While this provincial capital does not have much to offer as a tourist destination in itself, it makes a popular and very convenient base to explore some of the sites in the surrounding areas. Ninh Binh is located about two hours south of Hanoi in the Red River Delta. The area is mainly famous for the lush green rice fields that are dotted with hundreds of limestone mountains, giving the landscape its dreamy appearance. Aside from the fantastic scenery, there's also plenty of culture to soak in as well as the opportunity to observe wild life and work up a sweat hiking in Vietnam's oldest national park.
Places to See/Activities
Also called "Dry Ha Long Bay" and compared by many to the famous limestone landscapes of Guilin and Yangshou in China, the scenery here with its green rice paddies and bizarre karst mountains is simply stunning. To get to the three caves, hire one of the paddle boats that will take you along the Ngo Dong River. The caves, which range in length from 127m to 40m, are accessible by boat. The excursion is highly recommended and a wonderful way to see this dramatic landscape.
Hoa Lu, ancient capital of Vietnam under the Dinh and Le dynasties from 968 to 1008, is set among equally breathtaking scenery as Tam Coc. Remnants of the Citadel can still be seen. Two temples dedicated to the emperors of the Dinh and Le dynasties are set on the slopes of the Yen Ngua Mountain and well worth a visit. Both temples - Dinh Tien Hoang and Le Dai Hanh - are very atmospheric. Further up the mountain above the temples lies the tomb of Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang from where visitors can enjoy magnificent views.
Home to an impressive biodiversity in flora and fauna, Cuc Phuong National Park was designated as Vietnam's first national park by Hi Chi Minh in 1962. The landscape of the park is dominated by lush valleys and karst mountains covered in primary tropical rain forest, ranging up to 656m (2,152ft) in altitude at the highest peak, May Bac Mountain (Silver Cloud Mointain).
The park boasts a large number of animals, including mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and insects, as well as plants with medicinal and food properties, many of which are endangered or endemic species. The park also houses two research and rehabilitation centers, which can be visited. The Cuc Phuong Endangered Primate Rescue Center is particularly interesting. The Center is a German-Vietnamese scientific joint venture that has established a successful breeding program for endangered langurs, gibbons, and lorises.
Visitors can also hike into the park on marked trails, choosing from short walks to multi-day treks including overnight stays at local Muong villages. Archaeologists have found remnants of prehistoric habitation in the park area, and it is possible to walk to one of these sites, the Cave of Prehistoric Man, on a short trail. Recommended one-day hikes include an 8km loop to a 1000-year old tree as well as up Silver Cloud Mountain. Guides and maps are available at park headquarters.
Plan your visit during the dry months of October to March, as the rest of the year (April to September) is very wet and hot. The park gets an annual average rainfall of 2,100mm (7ft)!
The floating village of Kenh Ga (Chicken Canal) is located on the Hoang Long River and can only be accessed by boat. Most of the people here live and work on floating "houses", and they are known to row their boats with their feet. The scenery, like everywhere else in the area is very picturesque, and dominated by limestone pinnacles, rice fields, canals, and rivers. A boat trip to the floating village at Kenh Ga is highly recommended!
For recommended hotels in Ninh Binh, click here: Ninh Binh Hotels.
The area receives a large amount of precipitation in the form of rain during the rainy season (April to September). These are also the hottest months. The dry season lasts from October to March, and features cooler temperatures.
Notes From the Field
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