Top 10 Must-do Things In Ninh Binh That You Should Try Once In Your Life

things to do in ninh binh

Located about 100 km southeast of Hanoi, Ninh Binh is a wonderful land with the untouched natural beauty of limestone scenery and famous historical and religious sites in northern Vietnam. This province was the capital of Vietnam as well as the important military area through historical periods of 968 – 1010 with three dynasties Dinh, Tien Le, Tien Ly. Ninh Binh is also considered a perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

If you are planning to explore all the hidden beauty of this peaceful town, there are top 10 things to do in Ninh Binh you should never miss.

Things to do in Ninh Binh
Yen River with rowing boat harvesting waterlily in Ninh Binh

Immerse yourself in nature in Tam Coc – Bich Dong

Well-known as “Halong Bay on Earth” or “the inland Ha Long Bay”, Tam Coc is one of the best Ninh Binh highlights. As the name suggests, Tam Coc Ninh Binh is a region consisting of three natural caves on the Ngo Dong River. In here you will find some breathtaking natural landscapes and rural religious sites hidden away from view.

Taking pictures of the Tam Coc
Tourists traveling in boats along the Ngo Dong River and taking pictures of the Tam Coc

It’s not too far from Ninh Binh to Tam Coc, the distance is about 6 km so you can take a bus or taxi to get there. The best thing to do in Tam Coc is to immerse yourself in nature while taking a rowing-boat ride along the river. It may take you around two hours to explore this area by boat. You’ll be amazed by the amazing scenery of limestone karsts outcropping amid serene emerald-green rice paddies.

Immerse yourself in nature in Tam Coc
Joyful tourist travels along the river Ngo Dong with beautiful algae Cabomba, Ninh Binh province, Vietnam

Moreover, you can also drop by Bich Dong – a pagoda complex in a majestic mountain cave on the way to visit Tam Coc. Situated on Ngu Nhac Mountain, Bich Dong includes three separate temples: Ha Pagoda (Lower Pagoda), Trung Pagoda (Middle Pagoda), and Thuong Pagoda (Upper Pagoda). These ancient and historic shrines are scattered in ascending order along the hillside, some dating back to the 15th century.

The only way to reach Bich Dong Pagoda is to take a walk and climb to get to each monument, but it deserves to witness the stunning views of the valley and luscious greenery from the top of the mountain.

Tam Coc – Bich Dong

  • Opening hours: 07:00 AM – 04:00 PM
  • Entrance fee: 200,000/pax (including Tam Coc Boat)

Enjoy a scenic cruise in Trang An

Posited about 90 km from Hanoi, Trang An is another Ninh Binh attraction with amazing black limestone karsts, one after another and lining up to the horizon. That’s the reason why nothing’s better than enjoying a scenic cruise in Trang An Grottoes.

Aerial view of Trang An
Aerial view of Trang An – UNESCO World Heritage Site

There are 3 main boat routes for you to choose from. Route 1’s itinerary is through 9 caves and 3 temples and lasts 3 hours. Route 2 takes you 2.5 hours with 4 caves and 4 temples. The last route is new and passes through only 3 caves and 3 temples. Both routes 2 and 3 plus a Kong: Skull Island film studio. The entrance fee is VND 200.000/pax for a shared- rowing boat ride (maximum 4 people/ 1 boat) around Trang An complex.

Boat trip in Trang An
Boat trip in Trang An

Don’t miss the opportunity to have an adventurous and exciting experience paddling through the water and exploring magnificent caves in Trang An. All the paddlers here are women and they drive the boat with their feet so to see how they carry people the whole day is also impressive.

Trang An Grottoes

  • Opening hours: 07:00 AM – 04:00 PM
  • Entrance fee: 200.000 VND/pax
A film studio of Kong: Skull Island
A film studio of Kong: Skull Island

Spend the day at Bai Dinh Pagoda

The next highly recommended destination for your Ninh Binh day trip is Bai Dinh Pagoda. Built in 2003, Bai Dinh Pagoda is a 700-hectare complex with large halls, courtyards, and enclosures that are filled with hundreds of beautiful Arhat Statues, altars and golden ornaments. It is not only a famous site for Buddhist pilgrimages from across Vietnam but also the largest Spiritual and Cultural Complex of Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia.

Bai Dinh pagoda from above
Bai Dinh pagoda from above

To get from the entrance gate to the Bai Dinh Pagoda, you have to take a ride on the golf buggies. This electric car price is 30,000 VND each way. Good news is there is no entrance fee to the Bai Dinh Pagoda. You can walk around to admire the fairy view here or climb a number of steps up multiple levels that are lined with hundreds of Buddhist Statues.

