The awe inspiring 360 degree panoramic vista at the summit of Mua Cave Viewpoint, otherwise known as Hang Mua Peak, is one of our favorite memories from traveling through Vietnam.
We like Mua Cave viewpoint because it’s easy to get to, reasonably priced, provides a great workout and most importantly, offers spectacular scenes worthy of Hollywood.
Imagine those same towering limestone karsts, but surrounded by golden rice fields and meandering rivers instead of the sea.
Our guide to the Mua Cave Viewpoint (or Hang Mua Peak) will show you:
- How to get to the Mua Cave Viewpoint
- Transport options to Ninh Binh
- How to avoid the scammers when parking
- What to expect at Hang Mua Peak
- Where to stay in Tam Coc
Now, let’s climb Mua Cave Viewpoint!
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Where Is Mua Cave Viewpoint?
As you enter Mua Cave Viewpoint, you will see a sign for Khu Du Lich Hang Mua Peak. When translated into english, this means Mua Peak Cave Tourist Area.
To make it even more confusing, this area is commonly known as Mua Cave Viewpoint. So throughout our guide, we will use both terms of Hang Mua Peak or Mua Cave Viewpoint because they are often used interchangeably.
This beautiful vista is located in the NInh Binh Province of Vietnam. The good news is this viewpoint is located just a few miles away from both Tam Coc and Trang An.
Zoom in on the interactive map above to get a feel for the area. You can also click the blue arrow for directions from exactly where you are in Vietnam.
Address: Thôn Khê Đầu Hạ, Hoa Lư, Ninh Bình, Vietnam
How To Get To Mua Cave Viewpoint
The easiest way to get to the Mua Cave Viewpoint is to hire a motorbike or bicycle to make your own way over to Hung Mua.
You can pick up a scooter for 100,000 – 150,000 VND (US$ 4-6) per day. Fuel for a full day will set you back no more than US$ 3. Alternatively, you can rent a bicycle for 50,000 VND (US$ 2) for a day.
Usually we would recommend the bicycle because we are passionate about minimizing our carbon footprint but on this occasion we would suggest you grab a motorbike.
Local roads are in fairly good condition and if you want to explore further towards Trang An boat tour, you will need the motor for your 2 wheels.
Traffic is quiet so you’ll be able to take it easy if you’re not a hugely confident driver.
Alternative Transport Options:
If you don’t want to rent a motorcycle or bicycle, you have a few additional transport options:
1). Grab a local taxi in Tam Coc town and be sure to negotiate a price.
2). Ask your hotel owner if they can offer a guided tour or know someone who can.
3). Day trip down from Hanoi independently or through a tour.
Mua Cave viewpoint is easily easily accessed from Tam Coc, Trang An and Ninh Binh. On the interactive map below we have included directions from Tam Coc as our recommended place to set up base.
In addition, we included Ninh Binh train station incase you are independently visiting Mua Cave as part of a day trip from Hanoi.
Don’t expect plain sailing all the way though… There’s a strong possibility you will be delayed by one thing or another. For us, it was a herd of water buffalo walking down the narrow one lane road causing a backup of traffic!
Click on the map below to zoom and move around so you can understand the route. Save Hang Mua Ecolodge into google maps when you have WiFi before setting off.
As you can see, Mua Cave viewpoint is not far from Tam Coc, which is why that’s the place to set up HQ. In fact, it’s only 2.1 miles (3.5km).
If you plan to hire a motorbike at Ninh Binh train station it’s still only about 4.0 miles (6.5km).
How To Get To Ninh Binh, Vietnam
There are two ways you can experience the Mua Cave Viewpoint:
- Independent visit
- Booking a tour
We will discuss both options below to help you decide how you want to experience this beautiful part of Vietnam.
Getting To Ninh Binh Independently
If you plan to travel independently from Hanoi for just the day, once you arrive at Ninh Binh train station, hire a motorbike right outside for roughly 150,000 VND (US$ 6) and follow our map to the Mua Cave Viewpoint.
