Van Long Nature Reserve is a popular destination in Northern Vietnam, especially for those who love ecotourism type. So famous for its diversity in the ecosystem with many rare animals is Van Long Nature Reserve that it has not only attracted millions of foreign and domestic tourists but also attracted the attention of many researchers and nature reservation organizations in the world. In 2017, some scenes of the movie “King Kong – Skull Island” were shot in Van Long Nature Reserve where people could see the majestic pristine beauty of the land.
Below are outstanding information about this destination and helpful experience to visit Van Long Nature Reserve in a safe and saving way.
- Location: Gia Vien District, Ninh Binh Province
Opening hour: 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Admission fee: 20,000 VND/person
Boat ride fee: 60,000 VND/boat/2 people
I. Overview of Van Long Nature Reserve
Van Long Nature Reserve is 17 km northeast of Ninh Binh city center, near Trang An Ecotourism Complex and Cuc Phuong National Park. It stretches over 7 communes of Gia Vien District, including Gia Hung, Lien Son, Gia Hoa, Gia Van, Gia Lap, Gia Tan and Gia Thanh. This area was created from 1960, after the construction of a dike of more than 30 kilometers. However, it was not until December 2001 that it was established as a nature reserve. Nowadays, it is one of three special-use forests in Ninh Binh Province.
The natural area of Van Long is over 3,500 ha, 2745 ha of which is under the natural reserve’s management. The area frequently inundated with water is more than 400 ha. Van Long is considered the largest inland wetland in the Northern Delta, a destination that holds great potentialities regarding natural and humanistic tourism.
The name of Van Long reflects the dream and aspiration of locals for a peaceful life as Van means “cloud” and Long means “dragon”. Both clouds and dragons are manifestations of water; moreover when the dragon meets the clouds, blessed things will occur.
II. What is the Best Time to Visit Van Long Nature Reserve?
Located amongst the valley, surrounded by spectacular ranges of limestone, Van Long is a captivating ecotourism destination. You can visit this wetland at any time of the year, but the most appropriate times are:
- May – June: At this time, the waters of Van Long are overwhelmed by the pink color of lotus flowers. You can seize this opportunity to take romantic photos.
- November – April: If you visit Van Long during its dry season when water birds of the North flock here to build nests, you can witness the eye-popping white created by thousands of birds.
You are highly recommended to arrive here in the late afternoon (15:30 – 16:30) to see flocks of birds, especially storks flying back to their nests.
III. Highlights of Van Long Nature Reserve
Van Long Nature Reserve is an area of rich biodiversity. Its limestone ecosystem is home to the biggest community of Delacour’s Langur with over 100 individuals. The flora ecosystem of Van Long comprises 722 species, 8 among them are listed in Vietnam’s Red Data Book. When it comes to the fauna ecosystem, it is no less attractive with 39 species and 19 families. Besides Delacour’s Langur, there are a number of rare and precious animals such as tibetan bear, chamois, stump-tailed macaque, leopard,…
Van Long also possesses a stunning bird garden of 100 species. Some of the most notable ones are Chinese pond heron, cattle egret and white stork that regularly seek for food on swamps and rice fields. If you are fond of bird-watching, this spot will absolutely enchant your eyes.
Van Long is not just a nature reserve, it is an attraction of breathtaking scenery as well. When taking a boat trip on this “wave-free bay”, visitors can contemplate the calm and quiet water surface like a gargantuan mirror. The water is so clear that we can see layers of mosses and algae on the bottom.
One of the most striking landscapes here is the system of limestone mountains. Each mountain has its name adopted based on its shape, namely Meo Cao Mountain, Co Tien Mountain, Mam Xoi Mountain, Hom Sach Mountain,… In addition, Van Long has about 1000 beautiful caves, many of them have been serving as tourist attractions. If you have a chance to visit Van Long, don’t miss out on Ca Cave, Rua Cave, Bong Cave and Chanh Cave.
IV. What to See and Do in Van Long Nature Reserve?
1. Contemplate a Collection of Beautiful Caves
If you have ever taken a boat trip to discover grottoes in Tam Coc – Bich Dong, you will find the experience in Van Long somewhat similar. One of the biggest and prettiest caves spotted in Van Long is Hang Ca Cave which is 250m long, 8m high, 10m wide. This cave is unique in its way: half-submerged, half-dried, with a lot of fish swimming up inside.
