Perfume Pagoda – The Best Place For A Spring Pilgrimage In Vietnam

by Minh Tâm
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Perfume Pagoda (Huong Pagoda) in the outskirt of Hanoi has long acclaimed its reputation as a top sacred destination in Vietnam. Numerous flocks of both domestic and international travelers from different parts of the world come here each year to take a pilgrimage to the Buddhist world as well as to revel in the picture-book landscapes of this land. 

Down below is the detailed guideline for a Vietnam culture tour to the Perfume Pagoda. This blog post contains everything you need to know about this place, so don’t miss it out!

1. Where is Perfume Pagoda Vietnam? 

The Perfume Pagoda is a large complex of pagodas, temples, and shrines on Huong Son Mountain. It is located on the right bank of Day River in the area of Huong Son Commune, My Duc District, Hanoi.
How far is Perfume Pagoda from Hanoi? It is roughly 70 km from the city center, and it takes more than 1-hour driving to get there. 

Thanks to its location that is quite close to Hanoi, the peaceful Perfume Pagoda is a favorite place where the Hanoians and people of other northern provinces come for a weekend getaway from the bustling life. 

2. Best time to visit the Perfume Pagoda.

When to take a private tour to Huong Pagoda? Well…it depends.
For people who want to feel the ecstatic vibe of the biggest religious event in the North, spring is the best time to travel. You can go there in the first 3 months of the Vietnamese New Year (often from mid January to April) when the pagoda is on its festive season. However, kindly notice that because spring is the time for pilgrimage in Vietnam, it would be crowded with flocks of people for sure. 

perfume pagoda vietnam

Source: Luxury Travel Vietnam

In contrast, if you look for the tranquil atmosphere and the main aim of traveling is for sightseeing, then come there in October and November. At that time, the gem-blue Yen Stream is dotted with the purple of the lily flowers, creating an exceptionally poetic scenery to immerse yourself in. Furthermore, it is less crowded, thus you could feel the sacred vibe of the pagoda in the most authentic way. 

3. How to get there from Hanoi?

How to take a Perfume Pagoda tour from Hanoi?

There are different ways to travel to Perfume Pagoda. If you get there from Hanoi, you could choose either to take a public bus, ride a motorbike, or take a private car there. 

Public bus to Perfume Pagoda

There is a public bus No. 103 that drive from My Dinh Bus Station to Perfume Pagoda and back. The bus operates from 5:00 AM to 8:00 PM every day with a frequency of 15 minutes/trip. Regarding the cost, it can’t be a cheaper choice with only a 9.000 VND/one-way ticket/person. This is a very economical choice; however, it entails several inconveniences. You will have to share spaces with strangers and in a worse case, when it’s too crowded, you will have no seat to sit down during the 1-hour-long trip. 

perfume pagoda vietnam

Source: Wiki

Motorbike

Riding the scooters and motorbike is a favorable choice of local youngsters and intrepid travelers. We do not recommend taking this option because the air pollution in Hanoi these days is too severe and the route is not easy to find, also. And we bet you can’t bear the awful traffic in Hanoi, also.  

Private car

The safest, quickest, and most comfortable way to get from Hanoi to Perfume Pagoda is to have a private car. If you are taking a tour, either a 1-day trip or an overnight excursion, with a luxury tour operator, you will transit on their luxury private car. That’s the best choice to opt for. 

How to travel within the heritage?

Still, a 10hour driving won’t take you to the pagoda directly. After this journey, you’ve reached the entrance of the heritage only. From the entrance where you buy the tickets, you will then board a rowboat at Duc Wharf and glide along Yen Stream to get to the main sites. This waterway is approximately 4 km long, and it will take from 45 minutes to 1 hour to get to the wharf that opens the way to the pagoda.
Along the voyage on Yen Stream, tourists will glide across the Trinh Temple and several mountains of different shapes. Listen to the boat riders carefully as they will tell you about the origin and legends of these sites. 

perfume pagoda vietnam

Yen Stream | Source: Danviet

Different routes to discover Perfume Pagoda

– Huong Tich: Trinh Temple – Thien Tru Pagoda – Tien Son Cave – Giai Oan Pagoda – Tran Song Temple – Huong Tich Cave – Hinh Bong Pagoda
– Thanh Son: Thanh Son Pagoda – Huong Dai Cave
– Long Van: Long Van Pagoda – Long Van Cave – Sung Sam Grotto
– Tuyet Son: Bao Dai Pagoda – Chua Ca Cave – Tuyen Son Cave

Among them, the route to Huong Tich Cave is the main and most-picked one. It includes the top famous and important sites of the whole complex. If you are on a 1-day tour, then you should opt for this route. If you have more time to stay there overnight, you can explore other routes in the next days.
The boat trip cost is just 35,000 – 50,000 VND/person/round trip, depending on the route you’ll choose. However, as riding the boat with 5 adults on it is an exhausting job, it is a “should” to tip the ferry women when you finish the trip. 

