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Travel Report: Marble Mountain, Danang.

The Marble Mountains Danang Vietnam

Marble Mountain, Danang.

April 2018.

On the face of it Danang has just about everything for the curious traveller. First it’s a large, modern metropolis stuffed with markets, museums, temples and a vibrant river scene dominated by a fire-breathing bridge. Furthermore, it has one of Vietnam’s most popular stretches of coastline, home to glistening, golden beaches. More on that in my next article.

Danang also has a number of gorgeous mountains with viewpoints overlooking the city and beyond into the East Vietnam Sea. Of these, you can’t miss the handsome Marble Mountains, a cluster of five limestone and marble peaks positioned tightly together in the city’s Ngu Hanh Son District.

Visit Danang Marble Mountain.

Marble Mountain, Danang.

The hills are named after the five elements of Taoism, Kim (metal), Moc (wood), Hoa (fire), Tho (earth) and Thuy (water). An amusing and typically unlikely Vietnamese legend claims that their creation dates back to a mysterious dragon egg.

The dragon egg legend Marble Mountains Danang

Make me five mountains.

Apparently, Mr/Mrs/Ms Dragon emerged from the sea near Non Nuoc Beach one day and laid an egg right on the sand. Excited locals gathered and waited. And waited… and waited… and waited. Finally, after a thousand days, the egg hatched and out came a beautiful woman. It seems unclear what became of her. However, the broken egg shells that remained eventually grew into the five mystical mountains we see today in Danang. Sounds plausible.

Marble Mountain, Danang.

Thuy Son Water Mountain Vietnam.

Marble Mountain, Danang.

All five Marble Mountains offer visitors walking trails in addition to ancient pagodas, caves and tunnels. But if you actually want to embark on a proper hike that results in sweeping summit views, you’ll need to head to Thuy Son (Water Mountain). As the most prominent of the five mountains, people also refer to it as simply Marble Mountain.

Ticket office Marble Mountain Danang

Marble Mountain, Danang.

From downtown Danang it’ll take you around two hours to walk to Water Mountain’s staircase entrance. That’s just fifteen minutes in a taxi. There are also public buses. But back then it was a real pain in the ass figuring out the where and when of everything. At the ticket counter I paid my dues (15.000VND / $0.65) and set off in what turned out to be mercifully mild temperatures.

Climbing Water Mountain Danang Vietnam

Marble Mountain, Danang.

I certainly appreciated the lack of humidity that day, as it was hard enough dragging myself up those staircases. Indeed I took several opportunities to stop and catch my breath at the various gates that pepper the route. Interestingly, a few still bear bullet holes from The Vietnam War.

William Broyles Jr. US Marine and Hollywood screenwriter

William Broyles Jr.

Back in the early 1970s Water Mountain hosted a hidden Vietcong hospital. Somewhat cheekily, it sat on the doorstep of a US airfield on the beach below. “They were so certain of our ignorance they hid it in plain sight” drawled the US Marine William Broyles Jr. After his military career, Broyles became a successful Hollywood screenwriter, whose credits include Apollo 13, Jarhead and Saving Private Ryan.

Thuy Son.

Marble Mountain Danang Vietnam War history

Marble Mountain, Danang.

There are a bunch of beautiful pagodas and caves to explore on Water Mountain. And they break up the climb nicely, rewarding visitors for their considerable efforts. My first stop came at Tam Ton Pagoda, a wonderfully maintained Buddhist garden complex. There is a distinct Chinese flavour throughout, including lion guardians, red lanterns and silent monks strolling between the potted plants.

Tam Ton Pagoda Marble Mountain Danang

Tam Ton Pagoda.

It’s a nice warmup act for the mountain’s biggest and most historic compound, Tam Thai Pagoda. Built in 1630, this is one of the region’s most celebrated temples. You enter through the crumbly Three Passage Gate, a surviving part of the original complex.

Exploring Monkey Mountain Danang Vietnam

Marble Mountain, Danang.

The temple itself has undergone a number of renovations over the years. Following a devastating fire, the Nguyen Emperor Minh Mang oversaw a grand reconstruction project in 1825. He also elevated it to the status of National Pagoda. The king’s younger sister, Princess Ngoc Lan, even lived here for a year studying Buddhism.

Emperor Ming Mang Vietnam.

Emperor Minh Mang (1791-1841).

But by 1901 Tam Thai Pagoda was in ruins again, this time because of a typhoon. The next reconstruction finished in 1907 and was carried out via the donations of Buddhist monks. As you approach the main three-story building, you’ll see one of their statues outside, a smiling sandstone Buddha.

Tham Thai Pagoda Marble Mountain Danang

Marble Mountain, Danang.

It was silent inside when I entered, with just a handful of people praying. This included a resident monk, who scowled at me before returning his gaze to the main altar. Hence I hid myself away in a tight corner and watched proceedings from a respectful distance.

Marble Mountain, Danang.

Inside Tham Thai Pagoda Danang Vietnam

Inside Tam Thai Pagoda.

A number of items belonging to King Minh Mang decorate the altar. A heart shaped bronze medal, for example, features an inscribed Buddhist text right from the king’s hand. No wonder Buddhists from all over Vietnam flock here to pay their respects.

