Da Nang City, a splendid coastal city in the central Viet Nam, with Hai Van Mountain Pass in the North, Son Tra Peninsula in the North-East, and The Marble Mountains in the South. Lucky to embrace the spectacular natural landscape, Da Nang has become one of the top favorite cities to visit in Viet Nam.
Situated on Huyen Tran Cong Chua Street, The Marble Mountains is a range of five limestone hills offering travelers with the magnificent beauty of nature and the fantastic experience that might never be found anywhere else.
What are The Marble Mountains?
Behind the name
Photo: Danang Fantastic City
At the beginning of the 19th century, King Minh Mang, on his travel to the mountains, observed and recognized the unique position of the 5 mountains. From this inspiration, he named the mountains “Ngu Hanh Son”, meaning “The Five-Element Mountains” in English.
Each of the five mountains is named based on the five elements of nature in the Oriental Philosophy – Kim Son (Metal Mountain), Moc Son (Wood Mountain), Thuy Son (Water Mountain), Hoa Son (Fire Mountain), and Tho Son (Earth Mountain). Ngu Hanh Son Mountain was also known as “Ngu Uan Son” (Five mountains), “Pho Da Son” or “Bach Hoa Ngu Chi” (5 fingers) based on the shape of the mountains viewed from the top.
The popularly-known name “The Marble Mountains” was given by French geologists during the French colonial period based on the chemical element of the mountains.
Travelers coming to The Marble Mountains are always inspired by, and fond of ancient folklore passed on from generation to generation.
It was told that there had been a dragon emerging from the water on Non Nuoc Beach and laid an egg, which was then rumored to be The King of The Sea’s baby.
The egg hatched for a thousand days and nights, and finally, a beautiful girl appeared. The fragments of the shell were left on the beach and became the five mysterious mountains.
Water Mountain – Thuy Son
Among the five beautiful mountains, Water Mountain was the largest, the highest, and the most beautiful one, which is the reason why it was open for tourists to come and discover.
Moreover, Water Mountain is also called “Tam Thai Mountain” comprising three peaks – Thuong Thai (The Highest) in the North-West, Trung Thai (The Medium) in the South, and Ha Thai (The Lowest) in the East. On different parts of the mountains are towers, pagodas, and magnificent caves.
At the first step on Water Mountain in 1825, King Minh Mang made the decision to create 2 stairways to the mountains – 1 in the West with 156 steps to Tam Thai Pagoda, and 1 In the East with 108 steps to Linh Ung Pagoda.
Why The Marble Mountains – Ngu Hanh Son Mountain?
A paradise of natural beauty
Da Nang is one of the lucky cities in Vietnam, where travelers can find natural landscapes near the residential area. The Marble Mountains is one of the recommended destinations on the list thanks to its holy location and charming beauty.
As you climb Water Mountain, you can not only find the air much cooler and fresher but also get surrounded by the green colors of trees and impressed by the spectacular view from the high level. Different pathways on the way up lead to various exciting points of attraction, which engages the sense of curiosity and adventure of all types of travelers.
By the way, over millions of years, the gift from Mother Earth – the limestone on stone walls and in caves is the splendid works of arts.
A religious destination
Ngu Hanh Son Mountain has been home to a variety of religions throughout centuries, from Buddhism to Hinduism. What can still be admired on the mountain nowadays are the caves, the temples, the shrines, and the pagodas.
A witness of history
Besides being a tourist destination, the Marble Mountains has been the inspiration to philosophers, researchers, and historians. The mountains witness different stages in the history of Vietnam since the beginning of the 14th century.
From documents and researches, it can be found that a number of historical events regarding the war, tradition, and religion took place on the mountains.
Huyen Khong cave, one of the sites on Water Mountain, was the Vietnamese military base during the French colonial period. During the Vietnam War, it was again used as the military training camp for the American. In 1968, the Vietnamese military took over the cave and converted the area into the secret surgery and medical place.
