Cuc Phuong National Park
Located 120 kilometres south of Hanoi, Cuc Phuong National Park, a rainforest housing an endangered primates rescue centre, a botanical garden and a turtle center, was established in 1962 and is now the oldest national park in Vietnam. With 307 species of bird, 133 species of mammal, 122 species of reptile and more than 2000 species of plant, this national park is one Vietnam’s most important protected areas. It is no wonder that researchers, naturalists, enthusiasts and conservationists alike are drawn to this corner of the world.
Phat Diem Cathedral
For architecture gurus, a visit to Phat Diem Cathedral will satisfy them. Located about 29km south east of Ninh Binh in Kim Son District and only a few km away from the Gulf of Tonkin, the cathedral is of historical importance and a real hit with Vietnamese tourists. Mixing a number of architectural styles and incorporating Buddhist influence, this Catholic cathedral is designed as a main church with four smaller churches and gardens surrounding it, creating an impressive, tranquil estate. Mass is celebrated daily at 5am and 5pm, when the massive bell is rung.
Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
Hoa Lu is the ancient capital of the Dinh and Le dynasties which dates back to the 11th century. This ancient capital holds an annual festival in the streets to celebrate its rich history, but anytime of year is a good time to explore this city - a short bike ride from Ninh Binh - and visit its temples: Dinh Tien Hoang, Nhat Tru Temple and Le Dai Hanh. Serene and tranquil, it is set in beautiful surroundings beside to Truong Yen village and is easily visited on a day trip from Ninh Binh. Some of the sanctuaries and tombs have survived the years and can still be seen today.
Bai Dinh Pagoda
Bai Dinh Pagoda is Southeast Asia’s largest Buddhist complex, built on a vast scale, that rises up a hillside near Ninh Binh. Construction was completed in 2014, it consists of several temples and over 500 intricately carved statues of Buddha, including one that’s made of bronze and is 10 metres in height. The entrance leads to cloistered walkways past 500 stone arhats (enlightened Buddhists) lining the route to the main triple-roofed Phap Chu Pagoda. Set within the Gia Sinh Commune, the pagoda complex attracts a huge crowd of local devotees and travellers looking to pay their respects and have their fortunes told by the resident monks.