EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MARBLE MOUNTAINS

     

The Marble Mountains dominate the plain-like landscape along the coast road between Hoi An & Danang. On the way from the airport, you can’t help but notice them looming in the distance & jutting up dramatically from the flat earth. Their intrigue continues as you get closer và see the scores of magnificent marble carvings of lions, Buddha, and other statues. Everything you could imagine being carved from marble surrounds them. You will also no doubt bởi vì a double-take as you see the somewhat awkward-looking great glass elevator protruding from their side.

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The Marble Mountains are a group of five limestone và marble hills in Ngu hanh Son District. They are one of the most popular day trips from Hoi An, situated just trăng tròn kilometres north of the city. The mountains’ sheer, porous limestone is punctuated by caves and tunnels, which are fitted with spectacular Buddhist and Hindu shrines. Of the five mountains, only Mt. Thuy is accessible to tourists. It has the highest summit và a stunning, panoramic view of the coast, domain authority Nang, và the other Marble Mountains. We at Hidden aim to equip you with all the knowledge you will need khổng lồ fully appreciate this popular day trip.


Contents

History of Marble MountainsRecent History of Marble MountainsHow to lớn Get khổng lồ Marble Mountains From Hoi An or domain authority NangTickets & Getting Around Marble MountainsGetting Around Marble MountainsActivities at Marble Mountains

What are the Marble Mountains?

The cluster of limestone outcrops that biến hóa the Marble Mountains were initially sacred sites worshipped by the Cham peoples of Central and Southern Vietnam. However, the mountains are not massive in comparison lớn some of Vietnam’s northern ranges. But they are impressive in relation khổng lồ the flat central floodplains of the surrounding countryside. So it is easy to lớn see why they cast an attractive spell on the Cham. They also contain a myriad of cave networks và tunnels that the Cham recognised as holy places.

In the centuries since the Champa Empire, Buddhist followers have built shrines và temples at the summits of the mountains and in the caves below them. Therefore the Marble Mountains and their shrines within, continue to lure visitors lớn this day to enjoy their expansive views, wander their intricate caves and be swept up in their history.

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The caves & tunnels with their impressive shrines and statues. Photo: Hidden Hoi An

History of Marble Mountains

Naming Marble Mountain & the Five Elements

In 1825, centuries after the decline of the Cham Empire, the Vietnamese King Minh Mang, named the mountains “Ngu hanh hao Son”—The Five Element Mountains. Each mountain is named after one of the five essential elements in Eastern Philosophical thought: Kim (metal), Tho (earth), Moc (wood), Hoa (fire), & Thuy (water). Together, the mountains were a spiritual destination for both the Vietnamese aristocracy và Mahayana Buddhists. So over the years, Buddhist followers constructed the sanctuaries that you see today.

However, during the French colonial period, French geologists realised the mountains were comprised of marble & re-named them the “Marble Mountains.” The French name stuck, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Recent History of Marble Mountains

Above all, through a history that was in turns peaceful and turbulent, this sacred site has served as a refuge for generations of Vietnamese. During the French Colonial War, the Huyen Khong Cave served as a secret command post for the local revolutionaries và a forward base from which they could stage guerrilla assaults. However, when the Americans invaded, they & the Southern Vietnamese government used the cave as a garrison. The caves riddled through the Marble Mountains, as a training venue for marines.

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The magnificent statues & shrines in Huyen Khong Cave. Photo: Hidden Hoi AnThe People’s Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF)

In 1968, American forces were attacked & driven out of Marble Mountains by the People’s Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF, or the Viet Cong). Simultaneous assaults on the Mountains & nearby American air force bases successfully returned the caves khổng lồ Communist control. The PLAF then established a secret field hospital in the Huyen Khong Cave. Here they tended wounded guerrillas & spied on American forces at nearby trung quốc Beach.

One reminder of this wartime history is a plaque dedicated to lớn the PLAF Women’s Artillery Group hung on the cavern wall. In 1972, the women of this artillery unit destroyed 19 Marine aircraft parked at the Marble Mountain Air Facility, an American airfield at the base of the mountains. It’s an interesting juxtaposition; a testimonial khổng lồ military success in the midst of holy Buddhist surroundings.

So walking into the cave’s interior, just imagine the difficult conditions the cave of Huyen Khong offered as a surgery unit. Therefore it’s possible that, despite the dark and testing conditions, the religious relics looking down into the cave’s interior provided some comfort for wounded soldiers. Today the cave has now returned to its peaceful origins attracting thousands of Vietnamese pilgrims every year.

