We really weren’t sure what to expect from a day spent at Ba Na Hills.
We’d seen so many great pictures of the new Golden Bridge, which is held up by giant stone Buddha hands. Practically every Vietnamese person we met in Da Nang would ask if we’d been there, then proceed to tell us just how beautiful and fun it was up there. The air is cooler, and very fresh, they’d tell us. It’s AMAZING, they would say, but having been to Europe, and seen real French buildings, we were a bit skeptical.
We’d heard about the legendary cable car ride up the mountainside (which holds 4 guinness world records, including the longest cable car in the world) and that it might just be worth the whole trip.
Being the dedicated travel bloggers we are, we decided we’d visit and report back on our findings. For science!
Spoiler Alert: The views were beautiful and we were highly entertained the whole time. However, if you don’t enjoy crowds or amusement parks, maybe you should check out our list of 20 other fun (and less touristy) things to do in Da Nang.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO PLAN A DAY TRIP TO BA NA HILLS
**One last quick note: Our admission to Ba Na Hills was complementary and included buffet lunch. As always, all opinions in this blog post are our own.**
HOW MUCH DOES A DAY TRIP TO BA NA HILLS COST?
A day trip to BaNa Hills is not cheap, however we felt that the experience and views were worth the cost of admission. Our memories of the day will not soon fade, so be sure to read on for our full assessment before writing off the trip based on cost alone.
Below, I’ve included the cost breakdown for our trip. Check the “Getting to Ba Na Hills” section for more information on alternative means of transportation.
Transport (both ways/ 2 people) – 800,000vnd
Admission – 700,000 vnd/person
Buffet lunch – 200,000vnd/person
Total – 1,700,000vnd/person (roughly $75)
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO TO BA NA HILLS
We saw really long lines waiting to buy tickets….really long. I’d highly recommend buying your tickets to bana hills online or booking them with a group tour. Group tours usually include a guide, transport to and from Ba Na Hills, admission to the park via cable car, and a buffet lunch.
Visiting ba na hills is a cultural experience
The vast majority of visitors to the park are Asian tourists, I mean we are in Asia, right? Nevertheless, we counted about six other Western faces not including the Ukrainian cast members. This can be an exciting and overwhelming cultural experience at times, but it’s a great opportunity to witness Asian tourists in their element. Avid people watchers will feel right at home here.
Celebrity for a day
From the time we stepped onto the Golden Bridge to the time we left the park we were constantly approached by other park guests asking us to take photos with them. I really wish I could have seen all of these photos. At first it was really funny and exciting, but by the end of the day we found ourselves giving bunny ears and doing weird poses to entertain ourselves in selfie after selfie. These tourists have a different cultural perspective on boundaries and personal space than you may have, the best thing to do is to be prepared and enjoy the experience. If I had the chance to do it over again, I would have taken more selfies with them on my phone too!
One big cultural difference between Asians and Westerners is our understanding of personal space. As Westerners we tend to keep people at an arm’s length and don’t prefer to have our “bubble” invaded. Asian tourists will invade your bubble 100% of the time. Expect them to stand very close to you in line (nut-to-butt as we like to say) and they may even push you out of their way out of excitement to get wherever they’re going. Make sure you fill in gaps while waiting in lines, so no one overtakes your position. Don’t be offended, remember that you’re the one who’s out of place here.
Da nang’s disneyland
Once upon a time, during the French colonization of Vietnam, the French decided that it was too darn hot. So, they built themselves a mountaintop retreat to escape the heat. This was long before the construction of the famous cable car. No, these French imperialists ascended the mountain in sedan chairs carried by their Vietnamese servants. Thankfully, this is no longer the case.
Today, BaNa Hills is like the Disneyland of Da Nang, Vietnam. What I mean is that this is a theme park, not a legit French Village. The real French villas were left in ruins, and replaced by the beautiful structures we see today. Don’t expect to find real french style buildings made with actual stone masonry. Most of the structures have false fronts that don’t pass “the knock test.” Go ahead and knock and you’ll hear what I mean. Similar to the false fronted buildings at disneyland, not much of what you see up here is what we would classify as “real.” But we didn’t come up here for the “French” buildings, we came up here for the views, the rides, and the general entertainment value of visiting a place like this. We had a great time!
