The province of Ninh Binh shares its name with the province’s capital city of the same name, and it is an area that is famous for its intimidating and dramatic landscapes and the steep-sided cliffs that are a distinctive part of the region. During the colonial period, the landscape made the area a challenging place to conquer, but for visitors today it makes it a spectacular and interesting place to visit. The area is also home to some wonderful Vietnamese architecture that helps to provide interest and historical context to a visit to the Ninh Binh area, which certainly should be on the itinerary of any visitor to Vietnam.
Tam Coc Karst Formations
The cliffs of the Tam Coc area are some of the most impressive in Vietnam, and the winding river valleys flanked by the steep cliffs are very dramatic and make for a great area of the country to explore. While it may not have the international recognition that the coastal destination of Ha Long Bay enjoys, the Karst formations at Tam Coc are truly spectacular. The area can either be explored by bicycle, where the roads are present, or by boat, with local rowers available for hire to take you to some of the most attractive areas along the river.
Bich Dong Pagoda
A short distance north of Tam Coc, the cave temples of Bich Dong are famous for the ornate entrances to the cave, and the beautiful formations inside the caves themselves. The stalactites hanging from the roof of the cave help to provide plenty of atmosphere, while there are three separate caves that can be explored in the pagoda complex. Legend has it that these pagodas originated in the early fifteenth century, when two monks visited the area and fell in love with the scenery, writing about the area in poetry which brought the area to the attention of the royal family.
Trang An Scenic Landscape
Located on the southern banks of the Red River Delta, the Trang An Grottoes are a series of caves that include some of the oldest areas occupied by humans in the country, with some caves showing signs of activity as far back as thirty thousand years ago. Many of these caves are submerged and can be explored by boat in an organized tour, while others can be visited on foot. The site also includes the ancient capital of the country, Hoa Lu, which was a key part of ruling Vietnam’s during the tenth and the eleventh centuries.
Phat Diem Cathedral
Many churches in former colonial cities tend to have architecture that only reflects the style brought to the country by the colonial powers, but this stone cathedral is one example where the local influence can also bee seen in the design. Dating from the late nineteenth century, the pagoda style roofs can be seen in many parts of the building, while the cross shape and the ornate carving around the arches reflect the European tendencies, making this a fascinating place to visit.
Cuc Phuong National Park
This lovely area of rainforest is one of the most pristine and untouched parts of Vietnam, and it is famous for the wide range of different animals that can be spotted by those exploring the park. Night tours are particularly interesting, as they reveal many of the nocturnal animals that cannot be spotted during the day, and there is also a turtle center that explores the history and habitat of these wonderful animals. There is also a primate rescue center that is located near the entrance to the national park, and here visitors can see some of the 150 different species of primate that live in the park, that are either too injured to be reintroduced into the park, or those in the process of rehabilitation.