The answer to the question "How many days in Ninh Binh?" depends on which sites you'd like to visit.
In general, 2 days is ideal to discover all highlights in Ninh Binh. A whirlwind trip of less than 24 hours is still fine, but certainy you don't want to travel in a rush!
So where should you go and what should you do in your 2-day trip? Here is an itinerary that AZ Local Trip would like to recommend you to arrange to explore the rural Vietnam on your own:
If you would have a day tour to Ninh Binh, we also offer these following ones
you can also have some ideas for your itinerary in the tours offered even do not book
In order to help you navigate around Ninh Binh area, I've put together a map containing all of the main sights and places worth going – IN ENGLISH – split in 2 different days.
This first day only has 3 places, but each one of them will need a couple of hours to explore. I strongly suggest you get around on a motorbike as distances between these sights are significant.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Trang An Landscape Complex is an impressive set of large limestone karst cliffs covered by forest. In the entire area, you can find temples, dozens of valleys and about 50 different caves.
Venturing between the mountains
The best way to enjoy this inspiring scenery is to take a boat ride which is skippered by local Vietnamese women.
The rowing method employed by these women uses their feet to paddle and steer the wooden boat around the river. The aim of such method is that it allows them to face in a forward position, as well as alleviating the pressure off their backs and arms.
This guide has been using this method for over 20 years[
A leisurely row boat trip through the stunning Ninh Binh countryside is definitely a highlight of a visit!
*The ride has a duration of 2-3 hours.
Hoa Lu is the ancient capital of the Dinh and Le dynastys, dating back to the 11th century. It’s located roughly 14km from Ninh Binh and close to the Trang An boat ride.
Today, the remains of this ancient city are just that: remains. The buildings still standing include the royal temples of Dinh Tien Hoang, housing a statue of Emperor Dinh Bo Linh and his sons as well as the royal temple of the early Le Dynasty.
Hoa Lu still keeps the remaining of ancients fortress built by Dinh dynasty more than 1000 years ago. The Imperial place lays under the ground for 3m and now become a very interesting place to visit. Tourists will have the chance to see the old items used by the royal family in ancient time.
The fortress outside is built based on the natural advantages: the mountain provides good background, the deep valley is a basement, and the rivers supply water for people inside the fortress and would become traps to fight against enemy in any case. This fortress is a very solid one that can defense against even the strongest enemy for months.
On the other hand, inside the fortress is marvelous scenery for photo-taking and sight-seeing. In addition, the ancient town of Hoa Lu can easily captures tourists by its unique aspects.
The bird-eye view of Bai Dinh Temple
Bai Dinh, where temple hopping within temple hopping is possible
Located 15km away from Ninh Binh city in a mountain area, Bai Dinh Pagoda is a HUGE religious complex. In fact, everything is massive here. Within the 539-hectare premises, there are 5,000 Buddha statues, a 36-ton bronze bell and dozens of Buddhist temples, each more opulent than the other. Usually visitors explore the compound by electric car.
It’s the absolute largest pagoda in South East Asia. Climbing to the top gives you an amazing open view over the Ninh Binh province.
Golden Buddha statues inside Bai Dinh Temple
Contrary to the first day, this one can be done on a bike as distances are shorter. All the sights are in or around Tam Coc.
Cruising down Ngo Dong River
Known as "Halong Bay on rice field" or "The Terrestrial Halong Bay", Tam Coc looks indeed like a movie scene. Rice fields and karstic rocks surround the Ngo Dong River. When you’re sailing through it, the feeling of passing through a special natural kingdom is very real. Vietnamese call Tam Coc the Green Sea, and you’ll understand why once your eyes witness the scenery of the paddy fields.
5 minutes exploring Tam Coc by bicycle and you're drawn into the authentic Vietnam
One of the best things to do in Tam Coc is hiring a bike. It offers you freedom to travel to wherever you want to go, and at a time that is convenient to you.
Surrounding the rice paddies are endless miles of tracks to explore; ranging from old cemeteries, to smaller villages where kids ride their over sized bikes from school every afternoon with the hugest smiles and not afraid to wave hello – there’s so many unexpected turns and surprises to stumble upon.
Bich Dong pagoda
If you’re coming from Tam Coc, the road to Bich Dong Pagoda is simply gorgeous. At a given point, you’ll be surrounded by huge rice fields with limestone cliffs as a backdrop. Definitely worthy of stopping for some selfie moments!
Bich Dong Pagoda itself is a set of 3 temples enclosed in an mountain. To explore the highest one you need to pass through a series of caves. At some point it’s pitch dark inside, so watch your step!
Inside you can find several Buddhist images carved in stone and hollow stalactites on which you can play some tunes. Some of these caves were used by the Viet Minh to hide from the French during the First Indochina War.
Tips: Aim to stay 1 hour maximum, as the site is not that small.
Entrance to Mua Cave
Mua cave is located off the Ngo Dong river and requires a scenic detour along the rice paddies in order to reach it. The actual cave within the karst is quite boring, but the pagoda, 500 steps high up is well worth the hike.
Overlooking Ninh Binh from the top of Mua Cave
It’s difficult to gauge how far up you’ve hiked due to the zig zagging nature of the stairs, but persistence will ensure that you’re reward with one of the best views in Vietnam. At the top, you’ll see the Ngo Dong River wind its way through Tam Coc and the endless mountains, blanketing the landscape far off into the distance.
The heat and humidity can be quite debilitating, so make sure you’re well hydrated and have plenty of water with you at the time.
The dragon at the top of the mountain requires a bit of a tricky hike to get to
Natural mirror in Thung Nham Bird Park
While Trang An, Tam Coc – Bich Dong are the destinations which have become familiar, Thung Nham is still a relatively unfamiliar name for visitors coming to Ninh Binh. Thung Nham in Ninh Binh is also known under the name Thung Chim. It is the home of thousands kinds of bird. Travel to Thung Nham bird valley, you will be immersed in the wild and nature, enjoy fresh atmosphere and quietly listen to thousands birds are singing.
The previous sights are the standard to visit the region. If you’re feeling more adventurous or having a little bit more time, then you can expand your route.
1,5 hours from Ninh Binh lies Cuc Phuong National Park. It’s a well-preserved rainforest, filled with hiking trails, prehistoric caves and ancient trees. It’s also a site with rich fauna: turtles, butterflies and critically endangered primate species can be found here.
Butterfly garden in Cuc Phuong National Park
You can easily spot some deers there
Located east of Ninh Binh city, Phat Diem Cathedral is considered to be one of the most beautiful churches in Vietnam. It’s western-inspired and it’s worth to visit if you’re into architecture or just want to extend your religious-site hopping spree.
Phat Diem Cathedral
That's all about the number of days needed to travel to Ninh Binh and what to do and see during that time. For further support, please contact AZ Local Trip!