Visit Hoa Lu ancient capital

Ancient Hoa Lu Capital

Ancient Hoa Lu Capital

  • Location: Truong Yen, Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh

  • Ticket: 20,000 VND (0,81 USD)

  • Open time: 7 am - 5 pm

  • Guide fee: 200,000 - 500,000 VND (8 - 20,2 USD)

Ninh Binh is the capital of Vietnam’s first feudal state. When visiting the Hoa Lu ancient temple, you will witness the early state formation of the Vietnamese people. The historical site includes entrance gates, courtyards, temples dedicated to Dinh and Le Kings, and the Ma Yen mountain.

Hiring a tour guide could be a great option for receiving guided tours and learning about the intriguing tales surrounding the establishment and decline of the Dinh dynasty, the continuity of the Le dynasty, and the reasons behind King Le’s decision to relocate the capital from Ninh Binh to Hanoi.

Strolling at Hoa Lu Old Quarter

Hoa Lu Old Quarter in Ninh Binh

Hoa Lu Old Quarter in Ninh Binh

  • Location: Trang An, Tan Thanh, Ninh Binh

  • Ticket: Free

  • Open time: 6h45 am - 11 pm

The site is crafted to replicate an ancient Ninh Binh cultural setting. Nevertheless, I would recommend a visit as it is bustling with activity and often hosts special events like festivities, fairs, live music, traditional instrument performances, artistic displays, and so forth.

The Old Quarter consists of rows of traditional Vietnamese houses adorned with colorful lanterns, constructed from traditional materials like wood, bamboo, stone, and clay. The shops here sell a variety of traditional Vietnamese products, specialties, offer traditional costume rentals, street food, and souvenirs, creating a lively atmosphere with numerous visitors.

In addition to the housing areas, there are also many decorative zones and wall paintings for photo opportunities. You can visit Silver Pagoda located on the lake, hike up Ky Lan Mountain, explore temples within the compound, or take a boat ride on the lake.

Take a boat trip

 things to do in Ninh Binh Vietnam

Getting on a boat trip is one of the top things to do in Ninh Binh Vietnam

  • Location: Trang An UNESCO heritage site, Tam Coc - Bich Dong, or Van Long.

  • Ticket: 100,000 - 250,000 VND/person (4 - 10 USD)

  • Open time: 7h30 am - 5 pm

Ninh Binh is a region characterized by limestone karst landscapes, flat plains, and an intricate network of waterways interspersed throughout. Boating amidst the picturesque scenery is always one of the top things to do in Ninh Binh Vietnam.

This activity is quite relaxing, chill, and tranquil. Along the way, you can boat through limestone caves, admire the ecosystem in the forest and underwater, and capture beautiful photos. I have some recommendations for you when choosing where to go boating:

  • Trang An: Renowned as the prime attraction, this site harmoniously combines Vietnam's natural wonders with its rare cultural heritage. The tourist complex is thoughtfully designed, allowing visitors to explore small islands adorned with temples, natural landscapes flanking both sides and intricate caves.

  • Tam Coc - Bich Dong: This location is iconic with breathtaking scenery of rice fields on either side along the boat route from April to June. Tam Coc, meaning "Three Caves," takes you through caves along the boating route. During the summer month of June, the blooming lotus ponds here are also stunning.

  • Van Long Nature Reserve: A tranquil water body where you can behold thick clusters of reeds lining both shores, accompanied by flocks of birds returning to their nests from 3 to 5 pm, and if fortunate, you can watch white-thighed langurs descending the mountain slopes in search of food.

Hike to the top of Mua Cave

 things to do in Ninh Binh Vietnam

Lost in the valley of Ninh Binh

  • Location: Ninh Hai, Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh

  • Ticket: 100,000 VND/adult (4 USD). Parking fees from 5,000 - 20,000 VND (bicycle, motorbike, car)

  • Open time: 7h30 am - 5 pm

Mua Cave offers a high vantage point overlooking the Tam Coc boating route, the valley with rice fields, waterways, and the local houses. The scenery here is even more stunning during the Tam Coc ripe rice season (April - June) and when the vegetation is lush.

The rocky limestone mountain hike followed by scenic viewpoints makes for an enjoyable experience. The ascent to Mua Cave consists of 486 consecutive steps made of steep stone. You should wear sandals or sturdy shoes with good grip.

Seek serenity at Bai Dinh Pagoda

 things to do in Ninh Binh Vietnam

The overview of the Bai Dinh Pagoda complex

  • Location: Gia Sinh, Gia Vien, Ninh Binh

  • Ticket: 60,000 - 150,000 VND/adult ( 2,4 - 6 USD)

  • Tour guide: 300,000 VND (12,1 USD)

  • Open time: 7h30 am - 5 pm

Bai Dinh is the grandest spiritual complex in Ninh Binh. It holds several records in Asia and Vietnam, such as having the largest bronze gilded Buddha statue in Asia, the longest corridor of Arhat statues in Asia, and the largest bronze Maitreya Buddha statue in Southeast Asia.

Set against the peaceful backdrop of Ninh Binh's natural beauty, the Buddhist complex features impressive edifices constructed from stone, wood, and bronze. A journey through this ensemble may extend from half a day to a full day. Then you should wear sturdy walking shoes and carry sufficient water.

As this is a sacred site, you need to dress respectfully and honor the local Buddhist culture by removing your footwear upon entering the temples, maintaining the sanctity of the surroundings and cultural heritage.

Cycle through the countryside

 things to do in Ninh Binh Vietnam

Slowly ride and enjoy the scenery

Ninh Binh is one of Vietnam's most captivating biking destinations. It boasts a low-density development interspersed with stunning natural landscapes, including limestone mountains, rice paddies, lotus ponds, rivers, rural villages, temples, etc.