Not many thrill rides (but some)
Before Ba Na Hills we visited Sunworld Da Nang Wonders, home of the iconic Da Nang “Sun Wheel.” This park had lot of exciting thrill rides including a few rollercoasters, a viking ship, and a “Himalaya” style ride that surprised the shit out of us. If you’re into roller coasters and thrill rides you can’t beat the $10 admission to Sunworld Da Nang Wonders.
Ba Na Hills didn’t have nearly as many rides as the other Sunworld Park, but there was still plenty to do to fill a day. The Tower Drop and the Alpine coaster were the biggest thrills in the park. Other thrills included seeing the resident “rogue monkey” who freely wanders the park like a rockstar.
Solo day trip vs. package tour?
There’s not much of a cost difference between doing it yourself or booking a package tour to BaNa Hills. A package tour will include your transport both ways, admission, and buffet lunch. The biggest benefit of booking the package tour is that you’ll have a guide to refer to with any questions or if you need any help with translations.
GETTING TO BA NA HILLS FROM DA NANG
Getting to Ba Na Hills from Da Nang was our first task. The resort is only accessible by cable car from the base of the mountain. There are several ways to get yourself to the cable car station.
Private driver / taxi / grab
We hired a local driver who agreed to take us out and back for 800,000vnd. Our other option was to take a taxi, or book a grab. Grab quoted us a price of 500,000vnd for one direction, so we felt pretty comfortable with the driver’s quoted price. You can also hire a private car through our viator page.
This is your cheapest option for transport to/from BaNa Hills. You can usually rent a bike for about 150,000vnd/day. The drive out to BaNa hills takes about 45 minutes. Once you get outside the city, the streets widen and become less crowded, the terrain changes from an urban landscape to rolling hills, and the air freshens. Use google to navigate to the “Ba Na Cable Car Service Parking Lot.” If you just search for Ba Na Hills, google will direct you to the top of the mountain, that’s not the right way. We decided that riding a motorbike home after a full day of fun, would be not so fun, and tiring, hence the car.
It’s possible to book a group tour from Da Nang which will include transportation to Ba Na Hills, admission, and buffet lunch. The advantage here is that you’ll skip the ticketing line, and you’ll have a guide who can translate for you and knows how to navigate the park. The downfall is that you’ll have less freedom with your schedule. We did it all on our own and had a great day.
WHAT TO SEE AT BANA HILLS
The cable car to the top of the mountain holds 3 world records including the longest single-cable cable car at over 5km. The ride is smooth and thrilling, similar to the ski lifts you would find in resorts around the world. Although this is just your transportation to the park itself, riding the cable car is easily one of the day’s highlights. Have your camera ready to capture the stunning views of the rolling hills which lead to the city. Beyond the city you’ll have sights of the Son Tra peninsula, high van pass, and the endless sea. If you’re afraid of heights, things could get pretty real.
Once you reach the Marseille station, at the top of the first cable car, you’ll be dropped off at the first level of the mountain. Follow the excited crowds through the station to your right and across the Golden Bridge. This newly constructed bridge (opened to the public in 2018) is a semicircular bridge which appears to be supported by two giant stone hands,, Buddha’s hands, coming out of the mountain. The energy on this bridge is electric as the guests buzz around with their selfie sticks capturing every possible angle. As the only Westerners on the bridge, we were pulled into many photos with tourists from Vietnam, China, and South Korea.
Level up! photo shoot time
The first level of the park offers so many opportunities for photography with various displays set up for posing and having your picture taken. Western costumed actors pose with guests, huge stone statues beg to be climbed on, and the flower gardens make for beautiful romantic shots for your instagram feed
We were eager to get up to the French village, so we skipped the funicular ride to the Jardin d’Amour, but it’s the one thing we regret not doing. It just looks like FUN! This is also how you get to the Debay Wine Cellar and the Linh Ung Pagoda where the giant Buddha statue sits.
