Ninh Binh, apparently, is one of Vietnam’s most famous tourist attractions thanks to its wide range of cultural and natural heritages. Among these heritages, Mua Caves (Hang Múa in Vietnamese) or Dancing Cave stands out for its elegant natural beauty, because of which Mua Cave has been regarded as “The Great Wall of Vietnam” or “Tam Coc’s Muse”. This is also considered the most beautiful viewpoint in Ninh Binh, Vietnam.
- Location: Khe Dau Ha village, Ninh Xuan commune, Hoa Lu district, Ninh Binh province
Opening hours: 6 a.m - 7 p.m (can vary in Vietnamese National holidays)
Phone: 0229 3619 679
Entrance fee: VND 100.000/ person (~$4)
I. Best Time To Explore Mua Cave – Vietnam’s Great Wall
Literally, Mua Cave welcomes every tourist in every single period of the year. However, according to experienced travellers, dry season (often from April to September) would be a more appropriate season thanks to its comfortable weather and low precipitation. Especially, if visitors can come to Mua Cave in May or June, they will have a high chance of seeing a breathtaking picture, in which the enormous “golden” paddy fields and majestic mountainous scenery create a harmonious combination.
Nonetheless, as a plethora of tourists would come to Mua Cave that time to observe this beautiful scene, visitors who are not into travelling with hordes of tourists may feel uncomfortable. For those visitors, they would be highly recommended to go in the rainy season (which lasts from October to March) so that they can avoid being stuck in a tourist crowd (though going in this time means you can only see the vivid green of nature instead of the golden colour of the paddy fields, which is definitely a big regret!)
II. What Makes Mua Cave a Must-try?
1. Interesting History
When referring to Ninh Binh in general and Mua Cave specifically, one thing popping up in the Vietnamese’s minds is that it was once the Capital of Vietnam. Therefore, various Ninh Binh’s destinations may once be restricted for the Royal Family only.
Legend has it that: during the Vietnam-Mongolia war I, the Royal Family Tran moved from Thang Long (Vietnam’s Capital at that time, now is Hanoi) to Ninh Binh and Mua Cave was chosen as an entertaining place. When the King needed some entertainment, a number of beautiful dancers were supposed to come there and dance. This is the way Mua Cave got its name, which as mentioned above, literally means Dancing Cave.
Missing the beauty of the King’s entertaining place in a good day would not seem a good idea, wouldn’t it?
2. Cultural Beauty
Mua Cave, situated under Mua Mountain, is described by the locals as “an enormous bell put upside down”. The Cave has its side of about 800 meters square. Looking from the bottom of the mountain, various white stone steps leading to the mountain’s top shape like a miniature of “China’s Great Wall”. On the two sides of this “Great Wall”, there are delicate dragon and phoenix-shaped stones, which were thought to be carved in Tran Dynasty as they reflect exactly this Dynasty’s art spirit.
Unlike other tourist destinations in Ninh Binh, Mua Cave has a charming and peaceful cultural beauty. Though this area has been exploited quite soon compared to other Vietnam’s tourist attractions, the nature here successfully keeps its pristine beauty. Thanks to the local government’s decision of sustainably developing this area’s potential tourism, tourist-care services here take place well-orderly and the local citizens are in good manners, also, there are few fighting or rip-offs witnessed.
For tourists who want to try the King’s feeling, there are music shows recreating the dancing scenery that happened in the Tran Dynasty. If tourists want to enjoy these shows, pre-check with the Cave’s managers so that you can manage your time to get there at the right time.
3. “Good For Health” (yes, you got it right, it is “Good For Health”)
There are two reasons why going to Mua Cave is a “healthy” decision.
Firstly, this destination’s air is so fresh and clean. Evidently, in this hustling modern life, sometimes clean air is the silver bullet which can help “erasing” people’s all stress and pressure. Visiting Mua Cave, visitors have a chance of temporarily forgetting their busy lives to just focus on the breathtaking view there.
Secondly, the natural beauty here is not free-access, if you want to enjoy it, you have to “do something”. As a massive number of travellers confirmed, the most special part of Mua Cave’s experience is to enjoy the area’s nature from the view of the mountain’s peak. However, before you can get this view as a reward, you have to come through “Vietnamese Great Wall”, which means you will have to climb nearly 500 white stone steps to the mountain’s top. These white stone steps, which connect the mountain’s top and bottom parts, is like a God-made way leading to the divine world. Although this seems at first a tiring challenge, it is “the sweetest climbing challenge” as the majestic scenery observed while climbing these steps will not make you regret, absolutely.
