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Places to visit in Ninh Binh

Places to visit in Ninh Binh

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    Ninh Binh’s top attractions are outside the city. They concentrate on four different areas including Trang An, Tam Coc, Cuc Phuong and Van Long. You can reach easily to all of these destinations except for Cuc Phuong National Park by motorbike. All you need to do is checking the route carefully on the map and then explore them by yourself. It’s better for you to search them in Vietnamese. Don’t forget to fill up your motorcycle before starting your trip.

    Destination Distance (From Ninh Binh City) Price
    Hoa Lu Ancient Capital 13 kilometers VND 20.000/person
    Trang An Ecological Complex 7 kilometers Entrance fee: VND 200.000/adult VND 100.000/kid (under 1.4 meters high) Tourist Guide (boat fee included): VND 300.000/tour
    Bai Dinh Pagoda 22 kilometers Electric car: VND 30.000/person Entrance fee: VND 50.000/person
    Phat Diem Cathedral 34 kilometers Free
    Tam Coc – Bich Dong National Park 6 kilometers Entrance fee: VND 120.000/adult Boat ride: VND 150.000/person/trip For foreign guest: maximum 2 people/boat Free for children under 3 years old
    Thung Nham Bird Garden 12 kilometers Entrance fee: VND 100.000/ person Bird Garden: VND 20.000/person But Cave: VND 20.000/person Free for children under 0.8m After 05 pm, tourists only have to pay 50% entrance fee
    Thien Ha Grotto 21.5 kilometers VND 120.000/adult VND 40.000/kid (under 1.4 meter high)
    Hang Mua Peak 6.6 kilometers VND 100.000/ person
    Van Long Nature Reserve 18.4 kilometers Entrance fee: VND 20.000/person Boat ride: VND 60.000/boat For foreign guest: maximum 2 people/boat
    Thach Bich – Thung Nang 9.4 kilometers Entrance fee: VND 15.000/adult Boat Ride: VND 60.000/boat
    Cuc Phuong National Park 60 kilometers VND 60.000/adult
    Non Nuoc Temple 1.7 kilometers VND 30.000/adult
    Dong Chuong Lake 33.5 kilometers VND 30.000/adult

    1. Trang An Ecological Area, Ninh Binh

    a. Boating in Trang An – A must-try activity

    The Mother Nature favors Trang An with magnificent green mountains and impressive emerald water. Trang An is 7 kilometers to the west of Ninh Binh city. It’s very near to Tam Coc but fewer tourists and much more beautiful and relaxing. This Scenic Landscape Complex covers an area of nearly 7.72 sq mi (2200ha) with 48 scattered water caves and 31 narrow valleys. The best way to enjoy this inspiring scenery is to take a small bamboo boat ride. A lady rower will row the boat for you through Toi Cave, Sang Cave, and Nau Ruou Cave. Don’t be surprised if she uses her legs to row the boat. It’s the unreal amount of effort these ladies have to put day by day to make ends meet. 

    Read more: 5 things to eat in Ninh Binh

    Most of the boat tours follow a circular route. You basically hop on the boat and listen to the water gently tapping on the side of the boat. The weather here is cooler than other parts of Ninh Binh. The water is calm and so limpid that floating bushes of green weeds look like a grass cover. It’s advisable for you to visit Trang An early in the morning to enjoy the fresh air and soft light fall on river valleys. The sun will dazzle you suddenly as if you got lost in a fairyland. If early morning is impossible, you should come later in the afternoon to avoid annoyance from crowds.

    b. Trang An – An outdoor geological museum

    People cite Trang An as an “outdoor geological museum” because of its combinations of limestone blocks edging the plains and limestone rocks close to the sea. Besides, the terrain and marine sediments are essential for a lot of studies including topography, sea water rise, and global climate change. Nowadays, Trang An still remains its ecological diversity.  People estimate that there are over 310 species of higher plants, algae, and fungi, many of which are rare woods and vulnerable trees used for food and medicine. In addition, there are about 50 species of bird, about 30 species of mammals together with many other species of rare animals.