Perfume Pagoda Cable Car

Once you get to the pier, you will then hike up the mountain to reach the temples and pagodas. The farthest and highest destination is Huong Tich Cave on the top of the mountain. You can choose either to take a cable car or to hike there.
Regarding the cable car to the cave, it takes only a few minutes to get there, which is far more comfortable than spending 30 minutes to an hour climbing up the steep steps leading to the mountain peak. It will offer a bird’s eye view of the whole complex and its surrounding mountains, also. 

The cable car price is 180,000 VND/adult/round trip and 120,000 VND/one-way. For kids, the prices are 120,000 VND and 90,000 VND respectively.
If you love to explore the pagodas and temples in a closer approach, then choose a hiking tour instead. This way is also a good way to behold the beautiful natural scenery on Huong Son Mountain. 

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4. History of the Perfume Pagoda.

Perfume Pagoda’s history dates back to the late 17th century. According to the pagoda’s history book, it was established during the reign of Emperor Le Huy Tong (1680 – 1704). During the Independence War in the 20th century, it was severely damaged. It was later on reconstructed by Venerable Thich Vien Thanh in 1988. 

perfume pagoda vietnam

Source: Wiki

Papers also reveal that this Perfume Pagoda is a copy of Huong Tich Pagoda in Central Vietnam. Huong Tich Pagoda (also means Perfume Pagoda) is an ancient pagoda high on Huong Tich Peak of Hong Linh Mountain Range, Ha Tinh Province. This place is closely tied to the legend of Princess Dieu Thien, who later enlightened and became Avalokiteśvara – a Buddhist deity. Legend has it that the sacred tiger protected Princess Dieu Thien on her way to Hong Linh Mountain Range, where she settled down in a cave and practiced Buddhism. The pagoda in Ha Tinh Province is believed to date back to the 13th century, which means it appeared much sooner than the one in Hanoi. 

perfume pagoda vietnam

Source: Wiki

So, why is there another “Perfume Pagoda” in the North? Under the Le – Trinh reign, most kings and lords and their concubines are from Hoan Chau Region (Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, and Ha Tinh Provinces today). Every year, when the spring comes, they often took a pilgrimage to Huong Tich Pagoda to attend its festival as well as to enjoy the beauty of Hoan Chau landscapes. As this pagoda is located too far from the Forbidden City, to travel there would be both dangerous and time-wasting. Therefore, Trinh Lords had a monk to survey the mountains of Ha Son Binh and built the second Perfume Pagoda there to make it easier for the concubines to travel. And that’s how the pagoda in Hanoi was born.

5. Perfume Pagoda Festival – a must-attend for Vietnam culture tours.

It would be a huge regret to miss the Huong Pagoda Festival when taking culture tours in Vietnam in the spring. The festival is considered one of the biggest religious events that occur after the Lunar New Year in the north in particular and in Vietnam in general. 

When is the Perfume Pagoda Festival?

Annually, the Perfume Pagoda Festival takes place from the 6th day of the first lunar month to the 6th day of the third lunar month. The main festival occurs from the 15th to the 20th of the second lunar month. The pagoda welcomes millions of Buddhist pilgrims and visitors during this period of each year. 

perfume pagoda vietnam

Source: Baodulich.net

Who is the festival dedicated to?

The Festival is celebrated to worship a princess named Dieu Thien, who practiced Buddhism, incarnated, and reached enlightenment in Huong Tich Cave, which is a grotto on Huong Son Mountain. She is said to have not only protected her parents and sisters from the devils but also protected the country from war. She was canonized as Avalokitesvara – one of the Buddhist deities.

Besides the main Buddhist activities, the festival is also a chance to show respect to the ancestors as well as to Mother Nature. Along the way to the pagoda, there are several shrines and temples where the locals worship the Goddess of the Mountains, the Sacred Animals, and so on. The pilgrims would then stop by these places to show their respect and to pray. 

What to do during the festival?

