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I didn’t expect much from Da Nang. I’d never heard of it before figuring out where to fly into in order to meet my friends in Hoi An, and no one had ever exclaimed love and adoration (or discomfort and ambivalence) about it.
I thought it was just going to be a layover, but I’m so glad I got to spend some time there. If you’re in town, check out these things to do in Da Nang.
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Explore the Marble Mountains
Approximately 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of city center are the Marble Mountains, perhaps Da Nang’s most famous attractions.
This set of five marble and limestone mountains dot the Da Nang horizon and are named after the elements metal, wood, water, fire, and earth.
While the mountains are home to marble, it’s very much illegal to extract rock from them.
Instead, locals and tourists come to the mountains to visit its many Buddhist (and some Hindu) sanctuaries.
There are various temples and grottoes to explore, many adorned with giant religious sculptures. When you hike to the peak of Thuy Son, the water mountain, you’ll also be rewarded with gorgeous views.
Tickets to visit the Marble Mountains are 40,000 Vietnamese Dong (VND), or around $1.70 USD.
Good footwear is recommended, as there’s a lot of walking and a number of stairs. If you’d rather skip the hike, you can pay another 15,000 VND to take the elevator. That will take you to the main plateau of the mountain so you can explore most of the temples and grottoes. It will not, however, take you to the peak.
I’d recommend at least 2-4 hours for your visit, though you can certainly spend much more time there. And go in the morning before the tour buses shuttle in the crowds!
Hike Son Tra Mountain
Also known as Monkey Mountain, this nature preserve is worth a visit if you enjoy the outdoors.
Located on the Son Tra Peninsula, Son Tra Mountain is an approximately 35-45 minute drive from Da Nang. So get a Grab car or bike, and head on over. The mountain is more than 2000 feet in the air, though, so make sure to bring a light jacket for the unexpected chill at the peak.
If you’ve got the time and energy, start at the base of the mountain and spend your entire day hiking. If not, pick a middle point and get dropped off there.
I hiked Son Tra Mountain with some hostel mates. We didn’t decide to do the hike until early afternoon, so we chose to get dropped off at Dinh Ban Co (Ban Co Peak).
Once you do the very short climb to the peak, you’ll understand its English nickname of Chessboard Peak.
Unfortunately, it was a bit foggy when we went, so it was hard to see from the peak. Usually, however, the peak offers stunning views of the city.
As you hike down, keep an eye out for the monkeys that give the mountain its nickname. We spotted twenty-some monkeys on our hike. (Apparently, they are different types of rhesus and langurs, but to me -> monkeys.)
A leisurely downhill hike from Dinh Ban Co takes approximately 3.5-4 hours.
Say hi to the Lady Buddha statue
This gigantic Lady Buddha sculpture awaits you at the bottom of the mountain when you finish your hike.
Of course, like many other such statues in Asia, this isn’t Buddha but the goddess of mercy, Guan Yin.
Its home is Linh Ung Pagoda, the largest in Da Nang. Admission is free, and many folks come for religious pilgrimages.
Take an Insta-worthy walk
The Golden Bridge, sometimes dubbed god’s hand bridge, made a splash online when it first opened. It’s not hard to see why.
I haven’t been there yet as it opened after I visited Da Nang. But giant stone hands supporting you as you walk through the air and take in the scenery around you? I’m down.
The bridge is located in the Ban Na Hills and is a roughly two-hour drive from Da Nang. There are many tours there as well.
Learn about Cham culture
Once you’ve covered the outdoors and the religious, head to the Cham Sculpture Museum to learn more about the history and culture of this region. It was once part of the Champa Kingdom, and before that, the home of the Sa Huynh people.
A 60,000 VND ticket to the Cham Sculpture Museum will lead you to multiple floors of artifacts, sculptures, pottery, and photography showcasing the history of the region.
Go to Hue or Hoi An
If you’re ready to get a little further outside of the Da Nang area, consider taking an overnight trip to Hue and/or Hoi An.
Home to the main international airport in central Vietnam, Da Nang is perfectly situated in between the two cities.
You can’t go wrong with either city. But if you only have time for one, I’d recommend Hue for the history buffs and Hoi An for the culture lovers. Both cities also have amazing food options.
Enjoy a hearty Vietnamese meal
And of course, can any list of things to do in a city be complete without food?
One of my favorite things about central Vietnam is all the food that didn’t make it out to western countries in the Vietnamese diaspora. And Da Nang is full of spots with delicious central Vietnamese home cooking.
Unfortunately, I misplaced my info on some great street food spots. But here are two casual restaurants that I’d recommend:
- Mi Quang Ba Mua, a local favorite for mi quang, one of my favorite new Vietnamese discoveries.
- Cua Hang An Uong Mau Dich 1986. Perfect for family-style meals.
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