Yen Tu Mountain in Quang Ninh Province is the cradle to Vietnamese Buddhism, as well as other tales and legends of pilgrimages to the mountain. Thousands of visitors in Vietnam and from all over the world flock to Yen Tu Mountain to marvel at the natural wonder of the Northern mountainous scene and appreciate the thousands of years of the Vietnamese heritage on their journey. Below is our experience of the way to Yen Tu so you can prepare for your next trip to this sacred destination.
Beautiful grapefruit tree at the entrance of Yen Tu
Standing at the height of 1068 meters above sea level, Yen Tu Mountain acts as a natural borderline between Bac Giang Province to the west and Quang Ninh Province the east. It is another attractive destination in the North for hiking and trekking in Vietnam. From the cloud-covered peak, you can expect a majestic panoramic view of famous attractions, such as the glorious Halong Bay or the grand Bach Dang River.
What’s even more special is that each spot on the way to the mountain top carries a timeless legend of the feudal past. History has it that, during the late 12th century to the early 13th century, a King from the Tran Dynasty, called Tran Nhan Tong, left his sovereignty behind to go on a pilgrimage to the mountain and became a monk. Consequently, he established the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism and a meditation branch that many people still overcome the long journey to practice it at the mountain till today - which is the Truc Lam Yen Tu Meditation.
The complex of Yen Tu Monuments and Landscape was listed by the local authority in the list of UNESCO Heritage nominations in 2014. In the remains at Yen Tu, there are 11 pagodas and close to 100 towers and shrines.
The Monastery is also called the Lan Pagoda or Long Dong Pagoda and lies in the foothills of the mountain. This is where people come to practice Buddhism and celebrate the traditional festival every year. Yen Tu Pagoda Festival lasts from the 10th day of the 1st lunar month until the end of the 3rd lunar month.
When the Tran King went to the mountain to practice Buddhism, he left every materialistic attachment behind, including dozens of his concubines. The ladies were so heart-broken that all of them committed suicide in a stream in the mountain. The King then established a pagoda nearby to pray for his past concubines, and the stream is later named “Giai Oan” to commemorate the event.
Surrounding the pagoda are six towers, including a grave temple of the King Tran Nhan Tong.
The pagoda was built on the height of 543 m on the mountain and nestle inside green rows of aged trees.
Once you reach the height of 700 m, the Van Tieu Pagoda will slowly appear from the clouds and come into sight.
The Enlighten Buddha statue of King Tran Nhan Tong
Dong Pagoda proudly stands on the top of the mountain and is the desired destination of all pilgrims visiting Yen Tu.
Marker indicating another 25 m to reach the Dong Pagoda situated at the top of the Yen Tu Mountain
"Dong" translates to Bronze - a Pagoda built of bronze
Due to the high elevation at 1,920 m - the weather is cool and foggy
Mot Mai Pagoda (One Roof Pagoda) built on the side of the mountain pilgrimage
Inside the sacred One Roof Pagoda
Along the trails, there are other structures and pagodas to admire, such as Thap To (To Tower), Mot Mai Pagoda (One Roof Pagoda), Bao Sai Pagoda, Yen Ky Sinh Stone Statue (some say An Ky Sinh Statue), Am Ngoa Van (Ngoa Van Hermitage), eco-tourism sites, etc.
The area is still a secluded place with few options for high-class amenities, except for the 5-star MGallery Yen Tu. Check out our blog for more Places to Stay at Yen Tu Mountain.
Yen Tu National Forest entrance marker
By Private Vehicles
Most people would get from Hanoi to Uong Bi City in Quang Ninh to visit Yen Tu. It is possible to rent a private vehicle in Hanoi and take the national highway QL 18 to travel to the mountain. The drive is 3 hours with a distance of 120 km.
You can take a bus to Quang Ninh Province (particularly Ha Long City and Mong Cai City) from Hanoi. However, you will still have to take a taxi or a motorbike taxi (xe om) to cover the remaining 10 - 15 km from the bus stop to arrive at the Yen Tu Mountain.
