Marble Mountains – The ancient Buddhist monastery of Da Nang – A complete guide to the Marble Mountains
“Written by Khanh – Khanh is the owner of Mate Hoi An Tours. Khanh has been a tourist guide for 10 years and has a great knowledge of Hoi An and Da Nang.“
Marble Mountains ( In Vietnamese they are called Ngu Hanh Son which means the mountains of the five elements) is a cluster of the 5 mountains which were named after the 5 basic elements in the Vietnamese culture: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, Earth. The ancient Vietnamese believed that everything in this world was created from those elements.
Today, the Marble Mountains become the iconic tourist attraction of Da Nang. Walking up the mountains, you will see a forest growing up on marble, which is rarely seen any where else.
History of Marble Mountain
Many million years ago, A volcano erupted from the sea near Da Nang today. The eruption created the five mountains and other islets and peninsulas: Cham Island and Son Tra Mountains.
The Marble Mountains then belonged to the Champa Kingdom. Cham people turned the Mountain into a Hindu sanctuary. In the 15th century, the Vietnamese occupied the area and Vietnamese started living in the central coast of Vietnam. Marble Mountain became a Buddhist monastery.
In the 19th century, Minh Mang emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty visited the mountains and ordered artisans, soldiers to build more temples and carve more statues.
In the late 19th century, Vietnam was colonized by France, the Marble Mountain was still a Buddhist monastery for locals, although due to the war, it was destroyed many times by the French and later the American.
After the war, Marble Mountains become well-known for its beauty and attract millions of tourist every year.
What is Marble Mountain famous for?
Marble mountain is a very important site of Da Nang. For many hundred years, it has been a religious center for both Buddhist and Hindu. In the Mountain, there are many important relics and artifacts built by the ancient people. People visit Marble mountains for many reasons, some of which can be listed here:
- Beautiful sights: Marble Mountains ( Especially the Water Mountain) are very beautiful. There are to ways to climb up: we can walk up on foot or take the elevator. Up there, the view is very breathtaking. There are a lot of things to see: Ancient temples, natural caves, sculptures carved into the rock by local artisans,…
- Long and interesting history: Marble Mountains have a very long history and a lot of stories to be told. The myths and local belief are incredibly appealing. It is also a wonderful way for those who wish to learn about the history of Buddhism.
- Beautiful stone village: The village is said to be over 200 years. People used to take marble and limestone to carve artifacts, statues, kitchen utensils and sold them everywhere in Vietnam. It is worth a look at how they do it nowadays.
What to see at the Marble Mountains
Although there are 5 mountains, the only accessible one is the Water Mountain. Taking the elevator to the middle of the mountain, we will see the 28 m tower which is being used as a burial place for the monks.
“Tip: bring shoes or sandals, sneakers,… the stairs can be slippery. Put on some mosquito repellant, there can be mosquitos in the cave”
The tower was built in 1997 and completed in 2004. It is a big mausoleum for the monks who devoted their whole life for the temples and Buddhism in the mountain.
Moving forward a bit more, we will visit the Linh Ung temple which was built 200 years ago. Linh Ung is not a big temple, but it is famous for it history. Linh Ung was built in the early 19 century. The myth says that there was a princess who was Minh Mang emperor’s sister. She always wanted to be a buddhist monk. Her powerful brother always tried to prevent her from going to the temples, but no one could change her mind. Later the emperor and his people travelled all the way from Hue to Da Nang. They chose the Marble Mountains to be the monastery for the princess to pray. Linh Ung in English means ” your wishes come true”. Its name came from the sacredness of the temple in which people believe.
After Linh Ung Temple, Tang Chon cave is the next stop. Tang Chon cave is a hidden cave behind Linh Ung temple. In the past, it was a place where the monks kept books and stuff. Inside the cave, we still see a Hindu relics, Buddha statues,…
Tang Chon cave was full of myths and legends, although it is not the biggest cave in the mountain. During the Vietnam war, local people of Da Nang sought for shelter in this cave from the American raids. They believed that Lady Buddha ( Goddess of Mercy) would protect them.
“Tip: Tang Chon cave is behind Linh Ung temple. Go behind the temple, you will enter the cave. Turn right you will see the bat cave, turn left you will see the wind cave“
One of the must- see place in the Water mountain is ” Huyen Khong” cave. Huyen Khong cave is the biggest and most beautiful cave in the mountain complex. It is 30m high and has some holes on top. Sun rays go through the holes on sunny days.
In the Vietnam war, the local guerrillas lived in the cave. They climbed up through the holes to shoot the US helicopters.
Huyen Khong became a shrine where monks prayed in the morning. In 1825, they built a temple in the cave. The temple is also very famous for its sacredness. People come here to pray for prosperity, health, or having babies,…
The cave’s temperature remains cool even in the hot summer. That was the reason that the monks chose it to be a meditation place.
“Tip: To catch the best moment and the utmost beauty of Huyen Khong cave, go in the morning”
Beside Huyen Khong Cave, Tang Chon Cave, Linh Ung temple, we can also visit Hell cave which is also beautiful, Tam Thai Temple which is 200 years old, Van Thong cave which is 2 caves going through each others, Heaven gate, and the top of the mountain which is 200m high.
Tam Thai temple: This is the oldest temple in the Marble Mountain cluster. The temple was built in 17th century. It was renovated several times before becoming what it is today.
