Located roughly 60 kilometers from Hanoi, the Perfume Pagoda is one of the most important Buddhist worship sites in Vietnam. The Perfume Pagoda is a complex of temples on the Huong Tich Mountain (Mountain of the Perfume Traces). Every February to April, Vietnamese locals will travel far and wide to worship here. Throughout the rest of the year, the site is fairly empty except for small groups of tourists.
Take an hour boat ride from My Duc to the complex
Riverboat rides are a fairly common activity within Vietnam and the areas surrounding Hanoi. Local women row a group of tourists to a particular destination, or possibly the boat ride itself is the main attraction.
However, they never seem to get old. The surrounding landscape ensures that the boat rides will always be enjoyable. Travel along the Yen River to the Perfume Pagoda through large limestone cliffs that tower from a short distance away. Lily pads and lotus flowers line the riverbank. Even on a rainy day, the experience won’t be ruined. Use the time on the boat to chat with your new travel buddies for the day or sit in silence, enjoying the sound of the oars gliding through the water.
Choose to hike or ride the cable car to the top
Depending on how much time you have before you have to get back on the boat, you can either hike up the mountain or you may take the cable car. You also have the option of taking the cable car one way and hiking the opposite direction.
The cable car lasts five minutes. The views from above are spectacular and definitely worth paying the 90,000 VND (4.00 USD) in order to ride the cable car one-way. The only change that could enhance the experience would be if the windows were cleaner and clearer to look out from within.
The hike is about 2 kilometers to the top and takes roughly one hour. On rainy days, the path becomes very slippery which takes longer. Unlike on the cable car, don’t expect views and lush scenery on your walk. Vendors set up stalls and restaurants along the pathway that block the views. Even during the quiet times of the year, the stalls are set up, although most of them are not open and instead are left empty.
The most popular option is to take the cable car to the top and then to hike the two kilometers to the bottom of the mountain.
See Dong Huong Tich at the top
If you haven’t Googled “Perfume Pagoda” before arriving, you’ll be surprised to see Huong Tich, as you will have expected a pagoda on top of a mountain. While pagodas are beautiful, if you’ve been in Vietnam even a short time, you will have seen quite a few of them.
Huong Tich is the center of the complex and, therefore, the most famous. To your surprise, Huong Tich is a series of shrines set up within a cave in the mountainside. Stalactites and stalagmites have been worn down and made smooth from the sheer amount of visitors within the cave touching them. During the Tet holiday (Vietnamese New Year that takes place on the 1st day of the 1st lunar month), thousands of people a day will make the pilgrimage to this religious site.
How to get to the Perfume Pagoda
The Perfume Pagoda is not very far away from Hanoi in My Duc, just 60 kilometers from Hanoi. However, it is fairly difficult to get to by yourself unless you have a motorbike. The easiest and most popular way to visit the temple complex is by using an organized tour. Head to the Old Quarter in Hanoi and visit any of the tour companies there. All tour companies will have regularly scheduled day trips for 452,000 VND (20 USD), which includes roundtrip transfer from Hanoi to My Duc by air-conditioned van, the two boat trips to and from the complex, lunch, an English-speaking guide and all entrance fees. Tips, anything extra at lunch, and the cable car tickets are not included in the price.