My Son Sanctuary, Vietnam – Travel Guide

My Son Sanctuary, Vietnam

My Son Sanctuary, a complex of stunning red brick tower temples set in a valley surrounded by lush jungle, is the site of the most extensive Cham remains in Vietnam. A place of great political and religious importance, it was once the centre of the ancient Champa Kingdom. 

It is one of the most important Hindu complexes in Southeast Asia and is often compared with the region’s other ancient temple sites, including Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and Wat Phou in Laos. 

Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a visit to these ancient ruins, which are easily accessible from Da Nang and Hoi An by tour or independently, is a highlight of a trip to Central Vietnam. If My Son, Vietnam is on your itinerary, read on for everything you need to know about planning your own visit!

Related: (opens in new tab)

A Guide to My Son Sanctuary, Vietnam 

History of My Son Sanctuary, Vietnam 

For almost a millennium, My Son Sanctuary was an important site of religious ceremony for the Champa kings and the burial place of monarchs. The Champa Kingdom was founded in the 2nd century when the Dua Clan unified all the clans of the Champa empire that resided across Central and South Vietnam. 

My Son ruins in hills
My Son Sanctuary covers an extensive area.

The ruling Dua Clan chose Quang Nam Province as the heartland of the new kingdom and set about constructing My Son Temple, which means beautiful mountain in the native language. The unique culture that was developing in the region at this time was heavily influenced by Indian Hinduism, and the temple was created to worship the god Shiva.

Built between the 4th and 13th centuries, My Son was constructed on elevated ground in a valley surrounded by mountains, on which is the source of the sacred Thu Bon River. This flows past the temples and runs through the province, emptying into the South China Sea near the ancient port of Hoi An. This strategic location meant that the site was easily defensible. 

My Son walls
My Son was constructed in a strategic location.

Over the next ten centuries, successive rulers added their own monuments and continual construction saw the site expand to contain more than 70 temples clustered together in groups. 

Further monuments are buried beneath more recently erected temples. Most were built to honour Shiva but many also to worship the Hindu gods Vishnu and Krishna. The site encompasses prayer rooms, bathhouses, treasure vaults and holding rooms within which are statues of deities. 

Some of the earliest temples were built with wood, which was destroyed by fire in the 6th century and later rebuilt in brick. The temples vary in architectural design and symbolize the greatness and purity of Mount Meru, the mythical sacred mountain home to the Hindu gods. 

Details in stone
You can see the sandstone bas-reliefs firsthand at the site.

The towers that remain are constructed from fired brick with stone pillars and are adorned with ornate sandstone bas-reliefs depicting scenes from Hindu mythology. The monuments of My Son Sanctuary are the foremost example of the Cham architectural style.

Abandoned for centuries, the site was enveloped by jungle over time and rediscovered in the late 19th century by French archaeologists. Major restoration works were carried out between 1937 and 1943, however, the wars of the 20th century, including the Second World War, First Indo-China War and, particularly, the Second Indo-China War (Vietnam War), saw parts of the site severely damaged by bombings. 

My Son Sanctuary temple
After many years, the jungle began to reclaim the site.

Communist rebels the Viet Cong sought refuge in the temples during the Second Indo-China War. Upon discovering this, the Americans bombed the area non-stop for a week destroying a number of the monuments. Bomb craters are still visible at the site, a stark reminder of the devastation wrought in the area. 

Conservation work undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India between 2017 and 2022 restored a number of the temples in Groups A, H and K. While in some areas the difference between the restored sections and the original is obvious, you be surprised by the preservation of the ancient bricks, some of which look strikingly new. 

Relics in Da Dang Museum 3
Check out the museum to see objects from the site.

A guide will be able to point out which sections are original and which are reconstructed. For further insight into the Cham architectural style, a visit to the Da Nang Museum of Cham Sculpture is worthwhile, which houses a number of objects from the site. 

Traditional dance and music performances at My Son Sanctuary allow visitors to learn more about this ancient culture and connect with Cham history. In one of the performances, women dance with jars of water upon their heads, which is reminiscent of times gone by when women would carry water on their heads from the river to bathe at the sacred temples. Traditional instruments, including drums and flutes, create a mesmerising soundtrack to the intricate and colourful display.

Open air performance at My Son
Don’t miss one of the performances at My Son Sanctuary!

Best Time to Visit My Son Sanctuary, Vietnam 

My Son Sanctuary is located in Central Vietnam which means it is subject to tropical weather and is affected by monsoon rains. February to August is the dry season, with temperatures peaking in June. 

The best time to visit My Son Sanctuary is from February to April when you can expect pleasantly warm days. August is also a good month, but take a rain jacket in case of any unexpected showers! A visit to the Sanctuary entails being out in the open with little shade so consider how you will cope with the heat if you visit in high summer. Planning your visit so you arrive early in the morning is also a great way to beat the heat during the height of the dry season.

My Son Sanctuary site
The site is very exposed so make sure you bring sunscreen!

The wet season is from September to January. With storms and heavy downpours, this isn’t the best time to visit. Although even during rainy season there can be patches of dry weather, they are hard to predict! If you plan to visit during this time you will likely be rewarded with fewer crowds, but make sure to bring a poncho! 

The wettest months are October and November, and if you plan to base yourself in Hoi An to visit the Sanctuary, these months are best avoided as the city is prone to severe flooding during these months. 

My Son with hills in background
To avoid the crowds, aim to visit first thing in the morning.

Tours groups tend to arrive on a morning tour around 9 am or an afternoon tour at around 2 pm. To avoid the crowds, aim to visit early in the morning, or around 11 am-1 pm, before the afternoon tour arrives and as the morning tour heads off for lunch. If visiting around midday, make sure to bring sun protection as the heat can be intense during dry season.

