Where to stay in Ninh Bình
Most travellers seem to opt to stay in Tam Cốc and this is also where the bus dropped me off. I was kinda happy I was staying elsewhere as Tam Cốc seemed overly touristy to me. There are a lot of nice restaurants and bars so if this is your thing, this might be the best area to stay in.
I stayed in the centre of Ninh Bình town instead and found the newly opened O Zoli Home Hotel. As soon as I arrived, the owner Linh welcomed me with open arms and gave me a big hug! Everything was brand new and for the first time in Vietnam, I got to enjoy a soft bed! The shower was amazing and the overall place felt like a home away from home! There are some nice local restaurants nearby and I very much enjoyed my stay here. From Ninh Bình and Tam Cốc, it’ super easy to explore the area.
How to get around
As all the sights are scattered around Ninh Bình and Tam Cốc so I decided to rent a scooter for a few days to explore the area. Most hostels and hotels offer bicycles and scooters and I rented one from Motorbike Rental Ninh Bình (798 Trần Hưng Đạo, Tân Thành) for 100.000 Dong per day.
Another option is to use the Grab App and either hop onto the back of a motorbike or get into a taxi.
What to do in Ninh Bình
I started at the Bái Đính-Tempel, a spiritual and cultural Buddhist complex on Bái Đính Mountain. It is the largest Buddhist complex in the whole of South East Asia! You can visit the old temple but the complex mostly consists of new buildings.
Don’t forget to visit the huge Pagoda and admire the stunning views. The entrance to take the elevator up is 50.000 Dong. The entrance to the whole complex, by the way, is free. I had to pay to park my motorbike and you have the option to go around by electric car. The price is 30.000 Dong each way. As the complex is so large this could be a good option to get around.
Trang An Ecotourism Complex
Most travellers come to Ninh Bình to see the beautiful karst formations and one of the ways to see them is to take a boat.
I booked a boat trip at the official Trang An Ecotourism Complex. There are other places where you can book boat tours as well, such as Tam Cốc, but I heard from other travellers that there is a lot of hustling going on there… You are forced to pay a tip, buy flowers or fruits etc. I was happy that didn’t happen in Trang An and I could enjoy nature in peace!
You have 3 routes to choose from and all are priced at 200.000 Dong. The route will take 3 hours but divers in what you will see along the way. So it might make sense to have a look online to see which temples and caves you would like to visit. For example, you can discover the beauty of Đền Trình Temple, Dot Cave, Đền Suối Tiên Temple, Hang Vang Vang Cave, Khong Temple etc. You will also have the chance to see Núi Địa Linh Mountain and Núi Kim Quy Mountain with absolutely stunning views.
If you prefer, you can also rent a bicycle in Tam Cốc and explore the area this way.
Another must-see is Hang Múa, around 4-5 kilometres from Tam Cốc. The entrance is 100.000 Dong which includes a visit to the caves as well. When I was there it was cloudy but still well worth the visit!
You’ll climb up close to 500 steps to admire the beautiful view over the Ngo Dong River, the Tam Cốc area and the karst formations. On the top, you’ll be met by a lying Dragon Statue on the Mountain of the Lying Dragon. It is a super Instagrammable spot and there are lots of selfie-sticks and photoshoots happening! The Mua Cave is nothing really to write home about but the Lotus Lake is pretty cute!
I stayed in Ninh Bình for 3 nights, 2 days and this seemed the perfect amount of time in this beautiful spot! There are some beautiful nature parks in the area though like Van Long Wetland Nature Reserve and Cuc Phuong National Park, which are well worth a visit! From Ninh Bình I took a train to Hue and paid around $22 with 12Go.Asia.
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