    2. Hoa Lu Ancient Capital

    The first king of the Dinh dynasty put this area on the map in the 11th century when he moved his government from the ancient capital at Co Loa to this karst landscape. The Dinh set their capital lean on the limestone crags at Hoa Lu, just north of Ninh Binh town, because it was far from China and easier to defend. It remained to be the capital for 42 years under 6 Kings of the Dinh, Tien Le and Ly dynasties. Hoa Lu also used to be a military base that has witnessed many significant events and major changes in the nation. In 2014, Hoa Lu ancient capital is officially recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO. Nowadays, not too much remains except for some beautiful archways and two temples built in the 17th century to commemorate the ephemeral dynasty. They are the Dinh and Le Temples.

    3. Bai Dinh Pagoda  – The largest pagoda in Vietnam

    Another recently built temple worth seeing in the area is Bai Dinh Pagoda, just 12 kilometers from Hoa Lu. It consists of an old temple located on the western slope of Dinh mountain and the largest temple complex sprawling over an entire hillside. This pagoda encompasses an ancestor-worshipping house in the center, the Bright cave on the right which worships the Buddha and a small temple worshipping Genie Cao Son. Next to it is the Dark cave worshiping the Fairy. The fanciful scenery and quiet atmosphere will clear your mind and bring you inner peace.

    Read more: 3 best things to do in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

    Without no doubt, Bai Dinh Pagoda is the masterpiece of both man and nature. Source: Unsplash

    Everything here is massive and impressive. Within the 539-hectare premises, there are 5,000 Buddha statues. Tham The Hall, the largest hall, is 193 feet wide and stands 111 feet high. There’s also a 100-ton bronze Buddha statue, a 36-ton bell in a magnificent bell tower, and 500 statues of arhats carved of local stone.

    Bai Dinh Pagoda remains a source of national pride. Up to now, Bai Dinh pagoda has held many records of Asia and Vietnam including the pagoda has the largest gilt-bronze Buddha statue; the pagoda has the longest Arhat corridor in Asia and the pagoda has the largest bronze Maitreya statue in Southeast Asia and so on.

    4. Thung Nham Bird Sanctuary, Ninh Binh

    Thung Nham Bird Sanctuary is located in Ninh Hai Commune, 12 kilometers from Ninh Binh city to the south. This ecotourism zone is becoming more and more appealing thanks to its iconic beauty and its harmony between the creativity of the locals and the natural landscapes.

    Tucked away in the mountains, Thung Nham is the house houses more than 40 species of birds, some of them on the Red List of Threatened Species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Summer and spring are the best time to visit Thung Nham. During these seasons the birds are busy building nests and breeding. Late afternoon is the time for flocks of bird to forage. Therefore, if you want to take a boat to mangrove this forest, you should go to the range after 5 pm. If luckily, you can catch sight of various types of birds from normal ones like storks, herons, warblers, starlings to rare ones like Flamingoes and Phoenix.

    This site also has a rich ecosystem, including more than 100 flora and 150 fauna species. Besides watching birds, you can also explore the caves in the mountains as well as visit orchard of tropical fruits, including star fruit, mangoes, guavas, and lychees.

    5. Tam Coc – The natural gift for Ninh Binh

    Widely praised as “The Ha Long Bay of the Rice Fields”, Tam Coc is a highlight of any visit to Vietnam. The name “Tam Coc” means “Three Grottos” emerging out from Ngo Dong River. Tam Coc encompasses Hang Ca, the first caves, followed by Hang Giua and Hang Cuoi. The farther you travel upriver, the more dramatic the scenery is. Best time to visit Tam Coc is during March when cotton trees are blossoming into stunning red flowers. From the end of May to the middle of June is also a good time. At this time, rice fields are changing gradually from green to yellow, which form picturesque scenery. Right before harvest time,  these paddies become an endless yellow silk.

    The favorite way to explore Tam Coc is getting on a sampan. If possible, take the boat ride in the morning before the groups of tourists arriving from Hanoi, or late afternoon after they have left. By midday, though, the sun is blistering and the open boats offer no shade. Remember to bring along umbrellas to ward off the sun. It’s best to just bring a good hat and cover up with sunscreen. Along the route, you’ll see shy kingfishers as well as friendly farmers who are busy working along the river and around the paddies. Local fishermen are quite used to the steady stream of tourists, but they often wave their hand and say “Hello” to you. The rowers are also friendly but most don’t know how to speak English. Hard work makes them concentrated and not really willing to chat. 

    If possible, stay away from the boats with boxes.These are loaded souvenirs, mostly embroidered stuff which the locals make for their living on. The floating drink sellers can be very persistent. Once you start sailing, you’ll probably be pushed to buy something. Best to just quietly decline and keep your eyes on the passing scenery.

