Ninh Binh or Halong Bay? Which of The Two is Worth Visiting?

Why should you visit Ninh Binh and Ha Long Bay?

Choosing between Halong Bay and Ninh Binh can be tricky because both places have special attractions. Halong Bay is famous for its stunning limestone formations that rise from the sea, making it a natural wonder. Many people visit it yearly because of its beauty and UNESCO also recognizes it. On the other hand, Ninh Binh, often called “Halong Bay on land,” has similar limestone cliffs, but rice fields and rivers surround them. It’s a quieter and more peaceful option compared to Halong Bay. In this comparison, we’ll look at the landscapes, things to see, activities, and overall experiences in each place to help you decide which suits your interests best. Whether you prefer exploring the water, learning about culture, or enjoying beautiful views, Halong Bay and Ninh Binh offer unforgettable adventures highlighting Vietnam’s natural beauty and history. 

Overview of Halong Bay and Ninh Binh

Halong Bay 

Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay

Halong Bay, found in the northeast of Vietnam and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is famous for its stunning natural scenery and unique rock formations. It covers an area of 1,553 square kilometers and comprises 1,960 limestone islands of different sizes and shapes. These islands rise dramatically from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, creating a mesmerizing sight. Over millions of years, erosion has sculpted these limestone formations into captivating caves, arches, and pillars.

Visitors to Halong Bay can enjoy various activities like boat cruises, kayaking, and swimming to explore its beautiful landscape. Boat cruises take you through the maze-like passages between the limestone islands, allowing you to admire the breathtaking views and discover hidden caves decorated with stalactites and stalagmites.

Besides its natural beauty, Halong Bay is also home to floating fishing villages where locals live and work. Visiting these villages gives you a glimpse into traditional Vietnamese life and a chance to interact with fishermen and their families.

With its peaceful atmosphere, diverse wildlife, and rich culture, Halong Bay is a popular destination for travelers worldwide who want to experience nature’s beauty at its finest.

Ninh Binh 

Ninh Binh
What to see in Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh, often called “Halong Bay on land,” is a fascinating province in northern Vietnam known for its beautiful natural scenery, cultural heritage, and historical importance. The area is famous for its limestone cliffs, green rice fields, winding rivers, and old temples, making it a great place for people who love nature and history.

Popular places to visit in Ninh Binh include Tam Coc, where you can take boat rides through caves surrounded by rice fields, and Trang An Landscape Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can explore caves and rivers on scenic boat tours. Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, is also worth visiting to learn about Vietnam’s past through its ancient temples and palaces. Ninh Binh’s food is delicious, too, with specialties like crispy rice cakes, mountain snails, and braised fish with Gao fruit highlighting the region’s diverse cuisine.

Whether exploring ancient sites, cruising on peaceful rivers, or trying tasty local dishes, a trip to Ninh Binh offers a memorable experience to discover Vietnam’s natural beauty and cultural traditions.

Visiting Ninh Binh or Ha Long Bay: Why Should You Go?

Why should you visit Ninh Binh and Ha Long Bay?
Why should you visit Ninh Binh and Ha Long Bay?

Visiting Ninh Binh and Ha Long Bay offers travelers unforgettable experiences and breathtaking landscapes, making them must-visit destinations in Vietnam.

Natural Beauty

Ninh Binh and Ha Long Bay are not just destinations; they are experiences that immerse visitors in the raw beauty of Vietnam’s natural wonders. In Ninh Binh, the limestone karsts create a dramatic backdrop against lush rice paddies, painting a picture-perfect scene that feels straight out of a postcard. As you navigate the winding rivers that snake through this picturesque landscape, you can’t help but be enchanted by the tranquility surrounding you.

Meanwhile, Ha Long Bay’s emerald waters hold secrets waiting to be discovered among its towering limestone islands. Each island tells a story, with caves waiting to be explored and hidden beaches beckoning adventurous souls. Seeing these majestic formations rising from the sea is truly mesmerizing, and it’s easy to see why Ha Long Bay is often considered one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Whether you’re cruising along the serene waters of Ninh Binh or exploring the mystical landscapes of Ha Long Bay, both destinations offer an escape into nature’s grandeur that will leave you spellbound.

Cultural Heritage

Both Ha Long Bay and Ninh Binh are rich in cultural heritage, giving visitors a peek into Vietnam’s history and traditions.

In Ha Long Bay, tourists can visit floating fishing villages where locals live and work, allowing them to see how people have lived for many years. Also, there are caves in the bay with old rock formations that tell stories about the region’s past.