There is also a huge Buddha Maitreya Statue located on the top of the highest hill in Bai Dinh temples complex. It is a 10m high bronze Buddha statue recognized as the biggest Maitreya statue in the country.

Bai Dinh Pagoda
The biggest temple complex in Vietnam

If you want to see the panorama of Bai Dinh Pagoda, you can take the internal elevator to the top of the Tower. With 50,000 VND for the ticket fare, you can enjoy the 360-degree view of the complex of temples as well as the breathtaking surrounding areas. If you’re afraid of heights, taking a picture under the Tower is not a bad idea.

Bai Dinh Pagoda

  • Opening hours: 7 AM – 6 PM
  • Entrance fee: Free
Golden Buddha statue
Golden Buddha statue inside the scenic tower

Explore Cuc Phuong National Park

Located in Tam Diep Mountain, Cuc Phuong National Park is extremely familiar to many domestic and foreign visitors. It is Vietnam’s first national park, a famous and attractive eco-tourism destination on the top list of what to see and do in Ninh Binh.

Amazingly shaped tree by its roots
Amazingly shaped tree by its roots with a hollow interior with enough room for a person to fit inside

This National Park is a spectacular land possessing many values of natural landscapes, diversity of ecosystems, cultural and historical values. With the characteristics of tropical and green rainforest all year round, its forest has more than 2234 higher plants and mosses, medicinal plants, edible plants and many species recorded in the Red Book of Vietnam.

Many Pieridae butterflies gather water on the floor
Many Pieridae butterflies gather water on the floor, Cuc Phuong national park

Cuc Phuong has nearly 122 reptile and amphibian species, 66 fish species and 135 species of mammals including the white-faced black langur species which are very beautiful and rare primates chosen to be the symbol of Cuc Phuong National Park. This amazing park also has The Endangered Primate Rescue Center and Turtle Conservation Centre to protect and conserve endangered species.

Cuc Phuong National Park

  • Opening hours: 8:30 – 11:30 AM; 1:30 – 4:30 PM
  • Entrance fee: 60,000 VND/ pax

Visit Dinh & Le temple

If you have a big passion for Vietnamese history, visiting Dinh & Le Temples is one of the best things to do around Ninh Binh. About 90 km south of Hanoi in the village of Truong Yen Thuong in Ninh Binh province, these temples are situated in Hoa Lu – the old capital of Vietnam in the 10th and 11th centuries.

Dinh & Le Temples are the places to worship Kings of Dinh (Đinh Bộ Lĩnh) and Le Dynasties (Lê Đại Hành – the first emperor of the succeeding Early Le Dynasty). The temples are atmospheric and quite beautiful in the field of 5 hectares surrounded by a set of incredibly steep hills and belong to the special protection area of the relic.

The main temple gate of the King Dinh Tien Hoang complex
The main temple gate of the King Dinh Tien Hoang complex

Hoa Lu was also known as “the Stone Citadel”. Therefore, when you enter the Dinh Temple courtyard, the first thing you will see is a huge square stone. Locals call it “Long sàn” – The royal bed for King. Inside these temples have three parts: Bai Duong (place for the community), Thien Huong (in honor of Mandarins), and Chinh Cung (where worship the King). Le Temple’s architectural design is almost the same as Dinh Temple.

Temple of Dinh Tien Hoang
Temple of Dinh Tien Hoang at Hoa Lu Ninh Binh, the first capital of Vietnam. Popular tourist destination in Ninh Binh Province

On the 10th day of the third lunar month annually, you can enjoy the most important cultural festival here – the Truong Yen Festival. This is a festival to commemorate the Kings of the Dinh and Le dynasties. The festival lasts for three days with martial arts and many traditional games reflecting the local life.

Dinh & Le Temples

  • Opening hours‎: ‎06:00 AM – 09:00 PM
  • Entrance fee: 20,000 VND / pax for both temples

Admire Phat Diem cathedral

Unlike other attractive destinations, visiting Phat Diem Cathedral is one of the best free things to do in Ninh Binh. Located in Kim Son district, Phat Diem is an amazing church built in 1892, completely of stone with the architectural mixture of Vietnamese and European styles well-known as “eclectic architectural style”. Despite being a church, it has a traditional Vietnamese pagoda roof type.

Phat Diem church
The architecture of Phat Diem church is a cross between Vietnamese and European styles

Phat Diem Cathedral complex consists of the main cathedral with Vietnamese name “Nha tho Duc Me Man Coi”, a stone church, a bell house called Phuong Dinh and three artificial stone caves. However, the first thing that may attract you while entering the church is its square lake with a statue of Jesus Christ in the middle.

