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Marble Mountains Vietnam is one of our favorite spots in Danang. We’ve lived in Danang for the last few months. And after China Beach (of course!), Marble Mountains Vietnam is our 2nd favorite place in town. Why?
Imagine standing atop a jagged limestone pinnacle, gazing at the South China Sea.
Behind you, a Buddhist Pagoda towers above, enveloped by tropical forest.
A monk walks by in a fluttering, saffron robe.
You follow him through narrow tunnels and into a vast, ancient cave.
Incense fills the air – soothing and sweet.
Your eyes follow the floating smoke, up the high craggy walls, up to the altar.
You see the massive Buddha up in his grotto and your breath catches.
It was definitely worth the climb.
That’s Marble Mountains Vietnam at it’s best.
Highlights of Marble Mountains Vietnam
- 5 Easy-to-Climb Mountains (filled with large marble deposits)
- Buddhist Temples Inside Ancient Caves
- Towering Pagodas on Scenic Mountaintops.
- Panoramic Ocean and City Views.
- Scenic Walkways and Lush Vegetation
- Easy-to-Visit On Your Own
There are lots of tours available, but they’re not necessary, especially if you’re staying in Danang. In fact, the Marble Mountains are much more fun and rewarding to explore on your own. A taxi from China Beach is only $5. On the mountains, there are big maps posted everywhere (in English), so finding your way around is quite easy.
If you only have a few hours of precious vacation time, we recommend seeing only Mt. Thuy (aka Water Mountian). We enjoy exploring every nook and cranny of all 5 mountains, but that takes all day (or more).
Mt. Thuy has the largest number of caves, temples, and pagodas. It has the highest peak, so it offers the best views. And it’s also the most developed with easy stairs, walkways, and a glass elevator to the main level.
These are out top recommendations for a short visit to Marble Mountains Vietnam.
Getting Up Marble Mountain
There are 2 ways up – the elevator and the stairs.
The Cave Temples are the most unique and impressive features of Mt. Thuy. There are 6 major caves (and a couple minor ones) in this Marble Mountain. We’ll spotlight the 3 best.
Tang Chon Cave
This cave’s small opening builds anticipation and makes entering more dramatic.
Once inside, the cave is expansive with a huge, open ceiling. The natural light and encroaching forest gives the cave a very exotic atmosphere.
The main altar is a towering brown Buddha. There’s also a small temple inside the cave, but the marble chess players steal the show for us. Just look at those guys.
Hoa Nghiem Cave
This cave is home to a 400-year-old Lady Buddha statue. The gate lets you know you’re in for something special.
We love this ancient gate, almost overgrown by the lush jungle.
The 400-year-old Lady Buddha is serene, subtle, and blends into the cave.
This Lady Buddha has a fascinating connection with the famous town of Hoi An. If you don’t know, Hoi An was a major Asian port from the 15th – 18th centuries. Merchants and traders from all over Asia moved to Hoi An and became very wealthy.
Some of these Japanese and Chinese merchants built this Lady Buddha in 1640. There are original stone tablets that commemorate the dedication. People from all over the world come to Hoi An to see it’s preserved ancient town.
We absolutely love Hoi An, but it’s oldest and most well-preserved artifact is actually 10 miles away in the Marble Mountains.
Huyen Khong Cave
Hoa Nghiem cave and Huyen Khong cave are connected. Walk behind the 400-year-old Lady Buddha, and you find the tunnel to Huyen Khong cave. This is the largest and most impressive cave by far.
As you turn the last corner, you get a sense of the grandeur, before you even see it.
The cave is truly massive. The whole scene is overwhelming and inspiring. After more than a year exploring Vietnam, we’ve seen lots of temples and Buddhas. This is one of the most unique and poignant in the country.
Once you get over the scope and beauty of the spiritual setting. Take a moment to appreciate natural beauty of rocks themselves. A closer look at the marbled layers is very rewarding. It boggles the mind to think of the millions of years it took to form such beauty.
The Mountaintop Pagodas
The most impressive feature of the pagodas is their mountaintop setting.
Xa Loi Pagoda
This is the iconic sight that looks so cool from street level. It’s even better up close.
Linh Ung Pagoda
Linh Ung Pagoda is close to the elevator and very easy to find. The best thing about this pagoda is the gate. Stand under that arch for great ocean views.
The Panoramic Views
The Highest Peak (Dinh Thuong Thai)
There are many great viewpoints all around the mountain, but why not go all the way to the top. Conveniently labeled “highest peak” on the maps, it takes some effort to get up here, but we’ve seen grannies do it.
The General Loveliness
Beyond any specific sight, the whole area is so pretty to see and a joy to walk around. It’s all open to the public. Feel free to get away from the main areas. Take side paths and peek around corners.
Here’s a random selection of the general loveliness you’ll find on Marble Mountains Vietnam:
For a place with so much natural beauty, it’s also very convenient to visit. There’s lots of moderate intensity walking and climbing, but every path is paved and all climbing is on stairs. There’s even an elevator.
There are clean, modern bathrooms.
There’s also a recreation area and food court. The food court is very tasteful and doesn’t wreck the atmosphere. And believe us, you’ll appreciate a cool drink or ice cream cone on a hot Vietnamese day.
Fast Facts and Background Info on Marble Mountains Vietnam
* The Marble Mountains Vietnam are a cluster of 5 limestone karst formations near the coast. They’re 3.5 miles south of Danang’s China Beach and 10.5 miles north of Hoi An.
* Each mountain is named after an element: metal, wood, earth, fire, and water. Water mountain (Mt. Thuy) is the largest and the best one to visit. It has the most tourists too, but that’s because it has so many attractions.
* The Marble Mountains are an important pilgrimage location for the Vietnamese people. They have big spiritual, cultural, and historical importance for domestic tourists.
* The ancient history of the Marble Mountains dates back millennia to the Cham Empire. The modern history includes moments from the Vietnam war.
* Entrance to Mt. Thuy is 40,000VND ($2USD). The elevator is also 40,000VND ($2USD). Prices were raised in 2017, beware outdated info online.
* Food and drink prices are surprisingly fair for a tourist destination.
* The touts are NOT really that bad. We’ve read comments online that rail about how aggressive they are, but that hasn’t been our experience at all. They are only on the street, near the entrance. They don’t bother you on the Marble Mountains. The only people that will approach you on the mountain are some little old ladies selling incense near the various altars. In our experience, they are not aggressive.
There are many sculpture stores around Marble Mountains. Producing fine statues is a centuries-old local tradition, passed down through generations. Most of the pieces are gorgeous, but we stumbled across one that cracked us up.
Doesn’t this statue look like a naked Chris Griffin (from the Family Guy cartoon)?