Home DestinationsAsia Easy 2 Day Ninh Binh Itinerary: Stunning Scenery in Vietnam

Easy 2 Day Ninh Binh Itinerary: Stunning Scenery in Vietnam

by Natalia
Views on the Trang An Boat Tour - a must do on your Ninh Binh itinerary

Last Updated on January 5, 2022 by Sam

Surrounded by incredible towering limestone cliffs, Ninh Binh province is a place you definitely don’t want to miss out on your Vietnam itinerary. Reminiscent of the well-known Halong Bay, this up and coming area is full of natural beauty and will quickly become one of your favourite places in the country. One of the best places to stay to explore Ninh Binh is in the small village of Tam Coc. This 2 day Ninh Binh itinerary covers the best the Tam Coc area has to offer, from ancient cities to peaceful boat rides around the stunning limestone formations.

How to get to Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh is easy to reach from most parts of Vietnam and an easy to include in any itinerary with direct bus and train links from around the country.

Hanoi is the closest major city and a popular place people visit when in Vietnam, situated around a 2 hour drive away. The most common way to get from Hanoi to Ninh Binh is to take a train or bus, but if you’re happy to pay more then taxis are also an option.

Buses or minibuses from Hanoi to Ninh Binh start from around 161,000 VND, and trains start from around 231,000 VND.

If you’re visiting the Halong Bay area it’s possible to travel directly from Cat Ba to Ninh Binh by bus, with tickets costing 323,000 VND per person and the journey taking around 5 hours.

Boat ride in Tam Coc

It’s also possible to travel from Hoi An to Ninh Binh by taking the overnight train from Da Nang. Trains from Da Nang take around 14-16 hours to reach Ninh Binh, with prices starting from around 485,000 VND per person if you’re happy with just a seat or 646,500 VND per person if you want a bed.

Although taking the overnight train may seem expensive, you do end up saving paying for a night’s accommodation somewhere which means it works out cheaper than it seems.

If you’re travelling over a long distance to reach Ninh Binh then we definitely recommend travelling by train as they’re generally more comfortable, especially if you pay more for a bed. Buses are better for budget travellers or shorter journeys, such as from Hanoi.

The easiest way to book your transport to Ninh Binh, and throughout Vietnam, is to use 12goAsia. In our experience they offer the best prices and you can book tickets in just a few minutes!

Click here to book your transport to Ninh Binh now through 12goAsia!

Rice fields and karst peaks in Ninh Binh

Best time to visit Ninh Binh/Tam Coc

As with many places, it’s impossible to specify the exact best time to visit Ninh Binh and Tam Coc as it really depends on what you’re looking for.

The area has a similar climate to Mai Chau, which means Autumn and Spring are great times to visit if you’re looking for cooler temperatures and fewer tourists.

You may have seen pictures of stunning yellow rice fields in Ninh Binh, and if you want to see this then plan your visit for either May/June or September/October. Unfortunately it’s hard to guarantee seeing this as it depends on when the crops are harvested, which varies each year.

If you visit in June or July you may be lucky enough to see the beautiful wild lotus flowers, which only add to the wonderful scenery in Ninh Binh.

It’s best to avoid the winter months if you’re looking for warm weather on your trip to Ninh Binh, as average high temperatures sit around 20-22 degrees Celsius (68-71.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

In contrast, the summer in Ninh Binh can be extremely warm and humid with average high temperatures around 31-33 degrees Celsius (87.8-91.4 degrees Fahrenheit). The warm weather isn’t always ideal for exploring in, so make sure to consider that before visiting during the summer months.

Karst cliffs in the Trang An Landscape Complex, Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Getting around Ninh Binh

It’s best to stay in the small village of Tam Coc, as it’s perfectly located nearby to many of the top places to visit in Ninh Binh. Transport is essential for getting around in Ninh Binh as the attractions are a bit spread out throughout the area.

If you do stay in Tam Coc then some of the attractions are within biking distance, and thankfully many properties offer free bike rental for guests. Alternatively, bikes are available to rent for around 46,150 VND per day from guesthouses or hostels.

Even though some of the best things to do in Ninh Binh are within biking distance, some are further afield so you’ll want to either hire a taxi or rent a motorbike/scooter.

There are lots of places where you can rent a bike/scooter in Tam Coc, with prices varying from around 100,000 VND to 150,000 VND per day.

