Perfume Pagoda: The Most Famous Religious Site in Hanoi

Nestled amidst the verdant hills of Hanoi’s outskirts, Perfume Pagoda is a revered religious site that attracts countless pilgrims and tourists alike. Its intricate cave temples, breathtaking scenery, and rich cultural heritage make it a must-visit destination for those exploring the spiritual and historical wonders of Vietnam.

1. Introducing Perfume Pagoda

Perfume Pagoda
Perfume Pagoda

1.1 Where is Perfume Pagoda? How to get to Perfume Pagoda

Perfume Pagoda, also known as Huong Pagoda, is located approximately 70 kilometers southwest of Hanoi, in the Huong Son commune of My Duc district. It is set amidst the picturesque limestone karst formations of the Perfume River Valley.

Reaching Perfume Pagoda requires a scenic journey, with several transportation options available:

  • Private car or motorbike: The most convenient way to travel is by private vehicle, offering flexibility and a comfortable ride along picturesque landscapes.
  • Public bus: There are direct buses operating from Hanoi’s My Dinh bus station to Huong Son town, near the pagoda.
  • Guided tour: Joining an organized tour is a popular option that includes transportation, a boat trip, and expert commentary.

1.2 When was Perfume Pagoda built?

The construction of Perfume Pagoda began in the 17th century during the reign of King Le Thinh Tong. However, the site has been a sacred pilgrimage site for centuries, with its origins believed to date back to the 10th century.

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During the struggle against French colonization in 1947, the pagoda suffered significant damage. However, thanks to the teachings and guidance of the late monk Thich Thanh Chan, monk Thich Vien Thanh was able to restore it in 1988.

1.3 Who does Perfume Pagoda worship?

The worship of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara,
The worship of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara,

Perfume Pagoda is a Buddhist pilgrimage site primarily dedicated to the worship of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, known as Quan Am in Vietnamese. She is revered as the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion.

Each temple and pagoda within this complex has its own unique beliefs and practices. For example, Huong Tich Cave is dedicated to worshipping a green stone statue of Guanyin Buddha, which was carved in 1793 during the Tay Son Canh Thinh period. Trinh Temple, located within Perfume Pagoda, pays homage to General Quan Tu Ma Hung Lang, who played a crucial role in defending against foreign invaders and supporting King Hung Vuong VI.

Remember to explore Hanoi’s Old Quarter before going to Perfume Pagoda

Cua Vong Temple and Van Song Temple both honor the Forest Goddess, known as Thuong Ngan Van Huong and Princess Le Mai Thanh Mau, respectively. Thien Tru Pagoda, also known as Trù Pagoda or Ngoai Pagoda, serves as a prominent Zen monastery where Buddhist monks reside and study sutras, laws, and treatises.

Other notable structures within the complex include Bac Dai Pagoda, Quan communal house, Ca pagoda, and Tuyet Son pagoda, all of which hold beliefs centered around the five tigers and god fish.

1.4 The story of Perfume Pagoda in Hanoi

Story of Perfume Pagoda
Story of Perfume Pagoda

The Perfume Pagoda is deeply rooted in the traditional belief of venerating Lady Buddha. Legend has it that Princess Dieu Thien, also known as Lady Ba, resided in this sacred mountain and fertile land, where she heeded the call of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara and devoted herself to Buddhism for 9 years. She eventually attained enlightenment on Buddhas birthday, which falls on February 19 according to the lunar calendar.

In March of the year Canh Dan 1770, Lord Trinh Sam visited Huong Tich cave to pay his respects and admire its breathtaking scenery. He even inscribed the words “Nam Thien De Nhat Dong” (the most beautiful cave in the southern sky) on a rock outside the cave entrance.

Lord Trinh Sam is credited with transforming Huong Tich cave into a significant historical site and laying the foundation for the renowned Perfume Pagoda festival. Since his visit, every spring, tourists flock here from all corners of the world to offer incense, explore the enchanting landscape, and bask in the spiritual atmosphere.

