Ninh Binh is known as Halong Bay on land, and that’s exactly what it feels like. Rivers and ricefields replace the sea and fishing villages, but the landscape is equally dramatic. There are hundreds of limestone formations topped with greenery rising up from ground, lakes and rivers. Ninh Binh is also closer to Hanoi than Halong Bay so it’s easy to explore.
HEAD TO THE WATER IN TRANG AN
The highlight of the area is Trang An, which like Halong Bay is best explored by water. At the boat dock there are literally hundreds of little wooden row boats. On a two hour trip you’ll glide past beautiful limestone mountains and squeeze through caves. The rowers have remarkable control, never hitting the cave walls despite them being so narrow and always pointing out when you’ll need to duck!
On the other side of the caves, the space opens up and the boat bumps to a stop at a small island. Walk up the stone steps to and be greeted by fabulous views of towering limestone, glistening green waters and tropical plants.
Cuc Phung National Park
The oldest in Vietnam and one of the best places for hiking.
Explore By Bike
Hire a bike and explore this beautiful region. If you want to venture further you could hire a scooter. It’s quite flat so it’s easy to travel.
A lot of people skip Ninh Binh during their travels or only stop for a day trip. It’s such a beautiful area that if you have time it’s worth staying for a couple of nights. I recommend staying in in Tam Coc which is much smaller than the characterless Ninh Binh town. There is just a handful of shops and restaurants around the river where you can take boat trips (these are more expensive than Trang An).
I stayed at Tam Coc Bungalow which is set on the water with riverview bungalows or dorm rooms. The restaurant has a good selection of food with outdoor seating. I enjoyed watching the little boats pass along the river with the limestone formations in the background. There is a bike rental service so you can get out and explore. The team can also help you book tours and buses.
2 hours drive from Hanoi, buses and tours depart daily.
3 hours from Hanoi
Explore Halong Bay onboard an overnight cruise.
Visited January 2017