Hell cave: Under the Water Mountain, Hell cave represents the journey of people when they die in Vietnamese belief. You will discover 18 levels of hell where people get punished for their sins. You will see the gate to heaven as well.
” Tip: the top of the water mountain is the highest point, up there we will get the good view to the beach and city, but it is also very challenging for many people. If you decide to go, take a big break in advance”
The stone village: To finish off the day, you can stop by the Marble Stone Village to see how local sculptors carve the statues from marble.
Best time to visit the Marble Mountains
Because 80% of the mountain is marble, 20% is limestone, the marble stairs are very slippery when they are wet. Fortunately, moisture vaporates quickly from marble, so it will be dried up quickly if the rain stops. For that reason, choosing the right time is very important. To have the best time in the Marble mountains, please choose the dry season. The dry season in the central coast Vietnam ( Hoi An, Da Nang, Hue) is from March to September ( February should be fine, because the rain tends to decrease). In the winter ( Monsoon or rainy season from October to January), usually it will be rainy and windy, but please note that there can be some sunny days, which depends so much on the monsoon from the North), so you can pick some beautiful days in this season).
What is the best time of day to visit the Marble Mountains? There are many caves and they are most beautiful when the sun lights go through it, so morning is the best time to see it. You should start at 7.00 or 8.00 from your hotels, at reach the mountains in the middle of the morning.
In the summer, it could be 40 C degree outside, but the temperature remains cool in the Mountains. For that, please don’t be worried about the heat. You will have a great time there.
How to buy tickets
You can buy tickets at the ticket counters. There are 3 tickets if you want to see everything:
Entrance ticket: 40,000 vnd / pax
Elevator ticket ( optional): 15,000 vnd/pax
Hell cave ticket: 15.000 vnd/ pax
Entrance ticket is free for children ( Elevator ticket is not free)
” Tip: If you want to exercise, you can walk up the stairs from the main entrance, and you can save 15.000 vnd. If you want to save your energy for later, buy the elevator tickets. We recommend you buying the elevator tickets, because it will be really exhausting if you start walking up from the entrance”.
How to get to the Marble Mountains
From Hoi An, you can get to the Marble Mountains by car, motorbike taxi, …
Car: A private car with a driver can cost 700,000 vnd to 800.000 vnd for the visit of Marble Mountains and Lady Buddha in Son Tra peninsula. The driver will wait for you and be flexible with your time. Along the way, he can stop at the beach, fish wharf for a break or photos. This is a good choice, because it will be safe and convenient.
Motorbike taxi: Motorbike taxi is mainly grab bike ( You can download grab app), it costs around 150.000 vnd for 1 way. When you want to go back to Hoi An, you can book again at the mountain.
Scooter rental: You can save the cost of transportation by going there yourself by scooter. The Scooter rental costs 200.000 vnd for a good scooter ( gas is not included). This is not recommended if you are not used to the traffic in Vietnam, but if you are a good driver, this will be a fun way to discover the Marble Mountain and Da Nang surroundings. Parking fee at the Water Mountain ( Thuy Son) is about 10.000 vnd. Remember to bargain and ask the price first.
Private tour: You can book a tour with us. Mate Hoi An Tours provides private tours to Marble Mountains. Khanh is an experienced tour guide and speaks perfect English. The tour will save you a lot of time from planning your itineraries and all other inconveniences. Khanh will explain to you all the facts, history, take you to good spots for taking photos, and help you avoid tourist traps. The tour also includes: guide, tickets, water, coffee stops. We have Marble Mountains and Lady Buddha private tour with big discount, now available at 850.000 vnd/ pax
Please check out our tours here: Marble mountain and the giant Lady Buddha tour from Hoi An/ Danang; Marble mountain, Lady Buddha tour and Dragon Bridge at night; Marble mountain, Lady Buddha, Dragon bridge, Hai Van Pass, Lang Co tour; My Son Sanctuary and Marble Mountain full day tour from Danang/ Hoi An
What should you bring
Marble mountains have a lot of temples, so wearing appropriate clothes is very important. In summer, when it is hot, you can wear shorts, but please make sure it is not too short. You will go in the cave, so please bring some mosquito repellant along. Wear sneakers or shoes for your safety when walking the marble stairs.
What to see around the Marble Mountains:
You can combine the Marble Mountains with other attractions in Da Nang:
- The big Lady Buddha on Son Tra Peninsula is 10 km from the Marble Mountains. It is 67m tall and said to be the second biggest Lady Buddha in Vietnam. From it, you have a view of the whole Da Nang city.
- My Khe Beach and the Man Thai Fish Wharf: Along the way up to the Lady Buddha, you can also stop by My Khe Beach ( It’s voted as one of the 7 most beautiful beaches in the world by Forbes). Next, you can visit the fish wharf nearby. This fish wharf is very busy in the early morning when the fishermen bring their catch from the sea. If you go there late, you won’t be seeing that, but the view is very nice.
- Dragon Bridge: The Iconic bridge of Da Nang City is the most beautiful bridge in Da Nang. It has the shape of a dragon which can shoot fire and water every weekend evening.
- Da Nang Museum: This is the biggest museum in Da Nang where you can see through Da Nang’s history and culture. If you don’t mind a little bit of propaganda, this is worth a visit.
Thank you for taking time reading our travel guide to the Marble Mountains and Da Nang, I hope it will be useful for you. If you need any question or assistance, please let me know at the comment below – From Khanh the owner and guide of Mate Hoi An Tours
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