Previously, the Perfume Pagoda Festival was held after the opening ceremony of Yen Vy village on January 6 AL. To this day, the festival continues to be celebrated annually on this date.

2. Attractions at Perfume Pagoda

Perfume Pagoda offers a plethora of attractions that draw both pilgrims and tourists to its sacred grounds:

2.1 Bến Đục – Perfume Pagoda

Bến Đục
Bến Đục

The starting point of the pilgrimage is Bến Đục, a popular spot in Hanoi, Vietnam. The journey from Hanoi to Bến Đục takes over two hours, but many tourists are still drawn to this location for its peaceful and scenic surroundings.

A highlight of visiting Bến Đục is sailing on Yến Vĩ Stream, which offers a unique and unforgettable perspective of the area. The stream’s gentle flow, lush greenery, and picturesque views create a sense of tranquility that is hard to find elsewhere.

Yến Vĩ Stream has inspired famous poets to write romantic verses that capture its charm and serenity. This experience immerses visitors in the natural beauty of Vietnam and leaves a lasting impression on their hearts and souls.

2.2 Yến Stream of Perfume Pagoda

Yến Stream
Yến Stream

The Yen Stream at Perfume Pagoda is a breathtaking sight to behold. As you journey through Suoi Yen, your eyes will be treated to the vibrant hues of emerald rice fields and the majestic peaks of limestone mountains that lead up to Huong Mountain. From the comfort of your boat, you’ll catch glimpses of Phoenix Mountain and Doi Cheo Mountain on the left, resembling a coiled Indian python. On the right, you’ll find Ngu Nhac Mountain and Trinh Temple, a popular stop for visitors to offer incense and pay homage to the Mountain God.

2.3 Trình Temple, Perfume Pagoda

The magnificent Thượng Quan Temple, also referred to as Trinh Temple, stands just 300m away from Bến Đục and serves as the initial destination on the path towards Perfume Pagoda. This sacred site was constructed at the base of Ngu Nhac mountain, but sadly suffered severe damage during the 20th century’s struggle against French colonialists. Fortunately, in 1992, efforts were made to restore this revered temple to its former glory.

2.4 Long Vân Cave

Long Vân Cave
Long Vân Cave

Starting from Long Van wharf, one must ascend approximately 150m to reach the magnificent Long Van temple. After that, a short trek through the mountains will lead you to the enchanting Long Vân cave, boasting a vast and refreshing atmosphere.

2.5 Tuyết Sơn Cave

Despite its location in the heart of the mountain, the journey to reach this cave is surprisingly effortless. Tuyet Son Cave leaves a lasting impression on visitors with its abundance of stalactites, each boasting distinct and captivating formations.

2.6 Hương Tích Cave

Hương Tích Cave
Hương Tích Cave

Huong Tich Cave, also known as the Inner Pagoda or the Perfume Pagoda, is a popular destination for pilgrimage groups visiting the Perfume Pagoda complex. This sacred site holds great significance in Vietnamese culture and is believed to bring good luck and blessings to those who visit.

The cave itself is a magnificent sight, resembling a dragon with its mouth open. It is said that the shape of the cave was formed by the natural forces of wind and water over thousands of years. On the wall of the cave, visitors can see ancient Vietnamese words engraved near the entrance, dating back to 1770. These words read “Nam Thien De Nhat Dong” which translates to “The Most Extreme Cave of the Nam Gioi.”

Hương Tích Cave inside
Hương Tích Cave inside

Inside the pagoda, visitors will find numerous statues of Buddha, Avalokiteshvara, and other Buddhist deities. These statues are crafted from green stone and are considered to be some of the most impressive works of art in the region. Among them, the statue of Avalokiteshvara stands out as the most striking and revered by pilgrims.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Huong Tich Cave is its natural stalactites and stalagmites. These formations have been shaped by the continuous dripping of mineral-rich water over many years. Some of the stalactites have become smooth due to the constant touch of visitors. It is believed that rubbing these formations can bring good luck and miracles into one’s life.