III. Noticeable Activities and Attractions in/around Mua Cave
1. Enjoy Stunning View From Mua Caves
As mentioned above, one of the reasons why the Mua Cave complex is a must-try for visitors is its pristine nature. At the very first look, Mua Cave takes people’s breath away by its “green” nature. In the middle of this Complex (which is mostly covered by numerous shade trees, providing people a relaxing atmosphere as well as resting places) lays an artificial pond. The pond has an ancient beauty, which is not only a decoration but also an “air conditioner” for this place.
After finishing to roam around the complex, you may wonder that you have seen all the most beautiful sides of “Tam Coc’s Muse”. However, only when you reach the Mua mountain’s top can the whole beauty of this destination be observed.
Standing on the top of Mua Mountain is an enormous statue of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, whose view is directly toward Mua Cave Complex.
This Buddhist Goddess’ situation has the meaning that the whole Mua Cave Complex is put under her divine protection. Also by looking from this mountain’s top, people can get all the magnificent sides of this area into their eyes: the golden rice paddies, the serene rivers with small boats floating, the pristine nature…., all these scenery are so wonderful that if someone have to describe, he or she would definitely refer to them as various priceless ancient artworks.
2. “Check-in” Tower
After climbing to the top of the mountain, turn right if you want a stunning place for checking in (of course you can have a check-in in mostly every place of this destination; however, interestingly, there stands a tower which is (funnily) called the “Check-in Tower”).
This tower’s architecture was made in Buddhist style, which is ubiquitous in countries where Buddhism is popular (such as India, Thailand, Laos,…). The tower’s bottom has the square shape, which represents the Land, the round top reflects the Water, the pointed parts are the symbol of Fire and the roofs over each tower’s floor remind people of the Wind’s power.
On this small tower’s walls carved the image of Nghê, one of the Dragon’s nine sons. Nghê’s appearance takes inspiration from the dog as well as the lion and can be considered as Vietnam’s “local” spirited animal. Different from China”Lân”, which is often the war power’s representation, Nghê is regarded as a peaceful spirited animal, of which the main duty is to protect people or important places.
As this check-in tower is a famous tourist attraction, you will have to line up if you want to have a check-in photo. However, if you do not want to waste time, you can wait until the complex is about to close and most tourists have gone. At that time, you will not have to wait for so long to have a check-in photo.
Warning: If you are unlucky enough, the closing time may come before you can take your own picture. So, if you are so into this complex’s natural beauty or you desperately want to have a divine check-in photo, you had better come to the tower as soon as possible,…. to wait!
3. “Hunting” Sunrise and Sunset at Mua Cave
In part 2. right above, if you turn right after climbing to the mountain’s top, you will reach the Check-in Tower. Then if you turn left, you will reach a perfect destination for observing Mua Cave’s Sunrise and sunset. This “sun observing” point is situated near the highest dragon and has no artificial stone steps, so “sunrise or sunset hunters” will have to stand on some natural ledges. As hunting sunrise and sunset are the two famous activities for Mua Cave’s travellers, there will be a large number of people being there to observe the sun. As a result, you have to be as careful as possible so that you will not fall.
Though this experience, in some way, may be regarded as quite dangerous, the sunrise and sunset’s beauty here are so “fresh” and pristine that hordes of people just come to Mua Cave to observe them. (Honestly, there is no other word that better describes Mua Cave’s beauty than “pristine”, so, in this blog, this word may be repeated a lot of times.)
IV. Suggested Methods on How to Get to Mua Cave
Located about 100 kilometers away from Hanoi, it is estimated to take people roughly 2 hours to get to Mua Cave if Hanoi is the setting off point. Overall, there are 2 main ways to get there: by coach and by motorbike.
- By coach: the most convenient and most highly recommended way. Travellers can easily get on a coach to Ninh Binh at My Dinh or Giap Bat Station. However, the coach will only take you to the inner city. From the inner city, tourists will have to take a taxi to Mua Cave. It will take you about 70.000 VND (~$3) for the coach.
- By motorbike: If you are a backpacker who wants to thoroughly enjoy the natural beauty of the way from Hanoi to Ninh Binh, motorbike is definitely a perfect means of transport that you can take advantage of. Though this means of transport is merely suitable for people having enough health, it will allow you to enjoy the experience in your very own way. From Hanoi’s inner city, travellers can go on the Old National Highway 1A to Ha Nam, then continue to go to Ninh Binh. After reaching Ninh Binh, you can go on Road 491C to Khe Dau Ha Village, in which the Dancing Cave is located.
