6 must do activities in Ninh Binh

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Ninh Binh is a playground for the adventurous, and an oasis for nature lovers. The first capital of Vietnam was founded here and today the area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, filled with mossy pagodas, striking limestone mountains and surreal landscapes. Ready for an adventure? Here are six must-do activities when visiting Ninh Binh.

1. Cruise on a paddleboat tour in Trang An or Tam Coc

Some of Ninh Binh's best sights can only be reached by boat. A boating tour in Trang An or Tam Coc is a necessary Ninh Binh experience. Your own boatman or woman will steer you along the gentle currents, in the shadow of giant karsts. The boats stop at temples and glide beneath caves along the way.

2. Go temple trekking at Bich Dong Pagoda

Located at the foot of a large mountain, Bich Dong Pagoda’s ornate gate is one of the most iconic sights in Ninh Binh. A stone bridge spans a large lotus pond, which explodes with bright pink blossoms in the summer. Just beyond the gate is a tranquil courtyard and a traditional Buddhist temple. Follow the stairs up and around the mountain for stunning views, then look for two other temples embedded in the mountain, dating back to the 18th century.

3. Taste the local specialities

When visiting Ninh Binh, be sure to try the typical dishes of the province: com chay and de tai chanh. Com chay is a type of deep-fried rice that is eaten as a delicious snack or dipped in a warm stew. De tai chanh is made from goat meat - Ninh Binh's most popular protein - soaked in lime juice and chili, lemon leaves, and roasted sesame. For a truly local breakfast, order a plate of banh cuon; Rice paper rolls with diced pork and mushrooms, served with mint and light fish sauce.

4. Stroll through Hoa Lu Ancient Village

If walls could talk you’d want to know what Hoa Lu’s brick- and vine-covered structures would say. Located just 20 minutes by car from the Trang An area, this is the site of Vietnam’s very first capital city. Hoa Lu reached its peak in the 10th and 11th centuries, when the surrounding karst landscape offered natural protection from invaders. Today you can stroll through two atmospheric structures that survive from the old citadel. The compound’s leaning archways, layered banyan trees, and rolling brick courtyards will transport you back in time. 

5. Wander the Bai Dinh Pagoda

Bai Dinh Pagoda is an enormous complex and the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. This singular attraction is a noted pilgrimage stop for Vietnamese Buddhists, and full to overflowing during Buddhist holidays. You’ll need lots of time to see the whole site. Expect to be awed by thousands of Buddha statues, elaborately carved bells and a 13-story watchtower, offering sweeping views of the countryside.

6. Go for a hike in Cuc Phuong National Park

Just an hour's drive from Ninh Binh city, Cuc Phuong is one of the oldest national parks in Vietnam. Tickets to the park are only 20,000 VND. Inside, you'll have several stops to choose from, including rehabilitation centers for reptiles and primates, and trails inside the national park to visit over 1,000 trees. five years old. Spend half a day on an energetic jungle hike, then treat yourself to a local lunch in the park.

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