Van Long Nature Reserve in Ninh Binh is a paradise for nature lovers. In this untouched wetlands area you will find tall grass and reed, caves and limestone mountains where many birds and rare animals live.
The nature reserve does not have the vast rice fields that you can find in Tam Coc, nor does it have the gigantic limestone mountains that you can find in Trang An. Yet Van Long does nothing among these two popular tourist sights in Ninh Binh. This nature park has been around for a number of years, but the masses of tourists have not yet found it. It probably also helps that there are almost no accommodations near Van Long and the city of Ninh Binh is 20 km away. In comparison, Trang An is less than 8 km and Tam Coc 7 km and both have dozens of hotels and homestays. And this makes Van Long so wonderful: the tranquility of a beautiful nature reserve.
About Van Long Nature Reserve
Van Long is the largest wetland area in northern Vietnam, where many local birds, storks and herons live, as well as migratory birds choose their winter home. This impressive nature reserve mainly attracts nature lovers. You can be birds flying around, view rare monkeys (langoer) on mountain slopes and view a nature reserve with majestic limestone mountains, caves and wild vegetation.
There are 457 species of plants in the Van Long Nature Reserve, 8 of which are on the Vietnam red list. Of the 39 animal species, 12 are considered rare animals such as the langur, the chamois, the Bengali plump lori, the Asiatic black bear and the bear macaque. The forest is also home to the king cobra, the Indian lizard, the Eastern Rat snake and various lizards.
This place was also chosen as the location in the newest Kong movie 2017: “Kong: Skull Island”, thanks to the primitive landscape with limestone mountains, natural hidden caves and wild plants of reed, grass and lotus growth in a marshy area.
Boat tour Van Long Nature Reserve
Because Van Long is a wetland area (wetlands), you can only enter it with a boat. The eco-friendly boats are made by hand from bamboo. They can go through shallow water what is needed in this nature reserve. The rowers are friendly local people who are happy to show you the area. During the boat trip you will not come across photographers who want to earn something from you or sellers with drinks and snacks.
With the boat you go over the calm water along the tall grass and steep cliffs. From the boat you can watch birds such as kingfishers, herons and storks and if you’re lucky you can even see a very rare monkey; the Delacour Langur. You will also enter a cave during a boat trip.
- Location: Van Long Nature Reserve Ticket Booth (Google Maps)
- Price: 50,000 VND
- Duration: 1 hour
- Routes: There are three comparable routes that all take the same length and cost. If you want more than one hour you can combine multiple routes.
How to get there
You can book a tour from Hanoi to Van Long. You do this in combination with another destination in Ninh Binh, such as Trang An, Tam Coc or Hoa Lu. You can also travel from Hanoi to Ninh Binh yourself.
- Travel by car / taxi for 1 hour and 30 minutes
- With the bus / motorcycle more than 2 hours
- By train (Hanoi – Ninh Binh)
From Ninh Binh to Van Long
Cycling back and forth from Ninh Binh city to Van Long (2 times 20 km) is perhaps a bit too far for most. Another option is to rent a scooter or take a taxi. In addition, there are also tours to Van Long. These are usually in combination with Cuc Phuong National Park, where you first visit the national park and take a boat trip in Van Long in the late afternoon.
- The best time to visit Van Long is late in the afternoon. Birds, especially storks, fly in large numbers back to their nest, which is a great sight. Alternatively, you can also come early in the morning when the birds fly away.
- What you should definitely not skip is a walk or cycle along the dike that lies along the reserve. From here you have a great view over the nature park.
- Take binoculars or a good lens for your camera to spot birds and monkeys.
- Protect yourself against sun or rain when you take a boat trip. Take a hat, sunscreen or umbrella with you.