Ninh Binh is located 90 km from Ha Noi, the capital of Vietnam. Ninh Binh emerged amazingly in the Hollywood movie Kong: Skull Island. If you are looking forward to visiting this beautiful landscape in Vietnam, here is the ultimate Ninh Binh travel guide that will help you have a safe and incredible trip.
You can reach Ninh Binh by a 3-hour bike trip. The natural scene in this land features caves and a limestone mountain range, thus some might call it “Ha Long Bay in the land”. Bai Dinh temple is considered Vietnam’s largest temple complex. And Cuc Phuong National Park is famous for its large nature reserve. This province also has many cultural & historical sites like Hoa Lu old capital and the Phat Diem Cathedral. These are the most popular tourist destinations in the Ninh Binh province.
Best time to visit Ninh Binh
You should visit when it’s not tourist season. Ninh Binh is most beautiful when it’s at peace. On a crowded day, you might have to wait in line – for 3 hours just to buy a ticket for a Temple. Ninh Binh festival season starts at the first month of the Lunar new year, on the 1st and 15th monthly.
Best ways to go to Ninh Binh where Kong: Skull Island was filmed
Vietnam has three major low-cost airlines offering domestic and international flights. The price is relatively low if you know how to hunt them.
After arriving in Ha Noi, you have three options to go to Ninh Binh:
- By train: From Ha Noi train station, book SE7 train (departing at 6:15), or SE5 (departing at 9:00). Prices range from 100,000 VND/seat. You can book a cheaper seat by selecting other seat options: hardcover, softcover or bed.
- By coach: “The Sinh” tourist is open with daily tickets every day at 200,000 VND per serving.
Places in Kong: Skull Island movie that you should visit in Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh river tour
Ninh Binh has two simultaneous tours with different yet charming beauty of its own. Both start at the entrance of the Ninh Binh Tourist Center. Turn left after the entrance to go on the Tam Coc – Bich Dong tour, and to the right for Trang An tours. If you have only one day to spend, choose only one because the entrance time can take about 2 hours. So, it’s best to take two days to visit both places.
Tour no.1: Tam Coc – 2 hours approx.
This old tour, run by the government, will take you through different rice fields with two distinct colors: green & yellow. The “Tam” word in “Tam Coc” means three. “Tam Coc” means three caves which you’ll visit too. From Van Lam ferry, tourists float on the Ngo Dong river through 3 caves and stunning landscapes.
The sad truth: In recent years, people (mostly non-local) don’t take this tour anymore due to high price rip off and unprofessional operations. Despite this, the government still won’t take action. All in all, Tam Coc is still an interesting and beautiful place to visit.
Tour no.2: Trang An – 2 to 3 hours approx.
Ran by a private tourism company, this tour meets all standards of a professional and clean service. The only difference with tour no.1 is that many unique caves – including the Thuong Cave in Ha Long Bay, replace the rice fields.
Ferry ticket: 150,000 VND/round-trip/person – 5 maximum capacity.
Ninh Binh land tour
Bich Dong: This tour is on the way to the Tam Coc river tour, so people often refer to both places as Tam Coc – Bich Dong. To reach Bich Dong, you will have to trek the mountain (another option is to rent a bike).
Thung Nham: The whole scene welcomes tourists by an astonishing landscape with a bright sky and a giant mountain that blends seamlessly. A green limestone mountain covers Thung Nham. On autumn, thick fog conceals sunlight bringing the valley under ethereal heavenly looks. Before reaching this place, goers need to walk Tam Coc Tourism Area 4 km, over Thung Nang and then to continue by foot (or by ferry if you go to Hang Chua).
Bai Dinh Temple (located on Trang An tour)
It took over 2 hours to visit all tour destinations, including hiking and trekking a lot. Prepare for yourself a good pair of sports shoes, casual wear and lightweight backpack (also a 500 ml water bottle). The area is 530 ha covered by Highland, and almost 85% is leveled ground. We firmly suggest that you should take an electric car to the old temple, then walk up down to the new temple to save time. The E-car ticket fee is 30,000 VND/person.
The Bai Dinh temple structure has two distinct temples:
- The old one located uphill and is 27 ha – the highest among structures. The E-car only reaches the foot; then there are 300 ladder steps before getting to the summit. The old Temple is located inside mountain cave and has unique features: The facade in the middle – The Buddha altar on the right, and the “Cao Son” God altar. On the left is the Saint Nguyen altar followed by the Goddess & Fairly altar in the depth of the mountain.
- After visiting the old one, you can walk back the mountain on foot and go through the connecting trail to the new Bai Dinh Temple (E Car is available here).
- The new temple was built in recently breaking many records in Vietnam and Asia. It is known as the temple which has the largest golden Buddha sculpture among Asia, the longest Arhat corridor in Asia, and the largest bronze Maitreya sculpture in SEA. If you follow the route suggested above, you have to take the stairs down to reach all of the regions.
3-Day Itinerary For Ninh Binh
Take a bus to Ninh Binh, arrive at Hoa Lu around 11:00, visit Hoa Lu about 30 – 40 minutes. In the afternoon you can visit Trang An, a tourist place. You should go to Trang An rather than Tam Coc because these locations are the same, sitting on a boat and visiting a cave. If you have enough time, you can choose both, with Trang An you get a 3-hour boat trip. If you go by motorbike early from Ha Noi, you can visit 3 different places Hoa Lu, Trang An and Bai Dinh in one day.
Depart early to Phat Diem Cathedral (Nha Tho Phat Diem). After visiting the church you can have some lunch nearby. In the afternoon drive to Ninh Binh to visit Bich Dong and Bai Dinh (if you didn’t visit on day 1). Bich Dong is near Tam Coc. In case you have to take the bus to go back to Hanoi in the afternoon, you should go to Bich Dong and back to return a motorbike and take a bus back to Hanoi. If you go for 3 days, you have two options: one is staying overnight at Ninh Binh, the other is riding a motorbike to Cuc Phuong to stay there for the night.
Visit Cuc Phuong and walk in the forest. In the afternoon catch the bus back to Hanoi. With the schedule above you can get enough tourist places in Ninh Binh in a reasonable time.
Accommodations in Ninh Binh
You can stay at Van Lam – Tam Coc Home – H2H. This hotel is near many tourist places such as Tam Coc, Bich Dong, Bai Dinh, and Phat Diem Temple. Price from 800,000 VND.
Hostel/Hotel in Ninh Binh
If you have more budget, you can stay at a 3 stars or 4 stars hotel in the city.
- There are many hostels and guesthouses at Truong Han Sieu St.
- Restaurant and Hotel The Long opposite to Tam Coc wharf.
- Restaurant and Hostel Thien Truong between Hoa Lu and Trang An (very convenient for people who travel to Trang An). The restaurant is cheap, good food and it is a budget guesthouse for students.
- Nha San Cuc Phuong. You can contact Cuc Phuong forest management.
Click here to find more accommodation options.
Now you’re ready to travel to Ninh Binh, Vietnam!
Featured image via Flickr by V-A-K