One of the most incredible views in Ninh Binh Vietnam is at the top of Hang Mua Peak. You might not know exactly what Hang Mua is but you’ve probably seen the pictures. Surely you’ve seen the photos of people posing with a stone dragon overlooking mountains and rivers. To get those pictures and the views you’ll have to hike Hang Mua Peak. Keep reading to find out how.
About Hang Mua
Hang Mua, also known as Mua Caves, is located in the Ninh Binh Province of Vietnam between the towns of Trang An and Tam Coc. It’s just a 9 minute drive from Tam Coc.
Hang Mua Legend
There is a legend that a dragon known as the Great White Dragon lived in the mountains surrounding the Ninh Binh area. This dragon protected the land and people from harm and endured prosperity. There was also a beautiful fairy who lived near the Hang Mua Caves. The dragon and fairy crossed paths, fell in love, and vowed to stay togther forever. An evil sorcerer was jealous and wanted the fairy for himself. He imprisoned the fairy inside the Hang Mua Caves away from the dragon. The dragon eventually defeated the sorcerer and freed the fairy. The local people built a temple on the peak of Hang Mua to commemorate the dragon and fairy’s eternal love.
It’s believed that climbing the 500 steps (486 to be exact) to the temple will bring luck and prosperity as it symbolizes overcoming challenges and obstacles.
Hang Mua Name
This popular destination goes by several names including Hang Mua, Mua Cave, Hang Mua Viewpoint, Hang Mua Peak, and Mua Cave Ecolodge. All of them are used interchangeably.
There is another story about King Tran returning to the ancient capital of Hoa Lu. He often went to a cave located under a bell-shaped mountain to enjoy the dancing and singing of beautiful women. He named the place Mua Cave. “Mua” means dancing and “Hang” means cave in Vietnamese so Hang Mua is essentially “Dancing Cave“.
The Mua Cave Ecolodge refers to the accommodations right below the mountain where the hike is. The ecolodge is known for it’s eco-friendly practices and serene surroundings.
Read all about visiting Ninh Binh Vietnam from how long you should stay to all the things there are to do and see.
Why you should Hike Hang Mua
I’ll start with the number one reason why you should hike Hang Mua peak and that is for the 360° Panoramic views of Tam Coc, Trang An, and the Ngo Dong river. Everywhere you look has a postcard view of the area. It’s something you will not regret.
I’m not even sure the term “hike” is the best word to describe getting to the top. It’s more of a climb. It’s fairly easy to hike Hang Mua with just 486 steps to the top. Of course if it’s really hot and humid outside then it might seem more difficult than it is. There’s a couple of steps that are larger than the others so you might have to take a bigger step up but it’s not that bad. The stairs are very wide and roomy so you won’t be shoulder to shoulder with others.
Hang Mua Dragon
What’s better than hanging out with a big stone dragon overlooking limestone karsts and the river? The photo ops are endless!
Hang Mua Pagoda
And then there’s the Pagoda. Again, take a ton of photos because it’s not very often you get to hang out on top of a mountain on a pagoda.
Sunrise and Sunset
Which one you choose is up to you. If you arrive early to hike Hang Mua, you can likely avoid large crowds of people. The tour buses don’t show up right at opening time but usually a few hours later. However, the sunset views might be worth the crowds. Either way you can’t go wrong. Maybe do both!
Walk through a lotus pond
There is a boardwalk through the lotus flower pond. No extra charge to walk out and explore. The lotus blooms from late April to June.
Where is the best Hang Mua viewpoint
There are two different viewpoints and both require you to hike Hang Mua. You’ll start at the bottom of the mountain and walk up some stairs. When you get about halfway up, you’ll have the option to go left or go right.
The Dragon Viewpoint
The dragon is to the left and will likely be more crowded. Everyone wants photos of the dragon! It doesn’t really matter which one you do first but if you are there first thing in the morning then definitely choose the dragon first. You’ll have a better chance of having less people to deal with and can get your pictures before the crowds show up.
Warning: the dragon is on top of the mountain and you will have to step up to get up it and that can be a little scary. There’s not really any rails so you’ll want to wear good shoes that aren’t slippery on the bottom. If it’s raining, be extra careful to assess if you should climb up to the dragon.