A statue in the Phat Diem Stone Cathedral
A statue in the Phat Diem Stone Cathedral

Inside the church are many carved reliefs of chrysanthemums, bamboo, fir trees, and apricot trees corresponding with four seasons in a year. The altar is decorated with red-lacquer and gold items. With an amazing design, Phat Diem Cathedral is not only a beautiful religious destination but also the pride of many Ninh Binh people.

Phat Diem Cathedral

  • Opening hours‎: ‎06:00 AM – 09:00 PM
  • Entrance fee: Free

Admire stunning view of Mua caves

If you want a Ninh Binh hiking trip, Mua Caves are definitely the best option for you. Lying at the foot of Mua mountain, Mua Caves are a peaceful attraction along with impressive landscape around.

And how to get to Mua Caves? Since the distance is only 6km from the province center to the destination, you can easily take a taxi from Ninh Binh to Mua Caves.

Road to Mua Cave Summit
Road to Mua Cave Summit

According to Vietnamese legend, Mua Caves were established because, on the way from Hoa Lu to Thai Vi Temple, King Tran loved to stay there to enjoy performances of “ladies” dancers (who serve imperial) and listen to music. Therefore, this place was called Mua Caves or the Cave of Dancing. It is also believed that this Ninh Binh cave entrance is similar to the “Great Wall of China”.

Beautiful sunset landscape viewpoint from the top of Mua Cave mountain
Beautiful sunset landscape viewpoint from the top of Mua Cave mountain

Reaching the top of the mountain, you can also admire the stunning scenery of Tam Coc and the popular sights of Ninh Binh. With all the essence of nature, heaven and earth, this cave grows beautifully like in the peaceful poem about Hoa Lu. If you love nature and want to find a peaceful place to escape from the hectic city, Mua Caves are the perfect option for you.

Mua Caves

  • Opening hours: 24/24h
  • Entrance fee: 100.000 VND/ pax

Spot bird at Thung Nham bird garden

It’s no coincidence that spotting birds at Thung Nham Bird Garden is among the top things to do in Ninh Binh town.  Situated about 6km from Tam Coc and known as a beautiful landscape for those who love nature and the outdoors, this is home to nearly 40 species of birds such as stork, heron, mallard … and some rare species in the Red Data Book such as flamingo and hornbill.

This Bird Garden is also famous for its blend of culture, well-preserved nature and heritage of the region.

Hundreds of white stork birds nest for the night in trees on the calm river
Hundreds of white stork birds nest for the night in trees on the calm river (Photo by: Dinh Manh Thang)

The best time to explore the bird garden is in the late afternoon when the birds go out to find food or early in the morning before the birds leave for the day. You can also visit other attractive places at Thung Nham Bird Park such as Buddha Cave, Vai Gioi Cave, Tien Ca Cave, Garden area, Thuy Cung Cave, etc.

Thung Nham Bird Park

  • Opening hours: 24/24h
  • Entrance fee: 100.000 VND/ pax
Thung Nham bird park, Ninh Binh
Thung Nham bird park, Ninh Binh, Vietnam. It is also called Thung Chim. This is the home of many kinds of bird

Cycle around Ninh Binh countryside

If you have visited all the tourist attractions in Ninh Binh above, cycling around countryside is not a bad idea. Favored with untouched natural beauty, the whole land of Ninh Binh province still has many hidden gems that are waiting for you to discover.

Moreover, while taking a bicycle tour around the town, you can also have an opportunity to explore the rural life of friendly local people here and learn more about Vietnamese culture. It definitely brings you an unforgettable experience in Ninh Binh.

A young beautiful girl riding a bike in Ninh Binh Countryside
A young beautiful girl riding a bike in Ninh Binh Countryside

Taste Ninh Binh specialties

It will become a big regret if you don’t try delicious specialty once visiting Ninh Binh. Goat meat, Com Chay – Scorched Rice topped with dried pork floss, mountain Snail, raw Nhech fish salad and Nem Chua Yen Mac – Yen Mac fermented pork roll are 5 best tasty dishes here. Cooked by locals with good cooking skills, each dish has its own special flavors that make you want to eat more after the first bite.

You can easily buy them or other local products such as Ruou Can Nho Quan (wine drunk out of a jar through pipes) and Chieu Coi of Kim Son Village everywhere in Ninh Binh town as souvenirs for your friends and family.

A Dish of Grilled Goat Meat
A Dish of Grilled Goat Meat
Com Chay (Scorched Rice topped with dried pork floss)
Com Chay (Scorched Rice topped with dried pork floss)


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