Discover the amazing province of Ninh Binh, at only 90 kilometers south of Hanoi, home of the breath-taking Trang An, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ninh Binh, also known as Halong Bay on Land, is one of the most captivating destinations Vietnam has to offer for its natural, cultural, historical and culinary treasures.
Heaven of Bicycle Rides
The Halong Bay on Land and its stunning limestone scenery are a great excuse to wander through the countryside on bicycle. No need to be an expert, the terrain is flat and you can easily cycle while admiring the landscapes pass by. Bicycles can navigate their way into the maze of limestone pitons, of which at the bottom are large rice fields and charming little hamlets. You can then discover the typical peasant life in the Red River Delta, cradle of the Vietnamese civilization.
The bicycle rides are punctuated by visits of pagodas and temples which should include the bucolic pagoda of Bich Dong, built in 1428 under the reign of the Le kings. The structure is a harmonious composition of three tiered pagodas on a mountain side. As for the temple of Tha Vi, built during the 13th century, it is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Vietnam. It distinguishes itself by its original stone architecture following the principles of oriental geomancy.
During your ride, it is recommended to stop at the Hang Mua mountain and try ascending its peak where you will find a belvedere at the top, offering a wonderful view on all Tam Coc and the seemingly endless rice fields.
The former royal capital of Hoa Lu
By bicycle or in vehicle, you can get to Hoa Lu, former royal capital of two feudal dynasties of Vietnam: Dinh and Le, from 968 to 1009 before King Ly Thay To appoints Hanoi as the new Vietnamese capital in 1010. Moreover, King Dinh Tiên’s temple is undoubtedly the most beautiful and unique remnant of Hoa Lu. Interesting to see as well, is the temple of the Emperor Le Dai Hanh, built on the former site of the royal palace of the capital Hoa Lu.
A rowing boat ride
Enjoying a rowing boat ride is the must-do activity during your stay in Halong Bay. You will love the relaxed pace of the boat allowing you to admire the pure beauty those amazing landscapes that served as background settings for the movie Indochina by Régis Warnier and more recently the remake of King Kong. Several boat itineraries are offered in Tran An’s sceneries:
● Rowing boat ride on Ngo Dong river at Tam Coc, passing through three limestone caves.
● Rowing boat ride through the natural reserve of Van Long, sanctuary of 39 animal species, 722 plant species, and home of around a hundred bird species.
● Rowing boat ride in the Eco touristic zone of Trang An during which you will go through a total of 11 majestic and narrow caves.
The pagoda of Bai Dinh, the biggest Buddhist facilities in Vietnam
Ninh Binh’s countryside is home of the biggest Buddhist facilities in Vietnam and in all South-East Asia as well. It is the pagoda of all records with a 16 meters high bronze statue of Buddha weighing over a hundred tons, a massive 36 ton bell, a 2 kilometers long corridor hosting 500 white stone figures of Arhats of Ninh Binh, each one measuring between 2 and 2,5 meters high, while the three figures of Past, Present and Future Buddhas measure 12 meters high each.
Discover the Cathedral of Phat Diem
The province of Ninh Binh and its neighbor, Nam Dinh, are the cradle of Catholicism in Vietnam. Moreover, these two host one of the biggest concentration of churches in the world. Among all of these catholic buildings, make sure to visit the Cathedral of Phat Diem. Built in 1891 by a Vietnamese priest, Pierre Trân Luc, also known as Father Six, the structure was conceived according to an elegant combination of French gothic church architectures and Vietnamese pagodas. This uncommon architectural association is composed of a big church, four chapels, a belfry, a pond and three artificial caves.
The National Park of Cuc Phuong
The visit of Halong Bay on Land combined with the visit of the National Park of Cuc Phuong definitely makes a day memorable. Indeed, hosting a surprisingly large biodiversity with rare species, this sanctuary is highly appreciated from those who love exploring wild and preserved nature. This natural parc is home to over 2200 species of woody and herbaceous plants, of which 118 are extremely rare and 433 of them have medicinal powers. Moreover, the parc fosters 133 species of mammals; many of them are monkeys, Asian black bears and a few panthers.
Best time to go to Ninh Binh
We recommend between to go between mid-March and the end of November. Beware, it can get really hot between June and October but it also is the period where the rice fields look the most beautiful, tinted green and starting to fade into a gorgeous golden yellow.