The Pagoda Viewpoint
The Pagoda is to the right. It’s not as high up as the dragon and is much easier to climb up onto. There’s a lot of open space around it and not as daunting as the dragon.
Essential tips for the Hang Mua Hike
What to wear
The climb up isn’t too bad so you can pretty much wear anything. Some people will even wear dresses so they can get some nice photos at the top. I brought a dress to throw on over my clothes once I got to the top. Just wear good shoes. The stone steps are a little worn and can get slick if they are wet.
What to bring
Bring water, sunscreen, snacks, and your camera. They do sell water and snacks on the mountain so if you forget or run out you can always buy some there.
There are restrooms after you pay and have entered the grounds. There are not any toilets up on the mountain so make sure you go before you get start hiking up.
Be aware of the big parking scam. When you turn down the road that heads to Hang Mua, you will see a woman on the left side yelling out for you to park there. She will tell you that you can’t go any further and that you must park there. I’ve also read that she will jump out in front of motorbikes but luckily that didn’t happen to us. Just completely ignore her and keep going. There is parking right by the entrance.
How to get to Hang Mua Caves
The first step is to get yourself to Ninh Binh. Ninh Binh is located about 90km south of Hanoi. There isn’t an airport in Ninh Binh so you’ll have to arrive by land.
Address to Hang Mua: Khê Hạ, Hoa Lư District, Ninh Bình 430000, Vietnam
Vietnam has great public transportation that is very inexpensive. I’ve used 12go.asia to book my seat on buses throughout Vietnam. Just pick your starting location and then your final destination. Depending on where you’re staying you’ll choose either Ninh Binh, Tam Coc, or Trang An. There are different bus companies to choose from and I usually have a quick look at the reviews and just pick one. Taking a bus will be the most budget friendly option. For just $5 you’ll be able to travel from Hanoi to Ninh Binh.
The second option is to take a train. Trains run throughout Vietnam and a train ticket from Hanoi will cost around $15. You can search for and buy train tickets in Vietnam at Vietnam Train Tickets.
If you only have 1 day to visit Ninh Binh or if you just prefer to take a tour you can find tour companies in person in Hanoi (they are everywhere) or book one yourself on Viator. If you come for just one day, it will probably leave by 7 or 8 am and you need to plan for a 12 hour day. Find a tour that has the Hang Mua hike and whatever else you want to do while here.
Getting around Ninh Binh
Once you are in Ninh Binh you have several options to get around. Everything is spread out in the area so you will need some kind of transportation.
Our recommendation is to rent a bike. This is not a typical motorcycle with gears but more like a scooter. Just push start and it goes. There is a great place right outside of the main area of Tam Coc. You can even walk there. It shouldn’t cost more than $5-8 a day to rent.
A lot of hotels/hostels have bicycles you can either borrow or you can rent for a few dollars. I think a bike is great for the local area you’re staying in but if you’re staying in Tam Coc and you want to go to Hang Mua, it’s going to be a good 3 mile bike ride. It’s doable but will take more time.
There are taxis everywhere so you wouldn’t have a problem catching a cab to take you to Hang Mua. Prices should be very reasonable and if you have several people with you then you can split it.
Is the Hang Mua Viewpoint worth it?
Absolutely! The Hang Mua hike is fairly easy and the 360° views overlooking rice fields and lotus blooms is totally worth the climb. You can see miles in all directions.
Hang Mua Cave Viewpoint entrance fee/hours
Where to stay in Ninh Binh
There are two areas that most people stay in when they visit Ninh Binh Vietnam: Trang An or Tam Coc. They are only about a 15 minute drive from each other but all the major sites to see are located in those two places.
You could stay in Ninh Binh but you wouldn’t be near everything or near all the beautiful scenery.
Trang An is a beautiful area and you’ll be surrounded by limestone karsts. However, there are less options for accomodations and restaurants. Everything in the Trang An area is spread out.
Less than 2 miles from the Tran An Complex is the Fairy Mountain Retreat. It sits in the mountains surrounded by water and has an outdoor pool, a restaurant and a bar. Just $45 for a large king room.
