72 hours in Ninh Binh : The perfect Ninh Binh itinerary


72 hours in Ninh binh, Ninh Binh itinerary

I am sharing Ninh Binh itinerary from 1 to 3 days exploring the area. This is a new rising destination for visitors in Northern Vietnam

A trip to Vietnam won’t be completed without a visit to Ninh Binh, Halong Bay on land, only 2.5 hours drive south of Hanoi. It is a place of rich history with a former capital of Vietnam, Hoa Lu; fascinating cultural heritage site with Trang An, lots of beautiful scenery of karst mountains: Tam Coc, Van Long nature reserve, Thung Nham bird garden; a unique primitive forest of Cuc Phuong national park and well-known religious sites of Bich Dong and Bai Dinh pagoda. 

Spending 1, 2 or 3 days Ninh Binh is the right choice which allows you to have enough time to visit top attractions in Ninh Binh. Let this Ninh Binh itinerary guides you for things to do in Ninh Binh from 1 to 3 days

On the other hand, you can also explore the rustic beauty of rural life in Vietnam with endless rice paddy fields, see numerous species of birds gathering in the bird park and enjoy unique cuisine with goat meat and Com Chay (Burned rice topped with pork floss in Ninh Binh style)

What to do in Ninh Binh : Ninh Binh itinerary 3 days

This Ninh Binh 3 day itinerary is perfect for those who have certain amount period of time and want to explore in-depth Ninh Binh

For the earlier night, I recommend staying near Van Long nature reserve because it takes only 50 minutes to get to the national park. 

Day 1 in Ninh Binh : Blue pin

  • Cuc Phuong national park
  • Van Long nature reserve

Day 2 in Ninh Binh: Orange pin

  • Bai Dinh pagoda
  • Hoa Lu ancient capital
  • Trang An 

Day 3 in Ninh Binh : Yellow pin

  • Mua cave
  • Thai Vy temple
  • Bich Dong pagoda
  • Thung Nham bird garden

Day 1 in Ninh Binh : Cuc Phuong national park and Van Long nature reserve

Endangered Primate Center, Cuc Phuong national park

Endangered Primate Center,at Cuc Phuong, NInh Binh

8.30 am : Hit the road for 50 minutes drive to the main gate of Cuc Phuong national park. Buy the ticket, walk to the nearby Endanger Primate Center and Turtle Conservation centre

Note : Those places will be closed at 11 am. That’s why I suggest you to visit first

Entrance fee: 60k for the national park and 40k for those two centres

You will get a1-hour guided tour with a local guide provided by the national park to see those two centres

Next, drive 20 minutes to reach the cave of Prehistoric man (Dong Nguoi Xua). Hike 200 steps to reach the entrance and spend an hour to explore the cave. 

Tip : Get a torch around 10k from the vendor who selling the stuff right outside the parking lot. 

Then drive another 20 minutes to get to Bong centre where you start your hiking to 1000 years old tree. It takes 2.5 hours round trip to hike. Remember to take along with you water bottle, raincoat, insect spray, snacks. After that, I recommend having lunch in the restaurant near the gate which is cleaner than the one in Bong Center.

Drive back to Van Long nature reserve. Take a boat ride to explore the caves, see the monkey and enjoy bird watching 

Tip : Take the 4.30 pm boat ride and don’t forget to ask the boat rowers to take you to see the birds and offer to tip after that. 

Boat ride in Van Long Nature Reserve

Van Long Nature Reserve, Ninh Binh

Stay overnight in a hotel near the pier with a great location and affordable room rate which is about 20 bucks. If money matter isn’t an issue then staying in Emerada Resort nearby is a perfect choice to unwind after a long day. 

Day 2 in Ninh Binh : Bai Dinh Pagoda, Hoa Lu ancient capital and Boat ride in Trang An

Clear the bill and check out in the morning. 

Bai Dinh Pagoda in Ninh Binh

Panoramic view of Bai Dinh pagoda complex

The second day starts with short drive to Bai Dinh pagoda. Take an electric car ride for 15 minutes from the parking lot to the entrance gate of the pagoda. A ride costs about 60k per person and you are sharing with a few others. Spend 2 hours to explore the pagodas by hiking along with the steps and the view from the top pagoda is amazing because you see the whole complex. 