Traces of history can be found on the carving of the stones or the relics, which leads the Marble Mountains to become an interesting topic for students of history and travelers to explore the depth of the story about those mountains.
When to Visit The Marble Mountains?
Adventurers and travelers are recommended to set off the journey to The Marble Mountains during the summer. In spite of the expected heat during the hot season, you can enjoy yourself with the fresh and cool air on the top of the mountain while you climb.
From September to November, sudden rain may occur, causing some difficulties for travelers. The stairs may be slippery and dangerous; also, the dark clouds may not be ideal for photography purposes.
Additionally, the mountains are open daily from 7 a.m to 5.30 p.m, so you can travel very early in the morning – before any buses full of group tourists or families – to avoid the crowd and to stay on the mountains however long you want.
- Wear sporty or proper clothes, along with good trainers for climbing.
- Make sure you bring enough water to keep yourself hydrated.
How long to spend exploring The Marble Mountains?
To my experience, you can take time to climb the stairs, take some rest, enjoy the view on the way up, indulge in the beauty of the landscape, and discover every corner of the mountains in around 4-5 hours. Indeed, your legs must be trained well to finish the whole mountains.
By the way, some shops for fruit juice, soft drinks, or ice-cream are available on the mountains in case you need them.
For those who would like to take a short trip for pictures or have a planned tour in advance, you can save your time using the shortcut – the lift. In this way, it would take you around 1-2 hours to finish the mountains.
An ideal tour that is usually preferred is to spend 3-4 hours on The Marble Mountains in the morning and then make the trip straight to Hoi An Ancient Town as those two tourist destinations are in the same direction – to the South of Da Nang City.
Tickets and Fees
· Water Mountain Entrance Fee: 40,000 VND (1.75 USD)/ adult
· Hell Cave Entrance Fee: 40,000 VND (1.75 USD)/ adult
· Lift Fee (optional): 15,000 VND (0.65 USD)/ person/ turn
· Guide Fee (optional): 50,000 VND (2.16 USD)/ group
As mentioned earlier, there are three peaks on Water Mountain, so you are recommended to have a map which can be found at the ticket counter or on the Internet to follow.
Sure, you can decide to pay for a tour guide or to follow a guided group. The tour guides are usually local people who have a lot of experience and knowledge of the mountains, so they may give a lot of enjoyable as well as useful information.
You can choose to start your trip either at the main gate that leads to Tam Thai Pagoda or at the other to Linh Ung Pagoda, and finish by the other gate.
Transport Advice To The Marble Mountains
Private or rented motorbike
Situated around 8 kilometers from Da Nang, The Marble Mountains is easily approachable by motorbike. So, it’s not difficult to find how to go to Marble Mountain.
The easiest way from Danang is to go straight to the beach, and then go along to the South (on Hoang Sa street, then to Truong Sa street). Traveling in this way, you could also enjoy the fresh air, see beautiful beaches, and indeed, the traffic is not that heavy as in the main road.
You will definitely see some marble sculpture shops or villages on the way with the very large mountains you are looking for. They have a huge stone with the name for the direction, so when you see it, turn on the right, and you might find the parking easily.
If you travel from Hoi An, you can do the same, but you need to turn on the left upon reaching the stone sign.
In case a personal bike is unavailable, you can look up some motorbike rental service or get recommendations from your friends. The price for renting a manual one is around VND 100,000 – 120,000, and an automatic one at VND 120,000 – 150,000. The price may vary depending on the brand, the engine as well as the age.
Taxi or Grab
In case you aren’t accustomed to Vietnamese traffic, it’s a good idea to book a taxi or a Grab as Ngu Hanh Son Mountain isn’t far from Da Nang City. You can let yourself have a nap and enjoy your time traveling without any stress.
- For metered taxis, you can choose either a one-way or two-way trip. I recommend the choice of a two-way one as the agency sets typically the limit of travel distance and time at a very reasonable price. You will have to pay extra only for an additional kilometer or hour. This is how I usually spend on a long-distance trip.
