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Bai Dinh Temple In Ninh Binh: Visiting Vietnam’s Largest Buddhist Complex

Not far from the beautiful scenic landscapes of Ninh Binh lies Bai Dinh Pagoda, the largest Buddhist temple complex not only in Vietnam, but in the whole of South East Asia!

Bai Dinh Pagoda is 22 metres high and sits atop Bai Dinh Mountain with several other temples that also make up the complex.

aerial view bai dinh pagoda temple complex ninh binh

The whole complex is very large and is full of impressive architecture.

It is also a site of spiritual significance for the Vietnamese people, and due to its location on top of a hill it offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

aerial view bai dinh pagoda temple complex ninh binh

If you have at least a day in Ninh Binh, make sure to head over to the Bai Dinh Pagoda – here’s all you need to know!

arhat corridor buddhist statues bai dinh pagoda ninh binh  

What is Bai Dinh Pagoda?

The Bai Dinh Temple complex is a sprawling complex made up of several temples, the most famous one being the Bai Dinh Pagoda.

The complex is divided into two areas: the ancient pagoda, dating back over a thousand years to the Dinh Dynasty, and the newer, large temples built in the early 2000’s (including the Bai Dinh Temple itself) that make up the majority of the complex.

entrance gate bai dinh pagoda ninh binh

Where Is Bai Dinh Pagoda?

Bai Dinh Pagoda is located in Northern Vietnam – around 15km west of Ninh Binh city centre, and 22km west of Tam Coc.

To reach Bai Dinh from Ninh Binh and Tam Coc takes roughly 30 minutes by car.

It’s a little bit further compared to all the other tourist sights around Ninh Binh and Tam Coc, but it’s a really pleasant drive.

There is lots of nice scenery and views of the limestone karst mountains of Ninh Binh (often called the Halong Bay on land) on the journey.

Plus you’ll also pass along the Trang An river, which is a great stop before or after your visit to Bai Dinh.

How To Get To Bai Dinh Pagoda From Ninh Binh Or Tam Coc

To get to Bai Dinh Pagoda from your accommodation in Ninh Binh or Tam Coc, you can either hire a motorbike (costs are around 100,000 VND for the whole day, so around $5 USD), or you can get a grab taxi for slightly more. The roads are very smooth.

You’ll want to enter at the back entrance of Bai Dinh Pagoda, as the front entrance is often closed.

The car park at the back is large and there is a small fee to park your vehicle (15,000 VND for motorbikes for 50,000 VND for cars). 

bell tower bai dinh pagoda ninh binh

Entry Prices and Hours At Bai Dinh Pagoda

Bai Dinh Pagoda is open daily from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

The entrance to Bai Dinh Pagoda is free. However, the complex is very large (it covers an area of over 500 hectares!) and you will need to take the electric buggy 4 kilometres uphill to reach the entrance to the complex from the car park.

It is honestly too far to walk, especially in the heat of the day so don’t attempt it to save a bit of money.

You’ll be exhausted and then won’t have energy to climb all the steps once you reach the actual complex and all the temples!

bai dinh pagoda ninh binh

The electric buggies depart every few minutes, and it costs around 60,000 VND ($2.50 USD) for a round trip.

You can buy the tickets at the ticket counter at the entrance before you get on the electric buggy. Remember to keep your ticket for the return trip!

You can also pay for the VIP hop-on hop-off buggy service, which takes you to all the main sites of the temple, so you don’t have to do as much walking!

arhat corridor buddhist statues bai dinh pagoda ninh binh

Why Visit Bai Dinh Pagoda?

We really enjoyed how peaceful Bai Dinh Temple was. It isn’t as busy as other tourist sights around Ninh Binh or Vietnam, so it offers a really nice break from lots of crowds.

Plus, the lush green surroundings are really nice.

Being nice and quiet, and being able to walk around at your own pace without feeling rushed, meant we could really gain a deep insight into Vietnamese Buddhism and culture. 

We really enjoyed strolling through the vast complex and admiring all the impressive architecture. 

bai dinh pagoda ninh binh

What to Do at Bai Dinh Pagoda

The electric buggy will drop you off at the main entrance hall to the complex, and from there you will walk up several levels to gradually reach the top of the hill.

Along the way you will pass several elegant structures:

The Arhat Corridor: 

On the first level of the complex is The Arhat Corridor. Walking along this corridor lined with 500 Arhat (enlightened Buddhas) statues was one of our favourite parts of Bai Dinh Pagoda!

arhat corridor buddhist statues bai dinh pagoda ninh binh

This is the largest corridor of Arhat statues in Asia and they are all life-size. Each white marble statue has their own unique expression and is fascinating to look at!

You’ll notice where the statues are black on their hands and knees is where many people have touched them for luck, hoping for their wishes to be granted.

arhat corridor buddhist statues bai dinh pagoda ninh binh

The Bell Tower:

From the Arhat Corridor you can turn off and walk towards The Bell Tower – a really interesting three tiered bell tower that is the largest bell in Vietnam.

bell tower bai dinh pagoda ninh binh

You can climb up the stairs and enjoy the beautiful views of Bai Dinh Pagoda, as well as see the giant bell (that weights 36 tonnes!) and intricate carvings up close.

bai dinh pagoda ninh binh

The Phap Chu Hall: 

On the second level of the complex is The Phap Chu Hall, home to the tallest gold-coated bronze Buddha statue in Vietnam.