Taxis are more expensive and prices will vary depending on how long you want to hire it for and how far you want to go. You should be able to get a taxi for between 500,000 VND and 800,000 VND to take you to the Trang An boat tour entrance and Bai Dinh Pagoda for the day.

Boats on the Tam Coc lake in Ninh Binh

2 day Ninh Binh itinerary

Day 1

Mua Caves

The first stop on your Ninh Binh itinerary is Mua Caves, where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the area’s beautiful scenery. If you’re staying in the popular village of Tam Coc then the Mua Caves, also known as Hang Mua, are around a 20 minute bike ride or 45 minute walk away.

Entry to the caves costs just 100,000 VND ($4.34) as of 2022, which is extremely good value considering it’s one of the best viewpoints in Ninh Binh. Plus around 10,000 VND for parking if driving a mo

Upon entering make your way to the stairs and begin your climb to the top of the Mua Caves. When the stairs split off into two directions make sure to take the left path first as this leads to the more popular viewpoint, so it’s best to visit as early in the day as possible before it gets overly busy!

Once you reach the Mua Caves viewpoint you’ll be treated to spectacular views of karst limestone cliffs stretching off into the distance alongside the Red River Delta and greenery below.

Spend some time at the top appreciating the wonderful nature whilst also taking the chance to rest your legs. After you’ve taken your fill of photos and soaked up the view then it’s time to make your way to the next viewpoint.

View from Mua Caves - a highlight of your 2 day Ninh Binh itinerary

Head back to where the path split in two earlier and this time take the trail to the right which leads you to another viewpoint. Although it’s not as impressive as the main Mua Caves viewpoint, it still offers nice views of rice fields, villages and karst cliffs.

You don’t need to spend too long at the second viewpoint before making your way back down to the bottom of the stairs. There is a cave to explore at the bottom if you’re interested, but it’s the views that are the real attraction at the Mua Caves.

With such amazing views on offer it’s hardly surprising that the Hang Mua viewpoint can get extremely busy. It’s worth having an early start if possible so you don’t have to climb in the midday heat, and to try to beat the crowds so that you can enjoy the view in peace.

The Mua Caves are open from 6am, so make sure not to arrive any earlier or there’s a good chance you’ll be left waiting! It should still be relatively quiet at around 8-9am, so don’t worry if you don’t fancy being there for 6am.

Mua Caves viewpoint - a must visit on any Ninh Binh itinerary

Bich Dong Pagoda

The next stop on your 2 day Ninh Binh itinerary is the Bich Dong Pagoda. If you’re heading straight to the pagoda from Mua Caves then you may want to consider a taxi as it’s around 6 kilometres away.

Alternatively, you may want to stop off for lunch in Tam Coc before continuing on. The Bich Dong Pagoda is around a 30-40 minute walk or 10-15 minute bike ride from Tam Coc if you’re up for the exercise.

Made up of three separate Buddhist temples, the Bich Dong Pagoda is popular due to its serene and picturesque location.

Despite being considered one of the area’s most Instagrammable spots, it was relatively quiet during our visit perhaps due to its location slightly outside of Tam Coc.

The entrance to the Bich Dong Pagoda is particularly impressive, with a small stone bridge leading across the water towards the intricate pagoda archway. If you’re lucky the wild lotuses will be in bloom to make for some amazing pictures!

Bich Dong Pagoda in Tam Coc, Ninh Binh

Tam Coc Boat Tour

One of the best things to do in Ninh Binh is to enjoy the lovely scenery on a boat ride from Tam Coc. These boat tours take you along the Red River Delta and offer up-close views of the stunning karst cliffs that dominate the area.

It’s not just the scenery that makes these trips special either, as the guides actually row the boats using their feet instead of their hands!

The boat trips all follow the same route and take around 2 hours, going through 3 caves and passing by some incredible landscape. Tours cost 150,000 VND per boat and an additional 120,000 VND per person as of 2022. They can be arranged with local guides by the lake in Tam Coc.

It’s up to you whether you do decide to include the Tam Coc Boat Ride on your Ninh Binh itinerary, as the following day you’ll be taking another boat tour in Trang An. If you’d rather just do the one boat tour it’s best to prioritise Trang An and spend the rest of your first day relaxing.

Tam Coc boat tour in Ninh Binh

Day 2

Day 2 of your Ninh Binh itinerary takes you to some attractions further afield, so you’ll need to rent a scooter/motorbike or take a taxi in order to take a day trip!