- If you are a fan of Grab, certainly you can book one. You can choose to pay by cash, cards, or sometimes coupons, redemption points, or promotion code. The fare is sometimes cheaper than that of a taxi, depending on the time you book.
Another common way to travel to The Marble Mountains is to take a bus from Hoi An – Da Nang or Da Nang – Hoi An. Hop on one, and tell the driver the expected location. He’s gonna let you know when The Marble Mountains is near.
Because the driver may drop you by the beach, so you possibly need to walk around 5-7 minutes to the mountains.
It’s easy to find a recommended Marble Mountain tour at your hotel, homestay, or hostel. You can opt for a private or group tour. The tour is like a package that usually includes all from transport, guide, drinks, and of course, stories about The Marble Mountains as well as locals.
You may need the business card of where you stay or the contact of the one assisting you with the tour so that you might call him/her in case of any trouble.
What to explore at The Marble Mountains
Climbing The Marble Mountains is like joining an adventure. Besides historical pagodas standing for hundreds of years, there are caves and peaks that travelers would like to conquer. Make sure you take a picture of the Marble Mountains map at the foot of the mountains or may find it on the Internet in advance.
By the way, if you travel with your children, you may consider if you should travel all the mountains or not because it would be quite exhausting to spend 3-4 hours climbing.
Drinks and snacks can be found in the relaxation area before the entrance to Huyen Khong Cave, so don’t worry if you don’t have enough water with you.
So, what are those destinations that you can explore on The Marble Mountains?
Tam Thai Pagoda
Taking gate number 1 for climbing, you will first reach the 3-entrance Tam Thai Pagoda. 156 stone steps were built in 1630, and the stairs are covered in shadow, so you can relax, take your time and climb easily. A sunny yard and a tranquil ambiance are expected upon your first step into the pagoda.
Photo: Lotussia Travel
Tam Thai Pagoda was built in the 17th century, which means it’s 400 years old until now. It is the most ancient one of The Marble Mountains that has received the supervision of 12 abbots throughout years.
The original pagoda was built from bamboos and leaves. It was not until 1925 that King Minh Mang, on his visit, decided to rebuild it with the new material to ensure the pagoda’s stability.
It was built in the 17th century, making it around 400 years old, being the witness of the Tay Son rebellion, the Vietnam War and many other patriotic movements in Vietnam’s history. Despite the damage or destruction caused by battles, wars and disasters, the pagoda is still standing strong.
Huyen Khong Cave
Continuing with your journey, you will reach Huyen Khong Cave on your left side. This is one of the most well-known for its special structure and a lot of beautiful pictures taken here.
Going around 5 meters deep to the cave, you may feel calm in your mind if you’re used to this type of traveling or a little freaked out because of the darkness; however, be sure not to miss it as Huyen Khong Cave’s one of the best to discover.
Photo: Asianway Travel
The light goes into the cave through the large natural hole from the ceiling, creating a mysterious and magnificent atmosphere. Throughout a day, the light direction changes, blending with trees’ green color and the smoke from incense. By the way, thanks to this feature, the cave is usually dry, unlike other humid and dark caves.
At the center and opposite the staircase is the 3-metre statue of Buddha carved by a famous marble sculptor in Non Nuoc village in 1960. Following under is the shrine of Kṣitigarbha, one of the four principal Bodhisattvas in Buddhism.
Photo: My Guide Vietnam
On the Buddha statue’s right side are a wide range of shrines to worship Gods and Goddesses.
- Goddess Ngoc Phi is for the wealth and luck of people. From the 2nd to the 8th of March in the Lunar calendar annually, tourists and followers come to worship at her shrine.
- Goddess Loi Phi, the sister of Goddess Ngoc Phi or Princess of Forest, is believed to protect forests and mountains, so people come to her for luck, health, and safety before every journey or business.
- The ancient Trang Nghiem Tu Temple comprises three compartments. The main one is to worship Avalokiteśvara, the Buddhist Bodhisattva of compassion, the most popular in Asian countries, who is believed to protect people and bring happiness as well as safety.