There are two ways for tourists to reach Huong Tich Cave – climbing or taking the cable car. The climbing journey is not for the faint-hearted as it requires good physical strength and stamina. Visitors must overcome thousands of steep stone steps, which can take up to an hour to reach the top. However, the breathtaking views and sense of accomplishment make it a worthwhile experience.

In contrast, the cable car offers a more convenient and comfortable option for those who prefer not to climb. The cable car ride provides stunning views of the surrounding landscape and takes only a few minutes to reach the top.

2.7 Thiên Trù Pagoda

Thiên Trù Pagoda
Thiên Trù Pagoda

Once your boat has reached the shore, your first stop on the Perfume Pagoda tour will be Thiên Trù Pagoda, also referred to as Ngoai Pagoda or sky kitchen. This sacred site holds great significance within the complex and is often chosen as the location for the opening ceremony of the annual Perfume Pagoda festival.

Aside from its religious importance, Thiên Trù Pagoda is also renowned for its stunning architectural design. The intricate details and vibrant colors of the pagoda’s exterior are a testament to the skilled craftsmanship of its builders. As you enter the pagoda, you will be greeted by a serene atmosphere and the smell of incense burning in honor of the Buddhist deity worshipped here.


One of the most notable features of Thiên Trù Pagoda is the Vien Cong Stupa, which serves as the final resting place of Zen master Vien Quang, the founder of this pagoda. This stupa is a symbol of reverence and gratitude towards the master who dedicated his life to spreading the teachings of Buddhism.

As you explore the grounds of Thiên Trù Pagoda, you will also come across various other structures such as the Bell Tower and Drum Tower, which add to the overall charm of the place. These buildings were traditionally used to announce the start of prayer sessions and other important events.

Visiting Thiên Trù Pagoda is not only a spiritual experience but also a cultural one. It offers a glimpse into the rich history and traditions of Vietnam and allows visitors to appreciate the beauty and significance of this ancient pagoda. So make sure to take your time and soak in the peaceful ambiance of Thiên Trù Pagoda before continuing your journey to the Perfume Pagoda.

2.8 Giải Oan Pagoda

Giải Oan Pagoda
Giải Oan Pagoda

The pagoda, situated on the road leading to Huong Tich cave, is a magnificent structure nestled amidst the Long Tuyen mountain range. Its location, only 2.5km away from the cave, makes it a popular stop for visitors making their way to the sacred site.

The pagoda itself exudes an air of ancient charm and tranquility, with its traditional architecture and serene surroundings. As you approach the pagoda, you will be greeted by the sight of intricately carved pillars and colorful roof tiles, giving off a sense of grandeur and cultural significance.

Stepping inside, you will be transported to a world of nostalgia, as the peaceful atmosphere envelops you. The scent of incense fills the air, and the soft sound of chanting can be heard in the distance. The pagoda’s interior is adorned with ornate decorations and statues of Buddhist deities, adding to its spiritual aura.

As you explore the pagoda grounds, you will come across various shrines and prayer halls, each with its own unique design and purpose. The surrounding gardens are also a sight to behold, with lush greenery and blooming flowers creating a picturesque backdrop for the pagoda.

Visiting this pagoda is not just a journey to a physical location, but also a journey through time and culture. It is a place where one can truly immerse themselves in the rich history and traditions of Vietnam, and experience a sense of peace and serenity like no other.

3. Perfume Pagoda Festival

Perfume Pagoda Festival
Perfume Pagoda Festival

Every year during the spring (around February and March), Perfume Pagoda Festival takes place. It is one of the largest and most significant religious festivals in Vietnam, attracting over a million pilgrims.

During this time, the pagoda complex is adorned with colorful lanterns and flags. Numerous religious ceremonies and cultural performances depicting ancient legends or religious tales are held. It’s an incredibly lively and vibrant festival.

