[Vietnam Travel] Far too few travellers make it to Ninh Binh province of Vietnam, a mesmerizing area known locally as ‘Hạ Long Bay on Land’ thanks to its magical riverine landscape, with sheer limestone mountains rising up from the paddies. The best way to get a sense of this UNESCO-protected site is by taking a paddleboat tour along its shimmering rivers, and climbing to the top of its fabled peaks.
Top things to do in Ninh Bình
See the view from Hang Múa
Get a bird’s-eye view of Ninh Bình at Hang Múa, where 500 steps have been dramatically carved into the steep face of a mountain. At the top, a lookout point offers a surreal vista of the river winding lazily among paddies and limestone outcrops.
Take a sampan tour
At the Tam Cốc and Tràng An boat docks, each sampan is guided by a boat person who rows with their feet, not their hands. You’ll be expertly guided along gentle waterways, past towering karsts, and into dripping grottoes.
Visit the ancient capital
Today the capital of Vietnam is Hanoi, but in the 10th and 11th centuries that honour was held by Hoa Lư. This small ancient city was naturally protected from invasions by karsts and rivers. Today, it’s a good place to get a history fix.
Go in search of wildlife
An exotic row boat experience is a must-do at the Vân Long Nature Reserve. Keep your eyes open for exotic friends, such as the black-faced spoonbill and the Delacour’s Langur, one of the world’s most endangered primates.
Pay a visit to the Bái Đính Temple
The largest complex of Buddhist temples in the country, Bái Đính is a mix of old and new styles. Ancient temples are housed in caves you can only reach via a pretty climb of 300 steps, while the new temple area covers an area of 500 hectares.
Ninh Binh Weather
The temperatures in Ninh Bình are ideal from March to May and September to November. For the finest views, go during harvest season in October. If you visit in the hotter months from July to August, be prepared for random downpours and stormy moments.
Ninh Binh Transport
Regular buses depart to Ninh Bình from Hanoi every day. You can book a luxury van which includes transfer to Tam Cốc, where plenty of charming accommodation options await. Private cars make the journey even quicker. For those with more time, several trains leave for Ninh Bình from Hanoi daily. The best way to get around Ninh Binh is by motorcycle tour or taxi. Cycling is a great option for visitors staying in Tam Cốc.