Van Long Nature Reserve

Located only 80 km from Hanoi, and set amid mist-shrouded limestone peaks, with many shrines, pagodas and caves, this area covers beautiful wetlands and is a magical part of Ninh Binh. Van Long means "Dragon Flying in Clouds” and it got its name at the time of the Le Dynasty, where this area was an important outpost for Hoa Lu, the ancient Vietnamese capital in the 10th century. This peaceful reserve has a very diversified ecological system where you can spot many types of fauna, most importantly over 40 kinds of Delacour's langurs, as well as a wetland that's perfect for birdwatchers. Some of the unique birds that have been seen here are the rare Black-Faced Spoonbill, Cotton Pygmy Goose and White-Browed Crake.

The seven ancient villages of Van Long are home to the local communities relying on growing rice and fish-farming, but in the last years, many of them offer a boat ride similar to the one in Tam Coc, however less touristy and more relaxed. The ride takes around one hour and a half with only 2 passengers in a small boat.