Tham Thai Pagoda Marble Mountains Vietnam

Marble Mountain, Danang.

Back on Water Mountain’s main trail, I climbed higher and higher up staircase after staircase. The views were fantastic, particularly over the other Marble Mountains.

The Marble Mountains Danang Vietnam

The Marble Mountains, Danang.

And then I found myself branching off again on a rocky woodland path that leads to Huyen Khong Cave. I’d been looking forward to this all day, with a number of online articles claiming the cave is Water Mountain’s undisputed highlight.

Huyen Khong Cave.

Marble Mountain, Danang.

Chinese and Japanese merchants established the cave in the 17th century in order to create a dramatic new Buddhist temple to rival all others in the region. They definitely succeeded in making it a special place of worship. As you descend the stairs into the large, cathedral-like chamber, it feels quite literally as if you have entered another planet.

Huyen Khong Cave Danang Vietnam.

Huyen Khong Cave.

Faded ancient inscriptions decorate the stone walls. A large wooden Buddha meanwhile sits perched on a carved platform high above ground level. Lit up by a heavenly beam from the cave’s skylight, caused by a falling bomb during The Vietnam War.

Huyen Khong Cave.

Skylight Buddha Huyen Khong Cave on Marble Mountain in Danang

Marble Mountain, Danang.

Elsewhere, there are stone tablets with Confucian texts added in the 19th century. And a number of candlelit altars where visitors from all over Asia stop to pray and add incense sticks.

Woman praying Huyen Khong Cave Danang Vietnam

Marble Mountain, Danang.

It’s a magical fascinating place that, strangely, has a distinct lack of information both onsite and online. The only other thing I found out was that this was the 1970s Vietcong hospital I’d mentioned earlier. I guess the Americans did discover it in the end.


Another cave I checked out that day was the smaller and altogether cosier Linh Nham Cave. This one, dating back to the mid 18th century, has even less info on it. Nevertheless, it seemed every bit as popular, with dedicated worshippers at the altar and a line of patient onlookers waiting their turn.

Linh Nham Cave Marble Mountain Danang

Marble Mountain, Danang.

After the caves there were trails leading to several wooden viewpoints nestled among the trees. But they looked horribly busy, so I decided to push on and hold out for the best views at the summit.

Marble Mountain, Danang.

Climbing Thuy Son Water Mountain in Danang Vietnam

Marble Mountain, Danang.

It was worth the effort! At the top I gave a celebratory punch to the air and promptly collapsed on a wooden bench. After I’d caught my breath, I managed to convince an Indonesian tourist to grab a shot of me as king of the mountain. 

At the summit of Marble Mountain Danang Vietnam

At Water Mountain’s lofty summit.

The giant complex of buildings down below is The Vinh Pearl Resort, a luxurious five star hotel on Non Nuoc Beach. Look out for more on the hotel and beach in a later article. I was delighted to have conquered Marble Mountain. But in all my excitement it was a few minutes before I realised that, yes, I still had to walk back down. Ah, nuts. 

Leighton Travels travel reports short stories.

For more on this unmissable Vietnamese city, take a look at my other articles on Danang.

Or maybe look further afield with my many more pieces from across Vietnam.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.Leighton Travels logo travel reports and short stories.


  • 100 Country Trek

    Thanks for sharing this. We loved seeing Marble Mountain and we visited Huyen Khong Cave. So much to see in that area.

    November 15, 2021 - 12:08 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Glad you also got to see the mountain and it’s wonderful cave.

      November 15, 2021 - 12:10 pm Reply

    We still aren’t putting Vietnam on our travel radar yet – too many complications with entry and there are plenty of easier countries now available. Maybe 2023 will finally see us resume that trip. I’m liking the eggshell legend – don’t you just love those stories you pick up as you travel, myths and legends surrounding local landmarks.

    November 15, 2021 - 2:01 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I have a friend living in Vietnam. Kind of suck actually. He says it really isn’t a place to be right now but there is light at the end of the tunnel. You are wise to put it on the back burner for a while, I think.

      November 15, 2021 - 2:06 pm Reply
  • Little Miss Traveller

    Wow, Marble Mountain is yet another part of Vietnam I would love to visit Leighton and I very much enjoyed your travel report. My travel insurance was up for renewal and after last year downgrading it to Europe only, I’ve resumed my worldwide cover feeling quite optimistic of venturing further afield in the coming year. Fingers crossed!

    November 15, 2021 - 2:39 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hooray for renewed worldwide travel insurances! Curious to hear where your next exotic adventure will be.

      November 15, 2021 - 3:00 pm Reply
  • I’ve Bean Travelling

    This was the only place I visited in Da Nang and it was surprisingly interesting! I remember the steps up to the viewing point being super crowded. Thanks for sharing.

    November 15, 2021 - 2:59 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Jess, great to see you back on the blogosphere! I think I was lucky that day with the crowds, it wasn’t too bad at all.