When you step out of the Louvre Station into the French Village, you may become momentarily overwhelmed by the buzzing crowd of park guests moving about the square and snapping selfies with reckless abandon. All around you’ll see false fronted European style villas with cafes, restaurants, pastry shops, and places to shop around for souvenirs. A brass band plays covers of your favorite pop hits on the front steps of the cathedral, as tourists join them on stage for selfies with the band members.
Peek inside the cathedral for a glimpse at Jesus on the cross, and perhaps a crowd of worn out visitors seeking sanctuary from the heat. There may be costumed cast members walking around on stilts, or posing with guests. You may find that you relate well to them having their pictures snapped all day.
After winding our way through the French Village we came upon a set of white marble looking steps that led up to the mountaintop Linh Chua Linh Tu Temple. We could hear the distant bonging of the giant bell in the and followed the sound upward past the beautiful Japanese style Tru Vu Tea House, some lovely flowers, and a few Buddha statues.
Momentarily transported back to Vietnam, we found ourselves at the bottom of a multi level Campanile
Climb up to the top for a spectacular aerial view of the French Village, Ling Phong Tu Tower, and the hills below. This is the best view in the entire park. Don’t miss out on the robot who tolls the bell with hydraulic power. This whole area is quite peaceful with some relaxing green garden areas to take a rest and drink some water.
Fantasy Park is an underground amusement park with 3 levels of rides and games. There aren’t a TON of rides, but we were still able to entertain ourselves for hours. We had so much fun with the bumper cars and the tower drop. From the deepest level of the fantasy park you can board the tower drop ride which raises you up to the surface level and gives you a quick look out into the courtyard before dropping you back down with a scream. Or opt for the giant rock climbing wall right next to it.
There were also several arcade games on free play. I’m like a kid in a candy shop when it comes to arcades, so I was able to burn over an hour playing some of my favorite arcade classics like Time Crisis, Star Wars Racers, and a wall size version of Pac Man.
Other highlights included the 4D and 5D experiences. Both involve wearing glasses. One was a wild west shoot out where you mount a horse and shoot at moving targets on the screen in front of you. The other is a “Star Tours” style ride which has you racing through various terrains in a hovering spacecraft.
Most of these rides are more suited for children, but the two of us were able to have a lot of fun anyway on the “House of Death” and “Adventure to the Center of the Earth” rides, which both involved shooting targets. The key here is to manage your expectations. There will be excited children all around, just surrender to the flow, don’t take yourself too seriously, and have a good time. Maybe try challenging a Vietnamese child to a round of skee-ball.
We saw a lot of advertisements for the wax museum while we were there, and it seemed like they had a lot of great characters including Michael Jackson, John Travolta and of course, Obama. The admission to the wax museum was an additional charge, and we didn’t have much time so we decided to skip it and move directly to the line for the Alpine Coaster.
I couldn’t wait to try out the Alpine Coaster. The alpine coaster is similar to a standard roller coaster with a few key differences. This ride has you strapped into your own car, which comes equipped with a hand-brake. The hand brakes allow you to control your own speed. The biggest catch here is that if the person in front of you happens to be out for a sunday drive, you may end up waiting in line for 90 minutes for a less than thrilling outcome. We did enjoy the views and the fresh air on our ride though.
We heard rumors before we got to the park that there would be Westerners from other countries dressed in costumes and performing throughout the park. We saw people on stilts and wearing clown makeup, girls dressed as plants, and dancers in leotards posing with eager park visitors. If you wish to have your photo taken, realize that there’s no queue, you’ll have to be assertive if you wish to have your chance…even still you may have unexpected company in your photo. We asked a few of these cast members where they were from and they all told us they were from Ukraine.
WHAT TO EAT AT BA NA HILLS
There are so many options for things to eat at BaNa hills. Everything seemed to be a little pricey, but it’s an amusement park, and they’ve already got you there, so that’s to be expected.
