The mouth of a cave looms from the base of the mountain and inside visitors can descend into caverns dedicated to the dead in the nine floors of Buddhist hell, locally known as m Phủ cave. An altar rests below a placard for lost soldiers of past conflicts. Incense burns and locals stop to pray and leave offerings. In the inner sanctum a large Buddha presides over the spiral staircase leading deeper underground. Ducking under low gaps chiseled from the cave, at each landing along the staircase statues act out ritual punishments for different types of sin.
Returning to the daylight, a stone stairway carved into the rock leads up to the summit of Thủy Sơn Mountain. There’s also a glass elevator (15,000đ extra) at the base, which may be the better option for those not outfitted for extensive climbing. The path up widens at spots housing plazas where ornate pagodas reach skyward and around certain bends it passes through caves that hold Cham altars and Buddhist shrines. All the while, it ascends higher by the step and coastline and landscape spread out in spectacular views.
The final ascent to the peak, The Road to Paradise, can make for a strenuous climb. The stairs that lead to the antechamber cave, where sun breaks through the ceiling in beams, give way to natural granite boulders that pile on each other until they culminate at the peak. The final summit and descent runs about 15 minutes of rough terrain, so close-toed shoes recommended.
The climb down stops off in Huyen Khong or “light room,” a vaulted cave where strips of sunlight fall on the finely carved facades of pagodas. This is the most stunning of the caves and the finale of the trip from the depths of a cave for the damned to the summit of Marble Mountain long ago dedicated to paradise.
Am Phu Cave: 15,000đ
Thuy Son Mountain: 15,000đ
Tour Guide: 50,000đ/group
Opening hours: 7am – 5.30pm
Tourist Support Office
81 Huyen Tran Cong Chua, Da Nang
0511 224 3201 – 090 589 1112