"Halong Bay on land" is another name of Ninh Binh. This place becomes more and more popular and familiar on the Vietnam tourist map and for domestic as well as foreign tourists. Of course, Halong Bay and Ninh Binh are being under certain comparison among the most outstanding characteristics. However, regardless of any differences, both of the destinations are continuing to achieve its high position into tourist’s minds. In case you are also wondering whether to take a cruising trip or visit the paddy fields, here we’ll be informative to make it more understandable to assist your trip well in the north of Vietnam. Please read on and decide which to choose!

Historical value

It is difficult to summarize the long history of Ha Long as well as of Ninh Binh in a few lines. But we always try our best for visitors and readers to capture the highlights of Vietnamese history and the historical values that Ninh Binh and Ha Long bring.

Ninh Binh

Be surrounded by mountains of limestone as strong as a fortress wall, Ninh Binh is considered as an ideal place to choose for the capitals of the Dinh, Le and Ly dynasties from 968 to 1010. “The capital built of stone"- Hoa Lu is related to the image of reeds Dinh Bo Linh who led a popular uprising that wiped out 12 army troops. In 968, Dinh Bo Linh ascended the throne and set his capital at Hoa Lu. There were six kings succeeded each other from 968 to 1009 here. During the nearly two-century, Ninh Binh has at least over 20 times changed in administrative units, boundaries, and names, but basically, the boundaries and names are still kept (except for 16 years of consolidation in Ha Nam Ninh province, but the town is still named Ninh Binh). Ninh Binh people have lived continuously since ancient times on this land. Through the development process, Ninh Binh was proud to have been the capital of Dai Co Viet of the three dynasties Dinh - Le - Ly from the end of the 10th century to the beginning of the 11th century and was the land that used to produce the celebrities, historical figures who bring fame to their homeland.

Tam Coc - Bich Dong - Ninh Binh

Tam Coc - Bich Dong - Ninh Binh

Halong Bay

Mountains, waters, clouds, sky, caves, and grottoes created the physical beauty of Ha Long Bay. However, not everyone realizes that Ha Long is also the cradle of an ancient people who helped create the present Hạ Long culture. Belongs to Halong, Van Don was a place of busy commercial and cultural exchanges between Vietnam and its Southeast Asian neighbors in the long period overlapping the Ly, Tran and Le dynasties. This is also a site that witnessed glorious feats of war against the invasion of Yuan-Mongol warriors contributed greatly to the victory of Bach Dang. Halong Bay is additionally referred to as “the land of the dragon”. According to the legend, when Vietnamese people were invaded by foreign invaders, The Jade Emperor appointed Mother Dragon and her Child Dragons down to help Vietnam to fight. While the invaders’ boats from the sea entered massively to the shore, at that same time Dragons landed on earth and immediately be ejected a lot of pearls and turned into thousands of rocky islands on the sea creating a solid wall to block the enemy warships. After that fierce battle, the emeralds turned to rocks over time and became the picture of fertility that they are today, sprouting shrubbery and trees along their angled facades. And space, where the dragon landed to guard, is known as Ha Long now.

Halong Bay - Vietnam

Halong Bay - Vietnam

Geological and geomorphological value

Halong Bay has a geological depth of about 3 billion years and has clear data at least nearly 500 million years ago. The imprints of the process of geological and tectonic evolution have also left the faults, folds, trenches, geography, basins, and formations marking profound changes in the ancient geographic situation area. Ha Long Bay has experienced many times of sinking - sea advancing and creating paint - sea receding, so it brings many values for Geological science of Humanity and marine geology. The global outstanding value of geology - geomorphology of Ha Long Bay is confirmed by its mature karst landscape in the hot and humid tropical conditions which are encroached by the sea and modified many times. It can be said that Ha Long Bay is the place where almost all basic forms of karst topography, such as karst plain; hopper and valley; point and karst tower. The cave of Ha Long Bay is also diverse that is known to have over 60 units and belongs to 3 main cave groups: ancient underground cave (hang cave), karst cave and sea frog cave.

