Yen Tu Mountain, the Buddhist capital of Vietnam, is a holy land, which is famous for its beautiful landscapes, historical relics and ancient pagodas.

Yen Tu Mountain is one of the highest mounts in the Dong Trieu Mountains in the north-eastern area of Vietnam, located within the area of Uong Bi Town, Quang Ninh Province, Ha Long City. Yen Tu Mountain, a must-see destination in Ha Long, is for those who are keen on hilly and winding roads or ritual religions. Besides being a famous natural landscape, Yen Tu preserves 3,500 items of statues, bells, and more, weighs around 70 tons. The pagoda is skillfully carved and from far away looks just like a golden lotus.
Sacred Yen Tu Mountain – Buddhist capital of Vietnam

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With the unique landscape, architecture, culture and history, Yen Tu Relic and Landscape Complex has been recognised as a special national relic and a dossier is being prepared to submit to UNESCO for recognizing the complex as a World Heritage Site.

For over 2,000 years of Buddhism in Vietnam, the name of Yen Tu Mountain has been closely related to the name and career of Buddhist King Tran Nhan Tong (1258-1308), founded the Truc Lam Zen sect.

Itinerary up to Yen Tu starts with Giai Oan brook whose two banks are connected with a stone bridge. This 10-meter-bridge was firmly built in an antique architecture. People said in a legend that when the King Tran Nhan Tong decided to resign from his throne to become a monk, his wives and concubines tried to persuade him changing his mind by committing suicide into the spring. Mourning for them, the monk king built a temple and named after the spring “Giai Oan”.

Let’s climb for about 30-45 minutes and you’ll reach a lush green courtyard, highlighted by vivid colour from different species of flowers. The pagoda is surrounded by six enormous towers, and the biggest one is to worship King Tran Nhan Tong.

You will see Hoa Yen Pagoda next at the height of 543m. This is the biggest pagoda among the pagoda complex of Yen Tu Mountain. Here, there are stood still ancient pine-trees which is said to be planted since King Tran Nhan Tong spent his religious life there on the mountain.

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Climbing further to the height of 700m is Van Tieu (Vân Tiêu) Pagoda gleaming in clouds on mountain sides, and then Đồng Pagoda holding a copper statue on an impressive height of 1,068m. You will feel like heading to the sky, stay with the wind and the cloud. The air must be fresh and relaxing. Standing on the highest peak of Yen Tu, you can watch a panorama of the extensive North-eastern Vietnam, Bach Dang River, and especially the natural wonder Halong Bay. You certainly have fantastic photos in there. The view is terrific if you come to visit in a sunny day. The cloud can cover all around if it’s raining or cloudy.

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We are in front of the Buddhist copper statue on Dong Pagoda. 

On the way to Yen Tu, there stand some sights such as: Một Mái pagoda (one-roof pagoda), Bảo Soái pagoda, Yen Ky Sinh (Yên Kỳ Sinh) stone statue, Ngoa Van (Ngoạ Vân) hermitage, fairy chessboard, eco-resorts like Thac Vang (Thác Vàng), Thac Bac (Thác Bạc). Yen Tu’s Zen monastery is constructed on the ground that used to be for Lan (Lân) pagoda where Tran Nhan Tong used to preach beings. This is really the biggest Zen monastery of Vietnam.

How to climb the mountain

In the past, tourists to Yen Tu had to climb the 6-kilometer track, on steps made from rock, through the bamboo and pine tree forest leading to Yen Tu. The experience must be wonderful although you are very tired. However, now visitors can go by cable cars, which have been operating since 2002. There are two cable car lines, the first station carries tourists to the Hoa Yen pagoda, the second station ( at 543m high) carries to the third station on the way of climbing up Dong Pagoda (at 1,068m high). It takes 10 minutes for each turn. The return ticket for 2 lines is 280,000 VND/adult; 200,000 VND/child. The return ticket for each line is 180,000 VND/adult; 120,000 VND/child. Each turn costs 100,000 VND/adult and 80,000 VND/child.

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The cable cars in Yen Tu Mountain

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Yen Tu is from January to March during spring time as the weather makes it ideal for hiking up the mountains. Vietnamese usually go to the pagoda at every early year to pray. Also, this period happens to coincide with the yearly Yen Tu Festival. The Yen Tu Festival falls on the 10th day of the first lunar month and lasts for three months. The first week is usually the most crowded. Tens of thousands of pilgrims and visitors alike stream into Yen Tu and begin their journey to the uppermost shrine. Foreign visitors take the chance to soak in the serene atmosphere of the festival, get up close and personal with the locals and of course capture some Kodak moments. However, it is sometimes too stuffed to enjoy at the festival time.

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I was on the Yen Tu holy speak at early two years ago. 

If you want to stay away from the crowds, from September to November (in the fall) will be perfect. The weather is not hot and not yet winter.

Where to Stay

Yen Tu is only 17km away from Quang Ninh City Center, there are not many hotels to stay over in here. Most visitors take a day trip to Yen Tu, for those who want to extend their trip, they can check the lodging selections available at Quang Ninh Center.

How to get there

From Hanoi, tourists may get Yen Tu by shuttle bus, car, or motorbike. Bus ticket can be purchased over the counter at My Dinh Bus Station in Hanoi for VND 45,000.

If you are about to board a Halong cruise, an extra day to Yen Tu would be perfect for your trip to the coastal province.

Travel tips

  • Please respect local people’s beliefs and practises because Yen Tu is considered as a holy land of Buddhism in Vietnam.
  • You need to be in good health situation if you want to make a hiking trip. You should start at the early morning until late afternoon.
  • Don’t forget to wear a pair of good walking shoes if you plan to climb up the mountains yourself. The way up and down are very slippery because of high humid.
  • Cable cabs will not operate on days with strong wind or heavy rain. Therefore, you should check the weather forecast before deciding on whether you can manage the hike both ways.
  • Local people there may offer various types of traditional medicine or herb but it will be advisable not to try anything you are unfamiliar with.
  • You should be careful with pickpockets while climbing in the crowds especially during the festival season.

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