About a mile south of Da Nang are the Five Beautiful Marble Mountains (Marble Mountains). The Marble Mountains are not really mountains, but rather a number of rocks of marble and limestone. In Vietnamese, the rocks are called "mountains of the five elements", where each rock is named after an element - Metal, Wood, Fire, Water and Earth. All the different mountains are filled with caves and tunnels, but up on Vattenberget there are several small Buddhist shrines inside the caves.
Vattenberget () is the most famous mountain and the mountain with the most attractions. Many Vietnamese pilgrims (and Western tourists) go here to visit the large number of temples, pagodas, caves and statues scattered among the trees in a large area up on the mountain. We went here for a morning in June, but despite the manageable amount of visitors, only managed to scratch the surface of the vast area.
There are two ways to get up to the temple area at Vattenberget. It is possible to walk up a large amount of stairs to the temple area, but there is also an elevator. The elevator takes you to the first temple area, but to get to the area's major attractions, you need to be prepared to keep walking up more steps. We chose to take the lift, as it didn't cost many kronor nor was there a queue when we were here. Had we been here in the winter, we would probably have taken the stairs up. A little nicer to hike in the winter, when it's not 40 degrees hot and humid.
The Marble Mountains originate from the old kingdom of Champa and several of the statues in the area are over 400 years old. Despite everything the area has gone through during its history, all the buildings and statues are very well preserved. During the Vietnam War, the area was an important hiding place for the North Vietnamese army, where from the top of the mountains they could see from afar if the Americans were on their way.
The area is one of Vietnam's most valued attractions and the number of visitors to Vattenberget is as great as the scent of incense. There are people in every temple praying, meditating or just enjoying the peace and quiet. The whole area is filled with so many small details that it is almost impossible to see everything during one visit. So in retrospect, we probably should have split our visit into two half days, to avoid temple blindness and avoid the large number of tourists that arrive in the middle of the day.
One of the most fascinating things about the area, is all the details. Look under the roots of a tree and find dragons angrily sticking out of the rocks. Look at the tiniest little rock and find little porcelain figurines, no taller than a few centimeters, cast into the rock. Temples, gods, pagodas. Here at Marble Mountains, they come in all sorts of sizes.
There are five caves on Vattenberget, all of the caves contain Buddhist statues and the walls are carved with Buddhist motifs. Make sure you wear proper hiking sandals or hiking shoes, because with flip flops it will be basically impossible to climb into the caves. It is usually easier to get into the caves than out, as it is narrow, dark and steep on the way out and there are no steps.
How do I get to the Marble Mountains?
The Marble mountains are about a mile south of Da Nang and 2 miles north of Hoi An. We couldn't find any buses that could get us here from the area where we were staying without taking half a day to get there, so we booked the hotel taxi to wait for us downstairs until we were ready. There weren't many taxis in the area, so it's probably good to have a booked transport for the journey home. The taxis in Hoi An are both fresh and cheap.
How long does it take to see everything?
You need about 4 hours if you want to see everything at Vattenberget. Considerably more if you also want to see something on the other mountains. Get here early in the morning to avoid most of the tourist buses.
If possible, try to go here on a day when it's not raining, because it can be very slippery on the stone steps and inside the caves when it's wet.
Do you want to read more about attractions around Hoi An?
Look into my Vietnam page, here you will find everything from tips on hotels to restaurants and attractions. (Or keep scrolling for more pictures from the Marble Mountains 🙂 )
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Travel Guide to Hoi An, Vietnam – Rucksack travel blog1 December, 2019 at 16: 47
[…] Cham Islands (snorkeling), Hai Van Pass (high mountain pass between southern and northern Vietnam) and Marble mountain (cave temple on a mountain) are all worth a […]
Ingrid Person11 January, 2020 at 19: 15
Thanks for the inspiring pictures and many good tips. Plan a trip at the end of 2020
Eva Gyllenberg11 January, 2020 at 20: 27
How nice that you were helped by my posts and how nice that you are going to Vietnam! A wonderful country and a fantastically beautiful area to visit. Hope you have a great trip!