A two hour drive south of Hanoi, Ninh Binh province is blessed with surreal natural landscapes of massive limestone karsts outcrop being visible from afar, intriguing cultural heritages and the wonderful Cuc Phuong National Park. The province is also known for local specialties of mountain goat meat and burning rice. Make sure to try it once when you are here.
Apart of its beauty, Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex is recently recognized as a mixed UNESCO World Heritage Site of Natural and Cultural properties. Trang An is a network of waterways and grottoes. The surrounding terrain remains rugged, with shack built under overhangs and wild mountains goats perched on the rocks. Once at Trang An’s jetty, a simple rowboat takes you on a two-hour loop along the waterways, gliding alongside the karsts and pagodas, and past a series of rock faces into low-hanging caves. The complex also include Hoa Lu, Vietnam’s former capital, Tam Coc – Bich Dong which described as “Halong Bay on the rice paddies” and Bai Dinh temple – a newly-built religious complex.
Cuc Phuong, the Vietnam’s first national park is home to diverse species of flora and fauna, making it one of the country’s most important sites for biodiversity. The park offers amazing chances to get closer into Vietnam’s wildlife by trekking through forest trails. You can visit here within the day from Hanoi or stay in the park’s lodging. The best time to travel is during the dry season from November to February. Remember to wear long sleeved shirts and long pants to protect against prickly vines and leeches.
Another spot is Van Long Nature Reserve, an ideal place for bird-watching of rare black-faced spoonbill, cotton pygmy goose and white-browed crake. A popular excursion here is taking a relaxing row boat.