But if Ninh Binh or Tam Coc is the next stop on your Vietnam adventure, you can either bus or train to Ninh Binh. Then grab a taxi to Tam Coc or alternatively, book a direct bus to Tam Coc.
We hopped on a bus direct from Halong Bay to Tam Coc. There are no airports close by so travel by plane isn’t an option.
Use 12Go Asia here to check the best available options for travel. You will find the cheapest and quickest options are typically by bus or train.
Interested about the Vietnam Sleeper Bus? Don’t miss our legendary guide to taking the sleeper bus in Vietnam.
Best Tours Available to Ninh Binh
Another option would be to travel from Hanoi to Ninh Binh (Tam Coc and Trang An included) as part of a full day organized tour with transport completely covered.
Many tours include entrances fees to Mua Cave Viewpoint, Hoa Lu ancient capital, Bich Dong Pagoda, the Trang An Boat Tour and more.
Here are popular and top rated tours for Ninh Binh:
- Tam Coc and Mua Cave from Hanoi – This full day tour will take you to Tam Coc, Hoa Lu as well as Mua Caves in an air-conditioned bus with hotel pick up and drop off in Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
- Trang An and Mua Cave from Hanoi – Another full day tour option to Trang An, Hoa Lu and Mua Caves with a buffet lunch included.
- Ninh Binh and Hoa Lu Two Day Tour – If you have more time, consider this two day tour of Ninh Binh featuring Tam Coc, Hoa Lu, Mua Cave and the chance to ride a bike along rural roads past rice paddies.
How To Avoid The Parking Scam
When you travel to Vietnam, you are going to be on the receiving end of some attempted scams. Unfortunately, as the country grows with tourism, the scams also become a more common occurrence.
It’s a sad reality that it’s a part of traveling through a country filled with such beauty. One of the common scams is coercing tourists to pay over the odds for parking a bicycle or motorbike.
Locals will swarm out onto the road in front of you as you begin your approach up the dusty road towards the entrance.
Some of them might even be in police officer uniforms blowing whistles at you.
They will demand that you dismount and park immediately for a hefty charge.
But just IGNORE them all!
However, that is easier said than done when they grab a hold of your motorbike. Or stand right in front of you as you try to drive on ahead.
What you need to do is stay firm and do NOT get off. Continue driving until you reach the end of the road, which luckily is the entrance to the trail.
You can park your motorbike or bicycle for 10,000 VND inside the Hang Mua Ecolodge hotel at the entrance. We parked our motorbike outside the entrance to the right next to the water feature as you can see above.
When we visited Mua Caves, you could park in this lot for free, but you now have to pay a small fee. Trust us, this is still the best option for parking because your mode of transport will be safest in this lot.
Mua Caves Ecolodge
Many people suggest staying at Mua Caves Ecolodge which is right on site at the entrance to the Mua Cave viewpoint trail.
Here are a few pros and cons for staying close by at the Mua Caves Ecolodge:
Pros: Ability to access the viewpoint at any time which means you can beat the crowds in the morning for sunrise and stay out later for sunset. Plus you won’t have to pay the entrance fee.
Cons: The major problem will be getting by the scammers everytime you leave. The Mua Caves Ecolodge can be expensive depending on time of year.
Hang Mua Peak Entrance Fees
Tickets for Hang Mua Peak are 100,000 VND (about US$ 4.30) per person. There is a small ticketing area when you arrive to the main entrance.
Remember parking is free at the Ecolodge and if you are staying at the Mua Caves Ecolodge, you won’t have to pay the entrance fee.
Once you enter the Hang Mua site, there’s a strange but fascinating mixture of things to see before you reach Mua Cave and the steps up to its viewpoint.
Remember that dirty dusty road you just drove up? Swap that for immaculately clean, curated and attractive water features with bamboo houses and horse statues.
