Located between Da Nang and Hoi An, the Marble Mountains attract thousands of tourists from all over the world. Known also by the name of the Five Element Mountains, each represents one of the five essential elements: Kim (metal), Tho (earth), Moc (wood), Hoa (fire), and Thuy (water). Only Thuy Son (Mountain of Water), which has the highest summit, is accessible to tourists.
The Marble Mountains can easily cast a spell on anyone, since they are home to several pagodas and statues as well as different caves, tunnels and breathtaking views of the surrounding area. You can get to the top by either climbing 156 stairs or by taking the elevator, which makes it accessible to tourists of all ages.
The Marble Mountains
What are the Marble Mountains?
Initially, the Marble Mountains were sacred sites worshipped by the Cham people of Southern and Central Vietnam. Now, the cluster of hills made of limestone and marble is considered to be one of the main attractions in the country.
When visiting the Marble Mountains, tourists only have access to Thuy Son (Mountain of Water), one of the five hills. If you are more of an explorer, you can take your time and enjoy the caves and pagodas you come across, while making your way to the top of the Marble Mountains. And once you reach the top you’ll find spectacular views across My Khe Beach.
Where are the Marble Mountains?
The Marble Mountains are situated 9 km south of Da Nang and 20 km north of Hoi An, which makes them easily accessible from both cities. If your flight is to Da Nang, you can visit the Marble Mountains in a 15 minute drive from the airport.
On the other hand, if you are already staying in one of the many hotels in Hoi An, you can easily get to the Marble Mountains in around 30 minutes’ drive (for transportation see below).
History of the Marble Mountains
The Vietnamese King Minh Mang named the mountains “Ngu Hanh Son” (The Five Elements Mountains), in 1825, centuries after the decline of the Cham Empire. During that time, the mountains were an important spiritual destination for Mahayana Buddhists, as well as the Vietnamese aristocracy. Many years later, during the French colonial period, a group of French geologists re-named them the “Marble Mountains”, as we know them today.
The Marble Mountains played an important role in the Vietnam War too. Once a sacred site, the Huyen Khong Cave served as a garrison, used by the Americans and the Southern Vietnamese government. However, after many assaults on the Marble Mountains, the caves fell under Communist control. During this time, The People’s Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF) established a secret field hospital there. At the same time, thanks to its panoramic views, the cave was successfully used to spy on American forces at nearby My Khe Beach.
One famous story tells of 17 Buddhist nuns shooting down two American planes from the mountains. The truth may be a stretched in some of the stories about the Marble Mountains but whatever the case, it is certainly true that guerrilla fighters, military scouts and others found sanctuary in ‘Marble Mountain’ and used it to advantage over the years.
Consider getting a guide if you’re interested in exploring this very rich history further.
The Marble Sculptures
‘Marble Mountain’ is also famous for sculpting marble, though in an effort to preserve the site, it is no longer quarried there but sourced elsewhere. As you approach, you see marble statues, magnificent and massive, in numerous showrooms dominating the roadside. They are worth a visit on their own.
Aimed at wealthy Vietnamese and Chinese tourists, these statues are truly amazing and if you fancy a couple of 20-feet-tall lions in your backyard then here’s your chance. There’s jewelry on sale as well as beautifully carved, whopping marble chess sets. Smaller carvings may appeal but they’re hard to settle for once you’ve stared into the eyes of an 18-foot, laughing minotaur.
The majestic Dong Huyen Cong Cave is the centerpiece of the entire Marble Mountains marvel. Inside this vast natural cathedral is a gob-smacking, giant Buddha and a complex of Buddhist temples and statues across a hefty underground courtyard. Here, at certain times of day, commanding shafts of sunlight thrust downwards like intense searchlights from the top of the dome, amplifying the grandeur and spiritual power of the site in an extraordinary display that puts the initially interesting, but much smaller, Van Thong Cave firmly in its place. Abseiling opportunities in some caves.
Other points of interest include several pagodas of profound spiritual and historical significance; the Ling Ung Pagoda, established by the Nguyen Kings in the early 1800s as the National Pagoda, the standout.
Throughout your visit to Marble Mountains you’ll find myriad opportunities to soak up and photograph the surrounding plain below, the ocean and China Beach nearby, The other marble mountains and the large mountains on the western horizon, towards Laos. Look for little tracks that reveal special vantage points as well as the well-signposted lookouts.
Hoi An to Marble Mountains
How far are the Marble Mountains from Hoi An?
The Marble Mountains are only 20 kms north or a 30-minute drive from Hoi An, which makes them one of the most popular attractions for tourists staying there. Find our overview to Hoi An here.
Getting from Hoi An to Marble Mountains
Being so close to Hoi An, it is easy to reach the Marble Mountains, by both public transportation or private car/motorbike. Below are the main options you can choose from.
If you would like to have a more comfortable ride, you can book a taxi for either a one-way journey or ‘wait and return’, in case you are not planning to spend too much time exploring the area. If you choose a metered taxi, you should expect to pay approximately 250,000 VND (11 USD) for a one-way ride from Hoi An to the Marble Mountains.
In order to get from Hoi An to the Marble Mountains, simply catch the #1 bus that connects Hoi An to Da Nang and get off at a nearby bus stop. Then, you can easily reach the ticket office on foot.
If you do not have a recognized driving license, it’s safer to stick to public transport than ride a motorbike, but if you do have one, then you can easily reach Marble Mountains by taking the Le van Hien highway. When arriving at your destination, you will find the ticket office on Huyen Tran Cong Chua Street. As for the parking, you can let your car/motorbike rest in the parking lot at gate number two, for 10,000 VND (0.40 USD).
Tip: Before hitting the road, check out our guide to Vietnam Road Rules.
Best time of the year to visit the Marble Mountains
Thanks to their location, you can visit the Marble Mountains any time of the year. However, it is recommended to do so in the dry season (January-August), since the marble stairs can be slippery and potentially dangerous in the rainy season (September-December). Also, in order to avoid the crowds and the midday heat, try to go as early as possible and start your visit before 9am.
How long does it take to climb Marble Mountains
Depending on your interests and also on how you want to explore the Marble Mountains – by climbing the 156 stairs or by taking the elevator, which costs an additional 15,000 VND (0.65 USD) per person, each way – one visit can take between 1.5 and 4 hours.
What to wear for Marble Mountains
When visiting the Marble Mountains, make sure you wear breathable clothes and good footwear, since the steps can be challenging at times. On top of that, if you are visiting during the summer, make sure you wear a hat and sunscreen. Lastly, cold drinks and coconuts are sold on the mountain so make sure you stay hydrated during the day. Shorts are fine to wear when visiting.
Practical Information (Opening Hours, Cost)
You can visit the Marble Mountains all year round, between 7am and 5.30pm. The ticket costs 40,000 VND/ 1.70 USD and you do not have to buy in advance. At the ticket office, you can also purchase a map of Mt. Thuy’s attractions for only 15,000 VND (0.65 USD). However, there are plenty of large, detailed signs with maps throughout the area.
After crossing the Marble Mountains off your bucket list, make sure you check out other important attractions in Hoi An and surrounding area.
Entrance ticket: 40,000 VND (1.70 USD)
Shades Cave: 20,000 VND (0.85 USD)
One-way elevator ticket: 15,000 VND (0.65 USD)
Map: 15,000 VND (0.65 USD)