Best Things to Do in Ninh Binh on a Day Trip from Hanoi

Looking for the best things to do in Ninh Binh? You’re likely thinking about visiting as a day trip from Hanoi as most visitors do! Well, I’m here to tell you that Ninh Binh has to be on your Vietnam itinerary.

It’s absolutely stunning and less touristic than many other places in Vietnam. Ninh Binh is surrounded by breathtaking landscapes of northern Vietnam. Just a stone’s throw away from the bustling streets of Hanoi, Ninh Binh is a peaceful escape.

In this guide, we’ll go into the best experiences to make the most of your day trip to Ninh Binh. From sailing along the tranquil waters of the Tam Coc River or Trang An to exploring the historic relics of Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, Ninh Binh has so much to offer.

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Check out my Instagram video to see what Ninh Binh is really like!

How to get to Ninh Binh from Hanoi

My recommended option would be a shared Limousine.

By Shared Limousine

To get to Ninh Binh from Hanoi, you should take a limousine which is shared with a group of other travellers. Usually, your hotel can arrange this for you.

The limousine is super comfortable. They have USB chargers and massages built into the chairs.

The cost for me was around $10-$12 and it takes about 2.5 hours to drive there. The shared limousine usually is with 3-4 other travelers and it honestly didn’t take that long to pick up and drop off the others.

The shuttle will pick you up directly from your hotel specified and drop you off directly to your new hotel which is really convenient and cost-efficient.

By Train

There is a train that will take you to Ninh Binh from Hanoi. It takes approximately 2 hours 15 minutes and is 95 km away. You can buy train tickets here.

By Taxi

Alternatively, you can take a private taxi to get there. I’d recommend downloading the Grab app which is Asia’s equivalent to Uber. The cost on Grab is around 1.1 million VND which is around $44 USD. Normal taxis will be more, probably around $60 USD.

By Organized Tour

If you are short on time and just want to catch the highlights without worry of how to get there and what to do, you can take this tour as a day trip from Hanoi.

How to get around Ninh Binh

Once you get to Ninh Binh, getting around is best by cycling. Some of the hotels even have free bikes included in your stay. It is also super scenic to take bike rides around the stunning countryside.

However, I mostly depended on Grab (which again is like Uber). I found it pretty affordable to get around. For example, a 20-minute drive cost me 185,000 VND which is equivalent to $7.50. Using Grab is cheaper than a normal taxi which could be arranged by your hotel.

You can also rent motorbikes as well if you’re comfortable driving those. The roads are pretty flat and easy in case this option is more affordable for you.

How long do you need in Ninh Binh?

Most tourists visit Ninh Binh on a day trip from Hanoi which can be a bit rushed and take 12 hours of your day since the drive is 2.5 hours.

Also, it’s better to stay overnight for at least 1 or 2 nights. I personally, wanted to spend more time taking photos and taking my time. I reallly enjoyed exploring at my own pace. 2 nights is a good amount of time to spend in Ninh Binh.

Plus, it’s extremely affordable, compared to Hanoi. Therefore, I found it great to stay there a bit longer so I could save money on accommodation so I personally stayed 3 nights but relaxed at my beautiful hotel on my last day.

Where to Stay in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

There are 2 amazing hotels I’d recommend to stay at in Ninh Binh.

Check my Instagram video on what Tam Coc Lion Kings Hotel looks like!

  1. Tam Coc Lion Kings Hotel: I stayed at this hotel and it was literally 5 minutes from the beautiful Bich Dong Pagoda. However, I took a 20-minute taxi to get to Mua Cave from here. This hotel only cost me $35 a night which was a steal. They also have bungalows which are around $55 a night. It is so affordable here and peaceful! The staff also has some workers who speak English as it is less common to know English in this area. There are also free bikes that the hotel provides which is really great. In addition, there’s a restaurant at the hotel in case you don’t want to go out for dinner.
  2. Hang Mua Village Homestay: I ran into someone on my trip who stayed here and vouched for how kind the staff is. She said the owner is learning English so he can talk to his guests and help them. He really looked after her and the guests who stay here. It is conveniently located next to Mua Cave so if you want to have easy access to the cave I would recommend staying here.

Map of Ninh Binh with Top Things to do

This was the map of Ninh Binh that my hotel, Tam Coc Lion Kings Hotel provided me. It lists all the main attractions in Ninh Binh. Take a close look at it as it lists even more things to do in Ninh Binh than I cover in this post.