You will cross a gorgeous bridge surrounded by trees and overhanging branches with swings hanging off them, overlooking an emerald green lake.
The area is lovely and neatly finished, but it was not what we were expecting, especially for somewhere this rural. The contrast between artificial and real on either side of the entrance arch was a double take.
There are many spots to take great photos for those who want to get a different Instagram shot. Be sure to take some time exploring this area before or after you climb to Mua Cave Viewpoint.
Mua Cave And Tiger Cave
It’s ironic that the whole place is called Mua Caves and not Mua Viewpoint because the cave itself isn’t even worth discussing. It feels like an injustice to both caves and this unique viewpoint.
Mua Cave was flooded when we visited but there’s a second even smaller cave called Tiger Cave. From looking at our photo, you can see the entrance was pretty tight.
Are you looking for real caves? Head down to the adventure capital of Vietnam, Phong Nha.
The inside of this first small cave isn’t impressive. Tiger cave only contains a few paths that lead to a small body of water. You’ll also find a rough and ready restaurant with vending machines.
But we would recommend you bring your own snacks and water! In fact, we would recommend you skip the caves entirely and just head straight for the steps.
500 Steps To The Top of Mua Cave Viewpoint
Yes, there are 500 stairs to walk up. We know that sounds a little daunting, but once you see the ancient and mysterious looking stone staircase, you will be distracted by its beauty.
The staircase was built with the Great Wall of China as a reference, no less. That should help you get up at least a few. It won’t be long until the views begin to wow you.
Before you know it, the scenery becomes so unbelievable, you’ll forget how exhausted you are. The view is worth it because there are two stunning viewpoints waiting for you!
The very bottom section of the staircase is adorned with a colorful stone dragon snaking its way down as a beautifully designed handrail.
The dragon’s head marks the beginning of your climb, and there’s another dragon at the top to mark the summit.
In Vietnamese Culture, the dragon brings rain which is important for agriculture in the region.
Looking up at the steep stone steps gives you the feeling that you must have been transported to Middle Earth, following Gollum up the staircase to Mordor. There are no orcs here though … only tourists!
In all seriousness, the climb is tiring for any fitness level. Just be careful you don’t overdo it, take as many breaks as you need and remember it’s only 500 steps.
As you look around, there will most likely be others who are enduring the sweat inducing humidity to share the ordeal with. It’s all worth it for the viewpoints, trust us!
Travel Tip: Visit early in the morning to avoid climbing to Mua Cave Viewpoint at the hottest part of the day. It will still be hot, but you will be a lot more comfortable.
Mua Cave Viewpoint 1: An Amazing Vista
Around 15 minutes into your climb, you will reach a fork in the path. Take the right first if you wish to summit both peaks individually, saving the more epic views for the second peak.
The path on the right will lead you to more steps and eventually a tall stone pagoda perched atop a narrow pyramid like peak.
When we visited, this smaller peak was much quieter than the higher peak. You may need to adjust your plans depending on the crowds.
The best place to see Ninh Binh city is behind you.
From this vantage point, you will be rewarded with views over endless flat rice fields with sporadic limestone karsts towering out of the ground, like gigantic shark fins piercing out of perfectly still water.
You will see it’s much quieter up on this summit than the next. Therefore it’s a good opportunity to get the photos you want without having to queue for camera space.
As you can see, the views at this point are absolutely fantastic. It’s definitely more than worth the effort to get here.
However, continue on and take the left path next. It’s hard to believe, but you will be blown away by one of the best vistas in all of Vietnam in this higher section.
Hang Mua Peak Viewpoint 2: An Even Better Vista
Not long after taking the left path, you will come across the first viewpoint facing towards the Ngo Dong River. And what a sight you will see!
Once you’ve taken in the incredible scene for the first time, collect yourself and look around. If there’s no one else at the same viewpoint, now is the time to snap some serious photos while you have chance.
