Ly Son highlights and travel guide

Updated December, 16th - 2023

Ly Son at a glimpse

Ly Son is a lovely island district in Vietnam's Quang Ngai province. It was formed millions of years ago by a volcanic eruption and has a unique natural landscape with stunning beaches, rocky cliffs, and colorful coral reefs.

Where is Ly Son

“The kingdom of garlic” is located in the northeast of Quang Ngai province, about 30 kilometers away from the mainland.

How to get there

Ly Son can be reached by a ferry from Sa Ky port in Quang Ngai city. The ferry takes about 1.5 hours and costs 150,000 VND per person. Alternatively, you can take a speedboat from Dung Quat port, which takes only 30 minutes and costs 350,000 VND per person.

The best time to visit Ly Son

Ly Son is best visited between June and September, when the weather is sunny and dry and the sea is calm and clear. This is also peak tourism season, so you may need to book your accommodations and transportation ahead of time. From October to February, avoid visiting Ly Son because the weather is cold and rainy, and the sea is rough and murky.

What to see & do in Ly Son

Ly Son has many attractions to offer, such as:
  • ♦ Thoi Loi Mountain: This is the highest point on the island, with a panoramic view of the sea and sky, as well as a freshwater lake on top. On the way up, you can also see the lighthouse, the Hang Pagoda, and the national flag pole.
  • ♦ An Hai Beach: The most popular beach on the island for swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing on the white sand. You can also rent a kayak or snorkel to explore the nearby coral reefs.
  • ♦ An Binh Island: A smaller island near Ly Son with a more peaceful and pristine environment. A boat ride from Ly Son to An Binh takes about an hour and costs 80,000 VND per person. Visit the coconut forest, volcanic rock formations, and fishing village on An Binh.
  • ♦ Hoang Sa Museum: This is a museum that exhibits the history and culture of the Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago, which Vietnam claims but China occupies. You can learn about the Nguyen dynasty's naval forces, which used to patrol and exploit the archipelago's resources, as well as see artifacts and documents related to the sovereignty issue.

Where to stay

Ly Son has a variety of accommodation options, ranging from homestays, guesthouses, hotels, to resorts.

What to taste

Ly Son is famous for its garlic and its seafood. Give a try to garlic salad: This is a salad made with fresh garlic cloves, sliced carrots, cucumbers, peanuts, and herbs, dressed with fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar. Or you may prefere king crab hotpot: A king crab hotpot with vegetables, mushrooms, noodles, and a spicy broth. It's rich, flavorful, and filling.

Ly Son overview

Situated in Quang Ngai province, a land rich in patriotic traditions, Ly Son is a charming island with stunning landscapes yet to be well-known to the international travelers. This unique island was formed due to a volcano eruption 11 million years ago that has created 10 volcanoes that are inactive nowadays. Amongst these volcanic peaks, 7 of them are on land and the rest are under water, the Gieng Tien and Thoi Loi have acquired their reputation for their own unique tales and terrains and are often visited by tourists.
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Ly Son highlights and travel guide
One edge of Ly Son Island

Thoi Loi Peak

Aside from enjoying the crystal clear water where you can see beautiful coral reef tourists or white sand dune, you can also visit a variety of meticulously well-preserved historical and cultural relic sites that bear this place’s history since 17th century when local people started to move to the island to live.

Ly Son highlights and travel guide
Crater of a volcano on Ly Son Island
Nevertheless, Ly Son Island has a strong relationship with Paracel Island. According to many historical documents in his years of ruling, Minh Mang emperor ordered the people in An Vinh and An Hai village of Ly Son to sail to Paracel Island to patrol the island and grow trees, build temple there to set the sovereignty of our country on this island.

See and Do

Ly Son Island has acquired its reputation for the stunning scenery as well as invaluable historical sites that are still well preserved up until now. When coming to Ly Son, tourists can visit many attractions, each sharing its own story and beauty.
Residing in the Northeast of Ly Son Island, Chua Hang (which means Cave Pagoda) is a pagoda which was built inside a natural cave in the foot of Thoi Loi Mountain about 400 years ago. This is a national monument that witnessed the history of the island since people started to explore and built houses here.

