Ninh Binh off the beaten track : Top hidden spots which very few tourists know

Ninh Binh off the beaten track

Ninh Binh is one of the top 4 major tourist attractions in Northern Vietnam, famous for its breathtaking sceneries of limestone karts mountains, valleys, and rice paddies, a place to relax and enjoy a slow pace of travel. There is a tons of well-known tourist attractions full of tourists during the high season from September to April. In the complete guide, we will take you to explore Ninh Binh off the beaten track with less touristy and unusual things to do in Ninh Binh, which is hard to find in other articles.

My story to look for less touristy things to do in Ninh Binh

When I googled Ninh Binh hidden gem or Ninh Binh off the beaten track, I was overwhelmed with existed articles but I haven’t found a complete guide to unusual spots in Ninh Binh. 

I decided to write an very helpful article for those who don’t want to travel to touristy spots, just Ninh Binh hidden gems with everything you need to know to explore Ninh Binh like a local, not in a common tourist trail. 

If you love to see more than the main temples, pagodas and popular boat tour of Tam Coc and Trang An and temples during your Ninh Binh itinerary, consider visiting these Ninh Binh hidden gems. I hope you can find what you are looking for here. 

Top 5 less touristy places to visit –  Ninh Binh off the beaten track

Galaxy Grotto (Aka Dong Thien Ha) Boat tour and dry cave visit 


Galaxy Grotto Ninh Binh

Galaxy Grotto Ninh Binh

Not a usual tourist attraction in Ninh Binh, Galaxy Grotto is a true hidden gem; about a 1.5-hour drive from Tam Coc, there is a shortcut by taking a boat tour from Thung Nham bird park, saling through caves to reach the Galaxy Grotto. 

The boat ride is run by a private company called Star Travel; the boat rowers are rice farmers and villagers who live around the neighborhood. 

You first start the boat ride from a local pier for half an hour, sailing on a bamboo boat on a river to reach the walking pathway to explore the dry cave with lots of colorful rock formations makes you feel lots like in a palace. There is also a staircase to climb up to see the open view area where you can see the panoramic view of the grotto. 

Next, embark on another boat ride in the wet cave area, you may encounter bats and lots of bats on rainy days, but the view is so breathtaking, peaceful and gentle wave. It is another half an hour boat ride before returning to the main boat for another ride to the Buddha cave. You may encounter to see someone from other directions from Thung Nham bird garden. 

The boat trip lasts from one and a half hours to 2 hours. 

Insider tips for visiting Galaxy Grotto

  • The view inside the dry cave differs from the one in Halong Bay. Also the scenery during the boat ride is unlike the boat tour in Tam Coc and Trang An
  • It is a real Ninh Binh 0ff the beaten track tourist spots since there is a few guided tours from Hanoi and some of the Vietnamese. If you are lucky enough, you may be the only one on the boat tour in the wet cave. 
  • The local boat rower are gentle so you’ll have a relaxing boat ride
  • My advice is to start your trip from Thung Nham bird garden, then head back the same spot so you don’t have to drive 1.5 hours from the grotto area to Tam Coc. If you are on a guided tour, ask the tour guide to arrange the boat tour from the Galaxy area and disembark at Thung Nham bird garden, and the car will pick you up at the bird park. 
  • There is only one restaurant at the pier, so there are not many choices for lunch. 

Van Long Nature Reserve – The land of King Kong

Van Long wetland

Van Long wetland

Just another choice for a boat tour in Ninh Binh, which is way less touristy than Tam Coc and Trang An. The nature reserve and much quieter and more peaceful than other places. 

The nature reserve is known as the home of King Kong (the movie was shot in 2017) is a wetland area covering 35.000 hectares, is home to hundred pieces of floras and animals, especially Delacour’s Langur, with over 100 individuals.

A relaxing 1-hour boat ride takes you around the wetland area; you will enter the cave by boat. If you are lucky, you can see a monkey and return to the starting point on a different waterway. 