Flanked on either side by rice paddies and locals wading out to tend to their crops, the Ngo Dong River carves its way through towering limestone mountains.
The very first time we saw the money shot is forever marked as one of our favorite memories from Vietnam.
This is the reason we love to travel so much because breathtaking moments like this make all the scams and hard times worth it on the road.
Continue to make your way up the remainder of the stone stairs towards the top. Stop off any time you get chance to snap a quick photo with that unbelievable view behind you.
Once you arrive to the summit, you will be welcomed by a statue of Quan Am, the Goddess of Mercy. The Goddess overlooks the rice fields and represents prosperity in the region.
In addition to the amazing views, be sure to admire the architecture and details of the surrounding area. The statue is covered by a typical Asian tiled roof atop 4 stone pillars.
Mua Cave (Hang Mua Peak) Panoramic Vista
The higher you get, the more impressive the vista becomes.
By the time you reach the Goddess of Mercy at the summit, you will have unobstructed 360 degree panoramic views of Tam Coc, Ngo Dong River and a huge amount of Ninh Binh province.
Look for boats slowly gliding along the river, steered by men and women who use their feet to control the oars. This will be a section of the Tam Coc boat ride.
However, we recommend taking the Trang An boat ride instead as it’s an official UNESCO Heritage Site.
Look past Quan Am and you will finally spot the piece de resistance at Mua Cave viewpoint. A wonderfully designed stone dragon with a long slinking tail that meanders like a curving river.
Our first thought was the Pokemon Gyrados has a doppelgänger.
The mountain you are standing on top of is called Nui Ngoa Long by the locals which translates to Lying Dragon Mountain. Once you see the statue, you will understand how this mountain got its name.
Unfortunately, the dragon statue will probably be packed with people if you arrive anytime after 9:00am. Your best bet is to arrive for the tranquility of sunrise.
We submitted Mua Cave Viewpoint at the worst time of day around 3:00pm. It was extremely busy.
Fortunately, a wave of people left all at once and we were able to quickly, but very carefully navigate our way up the sharp jagged rocks to get our photos with the dragon.
Please use extreme caution when climbing over the rocks.
Best Time To Visit Mua Cave Viewpoint
There are two considerations when visiting Mua Cave or Hang Mua Peak:
- Time of day
- Time of year
We will discuss both options so you can plan your visit perfectly.
Best Time of Day To Visit
The best time of day to visit Mua Cave is early or late in the day. You should avoid the middle of the day if possible.
By arriving early, you beat the tour bus crowds and intolerable heat. It will be much quieter and cooler around sunrise. Although we expected it to be busy for sunset, we couldn’t believe how busy it actually got.
Arrive late in the day if you don’t mind crowds because the sun sets over the mountains directly in line down the river to the West.
You can see from our photos that it was quite a hazy day when we visited. The sun was dim and deeply hued in the haze.
Although we expected it to be busy for sunset, we couldn’t believe how busy it actually got.
We began our climb at around 3pm so we could catch the beginning of sunset. But we realized it was too early to climb 500 steps in Vietnam’s unforgiving humidity.
Best Time Of Year To Visit
The best time of year to visit Mua Caves depends on what you want to see and how it fits in with the rest of your schedule. Vietnam has an interesting and often baffling climate.
There are 7 different climatic regions in Vietnam. Therefore, if you plan to visit Sapa, Ninh Binh, Phong Nha, Ho Chi Minh, etc on your trip, it’s almost impossible to plan by weather.
Late May is an ideal time if you are planning your trip solely around Ninh Binh. However, anywhere between May to June or September to October will be a good time of the year to visit.
The months of May to June will be the perfect time to see the famous golden rice paddies surrounding the river. While September to October is a bit cooler but offers the harvest season.
Where To Stay In Ninh Binh, Vietnam
If you have a few days to spend in Ninh Binh, stay in Tam Coc. Forget the big industrial city Ninh Binh, you will be massively underwhelmed.