Find your bus ticket online and have it sent to you via email:
You can either choose to walk to the mountain peak or take a cable ride. The first option may sound daunting as you would need to complete the 6 km of stone steps to reach the top, which may take up to 6 hours. On the bright side, it is believed that finishing the journey on foot will make your dream come true, and the view along the way, as well as the untouched bamboo and pine forests, are greatly rewarding.
Part of the peaceful walkway journey to the Yen Tu Summit
Some parts up the mountain will be just plain steps
Vuon Thap Hue Quang, Yen Tu Mountain
Having said that, the cable ride at Yen Tu mountain has the most up-to-date modern system, and there are some options to choose if you don't want to walk all the way up to the mountain.
Yen Tu Mountain Summit Map
One of the two cable lines to reach the top of Yen Tu where the Dong Pagoda is located
Note the foggy weather at the high elevation
Cable ride from the east side (Uong Bi City, Quang Ninh Province)
Two cable lines:
Line 1: Giai Oan Stream - Hoa Yen Pagoda (1.2 km long)
Line 2: Mot Mai Pagoda - Yen Ky Sinh Statue (900 m long)
Price: VND 350,000/return ticket
Cable ride from the west side (Bac Giang Province)
Destination: Ngoa Van Pagoda
Price: VND 100,000/one-way ticket
VND 180,000/return ticket
If taking the cable ride, you would need to park your private vehicle at the front and then walk for about 1 km to the cable ride station, or you can also take the electric buggy to the station. The price for a one-way buggy ticket is VND 15,000, and VND 20,000 for a return ticket. Note that they will likely offer you the buggy option, which we recommend to take.
View from the top of Yen Tu Mountain
The weather in Yen Tu Mountain is mostly cool and temperate all year to travel. The months of June, July, and August have the highest rainfall level and frequent storms, so do consider carefully before planning your trip during this time.
If you wish to experience a more vibrant cultural atmosphere, then make sure to join the Yen Tu Festival, which happens yearly from the 10th of January to March, according to the Lunar Calendar. However, note that this time of the year will also be hectically crowded.
Fresh bamboo shoots
Fresh bamboo shoots are well-known for their natural sweetness, particularly thanks to the chilly climate that they grow up in.
Rice wine with Yen Tu apricots is widely adored not only for its distinctive taste but also for a myriad of health benefits that it can provide.
The Hoa Yen Pagoda on Yen Tu Mountain is where you can have a stop and try the delicious local cuisines and specialties at Yen Tu.
The Yen Tu Mountain is actually an entire complex of monuments and landscape, so besides the religious remnants and heritages, other enchantments and historical relics in the area are also waiting to be explored.
The Tran was one of the most powerful dynasties in Vietnamese history and was one of the two the dynasties (besides the Ly) that hugely supported the development of Buddhism. The site used to be the hometown of the Tran family and is now home to many temples and ancient structures to honor the past kings and generals.
The west side of Yen Tu boasts a great many other pagodas and ancient architectures that are relevant to the birth of the Yen Tu Zen Buddhism. Additionally, this is a favorite site for many people going on a trekking trip.
The site marks the three glorious victories of the Tran dynasty against the Mongols invasion. Many temples of the notable Vietnamese heroes also reside here.
The worldly-renowned Halong Bay is approximately an-hour-and-a-half-hour drive from Yen Tu. Therefore, you can spend a day in Halong and make your way to Yen Tu the next day or vice-versa.
Wear climbing/running shoes because you will be walking on the mountainous terrain. Besides, dress appropriately because you will be visiting a lot of temples and pagodas - meaning no sleeveless shirts or shorts.
Beware of scams. There would be souvenir vendors along the way, but most products are overpriced.
Be mindful of your belongings, especially in the festival season when there are overflowing tourists, and pickpocketers will take advantage of the situation.
The mountain road can be slippery during the rainy season.
Moss grown on some parts of the mountain steps - good traction, anti-slippery shoes are recommended
The majority of visitors to Yen Tu Mountain are either pilgrims or curious travelers wishing to learn about Vietnam’s ancient culture. Other than that, the unspoiled beauty in Yen Tu will make the trip the most worthwhile trip you can take while in Northern Vietnam.
© Written by Kim Hoang for itourvn.com
Yen Tu mountain is so far off and difficult to travel, but it is totally worth it. Your blog makes me want to visit it again