5 Tips for Tam Coc in Ninh Binh: The Countryside of Vietnam at Its Best

Ninh Binh is a beautiful rural province that should definitely be on your itinerary when traveling through Vietnam. In Ninh Binh, you’ll see gigantic limestone rock formations that can reach up to 200 meters (656 feet) in height. Amidst these rocks, you’ll find lush rice fields, rivers, lakes, and caves. That’s why Ninh Binh is often referred to as the “Halong Bay of the interior.” It’s a place where you can truly unwind and experience the authentic countryside life of Vietnam. Hop on a bicycle or scooter and explore the narrow roads that wind through the rice fields. The nature in Ninh Binh is spectacular, and life here is wonderfully simple. We’ve listed a couple of tips below: Welcome to the real Vietnam!

Tam Coc is the Gateway to Ninh Binh Province

It’s important to note that Ninh Binh is both a large city and a province. In this article, I’m referring to Ninh Binh Province. The city of Ninh Binh itself may not necessarily be a charming place to visit. Within Ninh Binh Province, you’ll find the small rural village of Tam Coc, which is the ideal base for exploring the countryside of Ninh Binh. In Tam Coc, you’ll discover many good restaurants, lovely accommodations, and interesting attractions. Towards the end of this article, you’ll find information about the most beautiful hotels in Tam Coc.

How to Travel to Tam Coc, Ninh Binh

Tam Coc is located in Ninh Binh Province in northern Vietnam. Most people travel to Tam Coc, Ninh Binh from destinations like Hanoi, Halong Bay, Phong Nha, or Hoi An. Below, you’ll find information on how to travel to Tam Coc from these destinations. Note: Make sure to search for bus tickets to “Tam Coc” as your destination and not the city of Ninh Binh. If you’re traveling from a different destination, you can check all the different routes.

From Hanoi to Tam Coc, Ninh Binh

By Bus: A quick way to travel from Hanoi to Tam Coc in Ninh Binh is by taking a bus. There are daily minivans that can get you to Tam Coc in about 2 hours. The minivans are comfortable and air-conditioned. Check out the departure times and reserve your bus ticket in advance.

By Train: Another option is to take a train from Hanoi to Ninh Binh. The train takes a bit longer than the bus, about 2.5 hours, but you can enjoy beautiful landscapes along the way. Check out all the train departure times and reserve your seat. From the train station, it’s about a 15-minute drive to Tam Coc.

From Halong Bay (Cat Ba) to Tam Coc, Ninh Binh

By Bus: There are daily buses from Halong Bay to Tam Coc in Ninh Binh. If you’re staying in Cat Ba, make sure to specify Cat Ba as your departure point, not Halong Bay. Check the departure times and reserve your bus ticket in advance.

From Phong Nha to Tam Coc, Ninh Binh

By Bus: There are direct buses from Phong Nha to Tam Coc in Ninh Binh. This journey takes approximately 9 hours in total. Most buses operate overnight, and they are sleeper buses. Check out all the different sleeper buses and reserve your bus ticket in advance.

From Hoi An to Tam Coc, Ninh Binh

By Bus: The bus journey from Hoi An to Tam Coc in Ninh Binh is quite long, approximately 15 to 16 hours. It’s essential to travel with a reputable bus company, so make sure to reserve your bus tickets in advance, as good buses tend to get fully booked closer to the travel date. Compare all the bus companies and book your bus ticket.

What to Do in Ninh Binh?

Ninh Binh may not have a plethora of attractions, but there are certainly some things you shouldn’t miss. Below, you’ll find all my tips for Tam Coc and Ninh Binh.

Explore the Ninh Binh countryside by bike or scooter

The Ninh Binh countryside is delightful to explore by bike or scooter. Most hostels and hotels offer bikes that you can use for free or at a small cost. If you prefer to rent a scooter, you can often arrange this through your accommodation. Tour through the green rice fields, visit some caves, and admire beautiful temples. Later in this article, you’ll read about these attractions.

Please note: In Ninh Binh, there are few to no taxis available. Cycling or scootering is the only way to explore the Ninh Binh countryside.

Take a boat trip on the Tam Coc River or Trang An

One of the most enjoyable things to do in Ninh Binh is taking a boat trip on the Tam Coc River or at Trang An. Step into a traditional rowboat and peacefully enjoy the spectacular surroundings. The rowboats are operated by locals of all ages who not only row with their hands but also with their feet. You can take a boat trip on either the Tam Coc River or through the Trang An landscape. Both locations are beautiful. I’ll outline the differences between these places so you can decide which one to visit. If you can’t decide, you can always visit both places. Take the boat trip early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds.

Tam Coc Boat Trip

  • This boat trip starts in the center of Tam Coc.
  • You’ll sail past beautiful rice fields and towering rocks. The photos below were taken at Tam Coc. It’s especially stunning when you visit just before the rice harvest when the fields are lush green.
  • During the boat trip, you’ll visit a viewpoint, and then you’ll return along the same route.
  • The boat trip takes about 1.5 hours in total.

