The Bich Dong Pagoda, translated to the “Pagoda of the Emerald Grotto” in English, is a temple set in the Ninh Binh Province. It’s established against the Bich Dong Mountain inside the Ngu Nhac Son range.
The structure is partially built inside a cave and is part of a three-temple complex, surrounded by natural elements and beauty. This helped it get listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The only way to access all of the pagodas is by stone stairs, so it offers a workout in addition to incredible scenery, a soothing atmosphere, and its historical significance.
Bich Dong Pagoda was first built in 1428 and remained a one-building temple for hundreds of years before its expansion in the 18th century. During that time, it was decided that two monks would repair and replace the pagoda with better, more sturdy materials. It used collected donations from Buddhist followers to construct the additional two levels.
After its completion and until the present day, it is visited by many for its breathtaking views and calming environment that surrounds the entire property.
The Three Levels
To get to the bottom pagoda, visitors walk through the gate and cross on a bridge, passing by lush trees and water filled with lilies. From there, the tiers are connected.
Ha (Bottom) Pagoda
Ha Pagoda is the first temple on ground level, built at the mountain’s base just past the entrance. After climbing the six stone steps in front, visitors can enter the cave temple to find five rooms and many levels of statues. Incense and candles are also present in Ha Pagoda. Upon exiting, there is a staircase with 120 steps to reach the next tier.
Trung (Middle) Pagoda
The unique second floor of the Bich Dong Pagoda is called the Trung Pagoda and is half inside and half outside a cave. Within are artifacts, statues, and what’s left of a bronze ball item. To reach the third level, visitors have to go inside the cave portion and climb the final 40 steps to the top.
Thuong (Upper) Pagoda
Thuong Pagoda is the highest level of the Bich Dong Pagoda and houses two shrines to the Earth God and Mountain God. There’s also a small body of water that resembles a pond, which is said to have healing powers for the unwell. Outside of Thuong Pagoda, you’ll find a fantastic view of trees and picturesque fields.
The Bich Dong Pagoda is worth a stop on any trip to the area, and the best time to come is in the early autumn months when the foliage colors are more brilliant, and there’s less chance of rain.
Address: Ninh Hải, Hoa Lư District, Ninh Binh City, Ninh Bình Province, Vietnam
Hours: During daylight hours