Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh is one of the most famous places in Vietnam. It is known for the beautiful limestone mountains which you can view via motorbike or a boat tour and large temples. While it is a touristy area this doesn’t take away from the natural beauty of the landscape.

Ninh Binh is particularly popular with Vietnamese tourism during national holidays and TET holiday. So if you are going here during this time make sure you are prepared for a crowd.

ninh binh trang an boat tour

Getting to Ninh Binh by Motorbike

Located just 100km South of Hanoi if it easy to get to Ninh Binh via bus, taxi or motorbike. But the main road leading from Hanoi is very busy and the expressway doesn’t allow motorbikes. There is a much nice quieter road on the East side of the Red River before crossing South of Hung Yen and cutting through the countryside to reach Ninh Binh. This way also makes it easy to get out of Hanoi as you don’t have to travel through much traffic to leave.

If you want to see Perfume Pagoda or the Incense Village as mentioned below then you can take another route which is further West. You can see both of these routes on the map at the bottom of the map.

As well as Hanoi there is many other places that you might be heading to after Ninh Binh as well as places you might be coming from.

Coming from Ha Long Bay or Cat Ba Island to the North East means taking so of the QL roads connecting the smaller towns in the area. The road isn’t that enjoyable to ride but it isn’t too busy either.

From the South is the QL1A which should be avoided at all costs. For many people this is the worst road in Vietnam and more dangerous on motorbike than most. If you are coming from the South then you can stay on the inland road, the Ho Chi Minh Highway. Nearby to Cuc Phuong National Park you can head East to reach Ninh Binh from a much more enjoyable and quieter road.

The road from the West is also the same road to take if you are coming from Pu Luong or Mai Chau. This could be either the road North or to the South of Cuc Phuong, both are nice.


There is so many different options for accommodation in Ninh Binh. Not only is there a huge range of price and quality of accommodation from cheap homestays or luxury resorts, the accommodation  is also spread over a large area. You can stay in the town, nearby to Tam Coc or Trang An.

The accommodation near by Tam Coc is the most popular with tourists as it is nearby to many of the activities Ninh Binh has to offer and it is easy to reach if you have a motorbike. But the views and scenery here is the best in Ninh Binh and the homestays here allow you to enjoy this.

ninh binh homestay


There is a good range of food available in Ninh Binh although Ninh Binh doesn’t have a speciality dishes. In the town you will be able to most Northern Vietnamese food, as well as hot pots or BBQ. The homestays will also offer food, often with a better selection that most homestays as they will have a full menu.

As well as Vietnamese food you can get a good selection of Western food in Ninh Binh. Chookie’s Hideaway is a particularly popular place with foreigners craving pizza or other Western food.

chookies hideaway ninh binh

What To Do in Ninh Binh

Trang An

Trang An is one of the 2 spots in Ninh Binh for boat trips. The boat trips from here go through the wetlands and between the mountains ranges. What sets Trang An apart is all of the caves that the boats will pass through, including the Dark cave which is 315m long with lots of stalactites. At places the cave is 20m high. The other caves here are the Light cave, Nau Ruou (Wine Brewing) cave, Sinh cave and Ba Giot cave.

As well as enjoying the views of the surrounding mountains and exploring the caves via the boats you will have stops to see some of the temples on the way. At Tran Temple you will have to climb 500 stone steps to reach the top. Khong Temple is much more accessible.

The wetlands you will be passing through are home to many species of plants, birds, mammals and reptiles. There are 48 watery grottoes spread between 31 valleys all of which you can enjoy from the boat ride.

Tickets are 250k/adult and 120k/child.

trang an ninh binh

Perfume Pagoda

Perfume pagoda is actually not located in Ninh Binh but it is very common to visit here when travelling between Ninh Binh and Hanoi. It is a number of temples spread between the peak and the base of Huong Tich mountain. The pagoda is one of the most important temple complexes in Vietnam and during the TET holidays there are many people here so unless you are looking for a crowd it is best to avoid it at this time.

The base of the mountain is reach via a 1 hour boat ride down the Yen River, through rice fields, mountains and wetlands. When finishing the boat ride you will arrive at Thien Chua pagoda. It was constructed back in the 17th century, the name means Pagoda leading to heaven. At the top of the mountain is Huong Tich cave which has the Perfume pagoda inside. Construction started in 1575 and the stone statues still inside today are from 1793. The mouth of the cave is huge, with a large staircase descending into it.