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Visitors at one of the many stone gates designating entrance points lớn caves & pagodas. Photo: Hidden Hoi AnLost Your Marbles

However, despite weathering countless wars and uprisings, in the late 20th century, the Marble Mountains faced a different kind of threat khổng lồ itself. The red, white, & green marble used by local carvers for tombstones, statues, & touristy knick-knacks sold in da Nang and the surrounding beaches came from the large rock deposits in the mountains themselves. The sacred stone hills even supplied the building material for Ho đưa ra Minh’s mausoleum in Hanoi.

Eventually, it was realised that quarrying marble from the mountains was unsustainable in the long run. Sadly the limitless consumption of stone from their reserves would reduce the towering hills lớn rubble. So, in order to maintain the mountains as a destination worth visiting, quarrying has recently stopped, ensuring the mountains’ longevity. Therefore today, local stonemasons and sculptors import their marble from other regions of Vietnam và Southeast Asia.

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Some of the red, white, and green marble souvenirs available at the base of the mountain. Photo: Hidden Hoi An

When khổng lồ Visit Marble Mountains

In the last couple of decades, Marble Mountains has been developed & promoted as a tourist destination. Complete with tours, shopping, & an easy-access glass elevator khổng lồ take you up the 43-metre ascent. It remains an intriguing place to lớn visit in central Vietnam with its gorgeous views & impressive caves.

There are a variety of tours that offer trips khổng lồ the Marble Mountains. But it is far easier (and cheaper) lớn visit on your own for a day trip. It takes roughly an hour and a half khổng lồ view the sights at Mt. Thuy và costs 40,000 VND (1.70 USD) per person.

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The Marble Mountains ticket office at the base of Gate 2 và the elevator. Photo: Hidden Hoi An

Marble Mountains is open year-round from 7 a.m. To 5:30 p.m. The best months to lớn visit are during the summer season, even though the heat can be stifling. During the rainy season (September to lớn November), heavy rains can come up suddenly và their torrents will slick the marble stairs, making them slippery & dangerous. Check out our article on the best time lớn visit the region here.

People typically only spend an hour khổng lồ an hour and a half exploring just the main mountain, Mt. Thuy. It also has the added benefit of the lift! Without a doubt, the best time to visit is when the tour bus hoards are absent. Usually early in the morning—before 8:30 a.m. The first buses begin to lớn arrive around 9:15 a.m. Or visit later in the day, after the bus tours have left, approximately 4 to 5:30 p.m. Visiting at these times has the added benefit that you avoid the hottest part of the day and have the best light lớn photograph the expansive views.

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The summit of Marble Mountains provides commanding views over da Nang & the surrounding area. Photo: Hidden Hoi An

How to Get khổng lồ Marble Mountains From Hoi An or domain authority Nang

Taxi

Taxis can be booked for a one-way journey or “wait & return.” For a metered taxi, you can expect to lớn pay around 250,000 VND (11 USD) for a one-way ride from Hoi An. You can prebook or negotiate taxi fares for a round trip from Hoi An at a cost of around 500,000 VND (21.50 USD). Any hotel in Hoi An will be able to arrange this for you.

Taxi company – Mai Linh taxis 0235 3929292

Private car company – Minh Hien Hoi An Transfer Service

Bus

The #1 bus from Hoi An to da Nang passes Marble Mountains along the Le Van Hien highway. It is possible to lớn alight at the nearby bus stop và walk the short distance khổng lồ the ticket office.

Hidden Hint: You can find a bus timetable along with details of travelling between Hoi An & Da Nang in our travel article here. Have a live bản đồ on your phone so you can track your location and know when khổng lồ ask the bus khổng lồ stop.

Motorbike or Own Transport

Sitting halfway between Hoi An and Da Nang, finding Marble Mountains with your own transport is very easy. Travel 8 kilometres south from domain authority Nang or 20 kilometres north from Hoi An. Along either the Le Van Hien highway or the (more pleasant) Truong Sa coast road. You will find yourself in the shadow of the limestone outcrop. The ticket entrance can be found on Huyen Tran Cong Chua street surrounded by sculpture shops.

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Organised Tours to Marble Mountain

Most hotels in Hoi An will offer a tour of Marble Mountains. They are usually operating as resellers for a tour company, so ask for full details before booking. For a more unique trip, Vietnam Jeep Tour offers a day trip that includes Marble Mountain, Son Tra Peninsula, & the hai Van Pass. All on-board a refurbished US military Jeep.

