Ninh Binh is a province located at the southernmost point of Northern Vietnam. It was the capital of the country in the tenth century associated with the career of six kings and three dynasties Dinh, Le, and Ly. Due to its strategic position, this land has witnessed historical events of the nation that are remembered in the planks of the old houses, the decorations of the pagodas, and the shrines to mountains and rivers. Not only that, this is also a charming land with many famous hiking sites. The names listed below are testaments to the fame of this province.
Cuc Phuong National Park
I don’t know about you, but for me, when mentioning the best hiking paths in all of Ninh Binh, if Cuc Phuong National Park is not on your mind, then where else? Cuc Phuong National Park is renowned as a national park that has lots of preserved wildlife and protected land. Hundreds of thousands of travelers flock to it every year. Visitors love exploring the rich fauna and flora, the beautiful natural landscape, as well as participating in the ecotourism programs.
If you think that Cuc Phuong National Park has nothing but forests, you are so wrong! In recent years, Cuc Phuong is well-known for something unique – butterflies. From April to the end of May, when the weather becomes nice after heavy rains, the park is full of thousands of colorful butterflies dipping and diving in the sun rays! There are 400 different butterfly species, which means that there are millions of butterflies living here. Butterflies are most common on sunny days, making it a colorful forest. The farther you get into the forest, the larger butterflies appear. I have to say that the butterflies are wise enough to choose their homes. They densely surround the thousand-year-old white meranti. When you see a butterfly settling on a tree branch, you will know the true meaning of “poetic”.
Cuc Phuong National Park has a unique culture since it is home to the Muong ethnic group. Three areas for accommodation, eating, and drinking are nearby the park gate, Mac lake, and the center of the park. Each unit has a separate serviced apartment or stilt house with affordable prices and full amenities. You can also rent camping tents and spend the night in the forest to enjoy nature. But remember to bring a flashlight and long-sleeved shirts to avoid insects.
Opening hours: 24/7
Price range: 10,000 VND (0.4 USD) for children, 20,000 VND (0.8 USD), for students and 60,000 VND (2.7 USD) for adults
Mua Cave in Hang Mua – Bich Dong ecotourism destination
Just spend an hour in Ninh Binh and you will have to admit that this land will never make you bored. Right after the butterfly season is the beginning of the rice crop season in Ninh Binh. For those of you who love Hollywood movies, you may know that Tam Coc – Bich Dong is one of the three scenic spots that appeared in the blockbuster Kong: Skull Island. People also call it the “Halong Bay on land”, and you will realize that it deserves this name.
Rowing in Tam Coc lake is hands down romantic, but your trip will certainly be much more stimulating if you spend time climbing the 500 steps to the top of Mua Cave, which is considered the Great Wall of Vietnam. Even to this day, people are not sure where this name came from, but according to history books, this was the place where King Tran frequently came to see the dancers dancing and singing. If you stand at the foot of the mountain and look up, you will feel lost in the ancient world.
The scenery here is absolutely calming and peaceful. You will feel lucky, like winning lottery tickets, if you come here during the crop season. The yellow fields appear under the sunlight and nestled in between the rugged mountains. Meanwhile, the river flows through the karst monoliths, hidden behind the ancient blue trees. Observe life from the top of the mountain and you will realize that paradise is real! The view from here is absolutely astonishing. On the left is Mua Mountain, surrounded by green lakes and bushes. On your right hand is Ngo Dong River, which bends around the limestone mountains and embraces the endless stretches of rice fields. Calmly floating are the boats moving on the surface of the river. Time seems to stop here and stand back for mother nature.
Pro tip: The rice season will last until the end of June. Remember to come at the right time to have a wonderful experience.
Opening hours: 7 AM – 6 PM
Price range: 50,000 VND (2,2 USD) for children and students, 100,000 VND (4.4 USD) for adults
An Tiem Cave
Ninh Binh has a variety of acclaimed scenic spots such as Hoa Lu ancient capital, Trang An, Bai Dinh Pagoda, etc. However, in the Vietnamese backpackers’ community, there is a place that stands out called An Tiem cave.
Travelers are seduced by the immaculate scenery here. The route to the cave is quite dangerous. In order to get into the cave, you have to climb up 205 steps. Because its shape looks like a dragon, the cave is also known as Dragon Cave. On the west side of the cave, there is a large lake called Giai lake. Giai is the name of a fictional sea monster. I was told that in the past, King Dinh would throw offenders down into the lake for Giai to kill them. As time goes by, the water here has become clean and green. You can even see the algae at the bottom of the lake, creating a mysterious and dreamy landscape full of myth.
The best place to feel the beauty of Am Tien cave is from Am Tiem Pagoda. Stand at Am Tien Pagoda and you will see the vast expanse of this magnificent landscape with its high mountains and green water stretching out as far as the eye can see. In particular, you will feel the holy spirit of a historic time. Put your tiresome life to rest, this place is where you can find your moments of peace.
Opening hours: 7 AM – 5 PM
Price range: 20,000 VND (0.8 USD)
Thung Nham Bird Park
Deep in the mountains and far away from the residential area, Thung Nham Bird Park is the home of a wide range of birds. Thung Nham Bird Park actually has many attractions for travels, such as Vai Gioi Cave, Tien Ca Cave, Thuy Cung Cave, Ba Co Cave, a thousand-year-old tree, and a love valley.
If you’re a hiker, the name to add to your bucket list should be Vai Gioi Cave. Hike to the wonderful cave and you will feel like you’re on a grand adventure to discover hidden treasure. After passing over the 400 stone steps, the scenery will take your breath away. It is well-crafted by mother nature with vast rice fields and enormous mountains.
Opening hours: 24/7
Price range: 100,000 VND (4.4 USD) for entrance fee
Dich Long Cave
A legend says that this cave stayed hidden in the wild and dense forest until a woodcutter discovered it in 1739. Dich Long was granted as the third most beautiful cave in Vietnam by King Minh Mang, after Huong Tich Cave and Bich Cave.
The cave consists of 105 extremely magnificent stone steps. It is divided into three areas. The first one is to worship the Buddha, the second one is Toi Cave, and the third one is Sang Cave. Inside the cave, there is a passage that creates magical arcs. There is a number of natural stalactites in the shape of sacred animals such as dragons or unicorns. Stand above the cave and you can see the whole panoramic site of Dich Luong and the surrounding residential areas.
Most importantly, the stalactites here amazingly change into different colors such as red and yellow in a day! Inside the absolutely silent Toi Cave, flick a lighter and you will feel the serenity and relief as if leaving the mundane world.
Location: Gia Thanh commune, Gia Vien district. There is no exact direction on Google Maps, so you should ask the local people.
Opening hours: 7 AM – 7 PM
Price range: free
I hope that this article can help you have a great hiking experience in Ninh Binh.