One of Vietnam’s most important pilgrimage sites, the Perfume Pagoda is a vast complex of Buddhist temples, grottos, and shrines dotted around Huong Tich Mountain. The shrines lie amid a flooded valley of towering karst cliffs and lotus fields—a stunning backdrop that makes for some incredible photo opportunities.
The journey to the Perfume Pagoda is as much a part of the experience as the destination. Cruise along the scenic waterways of the Yen River aboard a traditional row boat, then arrive at the Perfume Pagoda, where you can hike between the cliff-side temples, or ride the cable car to the mountaintop Huong Tich Cave, home to the most impressive shrines. Most visitors choose to take a Perfume Pagoda tour from Hanoi, and many tours include hotel pickup, lunch, and entrance fees.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Touts, hawkers, and unofficial guides are in abundance around the Perfume Pagoda—it’s worth pre-booking a guided tour with a reputable guide to ensure professional service.
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothing as you will be required to climb in and out of small boats and walk over uneven ground.
- There are plenty of street vendors selling water and snacks, but bring your own to avoid paying inflated prices.
- Due to its tricky-to-reach location, the pagoda is not wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
The Perfume Pagoda is located around 40 miles (65 kilometers) south of Hanoi—about a 2-hour drive. From there, it’s a 45-minute boat ride from Ben Yen pier to Thien Tru harbor, followed by a short cable car ride or a 1.3-mile (2-kilometer) hike uphill to Huong Tich Cave.
When to Get There
By far the busiest time to visit the Perfume Pagoda is during the annual Tet (Vietnamese New Year) celebrations, normally held in January or February. Huge crowds of pilgrims descend on the shrines during the festivities, and it’s best to avoid visiting at this time. The high season runs from February to April, and it’s a good idea to make an early start during this period, especially if you are traveling down from Hanoi.
A Perfume Pagoda Pilgrimage
Pilgrims from all over the country bring offerings for Buddha to the Perfume Pagoda, one of Vietnam’s most important religious sites. After descending the 120 steps into Huong Tich Cave, pilgrims often leave offerings by the various stalactites, each named after its appearance. The most revered are Nui Co (the Maiden) and Nui Cau (the Youth), where offerings are left in hope of fertility.