Ninh Binh Highlights

Highlights of Ninh Binh, Vietnam
Highlights of Ninh Binh, Vietnam

By Vicky · Published Sep. 12th, 2022

This great self-guided cycling or scooter tour of Ninh Binh visits all the highlights, including Hang Mua Viewpoint, Tam Coc Caves and more.

Map of Ninh Binh Highlights Cycling Tour Route

Get the route by downloading the .gpx or .kml file below. For navigation with on your mobile phone, simply download the .kml file and open to add it to the bookmarks.

This is a self-guided cycling tour which can also be done on a scooter or motorbike. It’s paved most of the way apart from a small section on a good dirt road, which can easily be avoided if needed. If you prefer to go on a guided bike tour of the area, there are several guided tours which include cycling*. The following day we cycled around the Countryside of Ninh Binh, which included visiting Van Long Nature Reserve and the huge Bai Dinh Pagoda complex. See our Overall Guide to Ninh Binh for more information.

Highlights of Ninh Binh Visited on this Cycle Route

  1. Hoa Lư Ancient Capital
  2. Trang An Grottoes
  3. Tam Coc Boat Ride
  1. Bich Dong Pagoda
  2. Hang Mua Viewpoint
  3. Hidden Countryside

Ninh Binh Highlights Cycling Route (34 km)

From your hotel first head to Hoa Lư Ancient Capital. We stayed at Trang An Lamia Bungalow*, a lovely place in the countryside that rented bikes and was very conveniently located.

1. Hoa Lư Ancient Capital

Hoa Lư Ancient Capital, a highlight of Ninh Binh
Hoa Lư Ancient Capital on a cycle tour of the region

Key Information: The entrance fee is about $1. You also might have to pay a small fee for parking. You can spend an hour or two here.

Hoa Lư is the name of the Ancient Capital of Vietnam. Most of the buildings have long since disappeared but there are still two remaining temples. They’re atmospherically located at the base of a mountain range and very peaceful.

View from the hill at Hoa Lư Ancient Capital, one of the highlights of Ninh Binh.
View from the hill at Hoa Lư Ancient Capital

One of the top highlights at Hoa Lư Ancient Capital is to hike up the hill opposite one of the temples. This hill is on the left as you walk over the big stone bridge across the river, and the path up it is around the back. It takes about 15 minutes to climb to up. Once you reach the tomb/shrine area at the top, head along the little path at the far end of the tomb and you’ll come out at a great viewpoint.

Cycling directions: Back at your bikes, head back along the water. Follow the road past the next bridge and as it bends around the corner. You’ll have some nice views are the roads aren’t too busy. Soon you’ll see Trang An Grottoes, with a large car park by the road.

2. Trang An Grottoes

Key Information: Boat rides 7:30am-4pm. Per person ~$10 with four people per boat, or a private boat for $40 per boat. Rides last 2-3 hours depending on what option your choose.

Cycling through Ninh Binh towards Trang An Grottoes, one of the highlights of Ninh Binh
Cycling through Ninh Binh towards Trang An
The entrance to Trang An Grottoes, a highlight of Ninh Binh
The entrance to Trang An Grottoes

These caves are very popular with local tourists and hence can be super busy on the weekends. If you book a guided tour of Ninh Binh that visits the caves*, your spot on the Trang An Grottoes boat trip will be reserved and you avoid any queues. There is a minimum of 3 people for a boat, so if you’re a couple you’ll have to wait for other people who want to team up. This boat trip is more commercialized and crowded than the other boat rides in the area. Some of the caves have been artificially enlarged so more boats can fit through. We didn’t do this boat trip but opted for the Tam Coc Boat Ride instead, later on this cycle tour.

Shortening the Highlights of Ninh Binh Cycling Tour

Tam Coc is the better boat ride so miss out Trang An Grottoes if you don’t have time. If you want to shorter the ride further, miss Bich Dong Pagoda, since although it’s nice, it’s not a super unique place.

Cycling directions: Continuing along the road, when it bends left at a lake take the first right to cycle along the edge of the water. You’ll cycle through a small village and soon see signs to Hang Mua Viewpoint on the right where this tour returns later. Continue onward for now through some fields by the river. Turn right when you almost hit the river and then right again along the main road. Soon you’ll come to Tam Coc and the boat ride.

3. Tam Coc Boat Ride

Rice paddies seen from the Tam Coc Boat Ride, a highlight of Ninh Binh on a self-guided cycle tour
Tam Coc Boat Ride in Vietnam

Key Information: Open 7am-6pm. Boats are $6.50 plus an entry fee of $5/2.50 per adult/child. Max 2 per boat. The boat rides last about 1.5-2 hours. Wear a sunhat as there isn’t any shade on the boat ride!