To me, Van Long is a quiet, beautiful oasis 

Insider tips for Van Long Wetland

  • I do recommend taking the boat ride in the late afternoon before sunset so you may have a chance to see the monkeys.
  • Prepare small changes of 50k VND to give tipping to the boat rower at the end of your trip.
  • Hire a push bike, and ride around the country road; it is amazing, quiet, and off the beaten track. 

Phat Diem Stone Cathedral

Phat Diem Cathedral

Phat Diem Cathedral

A Ninh Binh hidden gem’s spot for those who love to learn in-depth about the unique architecture of a Cathedral with a great combination of traditional Oriental and modern Western-style a: A Cathedral with a pagoda style roof which makes it unique in the world 

The cathedral is about 40 kilometers from Tam Coc town or a 1-hour drive, which is not very convenient to get there from Tam Coc. So I advise you to spend a day visiting both Galaxy Grotto and Phat Diem Stone Cathedral 

I know not everyone like Cathedral since you can see them in your home country, but this Cathedral offers a unique architectural style that you can’t see elsewhere in Vietnam. 

Why you should visit the Cathedral

  • Unique architectural design 
  • Off the beaten path
  • Quiet and peaceful 

Be aware that some people still make some complaints that it’s not well maintained since the interior of the cathedral are dusty. 

Insider tips when visiting Phat Diem Cathedral

  • Some of the halls might be closed during the weekdays
  • Dress appropriately (No short sleeves) 
  • Finding a restaurant here is hard, so be prepared with a picnic lunch. 
  • Wander around the village area to see local life
  • Don’t climb up the bell tower on your own
  • Book full-day transport by car if you can afford it. 

Cuc Phuong national park 

Trekking through the jungle at Cuc Phuong national park

Trekking through the jungle at Cuc Phuong national park

The national park is about 40 kilometers from Tam Coc, within a 1-hour drive, a perfect place for nature lovers. There are very few tourists here apart from the weekend; it is a little bit busier with some of the weekend trips of Vietnamese.

Top Things to do in the national park

  • Hike the 6-kilometer route round trip to see Cay Cho – a thousand-year-old tree.
  • Check out the Prehistoric cave with a hike of 200 steps
  • See the Turtle Conservation Center and Endangered Primate Center

Insider tips for Cuc Phuong national park

  • Bring enough cash to pay the entrance fee of 60k VND and 100k VND for both centers (Turtle Conservation and Endangered Primate) 
  • Eat at the restaurant close to the park center, which is cleaner
  • No services during the visit to the national park, apart from the park center
  • Those two centers above close at 4pm, so the last visit should be 3 pm lastest. 
  • Bring a few water botted and a torch to explore the Prehistoric cave.
  • If you want to trek through the jungle on an overnight trip, take a guided tour – a must in case you get lost. 
  • Don’t expect to see lots of animals during your hike. You will be disappointed.

Check out Hoa Lu ancient town (Aka Pho Co Hoa Lu) by night

Silver pagoda at Hoa Lu ancient town

Silver pagoda at Hoa Lu ancient town

Just a few kilometers from Tam Coc, within 7 minute’s drive, The ancient town offers a great location right on the national road number one, a right Instagram photo heaven in Ninh Binh but not in the list of guided tours to Ninh Binh. 

The view at night here is absolutely stunning, with colorful lights, don’t forget to check out The Silver pagoda with its amazing decorations with lots of Buddhist stories on the wall. Besides, there are some local snacks and food that you can try out. 

If you visit the ancient town during the day, don’t forget to take a short hike to Ky Lan Mountain to see the panoramic view of Ninh Binh. 

Read more : Ninh Binh with kids

Top Instagram spots in Ninh Binh 

Private Ninh Binh day tour from Hanoi, off the beaten track. 

Over to you

We hope this Ninh Binh off the beaten track complete guide gives you a better understanding of how to plan an enjoyable trip to Ninh Binh to lesser-known tourist attractions. If you want to take a private tour to Ninh Binh, please get in touch with Hanoi Eco Tour via email at

5/5 - (4 votes)
Related post