Hi guys, I’m back after a long time thinking about what to write next on this blog. Actually, last October I have traveled to Ninh Binh with my friends for 2 days and 1 night. It was such an amazing time because I felt so happy to see some incredible places in Ninh Binh with the beauty not only of nature but also in relation to history. So today, I’m gonna say happy new year to everyone on the first article of 2023 on this blog with the best places to visit in Ninh Binh.
Where is Ninh Binh?
Ninh Binh is a province in the southern Red River Delta and located at the southernmost gateway to the North of Vietnam. The center of the province is Ninh Binh city, 93 km to the south of Hanoi capital.
Weather in Ninh Binh?
Ninh Binh is located in a humid subtropical climate: hot and humid summer, rainy season from June to October; cold dry winter from November of the previous year to March of the following year; April and October are spring and autumn.
I remember the last time I traveled to Ninh Binh is October. So it rained all day, the roads would be harder and more dangerous than in the dry season.
Why I visited Ninh Binh?
I love traveling to Ninh Binh because I love history and Ninh Binh is the land associated with Vietnamese history from thousand years ago.
The land of Ninh Binh is the capital of Vietnam in the 10th century. This land is associated with the career of 6 kings of three dynasties Dinh – Le – Ly with historical imprints: Unified the country after the rebellion of 12 warlords; Victory over the Song army of China; Repel the Champa army of the South.
Due to its strategic location from North to South, this land has witnessed many heroic historical events of the nation which historical vestiges are left in communal houses, pagodas, temples, shrines, mountains and rivers.
This is also the base for the Tran Dynasty to defeat the Mongol invaders twice (Kublai Khan) with Vu Lam palace.
Places to visit in Ninh Binh
Hoa Lu ancient capital
Hoa Lu ancient capital is a particularly important national relic complex of Vietnam and one of the four core areas of the Trang An world heritage complex recognized by UNESCO.
This was the first capital of the centralized feudal state in Vietnam.
In 1010, King Ly Thai To moved the capital from Hoa Lu (Ninh Binh) to Thang Long (Hanoi), Hoa Lu became the ancient capital. After that, the Ly, Tran, Le, and Nguyen dynasties did not have their capital in Hoa Lu anymore, but they still restored and built many architectural works here such as temples, mausoleums, communal houses, pagodas, and palaces.
Hoa Lu ancient capital historical relic area now has a planned area of 13.87 km² in Ninh Binh province. With a thickness of more than 1000 years, Hoa Lu Ancient Capital is a place to store historical relics through many ages.
A typical tourist itinerary includes 3 stages as follows: The center of the reliction – Bai Dinh pagoda mountain area – Trang An Ecological Area.
The center of the reliction
From the central bus station of the reliction area near the central festival square, visitors visit the monuments in the following order: Cua Dong – King Dinh Tien Hoang Temple – King Le Dai Hanh Temple – King Ly Thai To House – Yen Thanh Communal House and Nhat Tru Pagoda – Temple of Princess Phat Kim – Tomb of King Dinh, Tomb of King Le.
Bai Dinh pagoda mountain area
Here is absolutely one of the best places to visit in Ninh Binh. Bai Dinh pagoda is located over 5 km from the central area on a large campus with two ancient pagodas and a new pagoda area. The ancient pagoda relics include: Saint Nguyen temple, Cao Son god temple, Sang cave, Dark cave. New temple relics include Tam Quan gate, bell tower, Quan Am temple, Phap Chu temple, Tam The palace and the Buddhist center.
Talking more about Bai Dinh pagoda, this is a large temple complex with many Asian and Vietnamese records established as the temple with the largest gilded bronze Buddha in Asia, the temple with the longest Arhat corridor in Asia. This is the largest temple of Vietnam.
Trang An Ecological Area
Here is a closed-loop boat tour, the fastest about 2 hours. With natural landscape of rivers, streams, forests, caves and historical and cultural relics: Trinh temple worships two officials, Khong palace worships 7 loyal officials, Tran temple worships Quy Minh god who guarded the southern citadel.
Trang An with a system of limestone mountains with a geological age of about 250 million years, through a long period of weathering by the change of the Earth, climate, sea advance, sea retreat has brought in hundreds of valleys and caves, lake, lagoon. This scenic spot is a place to preserve and contain many ecosystems of wetlands, forests on limestone mountains, archaeological sites and historical and cultural relics.
The center of Trang An wharf is located 3 km south of Hoa Lu ancient capital, 7 km west of Ninh Binh city along Trang An Boulevard.
Trang An is a region of water, clouds and sky. There are 31 lakes and lagoons connected by 48 caves discovered here. Legend has it that the ancestors came here to get water to cook wine for the king, when dredging the cave, archaeologists discovered many ceramic pots, jars and tools for making wine.
This cave complex is likened to a bagua map. Mountains, lakes and caves form a continuous battle. Each lake is like a different ink painting of mountains and lakes.
Tam Coc – Bich Dong
Tam Coc – Bich Dong, also known by famous names such as “Ha Long Bay on land” is a key national tourist area in Vietnam.
