Halong Bay vs Ninh Binh (1-Day Tour) – Choosing the Perfect Escape from Hanoi

Vietnam’s landscape boasts two dramatic destinations adorned with towering limestone formations: Ninh Binh and Ha Long Bay. Do you crave the awe-inspiring vastness of the sea or the peaceful embrace of the countryside? Both promise unforgettable experiences, but cater to distinct travel styles. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you decide which one day tour fromn Hanoi suite your travel plan.

Halong bay vs Ninh Binh
Halong bay vs Ninh Binh


Travelers seeking dramatic landscapes in Vietnam often find themselves torn between the allure of Halong Bay and the serenity of Ninh Binh. While both destinations feature the iconic limestone formations, their base settings offer vastly different experiences.

Halong Bay with a majestic seascape. Emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin stretch out endlessly, dotted with thousands of limestone islets that rise dramatically from the sea. These formations, sculpted by millennia of erosion, come in all shapes and sizes, some resembling mythical creatures and others towering monoliths reaching for the sky. Caves hidden within these cliffs hold secrets waiting to be explored, whispering tales of pirates and ancient civilizations.

Some famous visiting sites in Halong Bay one day tour

Travellers in Sung Sot cave, Halong Bay
Travellers in Sung Sot cave, Halong Bay
Đảo Titop, một điểm đến trong hành trình thăm vịnh
Visit Titop Island
The beautiful scenery of Luon Cave.
The beautiful scenery of Luon Cave.

Ninh Binh, in contrast, unveils a breathtaking tapestry woven from nature and human history. Lush green rice paddies, the emerald hues mirroring the vibrant life they sustain, blanket the valleys between rolling limestone hills. Unlike the imposing figures of Halong Bay, these limestone outcrops blend seamlessly with the landscape, creating a harmonious picture of tranquility. A network of small rivers and canals snakes through this captivating scenery, offering a unique perspective for exploration by boat. As you navigate these waterways, ancient temples and pagodas peek out from behind the verdant foliage, adding a touch of cultural significance to the already mesmerizing landscape.

Some famous visiting sites in Ninh Binh one day tour

Hang Mua view point
Hang Mua view point
Boat tour when visiting Ninh Binh
Boat tour when visiting Ninh Binh
The ancient and venerable beauty of Bich Dong Pagoda.


Beyond the stunning scenery, Halong Bay and Ninh Binh offer distinct experiences when it comes to activities.

In Halong Bay, travellers should try:

  • Cruising: Cruises, ranging from budget options to luxurious overnight stays, allow you to experience the full majesty of the bay and its islands. Recently, Halong Bay has a variety of cruise tours such as: 4-hour day cruise, 6-hour day cruise, 7-8 hours day cruise tour, and even 2-3 days cruise tour. Almost cruises are modern, unique with attractive itineraries.
  • Kayaking, swimming are popular ways to explore the hidden coves and caves amongst the limestone island. However, swimming is limited in one day tour.
  • Cave exploration: Sung Sot Cave & Thien Cung cave, with its impressive stalactites and stalagmites, is a popular stop on many cruises. You have to climp up to mountain then get inside to see the cave.
  • Fishing villages: Visits to floating fishing villages offer a glimpse into the unique way of life of these communities. However, the one day tour for sharing group will not include this visit, you should hire a private boat to see the village.
  • Sampan boats in Ba Hang or Luon cave, you will get on local sampan boat to explore the water cave and the lagoon inside.
Elite of the Sea cruise
Explore Halong bay in The Elite of the Sea cruise
Participate in exciting activities on a 6-hour Halong bay tour
Participate in exciting activities on a 6-hour Halong bay tour
Admire sunset on Halong Bay
Admire sunset on Halong Bay
"Admire the beauty of the heavenly paradise within Thien Cung cave.
Admire the beauty of the heavenly paradise within Thien Cung cave.

