Son Tra Mountain / 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.
About Son Tra Mountain
- Son Tra Mountain (Vietnamese: Núi Sơn Trà), known to American soldiers during the Vietnam War as Monkey Mountain, is a mountain located on Son Tra Peninsula, in Sơn Trà district, Đà Nẵng, Vietnam, overlooking the Bay of Da Nang and the East Sea.
- Đà Nẵng Port’s Tiên Sa Terminal is located at the base of the mountain’s western face, as is nearby Tiên Sa Beach. Monkey Mountain Facility, a former U.S. military base during the Vietnam War is also located on the mountain
Y Pha Nho Cemetery
Located on Yet Kieu Road, just before Tien Sa port gates. It is a collective graveyard for French and Spanish soldiers who died in the Franco-Spanish expedition under the command of Admiral Charles Rigault de Genouilly in the first failed attempt to conquer Tourane (Da Nang now) from 1858 to 1860.
The cemetery consists of a small white chapel, with a modest shrine inside and 32 large and unlabeled small sized graves. Inscribed inside the chapel there is a commemorative plaque with the following inscription:
- “A la Memoire des combattants Français et de l’Expédition Espagnols Rigault de Genouilly. Mort en 1858-59-60 en lieux et ensevelissement”.
- “To the memory of French and Spanish soldiers of the expedition of Rigault de Genouilly. Died in 1858-59-60 and buried here”.
The cemetery was inaugurated in 1898.
Linh Ung Pagoda
- Linh Ung Pagoda is located in an area known locally as Bai But or Buddha’s Sanctuary towards Hoang Sa road. It is the largest pagoda in Central Vietnam.
- Lady Buddha Da Nang statue is inside Linh Ung pagoda courtyard with a height of 67m, being the tallest Buddha statue in Vietnam. It can virtually be seen from every corner of Da Nang, becoming an attractive tourist site of the city.
- 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.
Ban Co Peak
- Ban Co (Chessboard in English) peak is the highest mountain in Son Tra peninsula, standing at nearly 600 m above sea level. From Ban Co peak, visitors can enjoy spectacular panoramic views over the entire Da Nang city, Hai Van pass, Lien Chieu bay, Ba Na Hills, Cham islands and the sea far away.
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.
Son Tra Peninsula: The best day trip around Da Nang
One of the things I love about living in Da Nang is the fact that there are so many undiscovered gems around the city. As soon as you drive a little outside of it, you will soon see something astonishing and breathtaking.
One of the most beautiful areas near Da Nang is the Son Tra Peninsula, which is not only famous for its amazing views, but it’s also lined up with things to do and see.
The Man Thai Fishing Village is the first one you should make a stop at. It is located just before the road goes up the hill. The local fishermen supply most of the seafood restaurants in town. If you come here early in the morning (around 6-7 am) you can observer the morning ritual of men getting ready for the day at sea. The village preserved the local methods of fishing and today you can have a peek into the traditions and the traditional way of life in Da Nang.
After passing Man Thai you need to stop at the Linh Ung Pagoda, where 67 meters tall Lady Buddha looks down on the village and the city below and protects the people from wind and storms.
From this point the road goes a little up and starts to get curvy, but the views are better and better. On the right side the cliff, on which the road is built, drops dramatically down and crashes the blue ocean’s waves at its feet, ahead it runs around the lush green hills, covered by mist coming from the ocean. It is truly spectacular.
Two improvised ‘gas stations’ can be found at the crossroads, just by the Sun Peninsula Resort. It is a good idea to fill up your tank before you go further as there are no other points, where you can get gas.
First go right and drive ahead. Watch out for little road signs to point you to the Lighthouse, or the Giant Banyan Tree. The first one is a cute, little building and there is nothing much interesting around it, but if you have some time, it is a nice place to visit.
Be careful not to drive too fast. The road is not only steep, but also covered with vines and rocks, fallen from the surrounding cliffs. Every curve should be taken slowly and carefully. You don’t know what’s ahead of you.
The Giant Banyan Tree is a great attraction and makes a great stop for a short rest. It is estimated to be almost 1000 years old. Its complex of roots has grown down to form secondary trunks supporting the massive structures mushrooming from the centre.
After that go back to the crossroads and go the other way – up, past the entrance to the Sun Tra Peninsula Resort. This part is very, very steep. Our old scooter barely made it. I had to get off and run up the hill, while Chris tried to drive it to the top. We made it eventually, but it is a warning – the roads at Son Tra Peninsula aren’t the best and your scooter needs to have good brakes and enough power to make it through some steep parts.
Once you get to the top of this little hill, go right. This part is called the Monkey Passage. This area is a home to the Red Shanked Douc – a very rare monkey, who is a little shy and doesn’t like to interact with people, but here and there you can see special ropes hanged over the road, to make it easier for the monkeys to cross it and not getting hit by a passing vehicle. Chris was lucky to see one, running into the bushes. Some say that if you go hiking in the hills you might be able to spot whole families of them.
While driving, look on your right. The road doesn’t have any view points, so you might need to climb some gravel to see the ocean in its whole glory, but it is really worth it. The Monkey Passage has the most beautiful views in the whole Peninsula.
Your next stop is Ban Co Peak. The entrance here is free, but you need to pay 2000 VND for the parking. This is probably the most crowded spot in the area and by ‘crowded’ I mean – there will probably be around 7 other people with you. From here you can enjoy panoramic views over the city, but only if the day is clear enough. Da Nang is a very humid place and the humidity here turns into a mist and covers the city. We didn’t manage to see the panorama, but the spot was beautiful any way.
Ban Co Peak is also famous for the statue of Confucius. This bronze statue of the great philosopher playing chess is a tribute to the man, who greatly influenced the Eastern culture.
Son Tra Peninsula holds other treasures, such as Spanish and French War Graves, Black Stone Beach and Tien Sa Harbour. However, it is impossible to see it all in one day. We didn’t have a chance, as the day was coming to an end. We will definitely go back to explore more.
- Exploring Son Tra Peninsula is best done by a motorbike as some of the roads, like the one leading to the Banyan Tree, or the Lighthouse, are hardly accessible for a taxi. Driving a scooter around the area is a great adventure. The roads here are almost empty, there is no traffic and it is safe to drive. However, remember that your scooter should have good brakes and should be working well enough to manage to drive up a steep hill.
- Petrol can only be bought at the Son Tra Peninsula. If you are afraid of getting low on gas, take some empty bottles with you and fill them with petrol, too.
- If you would like to rent a taxi, then a car can only take you to the Man Thai Village, Linh Ung Pagoda, Ban Co Peak and probably to the Banyan Tree, although we didn’t see any taxis there.
- There are no facilities on the Son Tra Peninsula, except fancy 5-star resorts at the beginning of it. The rest of the road doesn’t have any hotels or any other accommodation options. You might try to camp in the forest, but I am not sure how safe that is.
Food and Drinks:
- There are no shops on Son Tra Peninsula and you might want to consider taking some snacks and water with you.
What to take:
- I would recommend taking sunscreen and better shoes than sandals, or flip-flops. There are no hiking opportunities, but you might have to ‘fight’ some gravel, sand and rocks to get some photos of the magnificent views. Having a GPS on your phone and a map of the area is great, too. There are no good signs around the Son Tra Peninsula and it’s easy to get lost.