the peaks and a dragon statue perched on top of another peak. Although the weather was gloomy in the afternoon, we were lucky and still managed to catch the sunset from the peak.
Address: Khê Hạ, Ninh Xuân, Ninh Xuân, Hoa Lư, Ninh Bình 430000, Vietnam
Best Time to Visit: May or June
Admission Fee: 100,000 vnd per person
#4 – Visit the Film Set of Kong: Skull Island in Trang An
The scenic boat ride we took in Trang An takes visitors through 3 caves and to 3 spiritual places. You’ll visit the Trinh Temple before going through the Dot Cave and the Van Cave, followed by a stop at the Suoi Tien Temple. The boat will pass by Dia Linh Mountain, go through the Dai Cave, and pass by Hanh Cung Vu Lam before docking at the magnificent film set of Kong: Skull Island. The boatman will row you back to the boat wharf after you’re done exploring.
Trang An Ecotourism Complex
Address: Tràng An, Ninh Xuân, Hoa Lư, Ninh Bình 431995, Vietnam
Opening Hours: Daily 7am to 4pm (Boat Ride).
Admission Fee: 200,000 vnd (adult) and 100,000 vnd (child) for the boat ride.
#5 – Discover Bich Dong Pagoda
The Bich Dong Pagoda is located on Truong Yen mountains, and built in the style of “三”, the Chinese word which means “three”. The structure is made up of 3 individual pagodas – the bottom pagoda, the middle pagoda and the top pagoda. All 3 pagodas lean on the mountain from the bottom to the top. You’ll have to climb up 120 steps from the bottom pagoda to the middle pagoda. This path also leads to the Dark Cave. At the top pagoda, you’ll get a glimpse of the surrounding greenery.
Bich Dong Pagoda
Address: Ninh Hải, Hoa Lư District, Ninh Bình Province 430000, Vietnam
Opening Hours: Daily 9am to 6pm.
Admission Fee: Free, but beware of scammers.
#6 – Learn about the History of Vietnam’s Ancient Capital, Hoa Lu
Hoa Lu, the capital of Dai Co Viet (Vietnam’s old name) under the Dinh and Le dynasties is also known as the capital of the first fundamental Government of Vietnam. It has witnessed many important historical events such as the union of Vietnam after the “12 Lords Rebellion”, the war with the Song dynasty, the defence against the ancient Cambodian, and the formation of Hanoi. You’ll come across temples, pagodas, monuments, tombs and shrines that worship significant people and Gods. The remains of the ancient fortress can also be seen and old items used by the royal family in ancient times are displayed.
Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
Address: Trường Yên, Hoa Lư District, Ninh Bình Province, Vietnam
Opening Hours: Daily 7am to 5pm.
Admission Fee: 20,000 vnd per person
#7 – Indulge in Local Vietnamese Food that is Special to Ninh Binh
Goat meat is a local delicacy in Ninh Binh and Jayden decided to try the Grilled Goat with onions and garlic. This dish is served with steamed rice, and he liked the texture and flavour of the grilled goat meat. I’m not a fan of goat meat or mutton due to the gamey taste. If you’re interested in trying goat meat, you can also order the Fried Goat with Lemongrass and Sesame or the Goat Skewer with Sesame. Click here for the three eateries in Ninh Binh that we highly recommend.
Although Ninh Binh is not a big city, you should still spend 3 to 4 days over there, especially if you do not want to rush through your exploration.