Ninh Bình is a small city in the Red River Delta of Vietnam. This hidden gem is often overlooked by travelers, but it definitely should not be missed! Keep reading for the best things to do in Ninh Binh.
Ninh Binh is known for its limestone karsts that resemble Ha Long Bay, but on land, and is situated in the countryside, in a quiet town with a stunning landscape.
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Getting To Ninh Binh: Our hostel arranged transportation for us from Cát Bà Island to Ninh Bình through the Cat Ba Express. The bus will pick you up at your hotel around 8am, and take you to Ninh Bình for only $14. Overall it’s about a 5 hour trip, but this luxury bus had nice reclining leather seats, free WiFi, and free bottled water. Once you arrive in Ninh Bình, the bus does not drop you off at your hotel, but rather in a central spot in Tam Coc town. Depending on where your hotel is, you can either walk or hire a taxi (or motorbike taxi) to your hotel.
If you’re traveling from Hanoi to Ninh Binh, you can get there via bus, train, or taxi in about 2.5 hours.
Where to Stay in Ninh Binh: We stayed at the Tam Coc Rice Fields Resort and loved it. It’s a little far from the town, which makes it a peaceful, relaxing getaway, and you have a beautiful view right from your cottage! They have a cute garden area where you can eat your (free) breakfast every morning, and they also offer free bicycle rentals which you can take into town. The staff was super friendly and accommodating. The only thing that would make it better is if they offered motorbike rentals from the property- we ended up taking a taxi into town and renting a motorbike from there.
Things to do in Ninh Bình:
1. Trang An Grottoes
One of the most iconic things to do in Ninh Binh is to cruise through the Trang An Grottoes. Rent a motorbike for the day and head out to the Trang An Grottoes for a boat ride through the caves. This scenic canal/lake system weaves in and out of caves and limestone karsts, and for about $5 USD you can take a 2-hour boat ride to explore and enjoy the scenery! The lady rows the boat the whole time, but there are extra paddles in there in case you want to help. It actually rained on us pretty hard right as we got on the water- but it was still a great time!
2. Climb the Stairs on Top of the Mau Loa Caves
One of the best things to do in Ninh Binh is to climb up to this beautiful view. Head to the Mau Loa Caves and climb ~500 stairs on top of the caves for a sweeping view of rice fields and karsts. The actual caves are small and unimpressive, however this view is worth the climb! It costs about $5 USD for park entrance.
3. Bich Dong Pagoda
The Bich Dong Pagoda consists of 3 pagodas- one at the base of the mountain, one in the middle, and one up a steeper climb inside a rock cave. Inside the cave you’ll find statues and burning incense, and walking around the outside leads to sweeping views of the surrounding countryside.
4. Eat and Drink
The food in Ninh Bình does not even compare to Hanoi, but we were able to find some decent places:
Father Cooking- This restaurant is in town and is one of the top-rated in Ninh Bình. Make sure to try the goat- a local specialty!
Chookies Beer Garden
This super cute beer garden on the outskirts of town not only has a chill ambiance, but also has SUCH a good burger! If you’re craving Western food for one of your meals, definitely check out this place. The deck chairs, fire pit, and shared rustic tables make this a great place to relax and unwind after a busy day of exploring!
Breakfast at Tam Coc Rice Fields Resort
If you’re staying at Tam Coc Rice Fields Resort (where I mentioned in the beginning of this article) they have free breakfast that you can eat in their lovely garden area. If you aren’t staying here, you can still join and pay for breakfast (or lunch or dinner). The food is good, but the atmosphere is even better- situated in a relaxing garden setting with mountain views in the background. We even had a furry friend join us!
Other Things to Know about Ninh Bình:
Make sure you check the gas level in the motorbike before riding out to the Trang An Grottoes, as it’s about 8 miles from town. When you do have to get gas, it won’t be from a traditional gas station like you’re used to. We found gas from someone on the side of the road, who used a water bottle and a funnel to fill us up:
The souvenirs are cheaper here than in Hue, Hoi An, and Hanoi. I got the fun elephant pants I am wearing in these photos in Ninh Bình for only $2 USD!Taking a motorbike taxi instead of a regular taxi is cheaper (and you can squeeze 3 people on it)
Check out the latest deals for places to stay in Ninh Binh below:
Where to next? Check out my full 2-week Vietnam itinerary here.