Ninh Binh is perfect for a weekend retreat from Hanoi. Known as the inland Halong Bay, the city is surrounded by paddy fields, lush green mountains, and colorful lotus ponds. The whole province is an amazingly scenic place. There aren’t as many tourists as in some more popular areas, which makes it a great place to see an authentic side of Vietnam.
Located about 100 km from Hanoi, Ninh Binh province is fairly easy to get to by motorbike. You can also reach Ninh Binh by train or bus. Buses leave from Giap Bat Terminal and prices start at 70,000 dong.
However, if you are able I definitely recommend taking a motorbike. Ninh Binh is much more accessible and fun if you have your own transport, and it’s an amazing experience to motorbike through the mountains.
Where I Explored
Bich Dong Temple
A set of three limestone temples carved into a rock, Bich Dong Pagoda is truly lovely. There is no entrance fee for the temple. However, surrounding places charge 10,000-20,000 dong to park your motorbike.
Ngu Nhac Son Mountains, Ninh Binh 430000, Vietnam
I’m still not sure why this place is called Mua Caves. However, it’s a lovely climb up to the pagoda at the top of the mountain. There are about 500 steps to the top, but the view is worth it.
Address: Khe Ha, Ninh Xuan, Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh, Xuân Sơn, Việt Nam
Where I Ate and Drank
A hip little restaurant located in Tam Coc, Chookies is a fabulous place to stop after a day of biking and have a meal. There are options for vegans and vegetarians, and their green juices are stellar. Also, there is a good selection of beer and mixed drinks.
Where I Stayed
Sierra Homestay is an excellent choice and located very conveniently to all the nearby attractions. The family is lovely and extremely welcoming, and the price is good for the value. I also witnessed one of the most magical sunsets I have ever seen up on their roof.
Xuan Thanh Road, Xuan Ang Noi Village, Ninh Xuan Commune, Hoa Lu, Ninh Bình, Việt Nam
Exploring Ninh Binh by bike was one of the best weekends I have had so far. Part of the appeal was just being able to bike around with the wind in my hair and a good song in my ear. Looking out at the sprawling expanse of rice paddies was truly magical, and I can’t think of a better way to spend the weekend.
Photos taken by my GoPro Hero 4.