Tam Coc is a gorgeous rural town perfectly located among all the best things to do in Ninh Binh.
We’ve scoured the area for amazing properties across budget, mid-range and luxury options and listed the best of each for you to check out.
Tam Coc Sunrise Homestay (Budget)
Located downtown close to restaurants and Tam Coc boat tour pier, this budget hotel has a swimming pool, breakfast included and an exceptional 9.6 on booking.com.
Tam Coc Wonderland Bungalow (Mid-Range)
Views over rice paddies to the front and limestone karsts directly behind from the swimming pool at Tam Coc Wonderland Bungalow make it worth staying alone.
This bungalow is located perfectly just a few minutes walk out of Tam Coc town. Meaning you get a rural setting with amenities close by.
Each bungalow faces in towards a brick courtyard and the pool as its centerpiece.
Tam Coc Garden Resort (Luxury)
Perfectly located for a luxurious and peaceful stay in Ninh Binh, close to Bich Dong Pagoda and Tam Coc. Tam Coc Garden Resort was voted 2019 travelers choice on TripAdvisor and has a 9.4 on booking.com.
The hotel is surrounded by paddy fields and looks wonderfully serene.
Where Did We Stay In Ninh Binh?
We stayed at a small budget place called Tam Coc Dream Homestay. It’s centrally located in Tam Coc just a few minutes walk from the strip of restaurants and Tam Coc boat dock.
The owners were lovely and the hotel price included a buffet breakfast each morning.
We were able to hire bicycles and a motorbike directly at the hotel for a better price than it cost in town, which was a nice touch.
Plus, there are fantastic views from the upper balcony over nearby limestone karsts. We paid $US 10 per night when we stayed which was perfect for our budget at the time.
Tips For Your Visit To Mua Cave Viewpoint
Here are a few important tips you should consider during your visit to the Hang Mua Peak in Ninh Binh, Vietnam:
- The Mua Cave Viewpoint trail is open from 6:00am – 7:00pm. If you arrive earlier than 6:00am, there may be a guard on duty to let you in. If your later than 7:00pm, no one will come to check for stranglers so make sure you don’t get locked in.
- An entrance ticket to the Mua Cave Viewpoint (Hang Mua Peak) is 100,000 VND.
- Don’t let the locals scam you into parking somewhere on the entrance road. Be sure to continue down the road and park for free at the Mua Caves Ecolodge.
- Sunset is by far the most popular time to visit so try to arrive at sunrise for the best experience and small crowds.
- If it’s a foggy, mistry and rainy day, avoid visiting Mua Cave Viewpoint because you won’t be able to see much. If you have some flexibility, wait for a clear day.
- Wear sturdy footwear if you want to take a photo with the dragon on top of the mountain.
- Be sure to bring some water with you as it may be an uncomfortable climb to the top in the humidity.
Mua Cave Viewpoint And Hang Mua Peak FAQ’s
Let’s take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions about the Mua Cave Viewpoint and Hang Mua Peak in Ninh Binh.
There are 500 steps in total at the Mua Cave Viewpoint.
According to Alltrails, it takes about 25 minutes to climb one way up Hang Mua. We would agree with this time frame so you should allow about an hour for your visit, but plan on more time if you want to take a lot of photos.
No, you do not need to book in advance to visit the Mua Cave Viewpoint. You can purchase a ticket right when you visit on site. However, if you are booking with a tour, you may want to book in advance.
Mua Caves or Hang Mua Peak is opened everyday from 6:00am to 7:00pm.
You should park near the Mua Caves Ecolodge when visiting Hang Mua. You should ignore all of the people trying to scam you into parking somewhere else out front.
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We hope our guide to the Mua Cave Viewpoint helps you plan your visit to Ninh Binh in Vietnam!
Please let us know if you have any questions about Mua Cave Viewpoint or Hang Mua in the comments below.
Mark and Kristen
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