A cluster of five hills made from limestone and marble, Marble Mountains are a well-known pilgrimage site with peaks, caves, tunnels and temples all just waiting to be discovered. Named after the elements metal, wood, water, fire and earth, Marble Mountains exist in a coastal area that is renowned for stone cutting and sculpture about 9km south of Danang.
The caves within the mountains hold many secrets including bullet holes from when troops used to spy on the US soldiers relaxing on My Khe Beach below and buildings standing within the caves and grottoes.
There are also a host of Buddhist sanctuaries and places of worship dotted across the mountains, which are a much-visited spiritual site. There are many pagoda temples and even a special circular cave featuring a chimney leading to the summit with spectacular panoramic views.
According to ancient folklore, a dragon emerged from the water on Non Nuoc Beach and laid an egg. A thousand days and a thousand nights followed before the egg hatched, and out stepped a beautiful girl. The fragments of the shell were left on the beach and eventually grew into the five mystical Marble Mountains.
Today, one of the most popular highlights is climbing up the Marble Mountains and enjoying spectacular views across Non Nuoc, also known as My Khe Beach. The Mountain of Water which is home to pagodas dating back to the 17th century and a number of caves is one the most frequented climbs with a steep hike up stone steps to Tam Quan Gate and its superb vistas to Mount Kim Son or Metal Mountain and the coastline from the Riverview Tower located next to the gate. The Riverview Tower dates back to the 18th century and the reign of the Emperor Minh Mang.
Close by is Van Nguyet Grotto, which is a nice resting spot where you can grab a fresh coconut to drink. The Lantern Cave is also worth a look, small but deep and filled with lava along with Am Phu Cave which heads down to a very scenic viewpoint.
It can take up to four hours to explore all of Marble Mountains so its good to start early when it is not so hot and of course wear comfortable shoes, and if you can, bring a torch. Vietnamese children sell souvenirs at Marble Mountains and you can expect to be hassled until you've either bought a gift or 'tipped' them a few dollars for a 'guided tour'.