Tam Coc means three caves and is the general name of the area. There’s a large parking lot by the start of the boat rides where you buy tickets. Nearby are several cheap and decent restaurants for a drink and food to relax in before or after the boat trip.

Once on the boat, you’ll see that the rowers use their feet rather than arms to propel the boat along which looks super difficult. You head along the water and through several low caves. Each time, you come out in a new beautiful valley with rice paddies and mountains. At the far point you can get out and stretch your legs before returning the same way. It can be very busy here, but early mornings and later afternoons are much quieter.

Cycling directions: Head onwards along the main road through town and follow the road as it bends right just after the river. You’ll soon be back in nice countryside as the road now bends left and to the next top.

4. Bich Dong Pagoda

Bich Dong Pagoda, a highlight of Ninh Binh

Key Information: Open 6am-7pm. Free entry with a small fee for parking.

There’s a lovely entrance to Bich Dong Pagoda over a bridge with a beautiful backdrop. Inside are a few temples and caves. Inside most of the caves are religious statues and with incense burning next to them. It’s a peaceful mountainous area and from the top you can get good views over the surrounding countryside. To reach the highest point you have to go around the temples and through some caves.

Cycling directions: Head back the way you came, past the Tam Coc boat ride, left to the river and along, and left again at the signs towards Hang Mua.

5. Hang Mua Viewpoint

Key Information: Open 6am-7pm. Entrance fee ~$5 per person.

Hang Mua means Mua Cave, but the cave itself isn’t interesting, it’s the viewpoint at the top of Hang Mua Peak that people come to see. In front of the cave and steps up to the viewpoint is a low-key amusement park full of artificial statues and stalls selling junky food. You have to pay to enter this area to reach the way to the viewpoint, which is right at the back.

Looking down on Tam Coc from Hang Mua Peak, a highlight of Ninh Binh
Looking down on Tam Coc
Hang Mua Peak Viewpoint in Ninh Binh, Vietnam while on a self-guided cycling tour.
Hang Mua Peak

Once you reach the stone steps, there are almost 500 on the way to the top, but it’s definitely worth it. Make sure you bring water and wear a sunhat and decent shoes. It can be slippy when wet. There are two main viewpoints at the top. One is over Tam Coc, with the rice paddies and mountains that you see on the boat ride. The other is from the rocky shrine and highest point, with views over the surrounding countryside. Sunset is a popular time to visit, but the sunset also looks super nice from the lakes near Hoa Lư Ancient Capital.

Cycling directions: Cycle back out and left at the main road. Once you pass the lake, head straight on along the smaller road instead of left on the road from earlier. In about 400 metres turn right.

6. Hidden Countryside

The countryside, a highlight of Ninh Binh
The countryside, a highlight of Ninh Binh
Cycling through the hidden valley in Vietnam
Cycling through the hidden valley

Once on this dirt track, it leads you through some hidden countryside in Ninh Binh little visited by tourists. Although the route is dirt, it’s a good surface and fine for both city bicycles and scooters. Head through a beautiful, uncrowded valley with ponds and limestone peaks. The route turns left as you cycle among small lakes between the limestone peaks surrounding the little valley.

This route will lead you all the way back to the junction not too far from Hoa Lư Ancient Capital and the start of this cycle ride. If it’s near sunset, head slightly further on towards Hoa Lư to watch the sun set over the waters. If not, continue back to your hotel.

Sunset over the water near Hoa Lư
Sunset over the water near Hoa Lư

This completes the Highlights of Ninh Binh Cycling and Scooter Tour. For another fun day of self-guided exploration, read our Ninh Binh Countryside Tour, or our Overall Guide to Ninh Binh. If you enjoy cycling, explore our cycle rides in Bali or around Angkor Wat.

Novels to read while in Vietnam

Guidebooks to explore more of Vietnam

Useful things for a holiday in Vietnam

  • Travel Insurance: we use SafetyWing*, it’s simple to buy online and they have a downloadable letter proving you have travel insurance which includes Covid-related issues
  • Travel Debit Card: we have Wise Cards* which allow you to cheaply convert most currencies into Vietnamese Dong. You can then pay by card within the country for no extra fees, or withdraw cash from an ATM.
  • We booked train travel in Vietnam through 12GoAsia*. They charge a few extra dollars in commission, but to book directly on the official website you must have a Vietnamese credit card.

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