Similarly, Ninh Binh is famous for its old temples, historic spots, and traditional villages that show what life was like in Vietnam in the past. Visitors can visit the ancient capital of Hoa Lu, which used to be the main place for politics and culture during certain dynasties in Vietnam’s history. Besides, pagodas and shrines are scattered across Ninh Binh’s limestone hills, giving visitors a sense of spirituality.

Outdoor Activities

Ninh Binh and Ha Long Bay are playgrounds for adventurous souls, offering various outdoor activities to suit every taste. Whether you’re seeking thrills or tranquility, these destinations have something for everyone. Enjoy boat cruises to uncover hidden caves, kayaking adventures through serene waters, or hiking adventures through lush landscapes. Those who prefer a slower pace can enjoy the panoramic surroundings by cycling through picturesque surroundings. The natural splendor of Ninh Binh and Ha Long Bay promises unforgettable outdoor experiences no matter how you explore.

Culinary Delights

Ninh Binh and Halong are known for their breathtaking landscapes and cultural heritage and their delectable culinary offerings. Whether exploring the tranquil countryside of Ninh Binh or cruising through the emerald waters of Halong Bay, you will surely encounter a rich tapestry of flavors that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving more.

In Ninh Binh, you can indulge in local specialties, such as crispy rice cakes (com chay), mountain snails (ốc núi), and braised fish with Gao fruit. These dishes showcase the region’s culinary diversity and are often made using fresh, locally sourced ingredients that reflect the area’s agricultural abundance. Each bite is a burst of flavor that offers a glimpse into Ninh Binh’s rich culinary heritage.

Meanwhile, Halong Bay offers culinary delights, with fresh seafood taking center stage. From succulent grilled squid to flavorful fish hotpot, you’ll find an abundance of seafood dishes that highlight the region’s maritime bounty. Pair your meal with a glass of refreshing rice wine or local beer for the perfect dining experience amidst the stunning backdrop of the bay.

Whether you’re savoring the flavors of Ninh Binh’s countryside or indulging in the seafood delights of Halong Bay, the culinary experiences in these destinations are sure to leave you satisfied and craving for more. So be sure to explore the local markets, street food stalls, and waterfront restaurants to discover the diverse and delicious tastes of Ninh Binh and Halong.

Ninh Binh or Ha Long Bay: Which One Should You Choose?

Deciding between Ninh Binh and Ha Long Bay depends on your preferences and what you hope to experience during your trip. Here are some factors to consider:

Natural Beauty

Ha Long Bay is famous for its stunning seascape of limestone karsts rising from the emerald waters, while Ninh Binh offers a similar landscape but on land, with limestone formations amidst rice paddies and rivers.


Ha Long Bay offers boat cruises, kayaking, swimming amidst the karsts, and visits to floating fishing villages. Ninh Binh provides boat rides through caves, biking through the countryside, and exploring ancient temples and historic sites.


Ha Long Bay can be more crowded, especially during peak tourist seasons, while Ninh Binh might offer a quieter experience.


Ha Long Bay is closer to Hanoi and can be reached more quickly, while Ninh Binh is also accessible but may require slightly longer travel times.

When deciding between the two destinations, consider your interests, the type of experience you’re seeking, and your travel logistics. Ultimately, both Ninh Binh and Ha Long Bay offer unique and memorable experiences, so either choice will surely provide a rewarding adventure.

Tourist destinations in Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh, often referred to as the "Halong Bay on land," is a captivating province in northern Vietnam
Ninh Binh, often referred to as the “Halong Bay on land,” is a captivating province in northern Vietnam

Ninh Binh, often called the “Halong Bay on land,” is home to numerous famous destinations highlighting its natural beauty, cultural heritage, and historical significance. Here are some of its notable attractions:

  • Tam Coc: Known as the “Halong Bay on land,” Tam Coc offers breathtaking scenery with limestone karsts rising from emerald-green rice paddies. Visitors can take boat rides along the Ngo Dong River, passing through picturesque caves and enjoying the serene countryside.
  • Trang An Landscape Complex: Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Trang An features a network of karst mountains, caves, and waterways. Visitors can take boat tours through the complex, exploring ancient caves, temples, and scenic landscapes.
  • Hoa Lu Ancient Capital: Explore the historic remnants of Vietnam’s former capital, dating back to the 10th and 11th centuries. Hoa Lu features ancient temples, pagodas, and fortifications, providing insights into the region’s feudal history and cultural heritage.
  • Bai Dinh Pagoda: Visit Bai Dinh, one of Vietnam’s largest Buddhist temple complexes. This sprawling complex features grand architecture, intricate carvings, and serene surroundings, including the largest bronze Buddha statue in the country.
  • Mua Cave: Climb to the top of Mua Cave for panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The ascent includes a staircase with over 500 steps, leading to a dragon statue and breathtaking vistas of rice fields, rivers, and limestone formations.
  • Cuc Phuong National Park: Vietnam’s first national park, Cuc Phuong, is home to diverse flora and fauna, ancient trees, and scenic hiking trails. Visitors can explore the park’s botanical garden, visit the Endangered Primate Rescue Center, and trek through dense forests.
  • Van Long Nature Reserve: Enjoy birdwatching and scenic boat rides in Van Long, a tranquil wetland sanctuary. The reserve is home to a variety of bird species, including the endangered Delacour’s langur, stunning limestone formations, and abundant wildlife.