    6. Bich Dong Pagoda – The unique pagoda in Ninh Binh

    From Tam Coc boat pier, travel nearly 3 kilometers to the East, tourists will reach Bich Dong – a stunning temple complex. Bich Dong encompasses three-tiered cave pagoda at the base of high cliffs. Bich Dong Pagoda was built by the missionary work of 2 Buddhist monks: Tri Kien and Tri The. All three pagodas feature wooden architecture due to the architectural style of the time at the end of Le Dynasty. Their locations are according to ascending order. The Ha Pagoda (“Lower Pagoda”) is on the foot of the mountain. The Trung Pagoda is based on a mountainside. The Thuong Pagoda is situated on the top of the mountain.

    Lying near the entry is a pond. Along the short path up the high rocky hillside is a series of pagodas. The only way to access is by steep stone steps, but it is really worth climbing up for a charming pagoda and amazing view from the top.

    At this sacred place as well as at other temple sites, it’s best to be well behaved and stay covered up (no shorts).

    7. Hang Mua peak – Best View of Ninh Binh, Vietnam

    Hang Mua peak is around 5 kilometers from the boat pier in Tam Coc. Hang Mua draws the eye of both local and foreign travelers thanks to its natural beauty. 450 stone steps bring you to the tip of the peak. From here, you can catch a spectacular view of the entire region. The steps might be slippery and the rocks are jagged. Therefore, watch your step. Gorgeous sunset and peaceful sunrise in Hang Mua Peak is really must-see place when traveling to Ninh Binh

    Be aware that the location shown on Google maps is not exact. It appears to be in the middle of the park – between the Hang Mua ticket entrance and Hang Mua caves. You have to go through the entrance and then walk towards the famous peak with the stairs. The Mua Cave Ecolodge buildings are to your left.Be aware that the location shown on Google maps is not exact. It appears to be in the middle of the park – between the Hang Mua ticket entrance and Hang Mua caves. You have to go through the entrance and then walk towards the famous peak with the stairs. The Mua Cave Ecolodge buildings are to your left.

    8. Van Long Nature Reserve, Ninh Binh

    Like nearby Tam Coc and Kenh Ga, Van Long is often invoked as another terrestrial Halong Bay. The 7410-acre lagoon is considered the biggest wetland nature reserve site in the northern delta. Van Long is also home to thousands of rare fauna and flora species, many of them are on the edge of existence. Although opening for tourism since 1998, Van Long still remains its untouched beauty which is an appeal to local and foreign visitors, especially international filmmakers.

    As travel to Tam Coc and Trang An, taking a boat is the best way to discover Van Long Lagoon. This time, the experience is pretty different since you will get on a bamboo basket boat tours. The boat floating up and down takes you into a tranquil atmosphere with beautiful sounds of nature. Visit here in the early morning to enjoy the fresh air and let yourself unwind amongst nature. If coming here in the late afternoon, you can view flocks of stork returning to their west at sunset.

    While taking the boat ride through Van Long Nature Reserve’s picturesque karst landscape, be on the lookout for monkeys and birds

    __ Jonathan A. O’Brien__

    9. Phat Diem Cathedral, Ninh Binh, Vietnam

    Phat Diem Stone Cathedral, around 34 kilometers from Ninh Binh city, is situated in the middle of the canals and rice paddies. As its name suggests, Phat Diem is completely built of stone and wood which are ready in the mountains of Ninh Binh. And it takes more than 14 years, from 1874 to 1898 to complete this church. Up to now, Phat Diem is still one of the most beautiful churches in Vietnam.

    Phat Diem features special architectural style – an elegant combination of Western Church and Vietnamese religious building. At first sight, tourists are easily attracted by a square lake on the main road to the cathedral. There is a small island with the statue of Jesus Christ in the middle of the lake. Besides, Phuong Dinh and “Nha tho Duc me Man Coi” with their special beauty and cultural values receive the appreciation of visitors.

    While taking the boat ride through Van Long Nature Reserve’s picturesque karst landscape, be on the lookout for monkeys and birds

    — Jonathan A. O’Brien
    34 Views
    22 Jan 2020
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    Cuong Bach The founder of Journey On Air - The Travel Information Center of Vietnam. Our mission is connecting travelers worldwide to the beauty of the landscape, history, culture and the friendly people in Vietnam.

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