Trang An Boat Trip

An essential inclusion on any Tam Coc and Ninh Binh itinerary is the scenic Trang An boat trip. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014, the stunning Trang An Landscape Complex is home to towering karst peaks, caves, temples, pagodas and more.

There’s so much to see in Trang An that there are 3 different routes to choose from, so unless you take multiple trips you won’t be able to see everything it has to offer. Regardless of the route, your trip will delve into the heart of the beautiful scenery, leading through caves and taking you up close to limestone cliffs, isolated temples and pagodas.

Boats passing the Vu Lam Royal Step in the Trang An Landscape Complex - a highlight of any Ninh Binh itinerary

Trang An was also one of the filming locations for the 2017 King Kong film ‘Kong: Skull Island’. Routes 2 and 3 take you to King Kong Village, so if that’s your reason for visiting be sure to pick one of those routes.

It’s really up to you which route you take as they all take you past amazing landscape and incredible scenery. Route 1 is the longest route clocking in at around 3 hours, route 2 takes around 2 and a half hours whereas route 3 lasts around 2 hours.

Tickets cost 250,000 VND as of 2022 per person regardless of the route and the boats hold a maximum of 4 people. Tours won’t depart until the boats are full, so if you’re not in a group of 4 you’ll have to find other people wanting to take the same route as you.

Scenic views on the Trang An boat trip

Thankfully there are generally plenty of people coming and going in the area, so you shouldn’t need to wait too long to find people to join up with. Alternatively, you can pay another 250,000 VND for each empty seat if you want a private tour.

It’s around a 15-20 minute drive from Tam Coc to the Trang An boat tour entrance, so realistically your only options of getting there are to rent a scooter or take a taxi.

If you take the boat trip at around 9am or 10am then you should finish up in time for lunch. There are a few small restaurants/stalls opposite the entrance, so you can either grab lunch there or wait until you reach your next stop.

Find out more to help plan your visit with our guide to the Trang An Boat tour in Ninh Binh!

Scenery on the Trang An Boat Tour - a must do in Ninh Binh

Bai Dinh Pagoda

The Bai Dinh Pagoda Complex, sometimes referred to as the Bai Dinh Temple, is a spectacular collection of Buddhist temples situated in Ninh Binh Province. We hadn’t really heard much about the Bai Dinh Pagoda until we arrived in Tam Coc, but we’re so glad we visited!

Situated around 22 kilometres away from Tam Coc, a scooter or taxi is essential if you want to include the pagoda as one of the places to visit on your Ninh Binh itinerary.

Bai Dinh Pagoda is the largest Buddhist Temple Complex in Vietnam, and one of the largest in Southeast Asia, covering over 2 square miles.

Inside the complex you can discover magnificent temples, the impressive Bao Thap Tower and over 500 statues of Buddha.

With a height of around 100 metres, the Bao Thap Tower stands high above the rest of the Bai Dinh Pagoda Complex. For 50,000 VND you can visit the top of the tower for views over the rest of the temple complex.

Bao Thap Tower in the Bai Dinh Pagoda Complex - a must visit on your Ninh Binh itinerary

The beautiful and intricately designed architecture make this a great spot to visit in Ninh Binh. It’s well worth hiring a guide for your visit as it gives you the chance to have a greater understanding of the temple complex.

During our visit in March 2020 there was an eery fog when we first arrived, which gave a slightly magical feel to the complex. As the fog lifted we could see the Bao Thap Tower slowly appear before our eyes!

There is no entrance fee to visit the Bai Dinh Pagoda, which makes it a great value addition to your 2 day Ninh Binh itinerary. If you want to take the electric bus between the car park and the complex though it does cost 10,000 VND per person.

You can easily spend a whole day exploring this wonderful temple complex, so try your best to squeeze it into one afternoon. After you’ve finished up, make your way back to Tam Coc and enjoy dinner and drinks at one of the area’s many restaurants and bars.

Bai Dinh Pagoda - a beautiful Buddhist temple complex in Ninh Binh

Where to stay in Ninh Binh

The small village of Tam Coc is the best place to stay for the purpose of this 2 day Ninh Binh itinerary. Tam Coc is perfectly positioned nearby to the majority of the top things to do in Ninh Binh province, and is also home to some lovely scenic landscape.

Find out the best places to stay in Tam Coc below!

Budget

Melody Homestay

Melody Homestay is one of the best value homestays in Ninh Binh, boasting a swimming pool, on-site restaurant, a snooker table and air-conditioned rooms. Prices start from as little as 115,500 VND per night for a dorm or 346,500 VND per night for a private room.