Next, take half an hour drive to discover Hoa Lu, the former ancient capital of Vietnam dated back since 10th century. Check out two kings temples of Dinh Tien Hoang and Le Dai Hanh. Expect to pay 20k for the entrance fee. 

DInh Tien Hoang temple, Ninh Binh

King Dinh temple in Hoa Lu ancient capital

On the way to Trang An, having lunch in Truong An restaurant which is near the T-Junction with a bridge. Feast on Ninh Binh cuisines with goat meat and  Burned rice topped with pork floss

After lunch, getting to Tuyet Tinh Coc for short hiking and capture awesome panoramic photos of mountains and lakes which is a romantic place for couples. Entrance fee per person is 20k

Then head to Trang An, the UNESCO heritage site for 2.5 hours boat ride to explore the stunning view of karst mountains, caves, temples and more. There are 3 routes to choose from. In my opinion, route 3 is the best so far because you are riding the boat through the longest cave in the Trang An area. Entrance is 250k per person

Trang An, Ninh Binh

Boat ride in Trang An

It time permits, checking out the local wet market in Tam Coc before heading to your accommodation in Tam Coc. Tonight, you’ll sleep in Tam Coc

There are tons of bars in Tam Coc to hang out. I like that one in double-decker right on the Tam Coc pier. 

Day 3 in Ninh Binh: Hiking Mua Cave, Thai Vy Temple, Bich Dong pagoda and birding in Nham Valley

What’s better than a hiking 500 steps to reach the top of Mua Cave for a spectacular panoramic view overlooking Tam Coc boat ride. There are two viewpoints : the Mua peak and Lying dragon peak. Entrance is 100k

Next, visit Thai Vy temple, just 2 kilometres from Tam Coc pier, dedicated to the first king of Tran Dynasty. 

Thai Vy temple, Ninh Binh

Thai Vy temple – an off the beaten track spot in Tam Coc, Ninh Binh

After that, getting to Bich Dong Buddhist temple for a short hiking to explore 3 pagodas. In order to enter the top one, you need to go through a dark cave. Remember not to wear shorts when visiting the pagoda. 

Having lunch in Minh Toan father cooking with yummy Vietnamese food. Expect to pay 150k for lunch and drinks for one

Lastly, checking out Nham valley. First, exploring the Mermaid cave with stunning stalagmites and stalactites which takes over 1 million years to form. On the other hand, there are more to see : orchard garden, three ladies cave, Vai Gioi cave. Entrance is 100k 

Thung Nham Bird Garden in NInh Binh

Thung Nham bird park

Taking a leisurely boat ride to see thousand of birds gathering at the bird park for 45 minutes. You are sharing with 8 persons on one boat. Please note you will pay extra 20k per person and go on the boat ride after 4pm in order to see lots of birds including cranes, phoenix, stork, bittern,  and some rare breeds listed in the Red Book which might be extinct in the near future. 

See more : Thung Nham bird garden

Ninh Binh travel guide

It concludes your trip in Ninh Binh and its famous attractions. You can see how much you explore Ninh Binh in 72 hours or 3 days and hope you have a nice time there

Budget for 3 days Ninh Binh itinerary

ItemsExpenses in American Dollar
Food (casual restaurant)36
Drink (casual place)12
Activities (Entrance fee) 33
Transport by Motorbike(Rent+ Fuel)36
Accommodation (Budget hotel/homestay)30
Total amount 147

Top Ninh Binh itinerary 1 day 

If you are looking for a perfect Ninh Ninh itinerary just for one day, we are here to help. With 10 years working in tourism industry as a local English speaking guide. I believe what I provide you in the best choice so you can plan a perfect trip to Ninh Binh which is known as Halong Bay on land

Hoa Lu – Tam Coc – Mua Cave itinerary

This is a sample itinerary on a guided tour that I have done a ton of times as following

8am : Drive 2 hours to Ninh Binh. You first check out Hoa Lu ancient capital. 