Meanwhile, mentioning Ninh Binh, we are always proud to have 1 Trang An which is considered as an outdoor geological museum with many values of landscape, geology, geomorphology, biodiversity, culture-society, and history. According to scientists, the mineral of this area has appeared 250 million years ago. Visitors to Trang An, you absolutely can see Trang An which is a landscape area of low and bell-shaped limestone with vertical cliffs that are cut short and collapse due to the influence of changing the earth, the climate, the sea receding and the sea-advancing. In particular, no place in the world has a realistic view of a Ha Long Bay but has become "fossil, floating on land" as here. Although the sea has become "far away" from Trang An for thousands of years, the landscape of "Tropical karst is invaded and transformed by the sea" remains and becomes the own pride of Ninh Binh with karst islands and mountains which carry on many signs of the sea such as cliffs, the waves of waves have clinging oysters, abrasive shelves, caves ..., the scenic spots are worth not less than the scenic spots of Halong Bay.

Aesthetic value

The beauty of Ha Long is the combination of three factors: water, sky, and stone. Ha Long’s island system can be regarded as an extraordinary work of art by the Creator, a combination of sculpture and painting, including the harmony and flexibility of layout and colors, of shape and space, which is represented by thousands of islands on the sea with different shapes like to be intentionally made by the Creator, inspiring endless imagination of the human: Ga Choi (Fighting Cocks) the symbol of Viet Nam tourism, Dinh Huong (Incense Burner) implies spiritual significance, Con Coc (Toad) recalls the passage of time, waiting thousands of years to seek justice in Heaven,… and much more.

On the other hand, for the ones who have been Ninh Binh, the karst tower landscape of Trang An is among the most beautiful and awe-inspiring places of its kind anywhere in the world. Not only the narrow interconnecting ridges or a spectacular array of cone-shaped rock towers whose sheer vertical walls rise abruptly 200m above the surrounding land  which have been likened to mythical giant swords, Ninh Binh is a place that related to the image of the extensive rice paddy fields bordering the rivers, creating a picturesque patchwork of color, enlivened by the presence of fisherfolk and local farmers engaged in their traditional way of life.

How to choose between Halong Bay and Ninh Binh?

Scenery

With the marvelous beauty bestowed by natural mother, Ha Long and Ninh Binh have always deserved their title which was awarded and recognized by UNESCO. It is hard to make a comparison of the beautiful scenery between these two places because each place has its own beauty. However, because of this, for those who love to travel, discover new things, Ha Long or Ninh Binh is worthy to come at least once in their lives.

Coming to Ninh Binh as a journey to return to the roots of the nation. Here are some places you can’t miss if you have a chance to visit Ninh Binh:

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital: we are committed that no tourist traveling to Ninh Binh would want to miss Hoa Lu Ancient Capital where is related to 3 Vietnam dynasties in the past (Dinh, Le, Ly). This is an ideal place for those who love architecture. Moreover, numerous shrines, palaces, tombs are waiting for you to explore.

Trang An Landscape Complex: With not only geological, aesthetic value but also cultural and historical value, Trang An always deserves the title of world heritage awarded by Unesco and a large number of tourists every year. Ninh Binh is considered as "Halong on land", but no, Trang An is Trang An, where has water blue, the caves with multiform beauty, where the beautiful scenery is associated with history of the ancient capital of Dai Co Viet, where there are no luxurious sailing yachts like Ha Long, but only the rustic leaf boat and quality boatman will take you on a journey to enjoy the nature.

Trang An Landscape Complex

Trang An Landscape Complex

Tam Coc - Bich Dong: Tam Coc is a cave system including limestone mountains. Once coming here, tourist can easily find strange stalactite formations in Ca Cave, Hai Cave, and Ba Cave or watch the color of the rice fields on the side of the scenery changes depending on the season of the year. Meanwhile, Bich Dong is the pagoda lies on the mountain only 2km from Tam Coc. The combination of human creation ( Bich Dong) and nature (mountains, rivers, stream) create the unique beauty of Bich Dong.

Cuc Phuong National Park: be considered as the best choice for nature lovers during their travel to Ninh Binh. This is also 1 of the top 10 national parks in Viet Nam. Cuc Phuong is well-known as a home of some trees dated back to more than a thousand years ago or some rarest species in animal kingdom like Owston's palm civet, Delacour's lutung.