Ly Son highlights and travel guide
 Entrance to Chua Hang, the ‘Cave Pagoda’

An Vinh and An Hai Communal houses are national monuments that carry both historical and spiritual values as they are the earliest communal houses being built and are well-preserved up until now by Quang Ngai province in general and Ly Son Island more specifically. Here you can join in Khao Le The Linh Hoang Sa Festival which takes place from March 18th to 20th according to the lunar calendar.
Am Linh Pagoda of Anh Vinh Commune is the place that worships the soldiers that lost their life during their mission of setting the milestone marking Paracel Island as our country’s property. This is a meaningful place where people come to pray for peace, luck, health and success.
Ly Son highlights and travel guide
The gate-shaped cliff of To Vo
To Vo Gate, a small gate-shaped-like cliff located near the sea, is a famous destination that should not be missed when traveling to Ly Son. This is the result of volcano eruption that created a unique shape for the cliff that attracts a huge number of tourists to come and take photos especially at dawn when the sun comes up or sunset.
Thoi Loi Peak is the highest peak in Ly Son Island from which you can see the whole view of Ly Son and its emerald sea water, white sand and green fields of garlic. It is told that during the old days there were a lot of precious trees in the center of the volcano. Nowadays, on top of the peak there is a 30.000 m3 fresh water lake that supplies water for the entire locals living on the island.

Residing in the highest part of this volcano stands the 20-meter high National Flagpole which was built on May 4th, 2013, turning towards the Paracel Island. The flagpole has four main parts including the base, stairs, the flagpole body and the campus around consisting of concrete floor and lights. In the front of the flagpole are special parameters.

Ly Son highlights and travel guide
Private beach of Dao Be Island
Ly Son highlights and travel guide
Harbor or Lon Island
From the Harbor of Lon Island, by riding a 15-minute canoe you can reach Be Island, which literary means Small Island as in fact the island is very small. Despite its size, tourists cannot help but visiting this island as it fascinates people by its beautiful white-sand beach surrounded by high cliffs. On Be Island, you can enjoy the marvelous scene with endless fields of garlic, swim on the beach and relax at the wharf.
Aside from Thoi Loi Peak you can also visit Gieng Tien Peak, a mountain that bears a spiritual story that long time ago; it was really difficult to dig a well and find the source of fresh water on Ly Son Island. In order to solve the problem Gia Long emperor commanded his soldiers to dig out soil to make human puppet, used to summon the spirit of soldiers died while carrying their missions on Paracel Island. After doing so, suddenly there was water flowing out of the hole that shaped a well. Since then people consider it as a holy place of Ly Son.
Ly Son highlights and travel guide
The white-sand beach and turquoise waters of Ly Son
Ly Son highlights and travel guide
Diving, best activity to see the corals
You can also take part in a myriad of activities with the locals to get a deeper understanding of the people living in Ly Son. You can learn to cultivate garlic and onion, how to knit a net, go catching crab and snail, or go coral diving.

Culture and Arts

According to archaeology trail, Cham people had lived in Ly Son from 2.500 to 3.000 years ago, from the Sa Huynh civilization, unlike the common idea that there were no people on the island in the past. Evidence showed that the Cham people made a living by fishing seafood and cultivating vegetables. A lot of ancient goods and artifacts, found in the center of Gieng Tien Peak, have been found.

Ly Son highlights and travel guide

Ly Son highlights and travel guide
Funeral materials used by the locals at sea when someone passes away on the boat
As the island is isolated from the main land, it has been protected from being affected by the wars. Therefore many cultural heritages are still well-preserved up until now.

Food and Drink

Though Ly Son Island is often mentioned as a land of magnificent sceneries, it is also famous for its diverse culinary culture. In Ly Son Island you can easily find tons of signature dishes without worrying too much about the cost. The most nominated ones are Lonely Garlic, Ta Ma Fish, Spanner Crab and Sea Snail.