These famous destinations showcase the natural beauty, cultural heritage, and outdoor adventures that make Ninh Binh a must-visit destination in Vietnam.

Tourist destinations in Halong Bay

Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Vietnam's most iconic destinations
Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Vietnam’s most iconic destinations

Halong Bay is renowned for its stunning natural beauty and iconic landmarks. Here are some of its famous destinations:

  • Ti Top Island: Known for its pristine sandy beach and panoramic views of Halong Bay from the summit. Visitors can climb to the top for breathtaking vistas or relax on the beach.
  • Surprise Cave (Hang Sung Sot): One of the largest and most impressive caves in Halong Bay, renowned for its intricate stalactites and stalagmites formations. Guided tours take visitors through the cave’s chambers, revealing stunning geological wonders.
  • Luon Cave: Accessible only by small boats or kayaks, Luon Cave offers a tranquil escape into a hidden lagoon surrounded by towering limestone cliffs and lush vegetation.
  • Floating Fishing Villages: Experience traditional Vietnamese life by visiting one of the floating fishing villages scattered throughout Halong Bay. Explore the floating houses, interact with local fishermen, and learn about their daily routines.
  • Cat Ba Island: While technically part of a different bay (Lan Ha Bay), Cat Ba Island is often included in tours of Halong Bay. It offers beautiful beaches, hiking trails, and the opportunity to explore Cat Ba National Park’s diverse flora and fauna.
  • Bai Tu Long Bay: Adjacent to Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay is less visited and offers a quieter, more pristine alternative. Visitors can enjoy similar limestone karst landscapes and scenic cruises with fewer crowds.

These destinations showcase the diverse beauty and attractions that make Halong Bay a world-renowned destination for travelers seeking adventure, natural wonders, and cultural experiences.

Read more: Best Things To Do And See In Ninh Binh


For Ninh Binh

1. What is the best time to visit Ninh Binh?

The best time to visit Ninh Binh is during the dry season, from November to April, when the weather is mild and pleasant. Avoid the rainy season from May to October, which can result in flooding and muddy conditions.

2. How far is Ninh Binh from Hanoi?

Ninh Binh is located approximately 100 kilometers south of Hanoi, and the journey by road takes about 2 to 3 hours, depending on traffic and mode of transportation.

3. What are the must-see attractions in Ninh Binh?

Must-see attractions in Ninh Binh include Tam Coc, Trang An Landscape Complex, Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, Bai Dinh Pagoda, Mua Cave, and Cuc Phuong National Park.

4. What outdoor activities are available in Ninh Binh?

Outdoor activities in Ninh Binh include boat rides through caves and rivers, hiking to scenic viewpoints, cycling through the countryside, and exploring national parks and nature reserves.

For Halong Bay:

5. When is the best time to visit Halong Bay?

The best time to visit Halong Bay is during the dry season, from October to April, when the weather is sunny, and the waters are calm. Avoid the rainy season from May to September, which can experience frequent storms and rough seas.

6. How far is Halong Bay from Hanoi?

Halong Bay is located approximately 170 kilometers east of Hanoi. The journey by road takes about 3 to 4 hours, depending on traffic and mode of transportation.

7. What are the must-see attractions in Halong Bay?

Must-see attractions in Halong Bay include Ti Top Island, Surprise Cave (Hang Sung Sot), Luon Cave, floating fishing villages, Cat Ba Island, and Bai Tu Long Bay.

8. What activities can I do in Halong Bay?

Activities in Halong Bay include boat cruises, kayaking, swimming, hiking, visiting caves and islands, and experiencing local culture in floating fishing villages.

In Conclusion

The decision between Ninh Binh or Halong Bay depends on your interests, preferences, and travel priorities. Whether you’re seeking cultural exploration, outdoor activities, or simply relaxation amidst stunning landscapes, both destinations offer something special for every traveler to discover and enjoy in Vietnam’s northern region. If time allows, consider combining visits to both destinations to fully immerse yourself in the beauty and diversity of northern Vietnam with Vietnam Tour 247

Read more: Travel Agency Vietnam: Best Travel Agency for Vietnam Tours

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