11.30am : Hiking 500 steps to admire its amazing view of limestone mountains and green paddy field on the peak of Mua cave

1pm : Having lunch in a restaurant in Tam Coc

2.15pm : Take a leisurely boat ride to explore 3 caves in Tam Coc

4pm : Transfer back to Hanoi. Arrive in Hanoi around 6.30pm. Trip ends

Travel Ninh Binh : Frequently asked questions

Is Ninh Binh worth visiting?

Yes, it is. It is a must-see when travelling to Northern Vietnam. A top travel destination, especially for those who have limited time who often take a day trip to Ninh Binh. But it deserves more than a day to visit. 

Why should you go to Ninh Binh?

  • The stunning natural beauty of limestone karsts mountains
  • Rustic rural landscape to admire and interesting local living to learn about
  • Explore the wilderness of the national park
  • The best spot for bird watching in Northern Vietnam
  • Lots of ecotourism sites
  • Long-lasting history of temples and pagodas
  • River cruise through the cave-like a real adventure
  • Unique architecture design of the Cathedral\
  • Massive palaces which are private home

How long should you stay in Ninh Binh?

If you just want to see highlights of Ninh Binh, an organised day trip is enough, including 3 to 4 famous tourist attractions. But if you want to see what Ninh Binh has to offer, spend two or three days. 

Where to stay in Ninh Binh?

In my opinion, Tam Coc is the best place to stay in Ninh Binh. Tam Coc is a rural area with lots of restaurants, bars, pubs and close to lots of well-known tourist attractions such as Thung Nham bird garden, Bich Dong pagoda, Mua cave, Thai Vy temple

How to spend two days in Ninh Binh – The best Ninh Binh itinerary

Two days in Ninh Binh is suitable for those who have a bit limited time but want to explore the very best of Ninh Binh and I recommend staying in Tam Coc because it is the peaceful area with the rustic beauty of Vietnam rural areas

Day 1 : Classic Ninh Binh

  • Hoa Lu ancient capital
  • Boat ride in Tam Coc
  • Hiking Mua cave

Day 2 : Ninh Binh adventure

  • Trekking Cuc Phuong national park
  • Boat trip in Van Long nature reserve 

How to spend a day in Ninh Binh from Hanoi – Ninh binh 1 day itinerary

There are 4 options to choose from for Ninh Binh itinerary for just one day

Option 1 : classic Ninh Binh (8am to 6.30pm)

  • Hoa Lu ancient capital
  • Mua cave
  • Boat ride in Tam Coc

Option 2 : Temple and boat ride (8 am to 7pm)

  • Bai Dinh pagoda
  • Boat ride in Trang An

Option 3 : Cuc Phuong national park (7am to 7pm)

  • Endangered Primate Center
  • Turtle Conservation center
  • Early Man Cave
  • Trekking the national park

Option 4 : More Ninh Binh explorer (7.30am to 6.30pm)

  • Boat ride in Trang An
  • Hoa Lu ancient capital
  • Mua cave

The combination of Hanoi Halong Bay Ninh Binh itinerary 

This itinerary option is the perfect choice for nature lovers who have less than a week to explore Northern Vietnam includes top 3 destinations: Hanoi, Halong bay, Ninh Binh with 2 options to choose from

Option 1 : The highlights 

Day 1 : Arrive in Hanoi. Street food walking tour

Day 2 : Hanoi city tour

Day 3 : Ninh Binh. Staying overnight

Day 4 ; Ninh Binh to Halong/Cat Ba/Bai Tu Long Bay. 

Day 5: Back to Hanoi 

Option 2 : The ultimate tour 

  • Day 1 : Arrive in Hanoi. Street food walking tour
  • Day 2 : Hanoi full day city tour
  • Days 3-4 : Ninh Binh
  • Days 5-7 : Halong Bay/Bai Tu Long bay/Cat Ba

Ninh Binh Travel Video

Hanoi Eco Tour offers free travel planning for visitors in Vietnam in general and Ninh Binh in particular by travel experts who has been working in tourism industry over 10 years. Please contact us via email at info@hanoiecotour.com


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David Nguyen : Freelancer tour guide as well as a passionate writer for Hanoi Eco Tour, who has been working over 10 years in the tourism industry. All articles are written by him from his REAL travel experiences, down to earth and unique.

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