#1 - Marble Mountains
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.
Remarks: You should allow 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'.
Price Range: There is a $1 entrance fee to Marble Mountain and an additional $1 cost for entrance to the cave at the foot of the mountains
#2 - Son Tra (Monkey) Mountain
Son Tra (Monkey) Mountain is a breath-taking national park in Da Nang that stands 693 metres above sea level. It’s a 35-minute drive from Da Nang, making it a popular retreat amongst locals and travellers looking to escape the heat and busy traffic of the city. Locally known as the Son Tra Peninsula, the verdant mountain is also surrounded by pristine beaches such as Bai Bac, Bai Nam, Bai But, and Tien Sa Beach. Monkey Mountain was a prominent observation base during the American-Vietnam War, housing two radar domes that are now taken over by the Vietnamese military as well as a helicopter pad, which makes for a cool lookout point.
The winding and inclining roads surrounding the mountain is a popular spot for motorcycling, but a powerful vehicle is required to reach the top. However, the journey is well-worth the effort as you’ll be greeted with panoramic views of Hi Van Mountain, Cham Island, Da Nang City and Son Tra Peninsula.
Meanwhile, hiking enthusiasts can enjoy the verdant jungle trails and also spot rare species such as rhesus macaques, long-tailed macaques, pygmy slow loris, and red-shanked douc langurs. It takes about four hours of moderate hiking from Bai Bac Beach to the mountain summit.
A prominent attraction in Da Nang is Linh Ung Pagoda, which is also set on Son Tra (Monkey) Mountain. The stunning pagoda was built during the 18th century and houses a 67 metre-tall white statue of the Goddess of Mercy, which is set atop a lotus-shaped platform. Hailed is the tallest statue of the deity in Southeast Asia, there are 17 levels within the structure and a total of 21 miniature Buddha sculptures. Entrance to Linh Ung Pagoda is free of charge, though it’s known to get crowded with pilgrimages during special occasions.
#3 - Dragon Bridge
Dragon Bridge in Da Nang is the longest bridge in Vietnam, offering a dazzling display of lights, fire, and water that no first-time visitor to Da Nang should miss out on. Measuring at 666 metres in length, it is located in Da Nang City and constructed in the shape of a golden dragon.
The six-lane bridge crosses the Han River, serving as direct routes to My Khe Beach and Non Nuoc Beach as well as a popular spot amongst travelling photographers. Dragon Bridge was officially opened in 2013 after a two-year-long construction, commemorating the 38th anniversary of Da Nang City’s liberation. According to local beliefs, which date back to the Ly Dynasty, the dragon is a significant symbol of power, nobility and good fortune.
While it’s a magnificent sight at any time of the day, Dragon Bridge Da Nang is particularly cool (and packed with sightseers) in the evening as it is illuminated with colourful LED lights. On weekends and annual festivities, the state-of-the-art bridge is also scheduled to spit water or breathe fire from its mouth from 21:00 onwards.
There are also plenty of riverfront bars, restaurants, and cafes offering terrace seats that overlook Vietnam’s longest bridge. Alternatively, you can opt to sit at the waterfront (where marble carvings of animals and deities are set along the Han River) to enjoy the view.
#4 - My Khe Beach
Considered to be Vietnam's most picturesque beach, the white sandy 20-mile stretch of My Khe Beach was named by the American troops who visited during the Vietnam War for R&R. It offers excellent surfing from September just off the shores of Danang. There are also a number of high-end resorts within the vicinity should you be in need of pampering with most offering a rich choice of treatments at their spas and a range of dining options.
Sunbathing and surfing aside, there are a host of historical sites situated close by including the port of Hoi An which is only 10 minutes away by bus and offers wonderfully preserved merchant houses and small alleyways to explore. Hoi An is also a superb place to get anything you desire tailor made usually within 12 hours, and while you wait it’s definitely recommended that you try some local delights including very fresh shrimp pancakes.
Once listed in Forbes Magazine as one of the 'World's Most Luxurious Beaches', the stunning sands of My Khe Beach offer surfers and sun seekers a gloriously unspoilt hideaway with a host of big brand hotels such as Raffles and Hyatt opening or due to open very soon.
The My Khe Beach area was first flung into the spotlight thanks to the My Khe Beach television show broadcast on American networks highlighting US Vietnam War soldiers enjoying rest and play in Da Nang. After the war, the beach became a well-known spot on the backpacker trail before heading upmarket to today's more glamorous resort scene.
My Khe Beach benefits from being perfectly located at the heart of World Heritage sites - the ancient port of Hoi An, the mysterious Phing Nga Caves, the home place of the Champa population and the revered imperial city of Hue are all easily accessible. My Khe Beach is also reaping the rewards of an increasing number of international flight connections from Singapore, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City to name a few.
My Khe Beach is reached via Danang International Airport which is served by several flights a day from across Asia. The taxi ride should take no more than 25 minutes from airport to the sand. You don't need to bring much with you by way of clothing or surf gear as everything you need is available locally. The best time to visit is between May and October.
#5 - Phap Lam Pagoda
Phap Lam Pagoda is set within a two-storey building along Ong Ich Khiem Street, featuring plenty of trees, manicured gardens, and beautiful Buddhist sculptures. Despite its location within the bustling Da Nang city centre, the atmosphere here is very serene with locals praying in the morning and monks going about their daily lives. The courtyard of the pagoda houses a 1.1-metre-high seated Buddha statue and brass statues of the Goddess of Mercy (Avalokitecvara) and Dai The Chi Bodhisattva. Visitors can also enjoy vegetarian cuisine at local restaurants and food carts surrounding Phap Lam Pagoda