There are 2 ways to get up and down the mountain, cable car and staircase. The walk is very long to the top but the views are quite spectular and on the way there is cave temples to explore. The stone staircase can be slippery and steep so good shoes are neccessary. One way tickets for the cable car can be brought so you don’t have to walk both up and down.

It is about a 2 hour motorbike ride from either Ninh Binh or Hanoi to reach the boat terminal for Perfume Pagoda. The ride itself isn’t beautiful but it is not a big detour when already heading between these 2 places.

Tickets – Cable Car – 120k / adult 1 way – 180k / adult 2 ways

perfume pagoda

Incense Village

The Incense Village is on the way between Hanoi and Ninh Binh. It is a easy stop off is you are riding a motorbike back to Hanoi from the Perfume Pagoda. As the name implies it is a village where they make incense. For most people it would not be worth the stop but for those looking to get a nice picture with the various colourful incense then it can be. But there is nothing else here except for a photo opportunity.

Bich Dong Pagoda

The pagoda here was first built in 1428 but was lost and discovered again in 1705 by 2 Buddhist monks. They rebuilt the pagoda into a 3 layer pagoda like it still is today.

The entrance to the pagoda is a large stone gateway with a stone bridge over a lotus flower pond. The first layer of the pagoda is called Chau Ha, it is used for worshiping the Buddha. The middle layer is called Chua Trung. It is 120 steps up the maintain and at the entrance to the cave. The pagoda is half outside and half inside the cave. The third layer, Chua Thuong, has 2 pagodas for the local earth god and the mountain god. It is 40 more steps up the mountain side to reach the top layer.

It is just 3km from Tam Coc and 11km from Ninh Binh so just a short motorbike trip.

Hang Mua – Ninh Binh Viewpoint

Mua Cave and the viewpoint at the top offer a great 360 panoramic view of the surrounding area, with limestone mountains and rice fields. The viewpoint is at the top of 486 steps but the view is well worth the walk. At the entrance there is a cave which you can explore but the main highlight is the viewpoint at the top.

Hang Mua is located between Trang An and Tam Coc making it a short motorbike ride from either, a simple to very worthwhile trip to make when in Ninh Binh.

Tickets are 100k / adult.

mua cave viewpoint ninh binh

Tam Coc

The boat rides from Tam Coc are some of the most iconic pictures you will see of the area. The wide river snakes through a combination of limestone mountains and lush rice fields. The further down the river you get the more special the views get as you leave the house and roads behind.

You can see the unique way that the boats in Ninh Binh are rowed, by foot instead of hands.

Tam Coc has the similar experience to Trang An but the rice fields here are better and at the right time of year can be a unique golden yellow. But the views without this in Trang An are better so depending on the time of year the best option can change.

tam coc ninh binh boat tour
tam coc

Bai Dinh Pagoda

The Bai Dinh Pagoda is the largest in Vietnam. It covers over 700ha and holds 12 different national records, relating to both the size of the pagoda as well as the statues, trees, bell and altars within.

The pagoda has been part of the history of 3 different king dynasties, the Dinh, the Le and Ly. Many parts of the pagoda were built during this time whilst the new pagoda was built in 2003.

The pagoda is just 25km from Ninh Binh so is just a short motorbike ride. As the pagoda is so large it does take time to explore so try and arrive early.

Tickets are 50k / adult for the main tower.

Tickets for the electric car 60k / adult

Cuc Phuong National Park

It is the oldest National Park in Vietnam, first established in 1962. It is home to many rare wildlife species and there is of conservation efforts taking place here, some of which you can see at the entrance to the park. The park is home to 2000 species of trees, 122 species of reptiles, 135 species of mammals amd 337 species of birds.

Cuc Phuong National Park is about 1 hour via motorbike from Ninh Binh. There is only one entrance which is at the East side. The road leads through the park letting you take in the natural beauty of the forest. At the end of the road is a small trail which you can take deeper into the forest.

There is a number of other trails throughout the park which you can explore. You can find information about these and the park at the visitors centre when you arrive.

Tickets are 60k / adult

cuc phuong natioanl park

Ninh Binh Summary

Ninh Binh many attractions and sights to see. It is easy to spend more than 1 day here in order to see all of these things. The boat tours in Trang An and Tam Coc are a great alternative to Ha Long Bay. Making Ninh Binh a must see if you do not go there.

Being so close to Hanoi, Ninh Binh is a plcae that everyone should visit. Whether you are just staying in the North of Vietnam or if you are heading Hanoi or HCMC then Ninh Binh show be high on your list of places to see.