It stands at 10 meters tall and weighs 100 tonnes and looks truly impressive behind all the incense smoke!

The Tam The Hall: 

Tam The Hall is also known as the main hall. It houses three enormous Buddha statues representing past, present, and future lives.

Go To The Top Of Bai Dinh Pagoda:

On the third level of the complex you will find Bai Dinh Pagoda itself.

bai dinh pagoda ninh binh

If you wish to go up the top – the thirteen storey of the octagonal Bai Dinh Pagoda tower and be rewarded with the panoramic views from the top, it costs 50,000 VND to climb or take the elevator up.

If you’d prefer not to go to the top, you can just admire the pagoda from the bottom.

The pagoda sits in beautiful gardens and it’s really nice to stroll around here. It was built in 2003 so is relatively modern.

The Maitreya Buddha Statue: 

From Bai Dinh Pagoda you can walk up to the fourth level of the complex to the silver buddha located on the top of a hill.

Your legs will probably be tired from all the walking by now, but from here you can get absolutely stunning aerial views over the entire complex, and all the temples and the surrounding landscapes surrounding Bai Dinh so it is worth the climb!

aerial view bai dinh pagoda temple complex ninh binh

Visit the Ancient Pagoda:

The original Bai Dinh Pagoda dates back over a thousand years and is located around 800 metres south of the modern Bai Dinh pagoda site – about a 10 minute walk away.

To get to the old Bai Dinh Temple, you need to climb around 300 steps that are by the entrance gates.

The old temple isn’t grand like the new one – it actually includes a series of small caves and grottoes where you will find statues of Buddhist deities!

This is the holiest part of the whole complex, and you’ll see lots of offerings, candles and shrines here.

How to Get To Ninh Binh/Tam Coc From Hanoi

By Bus/Minivan: Buses and minivans to Ninh Binh depart regularly from Hanoi’s Giap Bat Bus Station (Hanoi Southern Bus Station), usually every 30 minutes.

The 200km journey takes about 2-3 hours and costs approximately 150,000 VND ($6 USD) by bus or 250,000 VND ($10 USD) by minivan.

The minivans are very comfortable – some even offer free wifi and water for you, and the seats are very spacious.

We went via minibus and would recommend it for convenience and cost. You can book tickets on 12.go Asia to ensure you get the best deal and a convenient time.

By Train: Trains from Hanoi to Ninh Binh run several times a day, taking about 2.5 hours. Ticket prices range from 100,000 to 200,000 VND ($4-8 USD).

By Car: A private car or taxi from Hanoi to Bai Dinh Pagoda takes around 1.5-2 hours, costing roughly 1,500,000 VND ($65 USD).

By Tour: There are several day trip tours that depart from Hanoi in the morning and arrive back in the evening, as well as some multi-day tours.

The tours below each take you you to Bai Dinh Pagoda, as well as other places in the local area such as Trang An Caves and Hung Mua Caves in Ninh Binh.

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Best Time to Visit Bai Dinh Pagoda

The weather around Bai Dinh Pagoda is mild and pleasant during spring (February to April) and autumn (September to November).

The annual Bai Dinh Pagoda Festival is held during spring and has lots of cultural activities, so it’s a great time to visit if you can time your trip for then.

Just remember though, that this will be the busiest time as spring is peak season in Vietnam so the complex will be more crowded.

That being said, any time of year is a good time to visit Bai Dinh Pagoda.

Bear in mind that it does get hot here during the day so it’s a good idea to visit first or last thing in the day to avoid the midday heat.

We spent a full afternoon here at Bai Dinh, there was just so much to see, so make sure to factor in enough time on your itinerary!

Dress Code

It’s important to dress modestly and act respectfully at Bai Dinh Temple as it is a place of worship.

Visitors should dress respectfully, cover their knees and keep noise to a minimum as this is a well-known pilgrimage site for Vietnamese people.

Remember that you’ll be doing a fair bit of walking, so it’s a good idea to wear comfortable shoes and bring some water with you!

arhat corridor buddhist statues bai dinh pagoda ninh binh

Facilities

Bai Dinh Pagoda complex is well-equipped with restrooms, souvenir shops, and there are some food stalls by the parking lot where visitors can enjoy local cuisine.

That being said, I’d advise to eat in Ninh Binh or Tam Coc as you’ll get a far greater choice.

Where To After Ninh Binh?

You’ll want to spend a few days in Hanoi before or after your time exploring Ninh Binh and the Bai Dinh Temple complex.

A trip to Sapa to see the rice terraces, as well as a cruise in Halong Bay, are also very popular activities to do when in Northern Vietnam and are definitely worth it!

 

Overall Bai Dinh Pagoda definitely doesn’t get the attention it deserves – probably because it’s further out from Ninh Binh than all the other touristic attraction in the area.

And for this reason it’s a great hidden gem to explore without the crowds!

From stunning views to impressive Buddha statues and architecture, it’s a great place to spend a few hours and learn more about Buddhism and Vietnamese culture and history when you’re in Ninh Binh!