Some of the biking routes in Ninh Binh for you:

  • Tam Coc - Thung Nham Area: This region exudes the purest rustic countryside vibes. Starting from Tam Coc, you can bike through and pause at fields, roadside refreshment stops, lakeshores, and wooded patches. You will witness authentic rural life activities like farming, fishing, and animal husbandry along the way.

  • Trang An - Bai Dinh - Van Long Area: This area offers vast and abundant spaces. If you visit during the winter months from November to January, you will encounter tall grasses reaching over 1 meter high lining both sides of the road. Particularly, the sunsets at Van Long Wetland are stunning, where you can witness flocks of storks flying overhead.

  • City route: You can cycle around the Ninh Binh city area near Hoa Lu Old Quarter to observe the urban life and landscape here. Unlike big cities like Hanoi, the urban pace in Ninh Binh is rather slow and peaceful.

Most of the roads on these routes in Ninh Binh are relatively easy to navigate. If you venture into the dirt trails, the paths may become muddy during rainy days. Renting a bicycle fee typically costs from 1 to 4 USD per day depending on the type of bike and rental duration. 

You can easily find bicycle rental shops in Tam Coc. Additionally, here are the contacts for bicycle rentals in the city of Minh Nhat bike rental: Le Thai To, Ninh Khanh, Ninh Binh - 0916 999 522. They also offer bicycle delivery directly to customers' locations upon request.

Discover the biodiversity of Cuc Phuong National Park

 things to do in Ninh Binh Vietnam

Cuc Phuong in butterfly season

  • Location: Nho Quan, Ninh Binh

  • Ticket: 60,000 VND/adult (2,6 USD)

  • Open time: 7h am - 8 pm

Cuc Phuong is a top ecological destination in Ninh Binh with a lush tropical rainforest and diverse flora and fauna. There are 2,234 plant species, 135 mammal species, 336 bird species, 122 reptile and amphibian species, 66 fish species, and around 2,000 insect species.

Visitors can explore Cuc Phuong at any time of the year. Specifically, the months of April to May offer a special treat with their blooming butterfly season. You can try trekking, cycling, or motorbiking here as the area is vast. For a more relaxed experience, there are resorts available for overnight stays.

In addition to exploring the forest area and encountering iconic species like the endangered langurs and the bear conservation center, you can also visit caves, which served as shelters for prehistoric humans, or the ethnic minority villages where local communities reside.

Unwind at Thung Nham Bird Sanctuary

 things to do in Ninh Binh Vietnam

The bird’s home in Ninh Binh

  • Location: Ninh Hai, Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh

  • Ticket: 150,000 VND/adult (6 USD)

  • Open time: 7h30 am - 6 pm

Ninh Binh's living environment is highly suitable for birds and stocks, thanks to its abundant woodlands and extensive wetlands. Among these areas, Thung Nham Bird Conservation Area is renowned for harboring the largest and most diverse population of birds, including species designated for conservation in the Red Book.

Much like Cuc Phuong, this destination is also a significant ecosystem. Visitors can engage in birdwatching, explore scenic lakes, ancient trees, and caves along hiking trails, or opt for accommodations within the vicinity.

Retreat at Eco Homestay

 things to do in Ninh Binh Vietnam

Unwind at Ninh Binh Resorts

If time allows, I suggest considering a staycation in Ninh Binh to explore its activities. Locations like Tam Coc, Trang An, Bai Dinh, and Van Long have numerous resorts and eco-friendly homestays with exceptional services. Besides the stunning landscapes and views, these accommodations also provide various authentic Vietnamese experiences, including traditional attire, handicraft workshops, cooking classes, etc.

A one-night stay at a resort or homestay in Ninh Binh typically ranges from 20 to 80 USD/room/night. You might consider trying out resorts such as Emeralda Van Long, Emeralda Tam Coc, Hidden Charm, Tam Coc Garden, Bai Dinh Riverside, Tam Coc Rice Field, Le Clos Du Fil, etc.

Sample the local cuisine

 things to do in Ninh Binh Vietnam

Ninh Binh local cuisine experience

Ninh Binh's countryside cuisine boasts many highlights. If you are curious about experiencing a traditional Vietnamese home-cooked meal, you can try it firsthand in Ninh Binh. The region offers visitors a taste of authentic rural dishes such as rice served with braised pork, tofu, stir-fried vegetables, pickled eggplant, and local specialties like goat meat dishes and crispy rice served with floss.

The unique aspect is the chance to savor your meal in an authentic local atmosphere. Whether you prefer indoor or outdoor dining, there are plenty of options in Tam Coc and Trang An. Local restaurants offer picturesque open-air settings ideal for unwinding. Alongside local cuisine, you will also find a variety of European-style dining and drinking choices.

Some recommended local restaurants:

  • Bamboo bar and Restaurant: Ninh Hai, Tam Coc (+84 986 350 433)

  • Spice Garden Tam Coc: Dam Khe, Ninh Hai, Tam Coc(0973 110 088)

  • Tam Gia Trang: No 35, Trang An 2, Tan Trung, Tan Thanh, Ninh Binh ( 0915 865 905)

Furthermore, if you are into exploring local street food, you can stroll around and seek out eateries in downtown Ninh Binh City, located on Cu Chinh Lan, Nguyen Luong Bang, Dong Thanh, and Dao Duy Tu Streets.

Looking for more information? Our article on travel guide to Vietnam!

There are numerous things to do in Ninh Binh Vietnam for visitors to admire the natural beauty, rural charm, and explore the local culture. If you are interested in these experiences and want to have local friends support for your hassle-free trip, you can leave a message for New Asia Tours.