Best Things to Do in Ninh Binh

1. Climb the 500 steps at Mua Cave

The highlight of any visit to Ninh Binh is seeing the views from Mua Cave. If you can time it right with the weather, even better.

When is the best time to visit Mua Cave?

Unfortunately, when I visited in March at sunrise it was super foggy as you can see from my photos here. It was such a shame as I was really looking forward to taking cool pictures here.

It depends on the time you are visiting as maybe you’ll luck out with a nice sunrise. The forecast showed sun but it wasn’t the case, still so foggy. The fog cleared later in the day though so maybe mid-day would have been the best time to visit Mua Cave.

However, I do kind of like the moody vibe the fog brought to the photos in the end. Let me know in the comments below what you think!

I’d also recommend visiting at sunset for the best lighting and most epic photos. I wish I had come during this time but I was apprehensive due to the crowds. I think I could have still got some good photos despite the crowds though.

How much is Entrance to Mua Cave?

Entrance is 100k VND which is about $4. To get to the top you have to walk for a few minutes after you pay for entrance then head up the marked pathway. It took me about 20 minutes to get to the top and I felt I was going a little slower.

How long does it take to hike Mua Cave?

There are 500 steps and they are quite large so it will be moderately challenging. To get down, it took me less than 15 minutes. When you get close to the top you can either turn left or right. If you turn left you will find the dragon as pictured above and a view of the whole cave.

Some people walk along the dragon, which I felt was not very safe as the path is not flat. I was too nervous to do that!

If you go to the right, you’ll find the first picture I’ve posted here with me sitting down next to the tower.

2. Ride bikes through the Countryside

One of the top things to do in Ninh Binh is to enjoy a bike ride through the countryside. It’s also the best way to get around! Here, you’ll be able to enjoy views all around at your own pace.

Many hotels have free bikes like the hotel I stayed at, Tam Coc Lion Kings Hotel & Resort.

3. Take a Boat Tour through Trang An or Tam Coc

I personally chose to do my boat tour through Trang An and was told it was the most scenic boat ride from someone who did both Trang An and Tam Coc. My hotel also said Trang An was nicer. However, if you can do both, then do it! However, if you’re coming on a day trip from Hanoi, I’d go for Trang An.

On my Trang An boat tour, I selected route 3 as there’s a few to choose from and I heard route 3 is the nicest. It took me to 2 different temples and it also took me inside some really cool caves. In the caves, you’ll have to duck down as they are super low. It’s a very cool experience and the views all around are so nice!

The Trang An boat tickets cost 250,000 VND/person which is about $10. The boat ride is 3 hours long and you can simply show up and buy your ticket and not have to wait long to hop on a boat. I was told that the last tickets are sold around 5pm but double check with your hotel!

4. Admire the scenery at Bich Dong Pagoda

The Bich Dong Pagoda is an ancient Buddhist temple dating back to the 15th century during the reign of Emperor Ly Thai To. The pagoda was named Bich Dong which translates to the Green Pearl Cave.

It is such a peaceful and beautiful place. If you visit during the summer, you’ll find lotus flowers floating on the water which makes it even more beautiful to see.

I took this photo during the daytime and it was still possible without people but with a little patience. It seems that the tourists come in waves when the tour buses arrive. So, if you’re in between tours you can get a nice photo without people around.

Entrance is free and inside you’ll be able to enter the actual temple.

5. Enjoy the lights at night at Pho Co Hoa Lu

Pho Co Hoa Lu, or simply Hoa Lu Ancient Town, is a historical site located in Ninh Binh and is one of the best things to do in Ninh Binh. It served as the capital of Vietnam during the Dinh Dynasty (968-980) and the early Le Dynasty (980-1009).

It is surrounded by picturesque limestone karst landscapes and lush greenery, providing a scenic backdrop. You’ll be able to explore ancient temples, pagodas, and other architectural remnants that reflect Vietnam’s cultural heritage and political history.

Among the notable attractions within the site are the Dinh Tien Hoang Temple and Le Dai Hanh Temple, dedicated to the founding kings of the Dinh and early Le dynasties, respectively.

It’s better to visit at night as everything lights up and there are lanterns. You can also ride a boat that has lanterns hanging from the boat.

Hopefully, this post helps you better plan your trip to Ninh Binh from Hanoi! Let me know how you got on in the comments below!

For more reading, you may also like:
🇻🇳 Hanoi 4 Day Itinerary|
🚂 Hanoi Train Street
☕ Best Hanoi Coffee Shops
🚤 Best Things to Do in Hue
🌊 Guide to the Mekong River Delta

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