Ninh Binh differs, with some activities, such as:

  • Boat tours: Explore the intricate network of rivers and canals aboard traditional sampan boats, passing through dramatic cave systems like Trang An or Tam Coc.
  • Cycling: Lush rice paddies and scenic countryside landspace of local village in Tam Coc, Hoa Lu provide excellent opportunities for leisurely cycling adventures.
  • Hiking & Viewpoint for photography: Climb Mua Caves for panoramic views of the Ninh Binh countryside
  • Cultural experiences: Visit the ancient temples of Bai Dinh Pagoda and Bich Dong Pagoda, or delve into the history of the Hoa Lu Citadel.
Tam Coc Ninh Binh boat tour
Tam Coc Ninh Binh boat tour
Ride a bicycle to Bich Dong Trang An
Panoramic view from Mua cave
Hiking and See panoramic view from Mua cave

Travel time from Hanoi

  • Hanoi to Ninh Binh: This trip is shorter, clocking in at around 22.5 hours each way. Ninh Binh is closer to Hanoi, situated approximately 100 kilometers to the South.
  • Hanoi to Halong Bay: This journey takes considerably longer, roughly 3 – 3,5 hours each way. Halong Bay is further north of Hanoi, at a distance of about 160 kilometers.

Pace of the tour

Ha Long Bay:

  • Day trips often feel rushed: With a longer travel time (3.5 hours each way) from Hanoi, day trips to Ha Long Bay tend to cram in activities like cave visits and kayaking into a shorter time spent on the water. This can leave you feeling like you’re constantly moving from one thing to the next.
  • Overnight cruises offer a more relaxed pace: If you choose an overnight cruise, you’ll have more time to spread out your activities and truly soak in the beauty of the bay. You can spend more time kayaking, exploring caves, or simply relaxing on the deck and enjoying the scenery.

Ninh Binh:

  • Day trips offer a more relaxed pace: Due to the shorter travel time (2.5 hours each way) from Hanoi, day trips to Ninh Binh allow for a more leisurely exploration. You’ll have time to cycle through the countryside, take a scenic boat ride on the rivers and canals, and even hike up Mua Caves for panoramic views.
  • Focus on cultural exploration: Many Ninh Binh tours incorporate visits to historical temples like Bai Dinh Pagoda and Bich Dong Pagoda, or the ancient capital of Hoa Lu. These cultural experiences add another layer to the day without feeling rushed.
Bai Dinh pagoda in Ninh Binh
Bai Dinh pagoda in Ninh Binh

Price Halong Bay vs Ninh Binh

Halong Bay: Day trips typically include kayaking, cave visits, island visit and a cruise on the bay. Prices can vary depending on the duration of the cruise, quality of the boat, and included activities. However, they tend to be on the higher end.

Here is the price list for One Day Halong Bay Tour

  • 4 hour cruise tour from Hanoi: 900.000đ/pax
  • 6 hour cruise tour from Hanoi: 990.000đ/pax
  • 8 hour cruise tour from Hanoi: 1.900.000đ/pax

Ninh Binh: Day trips are generally more affordable due to shorter travel distances. Accommodation, activities, and food are generally more affordable in Ninh Binh

Here is the price list for One Day Ninh Binh Tour

  • Hoa Lu – Tam Coc – Mua Cave tour: 950.000đ/pax
  • Bai Dinh – Trang An – Mua Cave tour: 1.050.000đ/pax
  • Hoa Lu – Trang An – Mua Cave tour: 950.000đ/pax
  • Hoa Lu – Trang An tour: 850.000đ/pax

Travel to Ha Long Bay if you want to

  • Cruise on the Heritage Bay of Vietnam: You dream of kayaking between towering limestone pillars, exploring hidden caves, or explore the island.
  • Check in the marvelous beauty of nature: Emerald waters dotted with thousands of dramatic limestone pillars are your idea of paradise.
  • Seek unique geological formations: The sheer scale and drama of Ha Long Bay’s limestone formations are unmatched.

Travel to Ninh Binh if you want to

  • Enjoy a relaxed pace: Explore rice paddies and charming villages at your own speed.
  • Embrace cultural experiences: Visit magnificent temples and delve into the captivating history of the ancient capital of Hoa Lu.
  • Value shorter travel time: Spend less time on the road (2.5 hours) and more time exploring Ninh Binh’s wonders.

In essence, Halong Bay is a powerful display of nature’s raw beauty, while Ninh Binh offers a more intimate and culturally rich experience. The choice between these two destinations ultimately comes down to personal preference. Whichever you choose, prepare to be captivated by the magic of Vietnam’s limestone landscapes. If you want to know more, contact with Vivu Halong, surely you will have the best tour to explore the beauty in Vietnam.


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