Ninh Binh, also referred to as the dry Halong Bay, is a beautiful province surrounded by limestone karst mountains. Ninh Binh is also a city, but we don’t advise to stay here. Instead, take a taxi to Tam Coc (about 15 min) and book your accommodation close to the Tam Coc river. Tam Coc is a little village with several restaurants. From here you can easily arrange activities or explore the surroundings by bike.
An activity not to be missed is the boat ride along the Tam Coc or Trang An river. A local woman will paddle you through the river while you enjoy the beautiful surroundings. When you rent a (motor)bike, you can easily explore Ninh Binh and visit one of the several temples. Bái Đính Temple complex and Thai Vi Temple are our favorites.
Some people choose between visiting Cat Ba/Halong Bay or Ninh Binh, but we recommend to visit both if you have the time. Both places are known for the karst mountains, but they offer very different experiences. In CatBa, you will pass fishing villages and see these mountains from the ocean. In Ninh Binh, your boat will slowly glide through the river while you enjoy the countryside.
Wondering whether to do a boat tour on the Tam Coc river or Trang An river? Consider that Tam Coc river is probably better when the rice fields are green/gold and Trang An is more adventurous as you will pass through more cliffs. In the end, both boat trips are amazing experiences, so it’s really up to you if you do both or choose just one.
Our favourite places to stay in Tam Coc (Ninh Binh)
Want to stay in a real Vietnamese Guesthouse? Tam Coc Family Hotel is a perfect example why you don't have to spend more than $17 for a great guesthouse.
The super friendly owners will tell you the best spots to visit and will make sure you have a good start of your day with a delicious breakfast. It's a 1-minute walk from the Tam Coc river and drop-off point of the bus.
Do you prefer to stay close to the river? Tam Coc Bungalow has spacious bamboo bungalows right next to the Tam Coc river. Bungalows start from $32 and dorm rooms from $6.
What we really liked about this place is their common area. From the terrace you can watch the locals paddling back to Tam Coc town during sunset and in the evening you can play a game of pool at the open restaurant area.