4. Participate in interesting recreational activities

Perfume Pagoda Trekking
Perfume Pagoda Trekking

In addition to exploring the pagodas, visitors can engage in various recreational activities:

  • Boat ride: Take a leisurely boat ride along the Yen stream, admiring the majestic limestone peaks and the lush tropical greenery along the banks.
  • Trekking: Hike through the surrounding hills and discover hidden caves, shimmering lakes, and gushing waterfalls along seldom trodden mountain trails.
  • Camping: Pitch a tent beneath the stars on the banks of the Yen stream and enjoy tranquility.

5. Delicious dishes at Perfume Pagoda


Perfume Pagoda is known for its delectable vegetarian cuisine, often served by street vendors and restaurants near the pier and pagoda entrance.

Some specialties include:

  • Sticky rice: Steamed sticky rice, wrapped in lotus leaves, is served as an offering to the goddess Quan Am.
  • Fried spring rolls: Crispy Vietnamese spring rolls with mushrooms and tofu.
  • Banh chung: Glutinous rice cakes stuffed with mung beans, pork belly and black mushrooms.

6. Buy specialties at Perfume Pagoda as gifts

Perfume Pagoda gifts
Perfume Pagoda gifts

The streets leading up to Perfume Pagoda has many souvenir shops selling specialty products, perfect as gifts:

  • Incense coils: Intricately decorated coils of incense, inspired by the legendary scent of incense.
  • Embroidery: Beautiful embroidered tapestries depicting religious imagery.
  • Ceramics: Locally made pots and tea sets.
  • Tea leaves: Baskets of fragrant Vietnamese green tea.

7. Experience the cable car at Perfume Pagoda

Cable car at Perfume Pagoda
Cable car at Perfume Pagoda

There are two options for reaching Huong Tich Mountain: a one-hour hike or a cable car ride. The cable car offers a quick ascent to the top, providing a stunning aerial view of the surroundings. For a less strenuous descent, you can purchase a one-way ticket and enjoy a leisurely walk down the mountain.

The journey to Huong Tich Cave via cable car is a mere 10-15 minutes, leading you directly to the entrance gate. As you sit inside the cabin, you’ll be captivated by the enchanting scenery below, featuring mountains, forests, and pagodas along the way.

8. Useful experience going to Perfume Pagoda

Useful experience Perfume Pagoda
Useful experience Perfume Pagoda

8.1 Ideal time to visit Perfume Pagoda

  • Festivals: Visit during February or March to experience the vibrant Perfume Pagoda festival.
  • Cooler months Outside of the festivals, late autumn (October – November) or winter (December – January) offer pleasant weather ideal for exploring the pagodas and nature trails.
  • Off-peak Avoid weekends, public holidays or summers as it gets extremely crowded.

8.2 Opening hours and ticket prices

  • Opening Hours: The site is open year round. Best time is between 7am – 5pm.
  • Entrance Fees: VND 200,000 ($9) for standard ticket during normal days. Higher rates of around VND 500,000 ($22) apply during peak seasons.
  • Cable car: Optional cable car ride over Perfume River costs around VND 300,000 (~$13) for a round-trip ticket.

8.3 Some notes when traveling to Perfume Pagoda

  • Dress respectfully when entering pagodas – cover knees and shoulders.
  • Beware of scamming vendors and transport operators overcharging tourists. Know reasonable rates.
  • Pack mosquito repellent as insects may be prevalent within the mountains and caves.
  • Bring small change for using restrooms along the way. Most require a few thousand dong for entry.
  • Hire a guide to maximize insight into the history and legends surrounding this ancient complex.


With its mist-veiled temples, rich legends, vibrant festivals, and wealth of natural beauty, Perfume Pagoda offers an incredible experience that engages all the senses. The journey itself through celestial caves and ancient waterways is a profound privilege. For those seeking a sacred site where nature, culture and spirituality entwine in an ethereal embrace, Perfume Pagoda should top the list during any trip to Hanoi.

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