Cuc Phuong National Park

Cuc Phuong National Park

Real Halong is a place full of the natural beauty of creator: caves, beaches, islands, islets, villages or small bay,… Below are a few examples.

Dark and Bright Cave: Also known as Day and Night Cave) is not only known for the stunning limestone structure at every turn but also for the interesting natural habitat. Dark and Bright Cave is regarded as “the Forgotten Paradise”- a poetic and stunning location that acts as an access way to a beautiful tranquil lake, surrounded by walls of stones in different scales and sizes. The combination of several factors such as the mountain's size and form, the color of the water and the clouds are the most valuable mark of Dark and Bright Cave.

Dark and Bright Cave

Dark and Bright Cave

Fighting Cocks Islet: Actually, this iconic islet is not only the symbol of  Halong Bay but also Vietnam travel guidebooks with the unique values of aesthetics and its significance. Also known as Trong Mai Islet, Fighting Cocks Islet includes two limestone islets in which one looks like a rooster while another has the shape of a hen. With the tourists who have been here, they won’t forget the image of two burly giant chickens with a height of more than ten meters spectacularly appear over vast waves. It is actually a masterpiece of nature in vast waters.

Viet Hai Village: Be a small village in the midst of jungles, which belongs to Cat Hai district of Hai Phong city, covered by high mountains range of the Cat Ba National Park, Viet Hai village becomes an ideal destination which has attracted an increasing number of both domestic and international tourists every year. In the village, tourists will be surprised at how friendly and kind-hearted villagers are. It is the reason why locals in Viet Hai Village never lock their doors even when they are away from home. Moreover, Viet Hai is well-known as a land of joy and happiness with the sincerity, kindness, and optimism of villagers. Your mission is just to immerse yourself in the peaceful life of the local people here to have a very enjoyable experience.

Lan Ha Bay: Belongs to Hai Phong city, in the south of Ha Long Bay, Lan Ha Bay is considered as the second Ha Long Bay. However, it has about 400 islets covered with green trees and vegetation and a more isolated appeal which you cannot see in another place. Lan Ha is home of 200 species of fish, 500 species of mollusk, 400 species of arthropod, and numerous hard and soft coral, while larger marine animals in the area include seals and three species of dolphin. This bay reserves a more pristine scenery with an intense concentration of limestone mountains, which the sea surface has partitioned into smaller bays and gulfs. Moreover, it’s a good spot for swimming, organizing a private beach BBQ, or an overnight camp thanks to a hundred beautiful, small beaches lying at the feet of the mountains.

Lan Ha Bay

Lan Ha Bay

Ban Chan Beach: If you are seeking loneliness on an immaculate beach, hidden away amongst the towering karst landscape of Halong Bay, please don’t skip Ban Chan Beach. This beach is considered as a harmonious picture between the clouds and water like an exceptional masterpiece, bewitching any public thoughts had. With the beach stretches for several kilometers, the powdery white sand and jewel-colored waters, Ban Chan Beach is an ideal place for a waterside stroll as you take in the surrounding landscape.

Activities

Whether it's in Halong Bay or Ninh Binh Bay, we always make sure that visitors will never be bored because there are always interesting outdoor activities for you when you come here. We also provide you with outstanding activities in each place so visitors can choose or consider for your trip.

Exploring: An activity not to be missed when traveling in Halong as well as Ninh Binh, for example, Sung Sot Cave, Cat Ba Island, Me Cung Cave, Monkey Island, Fighting Cocks Island,… in Halong or the Endangered Primate Rescue Center, Mua Cave, the Thung Nham Bird Garden, Van Long Nature Reserve,… in Ninh Binh. In particular, this is an ideal activity for those who love nature and want to check out the Vietnamese wildlife. Travelers can take a chance to admire 1 of the most picturesque caves in Vietnam where have the winding tunnels that are covered in gorgeous stalagmites and stalactites.