After reaching the other side of the cave, you can catch a glimpse of a small valley. If fortunes smiles on you, you will also witness cauldrons, storks and langurs while traveling by boat.
2. Gaze at Splendid Limestone Mountains
It appears that almost all the famous places of interest in Ninh Binh share one thing in common: wherever you go, you will find limestone towers. In Van Long Nature Reserve, there are a lot of limestone mountains with strange names such as Meo Cao, Mam Xoi, Da Ban or Hom Sach. Nature exploration enthusiasts will absolutely be excited to know how Mother Nature has created these miraculous mountains.
3. Visit Mountainous Temples
In this ecotourism area, there is a complex of pagodas and temples located on the mountain. In your journey, you can have a chance to visit Dich Long Pagoda, Thanh Mau Temple or Thanh Son Pagoda, especially the well-known 600-year-old Diospyros decandra tree.
4. Try Local Tastings
It is regretful if you pay a visit to Van Long without tasting its cuisine. In Ninh Binh, there is a wide range of specialties which can satisfy even the choosiest appetite. Some renowned delicacies of Ninh Binh are Ninh Binh crispy rice, Ninh Binh goat meat, Ninh Binh mountain snails, Kim Son raw Nhech fish salad and Van Long grilled snakehead.
Suggestion for excellent restaurants in Van Long, Ninh Binh:
► Bao Minh Ngoc Restaurant
- Address: Van Long, Gia Vien District, Ninh Binh
- Opening hour: 7:00 AM – 22:00 PM
- Tel: 091 256 3260
► Nha La Restaurant
- Address: Van Long Street, Gia Van, Gia Vien, Ninh Binh
- Opening hour: 24/7 daily
- Tel: 098 992 0166
► Duy Du Restaurant
- Address: ĐT477, Gia Van, Gia Vien, Ninh Binh
- Tel: 098 538 0154
V. Where to Stay in Van Long Nature Reserve?
If you want to stay overnight in Van Long, you can choose any types of accommodation, but homestay is a worth-considering option. When staying at a homestay, you can live, eat and converse with local residents, which may be a brand-new experience.
Recommendation for some hotels and homestays in Van Long Nature Reserve:
► Van Long Homestay
- Address: Van Long Nature Reserve, Gia Lap, Gia Vien, Ninh Binh
- Price: From 311,629 VND
► Emeralda Resort Ninh Binh
- Address: Van Long Nature Reserve, Gia Van Commune, Gia Vien District, Ninh Binh
- Price: From 2,259,738 VND
► Huong Tra Hotel
- Address: Gian Khau Crossroad, Gia Tran, Gia Vien, Ninh Binh
- Price: From 245,389 VND
VI. How to Get to Van Long Nature Reserve?
Go to Ninh Binh
► By Train
You can easily go by train to come to Ninh Binh as Tam Diep – Ninh Binh urban axis is situated on the North-South Railway. In Ninh Binh Province, there are also a lot of railway stations, including Ninh Binh, Cau Yen, Ghenh and Dong Giao Train Station.
Some trains departing from Hanoi are SE1, SE3, SE5, SE7, SE9, SE19 and SE35. If you go from Ho Chi Minh City, the only suitable one is SE8 which departs at 6:00 and arrives at Ninh Binh at 18:05.
► By Car
You can go on Phap Van – Cau Gie- Ninh Binh Highway. With a distance of about 90 km, it may take you around 1 hour to reach the center of Ninh Binh City.
► By Motorbike
If you would like to travel by motorbike, you can go on the old National Highway 1A, through Ha Nam and head towards Ninh Binh – Thanh Hoa.
Ninh Binh – Van Long
The distance between Ninh Binh City and Van Long is around 20 km. If you go on a private car, you can travel back National Highway 1A in the direction of Ninh Binh – Hanoi. As soon as you reach Gian Khau Crossroad (477 Street), turn left and go about 5 km further to reach Van Long Market. Then you turn right and go 2 km further until you reach Van Long Boat Wharf. If you want to try going by bus, you can catch bus number 01 or 09 which runs through 477 Street.
VII. Extra Tips
- You had better bring hats, sunscreen or umbrellas if traveling in summer.
- A boat is limited to a maximum of 3-4 people.
- You can give the boatman a small tip, about 40,000 – 50,000 VND/boat.
- If you are a birdwatcher, you are advised to bring binoculars or good camera lenses along.