On the way to Mua Cave, you will have the opportunity to fully delight in the charming but sacred nature complex such as Trang An, Tam Coc – Bich Dong,…, all of which are famous tourist attractions of Ninh Binh. If you are not in a hurry, visiting these places before going to Mua Cave would not be a bad idea. It will undeniably help you discover the whole fascinating beauty of Ninh Binh.
V. Mua Cave Accommodation – Where To Stay Near Mua Cave?
Honestly, as Mua Cave is a famous attraction, visitors can find dozens of hotels or homestays with suitable locations on every single booking web. However, here are some destinations which mostly receive good reviews:
1. Mua Cave Ecolodge
This is the most famous resort in the area surrounding Mua Cave. This resort has a leg up on other destinations thanks to its location being right next to Mua Cave Complex and right between Tam Coc- Bich Dong and Trang An Complex. With this “golden” location, tourists who choose this resort as a resting place can both conveniently move from this tourist site to another and have a good view toward all of Ninh Binh’s famous attractions. Noticeably, booking a Mua Cave Ecolodge’s room allow you to have a free Mua Cave’s entrance ticket (which, as mentioned above, costs 100.000 VND)
Because of its location as well as the free ticket offer, Mua Cave Ecolodge often runs out of rooms. Therefore, if you plan to stay at this resort, you have better book rooms soon.
Price range: 600.000 – 1.200.000 VND (vary due to travelling season) (~$25- $50)
Location: Khe Ha, Hoa Lu District, Ninh Binh Province
Phone: 0229 3619 679
Opening hours: all day everyday (can vary in National Holidays)
Services: This accommodation provides visitors with free wi-fi, breakfast and parking areas, also has an outdoor pool and laundry service.
2. Homestay Nguyen Shack Ninh Bình
Interesting place for those who want to try staying in a bamboo house! This homestay offers visitors a chance of resting in a bamboo bungalow situated on a lake laying in the middle of the exotic mountains. In my opinion, it would be an unforgettable experience if I can go resting in a totally eco-friendly place like that after a tired walking and sightseeing day.
Price range: 500.000 VND (vary due to travelling season) (~$25)
Location: Mua Cave Road, Khe Ha Village, Ninh Xuan Commune, Hoa Lu District, Ninh Binh
Opening hours: Full week, from 6 a.m to 11 p.m (can vary in National Holidays)
Phone: 0229 3618 678
Service: Free wi-fi and breakfast, friendly with kids and pets.
3. Phương Thảo Homestay
A lovely homestay with a reasonable price. Visitors can go cycling or go fishing IN the homestay’s garden. Moreover, this accommodation also provides currency exchange service for foreign visitors, which is evidently a big plus for this homestay.
Location: Khe Ha, Hoa Lu District, Ninh Binh Province
Phone: 091 132 78 42
Price Range: 200.000 – 300.000 (vary due to travelling season) (~$10-$15)
Opening hours: All day every day (can vary in National Holidays)
VI. Mua Cave’s Cuisines – What to Eat in Mua Caves?
1. Goat Meat
Ninh Binh is literally a mountainous area with various dangerous mountains. This special topography allows Ninh Binh in general and Mua Cave specifically an appropriate place for raising goats. If you haven’t tried goat meat, no one would believe that you have been to Ninh Binh
Unlike “countryside” goats, Ninh Binh Goats are gazed on in this place’s numerous mountains, which brings the meat a special flavor that can be found in nowhere but Mua Cave. A better meat quality, going together with the skills of experienced chefs specialising in cooking goat meat, will undoubtedly offer culinary enjoyers an unforgettable memory.
There are dozens of cooking ways for goat meat in Ninh Binh, all of which, in my opinion, are delicious and deserve a try of everybody. Travellers going to Mua Cave can try “Goat cooked with Mung Bean Sauce and Ginger” (Dê Tương Gừng), in which the tough goat meat is made to be soft and “sweet” by skilled chefs. Goat Porridge, Grilled Goat or Goat Spring Rolls are other must-try dishes when you come to Mua Cave Ninh Binh. The Goat meat, which is supposed to be tough and have foul smell, in these dishes, rocks!
- Hoang Giang Ninh Binh Restaurant.
