About Hoa Lu District
Experience Vietnam’s rural side in its unspoilt city and region of Ninh Binh. Just under 2 hours from Hanoi, this lush green outpost offers a breath of fresh air after the bustle of the capital. Winding rivers pass through dramatic limestone cliffs and locals go about their daily business, ploughing the rice fields. It's the ideal resting base to explore some of the surrounding scenery, like the river caves and hill-top temples.
You can stay in a Ninh Binh hostel close to the town or in more remote regions near the cliffs. You'll find modern hostels with extras like free Wi-Fi and satellite TV, as well as Vietnamese homestays in traditional, rustic buildings surrounded by greenery. Some Ninh Binh hostels have unique features that can really make your stay special, like bamboo-made interiors, riverside views and tropical gardens, sometimes with a swimming pool. Expect a free Asian-style breakfast in most hostels too.
The area around Ninh Binh’s train station is a mini backpacker’s district with travel agents, bars and restaurants. The neighbouring village of Tam Coc is just a 10-minute drive from here. This is where you’ll find three river caves to explore and the ancient mountainside pagoda, Bich Dong. Another area worth checking out is Trang An. This network of mountains and caves is about 8km from the centre and can only be reached by boat.
Go where very few travellers are seen: the Van Long Nature Reserve. Its tranquil wetlands are a haven for wildlife including the endangered langur monkey and rare bird species. Nearby you’ll find the Trang An Grottos. You can pick up a rowboat ride and journey through the caves. For the best views, head to Hang Mua Peak. After climbing its 500 steps, you’ll be rewarded with panoramas of the cliffs, as well as the huge dragon statue that sits at the top of the mountain. The Cho Bop Market in the town centre is the place to go for traditional Vietnamese dishes.
From Vietnam's capital city Hanoi you can take the bus or a train to Ninh Binh. It’s 94km away and the journey takes about 3 hours. While in town, you can walk to the shops and restaurants quite easily. As the town is completely flat, the best way to visit some of the surrounding areas is by bike. Some hostels offer bicycle hire, so you can get cycling from your doorstep.