      November 15, 2021 - 3:02 pm Reply
  • kagould17

    Looks like a fabulous walk Leighton. What was the temperature like? Glad there was not high humidity. Yes, in our quest to get to the top or the view point, we often forget we have to walk back. It is kind of an Oh S— moment, but the trip back usually takes less time. Thanks for sharing your posts on this beautiful place. Allan

    November 15, 2021 - 3:15 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Temperatures were pretty manageable that day as I recall. At least not as searing hot as it usually was on that trip. I was appreciative of the temporary reprieve.

      November 15, 2021 - 3:25 pm Reply
  • Memo

    Such dramatic sheer walls on the mountains. Formed by eons of erosion, I assume. The vietcong hospital was intriguing. They had to carry sick and wounded up the paths? I was impressed by the large number of people who had made the climb up the day you were there. The views down revealed a very modern looking neighborhood.

    November 15, 2021 - 3:44 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I was thinking the same thing about the hospital. Hidden, yes. Convenient? Surely not. There were plenty of people on the mountain that day, but for the most part I managed to avoid them.

      November 15, 2021 - 5:42 pm Reply
  • grandmisadventures

    What an incredible place to hike! I really loved all the temples within the caves. I think what I love about hiking is even though at times you think you may die there on the trail, that feeling of making it and looking out below you and feeling that you really are King of the Mountain makes it all worth it. And with such incredible views and sights- I would say that you definitely earned the title on that hike 🙂

    November 15, 2021 - 4:55 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      It’s true what you say Meg about the rewards of hiking. Especially ones that push you hard or take you a little out of your comfort zone. King for a moment! I’ll take that any day.

      November 15, 2021 - 5:46 pm Reply
  • wetanddustyroads

    Mountains coming from an egg, they say … very interesting 😉. But you know, it is actually quite strange to see these mountains “popping” up in the middle of the city – and then they look nothing like I would have imagined from closer. That cave does looks fascinating (makes me wonder about the egg theory 👀). And what a great view from the top of the mountain – you are indeed the king of the mountain!

    November 15, 2021 - 5:12 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      They Marble mountains are indeed an unusual grouping right in the heart of such urban development. If only they could have found the egg, guess it would be in a museum somewhere 😉

      November 15, 2021 - 5:44 pm Reply
  • Lookoom

    I appreciate your effort to share what to see in Danang. There is a great contrast between the density of housing around and the mountain preserved from excessive construction.

    November 16, 2021 - 12:14 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Yes, in that sense I’m not sure I’ve seen a city quite like Danang. Thanks for reading!

      November 16, 2021 - 8:49 am Reply
  • Rebecca

    As the saying goes, what comes up must go down! Ascending a steep mountain is a challenge, but to descend afterwards can be just a treacherous. I’ve heard good things about Danang, and Marble Mountain looks to be a worthwhile visit from there! One day, when I visit Vietnam…

    November 16, 2021 - 5:09 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for checking out Marble Mountain, Rebecca. I hope you’re enjoying the fall in L.A.

      November 16, 2021 - 11:50 am Reply
  • travelling_han

    Wow it’s so beautiful, those shots of the mountain are dreamy. I also love their version of a ‘trig point’ – basically a log for you to stand on haha! I also like the egg legend….it’s a bit like Castlel dell’ovo in Naples, which also reportedly came from an egg!

    November 17, 2021 - 12:42 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Oh that’s curious, a similar Italian legend. I shall have to look into that. Thanks for contributing to the thread Hannah.

      November 17, 2021 - 3:01 pm Reply
  • WanderingCanadians

    The Marble Mountains look stunning, as does the Huyen Khong Cave. Great shot of you at the top! The walk down is never nearly as much fun.

    November 17, 2021 - 2:11 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for dropping by guys, glad you enjoyed this overview of Marble Mountain. The area is blessed with these kinds of sights and indeed there will be another Danang mountain featured before I wrap up the series.

      November 17, 2021 - 2:59 pm Reply
  • Travel Report: Marble Mountain, Danang. – Nelsapy

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    November 18, 2021 - 10:51 am Reply
  • amazingwalks

    Very interesting place. Thank you for sharing! 😊

    November 19, 2021 - 7:08 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      November 19, 2021 - 8:40 am Reply
  • rkrontheroad

    Ah, walking down is the easy part. Although I’ve been to a few treks where my knees complained about the constant downhill, especially on stone steps. I can only imagine the teams of workers needed to build those stairs and then mounting the Buddha high in the cave.

    November 22, 2021 - 4:31 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Oh lord yes, backbreaking work no doubt. Thanks for your thoughts Ruth.

      November 22, 2021 - 4:36 pm Reply
  • Nic

    Such a beautiful, eerie place. I do want to believe there was indeed a dragon coming out of the sea, laying an egg, that eventually hatched and the shells transformed into mountains. I think places like this can turn you into a believer in fantastic myths, even when our heads stubbornly insist that no, it was just tectonic plates, volcanic eruptions…dragons are a lot more interesting 😂

    November 22, 2021 - 9:37 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I agree, the dragon’s egg legend feeds much more into our romanticism as travelers. Thanks for catching up with recent posts Nic, appreciate it.

      November 22, 2021 - 9:40 pm Reply

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