Location: Hang Ca Mountain, Truong Yen, Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh
Opening hours: full week, from 7 a.m–11.30 p.m (can vary in National Holidays)
Phone: 0229 3620 072
- Thang Long Restaurant
Location: Trang An, Truong Yen, Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh
Opening hours: full week, from 7 a.m–10.30 p.m (can vary in National Holidays)
Phone: 097 515 54 58
2. Snake Eel/ Swamp Eel Roll (Gỏi Cá Nhệch)
This is a kind of specialty in Mua Cave Ninh Binh. Goi Ca Nhech has its main ingredient being the Snake eel – a type of Vietnamese paddy field eel. The eel, after being caught, will be washed by water mixed with lime, ash, or bamboo leaves to prevent the fishy smell. Then, the bones and skin will be removed before the meat is sliced and mixed with Thính to add flavor. (Thính: crushed fried sticky rice)
The eel’s skin, after being removed, will be fried to become the outer layer of the roll. The eel’s bones will be ground and mixed with chopped ginger, chilli, pepper and lemongrass to make the roll’s special sauce.
After preparation, Goi Ca Nhech will be served with some kinds of herbs like: Chervil, fish leaf, Ming Aralia,… The fresh feeling the eel meat brings, together with the comfortable smell of Thinh, the crispy fried eel skin and special taste of herbs, combines harmoniously with the special fish bone sauce, making the dish unforgettable for any travellers, even for ones who have just tried Goi Ca Nhech once.
Believe me, going to Mua Cave Ninh Binh but not trying Goi Ca Nhech would be a regret for any traveller. Goi Ca Nhech is definitely a must-try part and it undeniably contributes to Ninh Binh’s positive fame.
- Vu Bao Kim Son Restaurant
Location: 6A, Phat Diem Dong Street, Phat Diem Town, Kim Son District, Ninh Binh
Opening hours: Full day full week (can vary in National Holidays)
Phone: 0229 3727 255
VII. Extra Notes When Traveling To Mua Caves
- After leaving Mua Cave, roaming around the surrounding area to enjoy Vietnamese countryside atmosphere with its special “scent” and scenery is definitely not a bad opinion!
- As Mua Cave Complex is a mountainous area, sometimes you will have to go through some dangerous paths with jagged rocks or some really slippery ones. Therefore, flip flops are not recommended as they can result in damages for travellers (or damages for your beloved phone!)
- As you will have to climb to the Mua Mountain’s top in order to fully observe this complex’s beauty, sport shoes and clothes would be highly suggested. Moreover, remember to bring water in case you become tired after the “climbing challenge”.
- If you visit Mua Cave soon in the morning or late in the afternoon, you can both prevent yourself from being stuck in a crowd of tourists and be able to enjoy the pristine sunrise or sunset scene.
- The entrance fee includes a parking fee, so you can go with your means of transport until reaching the complex’s gate. You should not park them before reaching the gate as it will not only waste you money but also take you time to walk to the complex’s gate.
When people refer to Mua Cave Ninh Binh, they often regard it as a symbol of the peaceful, quiet but magnificent and majestic beauty. Going to Mua Cave, the exotic scenery here will help you escape the a nnoying urban hustle and bustle, which is priceless in these modern days.
VIII. Frequently Asked Questions
A: The best way to get from Ninh Binh to Mua Cave is renting a bicycle or motorbike. Tourists can also take a taxi from Ninh Binh city to Mua Caves.
A: It is about 85 km from Hanoi to Ninh Binh (2-3 hours of moving depending on types of transportation). Train is the best way
A: Dry season from April to September is the best time to visit Mua Caves thanks to its comfortable weather and low precipitation. Especially, tourists visiting Mua Caves in May – June and September – October can see the enormous “golden” paddy fields To avoid being stuck in the crowd, go to Mua Cave in rainy season, from March to October.
A: Mua peak/viewpoint has approximately 500 steps. It is not so hard to hike on the Lying Dragon Mountain is quite steep.
A: The opening hours of Mua Caves is 7 a.m – 7 p.m from Monday to Sunday.
A: Yes, you can stay overnight in Mua Caves. Try Mua Cave Ecolodge (Hang Mua) or Nguyen Shack (Ninh Binh). Besides, there are other options of accomodation for you to choose from (hotels, homestays, bungalows) in Trang An Complex, Hoa Lu and Tam Coc – Bich Dong. It is easily accessible by bicycle and motorbike.