Cycling: Both Ninh Binh and Ha Long are ideal and convenient places to explore by bicycle. There are many of the guesthouses where you can hire free bicycles, or you can sign up for a dedicated tour with a guide who will show you the best destination in the area and fill you in on the history and culture of this part of Vietnam. More interesting, travelers absolutely can cycle down to the various beaches on Cat Ba Island and the going for a refreshing swim at the end of a long bike ride.

Hiking: If you like hiking then you need to make your way to Silver Cloud Peak in Cuc Phuong National Park which belongs to Ninh Binh or Cat Ba National Park in Halong Bay. For Silver Peak, it can take you around 4 hours, so you need to be in relatively good shape if you are going to attempt it, but the views across the park more than make up for it. Travelers are advised to hike with a ranger which is recommended, or go it alone if they are feeling adventurous. For Cat Ba National Park, you will also find some amazing hiking trails here which include an 18-kilometer climb to the summit of the main peak in the national park. This is a gorgeous national park which boasts 32 different kinds of mammals. Cat Ba is also a good choice if you love nature and don’t have a huge amount of time to explore Halong Bay as you will get to see a wide range of species in a short amount of time.

Another activity:

Take a boat trip in Ninh Binh: Neighboring Trang An is well-known for its scenic waterways, so you can hire a boat here and float along the Sao Khe River. Boat trips usually take you around 2 hours and Trang An is around 7 kilometers from Ninh Binh town through other-worldly caves and you can take in the scenery and also visit the caves and temples at the same time.

Go diving in Halong Bay: With tourists who love discovery, scuba-diving will definitely be a favorite activity on Halong Bay. There are countless coral reefs and numerous marine life along Cong Do Island and Van Don Island. Imagine that you can see various kinds of fish as well as pristine coral reefs at the bottom of Halong Bay by their all eyes and even touch them. Dancing with octopus or swimming with sea bass is no longer the only sight on animation. We believe that the underwater adventure is the heart, the soul of Ha Long Bay that visitors should not miss.

Take a high-class cruise in Halong Bay: If you truly want to admire all the breathtaking beauty of Halong Bay, you need to take to the water and sign up for a boat cruise. Here we offer a wide range of ship services for your travels. You can lay back after a long day of discovering the bay and fall asleep to the soothing sound of the wave and the wind. Moreover, travelers can get also the interesting experiences in our Halong Bay Cruise: discovering many famous grottos and caves of Ha Long, learn to make Vietnamese traditional dishes or begin your new day with Tai Chi exercise. Normally, there are 2 types of itineraries: the 2 days and 1-night package and the 3 days and 2-night package. With a high recommendation from many costumers as well as many travel agencies, our Orchid Cruise is proud to welcome you on-board for your dreamlike Cruise in Ha Long Bay!

Go kayaking: Recently, in Halong, kayaking is the most selected activity by many travelers, especially by foreign travelers. Sitting on a tiny kayak, paddling in the blue water, feel all the grandeur of Halong nature,… what’s more amazing? It’s no coincidence that in 2000, Halong Bay be voted by National Geographic Adventures magazine as 1 of 25 world best destinations for kayaking. However, with the high demand for this activity, sometimes it’s quite hard to rent one. But it won’t matter if you travel with our Halong Bay Cruise. We offer many types of kayaks such as kayaks made from composite plastic, molded rubber or inflatable kayaks with oars which are for 2 people/ 1kayak. While the kayak is going through Luon Cave, Ba Trai Dao, Ba Ham, Dau, Hang Co,… you can get the opportunity to admire the beauty of coral reefs, the tiny fishes swimming and dancing around, and many other interesting sceneries.

Kayaking - Halong Bay

Tourism

Many people concerns about overcrowded tourists in Halong as it’s already an established international travel destination but that also depends on the time you choose to visit this place. Travelers absolutely can plan ahead and enjoy the quiet and most beautiful Halong Bay. On the other hand, Ninh Binh’s status has only been rising in recent years. So if you want to stay away from massive crowds and still enjoy the beautiful landscapes, Ninh Binh is a great alternative for Halong Bay.

Conclusion

In summary, it’s hard to say Halong Bay or Ninh Binh is better since these two are both worth visiting. And if you have enough time, why not coming both of them? We hope our article will reinforce your decisions. Have a nice trip!

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