Trang An Boat Trip

  • From Tam Coc, it’s a 15-minute drive to the starting point of the boat trip.
  • During this boat trip, you’ll visit caves and temples.
  • This is where you’ll find the most impressive karst mountains in Ninh Binh.
  • You can choose from different boat trip routes of 2 hours, 3 hours, and 4 hours.
  • During this boat trip, you won’t see rice fields, so it’s a good choice when the fields are brown.

Bich Dong Pagoda: Visit One of Ninh Binh’s Most Beautiful Temples

Located just outside Tam Coc, you’ll find one of the most beautiful temples in Ninh Binh. The Bich Dong Pagoda is approximately six hundred years old and consists of three pagodas on different levels. The most famous and photogenic spot is the bridge that leads you to the entrance of the first pagoda: Ha Pagoda. Trung Pagoda is the middle pagoda and is situated in a cave. One level higher, you’ll find the third pagoda: Thuong Pagoda. From Thuong Pagoda, you can enjoy a stunning view of the Ninh Binh landscape. You only pay an entrance fee for parking your bike or scooter because a visit to the Bich Dong Pagoda is free.

Climb the Steps to the Hang Mua Viewpoint

It’s time to admire Ninh Binh from above. Now, you’ll truly see the grandeur of this region! To reach the Hang Mua Viewpoint, you’ll have to climb a substantial number of steps. Put on your good shoes and prepare to sweat, as you’ll need to climb 500 steps in total. Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular panoramic view of the surrounding mountains, rice fields, and the beautiful river flowing through Ninh Binh. It’s important to note that there are two viewpoints. From the left viewpoint, you’ll overlook the Tam Coc Valley, and from the right viewpoint, you’ll have a magnificent view of the green rice fields. At the top of the viewpoint, you’ll find an enormous dragon winding its way along the rocks. This is an important symbol in Vietnamese culture and, according to locals, symbolizes a good harvest.The best time to climb the Hang Mua Viewpoint is during sunset.

Tip: Drive all the way to the entrance of the Hang Mua Viewpoint and don’t let locals stop you on the way, telling you where to park your scooter. The only place where you pay for your visit to the Hang Mua Viewpoint is at the entrance itself, and this is where you should also park your scooter.

Visit Vietnam’s Largest Temple Complex

About a 30-minute drive from Ninh Binh, you’ll find Vietnam’s largest temple complex, Bai Dinh Pagoda. Here, you’ll discover dozens of Buddhist temples divided into an old and a new section. The temples in the old section are mostly located in small mysterious caves on the hill. The new section is characterized by a massive tower that you can reach by elevator. At the very top, you’ll have a beautiful view of the entire temple complex.

Tip: You can choose to walk from temple to temple, but this takes quite a bit of time due to its vastness. Yellow golf carts drive around and can take you from temple to temple for a small fee. This is ideal, especially when it’s hot. You can hop on and off whenever you want.

Best Restaurants in Tam Coc

Chookie’s Beer Garden – If you’re not in the mood for Asian cuisine, head to this stylish restaurant. Their menu includes items like fish & chips, burgers, falafel, and bangers & mash.
Ngon Vegan Restaurant –
This restaurant is a must-visit in Tam Coc. It proves that Vietnamese cuisine can be delicious when using only plant-based ingredients.
Tam Coc Lantern Restaurant –
Here, you can enjoy delicious Vietnamese food, and the restaurant caters to both meat and fish lovers as well as vegetarians. The staff is incredibly friendly.
Family Restaurant –
This is a typical Vietnamese restaurant run by a lovely family who will warmly welcome you.
T-Pub Restaurant –
A nice restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere. You can come here for pizzas, burgers, a healthy smoothie, or a cold beer.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Tam Coc

Ninh Binh offers some fantastic accommodations where you can enjoy a delightful stay for a reasonable price. As mentioned earlier in this article, Tam Coc is a great base for exploring Ninh Binh, so the following exceptional hostels and hotels are all located in Tam Coc.

At Tam Coc Horizon Bungalow, you can enjoy a stay in an idyllic bungalow in a stunning location. These bungalows are nestled beneath an impressive limestone cliff, and on the other side, you can gaze out over the lush rice fields. The hotel features a pool with breathtaking views where you can unwind. You can also borrow bicycles for free to explore the area, and the owners go the extra mile to ensure you have a pleasant stay. (131 feet from the limestone cliff)

Tam Coc Sunshine Homestay is also situated amidst the rice fields but offers a more budget-friendly option. Here, you can stay in charming double rooms with air conditioning, and there’s a pleasant pool where you can relax. If you prefer staying in a cozy hostel where you can meet other travelers, then The Banana Tree Hostel is an excellent choice in Tam Coc. The location is central, the beds are comfortable, and there’s a large pool with sun loungers. (0.08 miles from the center)