The Trang an Bungalow is less than 1.5 miles to the Hoa Lu Ancient Capital and about 3 miles from the Trang An Complex. They have a pool, a bar and a restaurant. It’s just $30 for a large king room with mountain views.
Budget & Homestay
There’s not a lot of hostels in the area but there are Homestays. These are similar to hostels minus the dorm style bunkbeds. Homestays are very resasonably priced. For just $10, you can get a room with a king bed and private bathroom with a lake view at the Blue Garden Homestay.
Another homestay just a few miles from the Trang An Complex is Tre Xanh Homestay. It has a restaurant, bar, garden area, and a private bathroom. A king room is just $8.
Tam Coc is the most popular area to stay in. There are a lot of restaurants and shopping and everything is walkable. There are hotels, hostels, and homestays in Tam Coc.
If you want to stay in a beautiful location and wake up to amazing views, consider staying at the Mua Caves Ecolodge. It’s about $85 a night and you will have access to the Hang Mua hike, included in your stay.
Another luxury property is the Tam Coc Garden Resort. They have a restaurant at the hotel but Tam Coc is just a 9 minute drive if you want to head into town. It’s the most expensive place on the list at $175 a night.
For just $35 the Tam Coc Holiday Hotel & Villa is in a great location. It’s right in Tam Coc so you can walk to all the restaurants and easily catch a taxi to the sites.
For $8 you can stay at Tam Coc Guest House. It’s nothing fancy but the rooms are spacious and you’ll have a large private bathroom.
A homestay at the Tuan Nam Homestay costs the same as budget hotels. You’ll also get a private bathroom, a pool, and it’s within walking distance to all the restaurants in Tam Coc.
Read about the Trang An Boat Tour. A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Best time to Hike Hang Mua
Nailing down the best time of year for visiting a place in Vietnam is really difficult. What might be the best time for visiting Ninh Binh might not be the best time to visit another place in Vietnam. The weather is so vastly different between the northern area and southern area of Vietnam.
Summer in Ninh Binh runs from May to October. It’s fairly hot and humid during this time and it’s also the rainy season. Rice paddies are a vivid green and the lotus flowers are blooming from May-July.
Autumn is from September to October (roughly) and the temperatures start to cool down. It’s still the rainy season so you will need umbrellas.
Winter is from November to March and it’s much cooler and dry during this time. You will need to dress in layers and it does get cold at night.
Spring is probably the best time to visit Hang Mua. From February to April the weather starts to warm up and there is minimal rain during this time.
If you’re planning a trip to Vietnam then check out my 2 week Vietnam Itinerary which also includes a visit to Ninh Binh.
Frequently Asked Questions
How high is the Hang Mua peak?
Hang mua is 142 meters or around 466 feet high
How many steps are there to the Hang Mua viewpoint?
There are about 486 steps to the Dragon Viewpoint, a little less to the Pagoda.
How long does it take to hike Hang Mua?
It’s an easy hike and you can reach the top in about 20-30 minutes. There are a lot of great places to stop along the way that have great views.
Where is the parking for Hang Mua?
There is parking right outside the entrance. If it’s full there are other parking lots a little further back.
Do I need to book a ticket in advance to hike Hang Mua?
No, you do not. There’s a big ticket booth at the entrance and you just pay there.
How much does it cost to hike Hang Mua?
It will cost 100,000 VND, or about $4.20.
What time does Hang Mua open and close?
It’s open from 6am to 7pm every day. It shouldn’t take anymore than 30 minutes to reach the top but you’ll definitely want to arrive much earlier to give yourself some time at the top.
Vietnam Travel Booking Resources
I like to use Booking.com to book my hotel stays. I find it to be one of the best platforms with low rates. Plus, the more you book with them you’ll earn further discounts.
Two of the best transportation services in Asia is 12go and the Grab app. Not all countries have Uber but Grab is very similar in Southeast Asia and makes it easy to catch a ride somewhere.
You’ll need a Visa when you visit Vietnam and the Vietnamese Government has mad it really easy to apply online and print it out at home.