Click here to book a stay at the great value Melody Homestay on Booking.com!

Elizabeth Hotel

The Elizabeth Hotel is another great value property with a reasonably large swimming pool and comfortable, air-conditioned rooms. Considering the hotel is rated as one of the best properties in Tam Coc, it’s incredible value with prices starting from just 380,000 VND per night.

Click here to take a look at the budget-friendly Elizabeth Hotel on Booking.com!

Mid-Range

Liberty Hall Villa Tam Coc

If you’re looking for a luxurious stay at an affordable price then the Liberty Hall Tam Coc Villa is a brilliant option. Consistently rated as one of the best hotels in Tam Coc, the property is in the perfect location with stunning views of rice fields and karst limestone mountains.

Other highlights of the property include the brilliant staff and the lovely indoor swimming pool. To top it off, rooms at the property are modern, complete with air conditioning, a large double bed and a flat-screen TV with satellite channels.

Prices at the Liberty Hall Tam Coc Villa start from 1,500,000 VND per night for a deluxe room, or 2,000,000 VND per night for a suite with a beautiful mountain view!

Click here to book a stay at the amazing Liberty Hall Villa Tam Coc on Booking.com!

Ninh Binh Hidden Charm Hotel & Resort

The 4-star Ninh Binh Hidden Charm Hotel & Resort has everything you need for a comfortable and relaxing stay. Rooms are spacious and complete with lovely modern decor, as well as all the facilities you’d expect such as air con, a ceiling fan and flat-screen TV.

One of the best parts about staying here is the large outdoor pool, which is perfect for cooling off during the warm summer days. The property is also well-located, just a few minutes walk from the centre of Tam Coc, which makes it ideal for exploring Ninh Binh.

Prices at the Ninh Binh Hidden Charm Hotel & Resort start from 2,151,000 VND per night, with breakfast included in the price!

Click here to book your stay at the wonderful Ninh Binh Hidden Charm Hotel & Resort on Booking.com!

Boat tour in Trang An - an essential inclusion on your 2 day Ninh Binh itinerary

Treat yourself!

Tam Coc Garden Resort

The Tam Coc Garden Resort is one of the top luxury hotels in all of Ninh Binh, located in an idyllic setting surrounded by seemingly endless rice fields and limestone karst peaks. Situated just over 4 kilometres outside of Tam Coc village, the resort is a peaceful and luxurious escape nearby to the Bich Dong Pagoda – one of the stops on your 2 day Ninh Binh itinerary!

Boasting an on-site restaurant and bar, the hotel also has a brilliant outdoor swimming pool – perfect if you want to spend a few days chilling out. The service and facilities at the property are second-to-none, with friendly staff available to help around the clock.

Prices at the Tam Coc Garden Resort start from 4,090,000 VND per night, with breakfast included in the price!

Click here to book an unforgettable stay at the Tam Coc Garden Resort on Booking.com!

Aravinda Resort Ninh Binh

The Aravinda Resort Ninh Binh is a more affordable luxury accommodation option, located around 4 kilometres outside of Tam Coc village itself. Surrounded by beautiful nature, the resort boasts a large swimming pool for those looking to spend some time relaxing.

Rooms at the property are spacious and comfortable, complete with all the facilities you need. To top it off, the resort has both a restaurant and bar on site which consistently get brilliant reviews.

Prices at the Aravinda Resort Ninh Binh start from 2,268,000 VND per night, with breakfast included in the price!

Click here to book a stay at the wonderful Aravinda Resort Ninh Binh on Booking.com!

Where to eat in Tam Coc

T Bread – A small Banh Mi stall found by the Tam Coc lake. The Banh Mis are delicious and very well priced between 15,000-30,000 VND. There’s a few different choices available including pork, chicken, sausage and salad.

Hoa Luan – A budget friendly option serving up delicious Vietnamese food, as well as a few Western dishes, cocktails and beers. The staff are very friendly too so it’s definitely worth a try if you’re staying nearby.

Buddha Belly Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurant – A great option if you’re looking for vegetarian or vegan food, Budda Belly offers both local Vietnamese and Western dishes at decent prices.

The Napoleon Pizza¬†– An Italian restaurant that serves up good quality pizza – which in our experience can be hard to find in Asia. It’s slightly more expensive than elsewhere, with pizzas starting from 120,000 VND, but it’s well worth it if you’re on the look out for a decent pizza!

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