Parking

For those who decide to lớn go on your own and drive you can park cars và motorbikes inside the designated parking lot at gate two for 10,000 VND (.40c USD).

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The stone dragons of Marble Mountains, not khổng lồ be confused with the stone cold negotiators in the local souvenir shops. Photo: Hidden Hoi An

Tickets and Getting Around Marble Mountains

Tickets

There are two entrances khổng lồ Marble Mountains. Gate one is at the bottom of a long, daunting flight of stairs, at the base of the glass elevator. Gate two is further down the road along the left side of the mountain. Both entrances cost 40,000 VND (1.70 USD) per person khổng lồ enter. Although the second, further entrance has an easier climb và is less-frequented. The elevator costs an additional 15,000 VND (.65c USD) per person, each way. The 156 step climb at the main entrance is not particularly difficult và offers some interesting views of shrines & stone-carved friezes on your way up. But beware, the stairs are made of marble và can be slippery.

Hidden Hint: Save your legs for exploring the paths & caves by taking the elevator up & walking back down. There are plenty of stairs to negotiate around the rest of the site! At the main ticket office, it is assumed that you want both entrances & return elevator tickets, so be clear about what you want to lớn purchase.

At the ticket office, you can also purchase a map of Mt. Thuy’s attractions for 15,000 VND (.65c USD). There are also large, detailed signs with maps throughout the area.

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The maps of Marble Mountains showing paths and sights. Photo: Hidden Hoi An

Getting Around Marble Mountains

Getting around Marble Mountains means negotiating seemingly endless flights of natural và uneven steps. Young children và those with limited mobility will struggle lớn reach the caves themselves, but they can make use of the elevator lớn visit the Xa Loi Tower and take in some of the views. For everyone else, you can skip leg day at the gym after a day on the marble steps. Water and snacks are available on the mountain & near its entrances. Good footwear is recommended as the steps are far from uniform—this will be especially important if you intend to lớn climb through the Heaven cave.

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Visitors stop for photos on a steep section of steps. Photo: Hidden Hoi AnLing Ung Pagoda

After you make it khổng lồ the top of the mountain from Gate one, there are three main avenues you can explore. The rightward path will take you to lớn Ling Ung Pagoda and Temple, built-in 1825. This towering pagoda is an incredible testament khổng lồ the faith & determination of the early Buddhists, imagine carrying all those massive tonnes of marble up from the base of the mountain! Also, khổng lồ the right is the access to lớn the glass elevator, Van Thong (Heaven) cave, and Xa Loi tower.

The central avenue takes you through the “relaxation” area, which is a collection of small stands, vendors & the restrooms, to lớn Tam bầu Pagoda. This 400-year-old pagoda was built in the 17th century & has been destroyed, rebuilt, & renovated many times. A powerful storm completely demolished the little that was left standing after the Vietnam War in 1991 và so it was reconstructed in recent years.

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The Xa Loi tower sits in a shaded garden at the vị trí cao nhất of the elevator. Photo: Hidden Hoi AnThe View from the Summit of Mt Thuy

Behind the relaxation area, slightly off khổng lồ the right, is a narrow footpath that leads you up khổng lồ the summit of Mt. Thuy. This is the view worth coming for—to the north, da Nang sprawls out in front of you lượt thích a glass jewel in the flatlands. Meanwhile, khổng lồ the east is the famous trung quốc Beach where the American forces arrived and set up their beachhead. Behind china Beach is the mesmerizing azure South đài loan trung quốc Sea stretching to lớn the horizon line, unbroken except for the Cham Islands.

To the south, you can see rice paddies & rural countryside stretched lượt thích a vast green quilt, interrupted by a patchwork of hotel and resort development. Far off in this direction, barely visible from Mt. Thuy’s vantage point, little Hoi An perches like a yellow topaz along the Thu Bon river. In addition, completing the 360, khổng lồ the west, you can make out the mountains of Vietnam’s interior, & the invisible border of Laos.

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Selfies or it didn’t happen. Photo: Hidden Hoi An

If you follow the left avenue, you will pass through a series of gates & arrive at the signature attraction of Marble Mountains, the spectacular Huyen Khong Cave.

Huyen Khong Cave

This cave is definitely a must-see. Massive and awe-inspiring, the Huyen Khong houses two Buddhist shrines, a small temple, và a giant marble Buddha built into the cave-face 5 metres above the cave floor. Incense rods wedged into crevices let off pleasant smells và slow coiling tendrils of smoke. Small coloured lights burrowed into otherwise dark cracks và holes shine like multi-coloured fireflies around the austere cave walls.

