Two hours to the south of Hanoi lies the scenic region of Ninh Binh, known locally as Dry Halong Bay for the thrusting limestone pinnacles that adorn the landscape. The region is criss-crossed with a network of rivers that run between and, in places, through the karst peaks. One of the most popular activities in the area is to take a gentle sampan ride along one of these rivers, rowed or punted along by one of the local villagers for whom this is welcome additional income to supplement their regular farming livelihood
Location and weather
Ninh Binh is about 95km from Hanoi, or 2.5 hour South by car. The province is surrounded by Hoa Binh and Ha Nam to the North; Nam Dinh to the East and Thanh Hoa to the West and South. Here, the terrain is diverse with mountainous areas in the West and Northwest; and coastal parts in the East and South.
The average temperature is 23.4 Celsius degree and its high humidity, between 80-85%, is typical for tropical monsoon climate. The best time to visit Binh Ninh falls between November to April of the following year when it is in the dry season.
Ninh Binh – Microcosm of Vietnam
The topography of Ninh Binh is favored by the Mother Nature with karst topography fostered through million years that make the province a Ha Long Bay in land with countless primitive caves, valleys, and submerged mountains which all offer stunning sceneries. Furthermore, one may see a microcosm of Vietnam within Ninh Binh thanks to its wide variety of forests, mountains, river and sea; nature conservation area and national park.
The most famous attraction of Ninh Binh is Trang An eco-tourism center which has just been expanded in recent years and soon become famous for a system of caves, valleys and historical relics. With a chain of natural wonders like Tam Coc, Thai Vi Temple, Bich Dong Pagoda, Fairy cave or Sunny Valley; Tam Coc – Bich Dong tourist center is regarded as “Nam thiên đệ nhị động” (The second best cave of the South).
For environment and animal lovers, Cuc Phuong National Park with the total area up to 22,000 ha, is a must-see site. Cuc Phuong is the first national park of Vietnam preserving a variety of rare animals and plants.
Another destination tourists may be interested in is submerged Van Long nature reserve, which is the largest conservation area of this kind in the North of Vietnam, with Kenh Ga hot spring and Van Trinh cave and Kem Trong cave.
Ninh Binh – Destination for cultural explorers
Ninh Binh was soon developed as the cultural and political center of Vietnam since the reign of Dinh Tien Hoang King in 968. Thanks to this, the number of ancient vestiges here may overwhelm any other provinces in Vietnam.
The first capital of Vietnam feudal centralism regime and the Dai Co Viet’s political, economic and cultural centre Hoa Lu Ancient Capital is undoubtedly the most attractive site where tourists may find thousands of vestiges of palaces, temples, pagodas and tombs related to the three dynasties of Dinh, Le and Ly.
Alluring tourists by a complex of both ancient and new pagodas is Bai Dinh Pagoda. The site is the Buddhist Center of Vietnam and also the largest pagoda in the South East Asia has recently been listed as top attraction in Vietnam and the region.
One more remarkable attraction of Ninh Binh is Phat Diem Church – the most beautiful church in Vietnam which was built of stone and wood in all 24 year. Beside alluring tourists by its size, the most interesting part of Phat Diem Church is such a center of a religion originated from Western country, is built in Vietnamese architecture.
Ninh Binh’s specialties
Mentioning about Ninh Binh people would immediately think about delicious dishes made from goat, Kim Son wine, eel vermicelli and Cơm Cháy (dried rice).
Among those specialties, Ninh Binh’s goat meat is the most famous and unique one that gourmets may find no other place offering more delicious dishes made from goat in this country. The reason is all goats are fed naturally on limestone Mountains that make their meat more firm than goats in other regions. Those dishes are at their best taste when eating with the local fresh leafs like đing lăng leaf, mơ leaf or sung leaf as additional ingredients.
How to get there
Ninh Binh has a developed traffic system and tourist may get there by motorbike, car or train. The Reunification Express Train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City stops at Ninh Binh Town while motorbikes or cars may easily approach there through Phap Van – Cau Gie Highway for 90km