Ninh Binh is a wonderful destination for adventurers and an oasis for nature lovers. A peaceful rowboat ride in the countryside, passing rice fields, karst mountains, and cave formations, is a must-do activity.
Some of the best landscapes here are only accessible by boat. Read the article for more detailed information on boat rides in Ninh Binh.
The boat ride in Ninh Binh is one of the best things to do in Ninh Binh that you should not miss. In this article, you will learn details about why and where to do it, so read it carefully.
Why take a boat tour in Ninh Binh?
Ninh Binh offers us pristine landscapes of deserted limestone mountains along rivers and impressive caves that you can see from a rowboat. Calm, relaxed, pleasant, and beautiful are the words we normally use to describe the tourist sites of this province.
The most popular sites are Tam Coc and the Trang An complex, as it has the same settings as Halong Bay – that’s why it is well known as the “Halong Bay on land”. However, with its unique charms, Ninh Binh has won the hearts of travelers when they visit this region.
The best places to take a boat tour in Ninh Binh
1. Tam Coc
Tam Coc (which means ‘three caves’ in Vietnamese) is a system of three caves formed by erosion as the Ngo Dong River passes through the mountains. It has been a famous attraction in Ninh Binh for a long time and has attracted many tourists.
A ride on a local sampan boat is a wonderful way to contemplate these three natural caves, stunning limestone mountains, and authentic agricultural activities throughout the journey.
The Tam Coc boat ride follows the same route and lasts about 2 hours, going through 3 caves and passing by incredible landscapes. The trip costs 150,000 VND (€6.50) for a two-person boat and an entry ticket is 120,000 VND (€5.20) per person.
Tam Coc offers you views of rice fields and authentic agricultural activities along the riverbanks: rice planting, plowing with buffaloes, or rice harvesting. The landscape of this area is very unique and can change according to the season.
The best time to take the Tam Coc boat ride is during the summer from May to June, when the rice fields all turn golden yellow. You can also see people harvesting rice and transferring it onto the boat, which is a unique sight to witness.
From June to July, it’s the ideal time to admire the verdant fields along the Ngo Dong River.
2. Trang An
The magnificent Trang An complex was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014. Known as the “Halong Bay on land”, it has so much to offer with 3 different boat excursion routes.
Regardless of the route, your journey will dive into the heart of stunning landscapes, passing through caves and bringing you close to limestone cliffs, secluded temples, and pagodas.
You have the choice between 3 routes, each route lasts about 2.5 to 3 hours. In general, each of them will make you pass through many caves, where you will see many temples and palaces. The best and most anticipated might be route number 1 which takes you through nine caves and three temples.
During the boat trip of route 2, the ride will take you to see 4 caves, 3 temples, and most importantly the filming set of “Kong: Skull Island”.
Route number three has been recently opened and added to the complex. This boat route is limited to only three caves and Kong Village, however, you will have the chance to explore the longest and most beautiful cave in Trang An (1000m long with beautiful stalagmites).
While the Trang An boat tour doesn’t have views of the rice fields, it offers a beautiful ride on the river with a lovely view of the aquatic plants that grow and live in the water bed, it can also become more majestic with the view of the surrounding mountains. It also offers stops at some temples (Trinh Temple, Duc Ong Temple…) or trekking climbs for a panoramic view of the region.
This certainly makes your trip more interesting with natural and cultural exploration. You will learn more about the history of Vietnam when Ninh Binh was chosen as the capital in the 10th and 11th centuries.
On site, the ticket office is clearly indicated. Tickets cost 200,000 VND (€8.80) per person, regardless of the route, then the staff will direct you to a boat. The boats can accommodate a maximum of 4 people. If you are traveling alone or as a couple, you may have to wait for someone else to follow the same route to fill a 4-person sampan.
3. Van Long Nature Reserve
The Van Long Nature Reserve is 19 km from the city of Ninh Binh, along the road leading to Cuc Phuong National Park. With 3500 hectares, Van Long is known as the largest nature reserve of wetlands in northern Vietnam, which is popular with amateur ornithologists and is home to a wide variety of feathered friends, including some rare ones.
Among the bird species that have been spotted here are the rare black-faced spoonbill, the pygmy goose, and the white-browed crake.
If you’re very lucky, you might also spot Delacour’s langurs, a critically endangered primate species endemic to northern Vietnam. Van Long offers similar landscapes to the more famous Tam Coc, however, it tends to be less touristy and more peaceful. Moreover, its impressive nature is certainly a major draw for wildlife lovers traveling to this destination.
The boat ride in the Van Long wetland area is also lower than the above places as you have to pay the entrance fee which costs 20,000 VND (€0.90) per person as well as a boat ride of only 60,000 VND (€2.90) for 2 people.
Depart from Van Long’s dock for a one-and-a-half-hour sampan tour through picturesque landscapes. With your local rower, wind along the river and admire the spectacular limestone mountains towering above you.
4. Galaxy Grotto
Although it’s not as famous as Trang An or Tam Coc, the beauty and mystery of Galaxy Grotto attract a large number of travelers to visit. Galaxy Grotto is a small cave in Huong Son commune, Nho Quan district, Ninh Binh province.
To visit Galaxy Grotto, travelers will take a boat tour from the mountain village of Muong Tho Ha (Son Ha commune). Then, you continue walking on a 500-meter stone path at the foot of the Tuong Mountain to reach the entrance of Galaxy Grotto. The cave is divided into a 200-meter dry cave and a 500-meter water cave.
With the boat, visitors will continue to ride on a bamboo boat on the named river. The stalagmite sparkling in the sun and reflecting the silver water that looks like stars in the dark sky, giving you the feeling of drifting lightly in the galaxy. This also gives the river and the cave the name it carries today. Of magnificent and magical beauty, Galaxy Grotto is one of the most important boat rides in Ninh Binh not to be missed.