The whole area includes a system of limestone caves and historical sites related to the Vu Lam palace of the Tran dynasty. Trang An – Tam Coc scenic complex is classified as a special national relic by the Prime Minister of Vietnam and has been ranked as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
Tam Coc-Bich Dong tourist area currently has a natural area of 350.3 hectares. Pick-up centers are distributed at the following points: Tam Coc, Co Vien Lau, Nang valley, Nham valley, Bich Dong pagoda, Mua cave.
Tam Coc – Bich Dong tourist area includes many cruise, cycling and walking routes connecting about 20 tourist attractions.
The main routes of the tourist area:
Cruise routes include: Van Lam wharf – Ngo Dong river – Tam Coc; Trans-hydrodynamic route (through Bich Dong); Thach Bich route – Sunshine valley.
Tourist attractions for walking, cycling and climbing: Bich Dong Mountain and Pagoda; Tien cave; Mua Cave; the old house of Co Vien Lau; Thai Vi temple – Thien Huong cave…
Tam Coc – Thai Vi Temple – Thien Huong Cave
Tam Coc, which means “three caves”, includes Ca cave, Hai cave and Ba cave. All three caves are formed by the Ngo Dong River crashing through the mountain. Tam Coc is the first cruise line operated in Tam Coc – Bich Dong tourist area.
To visit Tam Coc, visitors get off the boat from the central wharf. Boats take visitors on the Ngo Dong river winding through the cliffs, trans-water caves, rice fields. Travel time and return is about 2 hours. The scenery of Tam Coc, especially the two sides of the Ngo Dong River, can change according to the rice season (green rice, golden rice or silver color of the water in the field).
Thai Vi Temple is the place to worship Kings Tran Thai Tong, Tran Thanh Tong, Generals Tran Hung Dao, Tran Quang Khai and Queen Tran Thi Dung. In the past, the Tam Coc mountain area was the place where the Tran Dynasty came here to set up the Vu Lam palace in the resistance war against the Mongol Army (Kublai Khan). Thai Vi temple can be reached by foot from Tam Coc cruise or by road 2 km from Tam Coc boat station.
Thien Huong Cave is located on the road from Ngo Dong River to Thai Vi Temple, is a dry and bright cave located halfway up the mountain with an altitude of about 15 m above the ground. The cave is about 60 m high, 40 m deep, and 20 m wide. The top of the cave is hollow, so the cave is also called Troi Cave. Nestled in the cave is a shrine dedicated to Tran Thi Dung, wife of King Ly Hue Tong.
Bich Dong – Xuyen Thuy Dong
Bich Dong is located 2 km from Tam Coc wharf, which means “green cave”, is the name given to the cave by Nguyen Nghiem, the father of the great poet Nguyen Du in 1773. This is one of the famous landscapes in the group. Bich Dong consists of a dry cave located halfway up the mountain (as Bich Dong pagoda) and a water cave that pierces the mountain bed (called Xuyen Thuy Dong). In front of the cave is a branch of Ngo Dong river winding on the side of the mountain, across the river is a rice field.
Xuyen Thuy Cave is a dark and flooded cave located along the length of Bich Dong massif. Xuyen Thuy is like a semicircular stone pipe about 350 m long winding from the east to the west. The average width of Xuyen Thuy Dong is 6m, the widest place is 15m. The ceiling and walls of the cave are usually flat, the creation of which is like arranging large stone slabs into arches, semi-circles with various shapes.
The entrance to Xuyen Thuy Cave is at the back of the mountain, opposite the road to Bich Dong Pagoda. At the end of the journey through the water cave, visitors can climb the mountain to reach the cave and Bich Dong pagoda.
Bich Dong Pagoda is an ancient temple associated with rocky mountains with Asian style. The pagoda was built at the beginning of the Hau Le Dynasty. In the temple, there is a large bell cast from the reign of King Le Thai To, and the tombs of the monks who built the pagoda. During Le Hien Tong’s reign (1740-1786), the pagoda was restored and expanded, including Lower Pagoda, Trung Pagoda, Upper Pagoda, spread out on three mountain floors.
Fairy Cave – Linh Coc Pagoda
Tien cave is a beautiful dry cave of Tam Coc – Bich Dong tourist area. The cave is located nearly 1 km from Bich Dong Pagoda. The dynamic range includes three large, wide and high caves. The ceiling of the cave has many stone veins, stalactites drooping with colorful sparkles that look like big tree roots. There are many bats and birds on the ceiling. From the outside, the cave looks like a magnificent castle. The changes of nature create interesting shapes of stalactites in the cave with the shape of money tree, rice tree, fairy, fairy, elephant, lion, tiger, iguana, dragon, eagles, and colorful clouds. The stone blocks in the cave, when tapped, will create many strange sounds.
Linh Coc pagoda is located in Moc pagoda mountain. According to the epitaph placed in the temple, Linh Coc dates from the reign of King Tran Thanh Tong. The temple yard is large at the foot of the mountain, on both sides of the yard there is an ancestral church.
In addition, this place also has Thung Nham eco-tourism area – one of the tourist attractions in the core area of the Trang An world heritage complex. This tourist area is located in the Hai Nham valley with the main highlight being the natural bird garden, rich and rare flora and fauna ecosystems and beautiful natural caves.
Above is where I think to be the most beautiful and meaningful places to visit in Ninh Binh. If you have any other recommendation, please let me know by leaving a comment. Once again, happy new year 2023!