The left compartment is to worship the three Gods – Quan Cong, Quang Binh, and Chau Xuong in the novel “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” – symbolizing Morality, Wisdom, and Loyalty.
The right part is to honor the God and Goddess of marriage and love whom couples come to, praying for their happiness and healthy life.
The Summit of Water Mountain – Thuy Son
Back in the relaxation area, if travelers continue going straight, they may find some stairs which lead to the highest peak of the mountains. As it is the peak with wide and large stairs, it requires a lot of stability and strength.
Keep yourself hydrated, take a rest when you feel tired, then continue when you’re ready. Let’s go!
You will not regret on reaching the top. You may grab a breathtaking 360 view to the beach in front, the endless horizon, the beautiful city scenery, the other mountains (Metal, Fire, Wood, and Earth), and all the way to Hoi An. The wind may pass through your hair strongly, so be careful, move slowly, and don’t forget to capture the best pictures of your adventure!
Ling Ung Pagoda
Photo: Fred Tougas
If you turn to the right from the relaxation area, you will reach Linh Ung Pagoda that was ordered to be built by King Minh Mang in 1825. Another way to get here is to start your trip by the second gate, climbing 108 stairs.
Photo: Local Buddy Tours
The pagoda is also a historical site and a holy place for followers of Buddhism. Located on the medium peak, Linh Ung Pagoda is still outstanding and famous compared to other sites.
There are two other pagodas named “Linh Ung” on Ba Na Hills and Son Tra Peninsula in Da Nang City. If you try to connect the three pagodas on the three mountains of Da Nang on the map, you might accidentally find a triangle, which is believed to bring the energy and the vitality to the city.
Tang Chon Cave
The name of the cave suggests a place of the universe’s philosophy. Situated just behind Linh Ung Pagoda, the cave is like a charming small valley hidden behind the large old trees. There are five small caves inside with a variety of shrines and temples.
Stone-carving tradition at The Marble Mountains
Non Nuoc stone-carving village
What enables tourists to recognize The Marble Mountains is the village of stone-carving just right at the foot of the mountains. The tradition has existed for more than 400 years with many famous and considerable works of arts.
The marble from The Marble Mountains was also contributed to the structure of Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Ha Noi.
During the past few years, the People’s Committee of Da Nang has abandoned the exploitation of stones from The Marble Mountains so as for the protection of the site. Therefore, sculptors of the villages still follow their centuries-old tradition of stone-carving with different types of stones transported from other cities in Viet Nam.
Tourists can pay a visit to those villages to observe the whole procedure of carving a statue or listen to some presentations about their history.
Shopping at the Marble Mountains
Travelling is always combined with souvenirs. One of the most favorite souvenirs of the Vietnamese and foreign travelers is those stone bracelets, necklaces or statues. There are a wide range of choices with different sizes and various demands, so you might find something interesting and beautiful to bring home.
- How much is the entrance ticket for Marble Mountain?
The Marble Mountain entrance fee is VND 40,000. Children below 6 years old are free of charge.
- How to get to The Marble Mountains?
As The Marble Mountains is easily approachable, you may get to rent your own motorbike, book a taxi, or hop on a bus to reach there.
- How far are The Marble Mountains from Hoi An?
The distance from Hoi An to Marble Mountain is around 14 km – a 20-minute drive.
- What can you do at The Marble Mountains?
The Marble Mountains is a great work of art from nature to Da Nang people. Travelers can visit pagodas, caves, or the mountains’ summit, get to learn about the history and the beauty of Viet Nam. One more thing you can do is visit the traditional village and go shopping for souvenirs at the mountains.
- How many steps are there at The Marble Mountains?
There are 156 steps to Tam Thai Pagoda (if you take Gate no. 1) or 108 steps to Linh Ung Pagoda (if you take Gate no. 2).
- How far are The Marble Mountains from Da Nang?
The Marble Mountains is located around 10 km away from Da Nang City (if you start from Cham Museum), so it might take approximately 20 minutes.