Unlike many of Vietnamese festivals which see traditional activities as the center, Huong Pagoda Festival is more about a combination of sightseeing tour and pilgrimage. On the 6th day of the 1st lunar month, the bell rings to mark the beginning of the festival. Several spiritual events take place during the festival, namely the incense offering ceremony, the procession, and the Zen ceremony. People lead their ways to the pagodas and shrines to worship the Buddha, Avalokitesvara, and other Buddhist deities and ask for favors from them. Vietnamese people come to pray for a healthy, happy, and wealthy year. Moreover, the Perfume Pagoda is also believed to be a sacred place where people who are less fortunate in giving birth come to pray for their fertility. 

perfume pagoda vietnam

Source: Ereka

On the whole, this festival is not only dedicated to Buddhism but the whole Three Teachings that most Vietnamese people follow. It is an aggregate of 03 different religions: Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. These religions have deep-rooted in the spiritual mind of the Vietnamese.
Therefore, although the hundreds of steps upward the mountain seem to be a tough route and hard to carry, pilgrims and visitors think it all worthwhile. They believe the bigger their determination is, the more luck they would get.

The festival also offers travelers a chance to conquer the spectacular landscapes of the surrounding area. A boat cruise along Yen Stream will provide you a wonderful view over the area, where you can feel the tranquility and peace of the Vietnamese countryside, which is 100% opposite to the hustle and bustle of the city life.

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6. Top destinations to visit in Perfume Pagoda.

After times, the Perfume Pagoda nowadays is not just a small pagoda and a cave. It is a large complex of different Buddhist pagodas, temples, and shrines. The followings are the top places that you shouldn’t forget to visit

Den Trinh

Den Trinh, which is about 300 meters from Duc Wharf, is the very first stop for the Perfume Pagoda. The shrine is located at the foot of Ngu Nhac Mountain, worshipping General Tu Ma who helped a Hung King protect the nation from outside invaders. The temple was severely destroyed during the war against the French colonizers in the 20th century and was rebuilt in 1992. 

perfume pagoda vietnam

Source: Mapio.net

Thien Tru Pagoda

The first destination that you will visit after getting out of the boat is Thien Tru Pagoda (Heaven Kitchen), which is also known as Chua Ngoai (the Outer Pagoda). It is one of the main sites of the whole complex and is where the festival opening ceremony takes place. Additional to the special architecture and religious value, Thien Tru Pagoda also houses Vien Cong Bao Stupa – where Zen Master Vien Quang – the one that established the pagoda is buried. 

perfume pagoda vietnam

Source: Wiki

Giai Oan Pagoda

En route to Huong Tich Grotto, you will come across Giai Oan Pagoda, whose name means “the pagoda for exculpation”. The highlighted spot of this pagoda is the Thien Nhien Thanh Tri Pond (literally “the pond with natural blue water”) and Giai Oan Stream that comes from 9 sources. Close to the pagoda are Tuyet Kinh Cave and Phat Tich Cave, where locates the footprint of the Avalokitesvara. 

Huong Tich Cave

This is the heart of the whole heritage. It is home to Chua Trong (the Inner Pagoda) that houses the statues of Buddha, Avalokitesvara, and other Buddhist deities. This grotto possesses several stalactites and stalagmites that resemble different things in life. People believe these things are sacred so they tend to rub it and pray when visiting there. 

7. Must-try activities in Perfume Pagoda

Take a pilgrimage to the sacred temples and pagodas during the festival

If you are planning to take a North Vietnam culture tour to the Perfume Pagoda, remember to attend its festival. That big event lasts for 3 months and is among the biggest ritual events in Vietnam in spring. Not only is it a time to look at the tradition and culture of the northern people but it is also an opportunity to participate in several fascinating traditional games and activities like the rice-cooking contest, the tug of war, and so on.  

Witness the beauty of lily flowers on Yen Stream in late Fall

When the very first cold breezes blow, Yen Stream puts on its best dress to turn everyone’s head from the very first look. Between October and November, the lily flowers start to bloom, covering the stream with the gorgeous purple color. 

Different from the hustle and bustle of the festival season in the spring, it’s quieter and more tranquil in late autumn, making it perfect for a sightseeing tour. Coming here, you can easily catch the image of the Vietnamese girls in their traditional “Ao Dai” shooting photos with the romantic purple flowers. 

The lilies blossom early in the morning when the mist is still covering the stream and will fade when the sun hangs high. Hence, if you want to have the quintessential photos, wake up early and get to the stream at around 7 – 9 AM. 

8. Suggested Tour To Perfume Pagoda Hanoi. 

If you love to explore the beauty and cultural value of this pagoda but don’t know where to start, don’t worry as LuxuryTravel is here. We organize several tours to the Perfume Pagoda and other interesting destinations in North Vietnam, either a day trip or a long-day tour. Let’s take a look at some of our best tours.

And in case you want to have a specially-designed travel program, contact us directly. We will support in making the best itinerary ever for your vacation. 

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