If you’re on a budget I’d recommend the $10 buffet for lunch, and maybe bring some snacks of your own so you don’t end up caving in and buying all of the tempting sweets the pastry shops and street vendors will be peddling. (We saw many people passing snacks from home to their children while waiting in line.)
Speaking of street vendors….yes, there will be tempting treats lodging a full scale olfactory assault against your wallet. The allure of sweet savory Vietnamese donuts, sizzling meat on sticks, ice cream treats, and dripping spits of kebab meat may be all too much. It all looked so delicious.
There are a few different buffets around and some international cuisines. If you’ve got a solid craving for Russian lamb, then you’re in luck! If you’re trying to impress a date, spring for the fancy French restaurant or go all in on the BBQ.
Arapang restaurant / buffet
Our trip to BaNa Hills included a buffet lunch at the Arapang Restaurant. There were so many different dishes to try, and the options seemed endles. If you’re planning to eat at the Arapang restaurant you should factor a few things into your timing. Typical Vietnamese lunch time is between 11:30 and 1:30. If you arrive during the peak time expect it to be very busy. Dishes were replenished at lightning speed, but they were also demolished equally as fast. I did see an old woman “gently shove” Gabby out of her way for some fruit.
If you wait until after the rush, your food will have been sitting on the buffet for longer. Busier restaurant = fresher food, your choice.
The buffet is all you can eat, and costs about 200,000vnd per person. That works out to less than $10. Meat dishes, soups, vegetables, and several salads, including a potato salad that earned Gabby’s seal of approval, lined the multiple buffet counters. This may go without saying, but don’t let today be the day you decide to finally try the local Vietnamese cuisine. There was also a wide selection of pastries and desserts if there’s any room left in your belly.
Adam’s words walking into lunch were… “this is a marathon, not a sprint”, (something he tends to say anytime we eat at a buffet), but after 1 full plate of savory foods, I was ready to hit the sweets and fruit line. (Note: If you are sitting in the “greenhouse” section of the restaurant, you’ll find another buffet counter serving most of the same things as the ones inside, these seemed to be a bit less crowded.)
SOME TIPS FOR YOUR VISIT TO SUNWORLD BA NA HILLS
+ The best time for photo shoots is around sunset. The French village will be much quieter than in the morning. There were moments when we found ourselves almost completely alone. It was the perfect time to snap a few photos for our instagram.
+ Pay attention to the posted hours of operation for the Cable Car. It’s the only way back down from the mountain, you don’t want to get stuck up there… unless you plan to spend the night.
+ Check the weather on your phone for BaNa Hills before you go. Due to the altitude difference, you may find that the weather on the mountain is quite different from Da Nang. It could be sunny and hot in Da Nang and cloudy and cold at BaNa Hills.
+ On cloudy days your visibility will be limited, greatly reducing your view of Da Nang City and the surrounding mountains… but you will get some mysteriously beautiful photos of a foggy french village.
+ Bring an extra layer. It could be chilly up there compared to Da Nang, especially in the evenings, or when Ba Na hills finds itself inside a cloud.
+ Wear comfortable shoes. We walked a lot and our feet were tired by the end of the day.
+ Bring snacks. Food at the park is expensive, so if you’re on a budget you may want to bring some snacks of your own.
+ Watch out for the monkey. We spotted a rogue monkey wandering the park with a group of paparazzi like guests following close behind. It was quite a sight.
We had an amazing day at Sunworld BaNa Hills, and were surprised just how much we enjoyed moving among the crowds of amusement park guests. However, if you’re on a tight budget, this may not be the day trip for you.
We ended up leaving BaNa hills with a camera full of photos, and a new perspective on Asian tourism. We felt like celebrities for a day, and won’t soon forget the feeling of being approached for selfies with so many strangers.
The cable car ride to the top gives an areal perspective on the geography of the surrounding area. It was so cool to see Da Nang laid out in front of us and the Son Tra peninsula jutting out into the sea. It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to ride the world’s longest cable car.
In order to have the best time read this post thoroughly, manage your expectations, and be ready to go with the flow and have a good time. The whole experience was highly entertaining. If you’re a people watcher (and I’m betting you are) then you’re sure to love it.