My Son Sanctuary, Vietnam – Should You Go Independently or With a Tour?

Joining a tour to visit My Son is a great option if you want all the practicalities taken care of. Tours are particularly good if you’re travelling solo and fancy some company on your visit. Organised trips also have the added benefit of including a guide so that you can get the most out of your visit and learn more about the site. 

Prices start from as little as 500,000VND (approx. $21USD), but note that the cheaper options exclude the price of entry to the site. Expect to pay around 800,000-1,000,000VND (approx. $34-$42USD) for a small group tour that includes lunch, the price of entry, and an additional activity such as a boat tour or rice paper making.

Ruins at My Son
A guide can provide more history and context to your visit.

The downside of a tour is that you will be viewing the temples with the crowds, both your own group and the groups on other tours. The time spent at each section will also be decided by the tour guide. 

If you prefer to be amongst the ruins when they are quieter and have the freedom to linger or move on at your own leisure, then an independent visit might be better for you. The cost of an independent visit can also be cheaper if you hire a scooter and drive yourself (around 150,000-200,000VND [approx. $6-9USD] for a day hire), or if you share a taxi with a group of friends (approx. 470,000-500,000VND [approx. $20-21USD] one way). 

Onsite mini museum at My Son
There is an on-site museum to visit too.

If you’re travelling solo and don’t ride a scooter, then a tour will be the most cost-effective option. Guides can also be hired at the site for just 100,000VND (around $4USD) so you can still enjoy soaking up the history and stories with a private tour around the ruins.

Tips for Visiting My Son Sanctuary 

After parking, or alighting your bus, you will board an electric shuttle bus to take you on a short but pretty journey through a wooded area to the entrance of the site. 

There are small shops and restaurants at the beginning and end of this journey so there are plenty of opportunities to stock up on refreshments. There are toilets located near the ticket booth as well as inside the site, next to the stage, where there is another small shop selling souvenirs, drinks and ice cream.

Don’t miss the traditional performance, a 20-minute showcase of traditional dance and music. There are four showings on the public stage each day at 9.15 am, 10.45 am, 2 pm and 3.30 pm. For an even more enthralling experience, aim to catch the open-air performances, which take place in front of one of the temples (Group G) at 10 am and 2.45 pm each day, weather permitting. 

Open air performance at My son
The performances showcase traditional music and dance.

The site is not very large and can be explored in around two hours, allowing enough time to take in the sights and enjoy a performance.

Practical Information for Visiting My Son Sanctuary, Vietnam

Opening Hours and Entry Costs 

My Son Sanctuary is open year-round from 6 am to 5 pm each day. Entry costs around approx. 150,000VND and includes the shuttle bus and traditional performance.

Dress Code

Although the covering of shoulders and knees doesn’t seem to be strictly enforced, one of the regulations stipulates ‘do not wear too short clothes or indecent costumes’. Therefore, wearing modest clothing is advised to be on the safe side and respect the local culture.

My Son temple
This is a religious site and visitors should dress conservatively.

How to Get To My Son Sanctuary, Vietnam

Tours run from both Da Nang and Hoi An, which are equidistant from My Son Sanctuary. Costs vary depending on what level of service you require. A basic tour with transport and a guide starts at 500,000-600,0000VND (approx. $21-25USD), but you’ll need to pay the entrance fee on top of this. 

Most tours will arrange pick up from your accommodation within Da Nang or Hoi An. For a tour with all the extras, including lunch, entrance fee, a boat tour and an activity, you could pay around 1,000,000VND (approx. $42USD). Look out for Venus Travel which runs a luxury morning tour for 800,000VND (around $33USD) per person.

Stage performance
Some people like to visit independently and explore at their own pace.

Hiring a scooter is a great way of visiting My Son Sanctuary at your own pace, which is about an hour’s ride from both Da Nang and Hoi An. Scooters are readily available to rent in each location and cost around 150,000-200,000VND (approx. $6-8USD) for a day’s hire. Budget another 70,000-80,000VND (around $3USD) for gas plus an additional 5,000VND ($0.20) for parking.

If you want to visit independently but don’t drive a scooter you can book a taxi, either car or bike, to drive you to the site. Grab is the taxi-hailing service most widely used in Vietnam and you can expect to pay around 470,000-500,000VND (approx. $20-21USD) for a car and 170,000-180,000VND (approx. $7-$8USD) for a bike one way. 

More My son ruins
It is possible to arrange for a taxi driver to wait for you while you explore.

If you’d like the taxi to wait for you while you explore and drive you back, it’s probably better to strike a deal with a local taxi. One local taxi company in Hoi An advertises a two-way trip to My Son for 650,000VND (approx. $27USD).

My Son Sanctuary is a unique attraction of significant national importance. The site is key to understanding the ancient Champa Kingdom, offering a fascinating insight into Cham history and sculpture. It is the supreme example of the culture’s distinctive architectural style. 

The continual additions and modifications over ten centuries helped to map the development of the Champa empire’s political and religious views and understand the importance of the worship of Hindu gods to their culture. It also holds the title of being the longest continuously inhabited archaeological site in Southeast Asia!

My Son Sanctuary’s enchanting setting, beautiful architecture and historic importance make it an unmissable stop on any Vietnam itinerary.

Have you visited My Son Sanctuary in Vietnam? Share your experience in the comments!

Lisa Barham author pic
Lisa Barham

Having always dreamt of travelling the world, Lisa finally decided to follow that dream in her mid-thirties when she left her nine-to-five in London for life on the road. After trekking to Everest Base Camp in Nepal and learning to surf in Sri Lanka, she headed for wondrous Southeast Asia, where she can currently be found solo backpacking, navigating through life and unfamiliar streets.

Follow her on: Instagram

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Basket
Scroll to Top