Garlic field on Ly Son Island
Garlic field on Ly Son Island

Ly Son Garlic, or so-called Lonely Garlic, carries a gentle aroma and a slight taste of spiciness, well-known to many people. Coming to Ly Son you will have to try the most unique dish in the world that made of only garlic – the Ly Son garlic salad. In this dish, the garlic is chopped and steamed until it is softened then mix it together with spices like sugar, salt, pepper and finally, peanut. The way to make it is simple but the flavor and the scent of the cuisine is hard to forget.
On the other hand, if you want to try a total new and extraordinary taste you can try the Garlic Wine that is made from the Lonely Garlic cultivated in Ly Son Island. This drink not only gives you a chance to take try out a new experience for your taste but also provides tremendous help to cure health problems such as blood cholesterol, acts as a natural Aspirin, and even helps against cancer.
The Spanner crab is considered as Vietnamese King of crab. A Spanner crab is the size of an adult’s hand, with bright red shell and sharp pincers. This cuisine lures eaters by its sweet and nutritious meat and the flavor is hard to describe. Unfortunately this crab is not available all year round.

Ly Son highlights and travel guide
Freshly-fished seafood
Formerly, spanner crab was the tribute to the King because its meat is soft and moist, roe is dense and fatty, and nutritional contents are higher than all other types of crabs, so people called it Cua Huynh De which sounds similar to “Hoang De” meaning “King” of Vietnam. This is a dish that you cannot ignore during your trip to Ly Son.
Another special dish in Ly Son called Ta Ma fish which means evil fish. Aside from being known as the main ingredient to make mouth-watering dishes, with distinctively rich sweetness and tight meat that attract many people like grilled Ta Ma fish, Ta Ma hot pot, Ta Ma porridge and Ta Ma soup, this fish is particularly hard to catch, making it the most wanted food in Ly Son Island. The way people cook this fish is based on the season, such as making porridge or hotpot in the winter and grilled fish for the spring for instance.
As a matter of fact, snails are eaten all over Vietnam, and are considered as a popular dish nationwide.  In order to catch sea snails in Ly Son, divers are required to go 10 meters deep down to the seabed. Just like Ta Ma Fish, Sea Snails can be cooked in a multitude of ways such as grilled, steamed or stir-fried. A dish of snails is often served with an accompanying sauce bowl.
Learn more about the Cuisine of Central Vietnam

Festival and Events

After the Lunar New Year, there are several festivals that represent the culture of Ly Son people.
We cannot miss Khao Le The Linh Festival held annually in Am Linh Pagoda in the 18th, 19th and 20th of March according to lunar calendar. This is a crucial event not only for Ly Son but also the whole Quang Ngai province. Every year 70 people from An Vinh and An Hai village are chosen to sail to Paracel Island to set sovereignty over Paracel archipelagos over a course of 6 months.  In the first sail, half of the original members came back but in the following period, when another group of 70 people were chosen to go to Paracel, no one came back. So people decided to organize this festival ping paper boats with paper puppets into the sea, with hope that these puppets will get all the bad luck instead of the real sailors who would be able to come back to the land safely.
During this festival, people also go to clean up the grave of Paracel soldiers called Mo Gio.
Ly Son highlights and travel guide
The Linh Festival

The Boat-Racing Festival in Ly Son Island was first organized in 1826. In the past, during Lunar New Year, the fishermen of the island held a boat-racing at the village temple. This festival represents Spring and is held to commemorate the memory of the ancestors and the lost souls of Hoang Sa soldiers in the past.
The boats include the symbol of four souls: the dragon, the lion, the turtle and the phoenix. An Vinh & An Hai village temples create the brilliant colors and special feeling with tourists in the country & aboard. During this festival, the fishermen also pray for peace, health and happiness.
Whale Worshipping Ritual is a subculture of Ly Son people, held annually in the spring and autumn seasons to worship the whale. This is a form of cultural and religious activities of the people living near the sea as it was told that many people were rescued from ship wreck or storm by whales. There are a lot of temples that worship the whale but Ly Son owns one of the most ancients in the area.
Read more : Why travelling to Vietnam ?
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