In some places, you can see etched carvings & characters, some recent enough to be depicted. Others have so worn with age they seem part of the stone. In the ceiling of Huyen Khong are large holes that let light flicker down into the cave & dance shadows on the dark walls. If you arrive at the right time of day (between noon và 2 p.m.), with the sun correctly positioned overhead, you can witness beams of light stretching from the heavens to lớn the cave floor.

Heaven Cave

Back along the right avenue from the relaxation area is Van Thong or Heaven Cave. Now the Heaven Cave may seem small at first, but there’s more to it than immediately meets the eye. Behind the shrine, up a natural marble ramp, is a narrow tunnel that leads into another chamber. In addition, this second, slender chamber possesses no cave ceiling & is doused in light. You will notice, however, piles of various sized-rocks laying on the ground. Yes, these have fallen from overhead!

Through the back of this chamber is another, far smaller tunnel. So here you will have a chance to vị some honest-to-goodness exploring. You can shimmy up this tunnel using naturally dugout handholds và ascend four metres to lớn its end. However be prepared that it is dark, and the marble flooring is quite slippery, occasionally there are bats (high overhead). But with a smidgen of determination, all but the most faint-hearted will persevere—and the payoff is worth it!

After pushing through the tunnel, it’s a short hike to the summit of Heaven peak. This view is neither as expansive or as impressive as the towering summit of Mt. Thuy. But it is often completely unoccupied và will present you with some perfect photo opportunities. There is a separate way down that leads back khổng lồ the relaxation area. So don’t be “that guy” & try lớn push back down the tunnel against the oncoming traffic.

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The view north towards Hoi An is a great reward for reaching Heaven’s Peak. Photo: Hidden Hoi An

Activities at Marble Mountains

Rock Climbing

Half-day rock climbing & rappelling tours are available through an tiếp thị liên kết company, Phat Tire Ventures. Phat Tire provides top-of-the-line equipment & experienced guides that will lead you through a series of climbs up the slopes of the mountains & then the chance khổng lồ rappel into caves. These tours are fantastic & are worthwhile of your time & money. The tours are for all levels, from amateur khổng lồ expert, & Phat Tire has a program designed for kids too.

Phat Tire Ventures – Address: 80 Le Hong Phong St.

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Abseiling on Marble Mountains with Phat Tire Ventures. Photo: Hidden Hoi AnShopping

At the base of the Marble Mountains is Non-Nuoc hamlet, a crowded shopping area made up of dozens of stone carving shops. Here, you can watch the artisans work, sculpting và sawing huge slabs of marble, và browse a diverse selection of exquisite statues. But remember, this marble comes from other parts of Vietnam. So,if you make a purchase, don’t expect to be bringing a bit of Mt. Thuy home with you. Many of the small carvings are beautiful & make great souvenirs.

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The sculpture garden at Tien Hieu 3 is filled with marble masterpieces of all shapes & sizes. Photo: Hidden Hoi An

However, if you’re not searching for a small souvenir, và would rather have a 3-metre Bodhisattva decorate your patio, you’ll have to negotiate a shipping price lớn take it back home. In other words, the airlines aren’t likely to kiểm tra that 2-tonne mass in with your baggage. But like any purchase you make in Vietnam) healthy haggling is a must. The competition is fierce among shop owners as they all sell identical products.

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One of the most expansive & comprehensive sculpture collections is at Tien Hieu 3. Follow the road east (down the hill) until the Truong Sa coast road & the sculpture garden are on your left. Found here are traditional & modern designs of all sizes, also drop in khổng lồ the workshop to see the sculptors work.

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You are welcome to lớn watch the sculptors at work, just watch out for flying marbles. Photo: Hidden Hoi An

Hidden Hoi An’s thoughts

In conclusion, a trip to lớn the Marble Mountains is one of the shortest day trips you can vày out of Hoi An. Their natural beauty alone makes them worth a visit. But they are an important historical & religious site too. Easily accessible & well phối up for visitors. So there’s no reason to join a crowded tour group. You can manage this trip easily on your own, at your own pace.

There are a large variety of options available for everyone to lớn comfortably experience the Marble Mountains, depending on your màn chơi of interest (and fitness). We pretty much guarantee they will catch your eye và peak your interest as you drive between domain authority Nang và Hoi An, making them a must-see for most visitors to lớn the area.