The tranquil Ninh Binh province houses a lot of invaluable natural, cultural and historical points of interest that will amaze you once you get to know them. If you have only one day in the region, scan through our one-day itinerary. If you have two days, here we will cover a comprehensive guide to explore the province’s treasures! On planning this article, I assume that you will check out at noon in Hanoi and take a ride lasting an hour and a half to Ninh Binh, which allows you to check in just in time in Ninh Binh city.
Day 1: Afternoon
Now that you have checked in, spend your afternoon visiting either Bai Dinh Pagoda or Phat Diem Cathedral. I personally recommend the cathedral, and spare the pagoda for the next day trip to Trang An complex.
Phat Diem Cathedral is the oldest and most remarkable Catholic cathedral in Vietnam, built in the Eastern architectural style. The “temple gate” is truly stunning and seeing the saints dressed in ao dai inside the church is a unique look into the fusions of two cultures. The name Phat Diem means creating the beauty, which was also the name of the town in which it’s located.
If you are more interested in nature, don’t hesitate to head to Cuc Phuong National Park. As the first and invaluable national park of Vietnam, this forest is home to a diversity of animal species. If you schedule your trip in April or May, you will be able to contemplate the performances from millions of butterflies! We’ve covered the hiking experience here.
Day 1: Evening
It’s time to experience the town atmosphere. After having dinner, let’s head to Ky Lan hill, a beautiful islet on Ky Lan lake, in the heart of Ninh Binh city. Since Ky Lan means Eastern Unicorn, try to imagine this islet as a unicorn head. At night, locals and tourists alike usually take a walk around this area to enjoy the fresh air inside the city. The area is lit up with lines of decorative bulbs.
If you wish to enjoy the city’s street feast, head to Ward Eight (also known as Cu Lan Chinh ward). You can find everything there, from steamy sticky rice, grilled chicken legs, snails, to even an inviting hot pot!
Day 2: Morning and Afternoon
What could be a better start to your morning than a good breakfast? Let’s pack up and get off the street for a local dish. Ninh Binh is well known for its de nui (mountain goat) gourmet. You also can choose com chay (crispy rice) and schedule de nui for the next morning or lunch. Consider these several places for a good lunch:
- Eel noodles: You can try these delicious noodles at any restaurant on Tran Hung Dao street, which is famous for this significant Ninh Binh dish!
- Kim Da Restaurant: Square 2, Kim Da village, Ninh Binh city
- An Lac Vegetarian Restaurant: 30 Thang 6 street, Ninh Binh city
After a good meal, it’s time for a bit of hiking and sailing! Spend your treasured day at Trang An – Tam Coc complex – a World Heritage Site recognized by UNESCO! This complex houses some of the most valuable historical and natural attractions in town. Trang An is made up of a cluster of limestone half covered in water, resulting in natural lakes and swamps connected to each other through caves. It takes roughly three hours to sail through and visit all the most remarkable caves here. At Trang An, you ought to pay Tran Temple and Hoa Lu ancient capital a visit.
I recommend not visiting all the caves in Trang An, instead, spare time to visit Tam Coc – Bich Dong caves. You should spend at least two hours here, visiting its three caves and end your trip with a walk through Bich Dong Pagoda. This pagoda houses the attraction known as the second most beautiful cave of Vietnam, once upon a time. If you are unsure how to schedule your tour, Onetrip has made one for you. Make sure to dress properly for a hiking and religious adventure!
You can read here for more details about this amazing complex!
What if you decide to shorten your trip to Trang An in one morning, and spend your afternoon exploring a different place? Although you may not be able to fully explore this complex, which is the most remarkable attraction of Ninh Binh, this is still an option. You can spend your afternoon visiting Bai Dinh Pagoda. As the largest pagoda built recently in Vietnam, the campus takes hours to walk through. There, you will contemplate the longest line of Arahat statues in Vietnam, and the biggest Di Lac Buddha statue of Southeast Asia.
Do you wonder who Di Lac Buddha is? The Buddhists consider Buddha their greatest Master of all time, but they are also aware that his true teachings are less understood as the years go by. The day when those teachings are totally misunderstood, and people fall into hatred and greed, Di Lac Buddha will be born and become a new Master.
Day 2: Evening
If you did not visit Bai Dinh Pagoda in the afternoon, you still can make it in the evening! The pagoda campus is sparkling and fanciful in the light of countless bulbs. There is a tour that takes you around the huge campus on an electric car, and brings you into the pagoda for a section of Dharma teaching. If you’re ready, check it out.
If you prefer spending your last night with the locals, you can choose a coffee shop in town to sit down and watch the street moving. Tu Tu Coffee, a vintage cafe located nearby the old Ninh Binh railway station, is an interesting spot. Once in a while, you can enjoy the sound of the train pass by. It’s been a long walking day, why not sit down and have yourself a cuppa?
Day 3: Morning
Then comes your last day in town. I recommend Kenh Ga Hot Springs! Though not too fancy, Kenh Ga village houses a very non-touristy lifestyle that may enrich your local taste. This village is 15 kilometers from Ninh Binh city, and you cannot get there without stepping in a boat. Most tours will take you floating for roughly half an hour. During which, you will contemplate the village sights along the banks, admire the students going to school on boats, and see how houses are built on limestone cliffs.
Now let’s explore the hot springs resort, where you will find pools with fresh water at the stable temperature of 53 degrees Celsius. You can choose to participate in the large pool, or soak in a private bathtub built to an international standard. You will feel refreshed as the natural water heals your body with mineral richness.
A two-day trip in Ninh Binh is priceless for those seeking cultural exploration, or a peaceful retreat in nature. But wait, if you have yet to book accommodation in town, let’s give this comprehensive article a read! We hope you enjoy your trip in Vietnam, and receive the warm hospitality from our people!
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