Ly Son Island a lesser-known gem of central Vietnam

Ly Son, 30 kilometers off the coast of Quang Ngai Province, is home to intriguing garlic farms and beautiful crystal-clear seas surrounded by a ring of reefs.

The island, a district covering around 10 square kilometers, is known as the kingdom of garlic and onions, and it is one of a very few volcanic islands in Vietnam. Ly Son consists of three islands, including Dao Lon (Big Island), also known as Cu Lao Re, Dao Be (Small Island) or An Binh Island, and an uninhabited Mu Cu Islet.

April to August is an ideal time to visit Ly Son, when the weather is nice, with little rain and lots of sunshine.

A beach on Small Island in Ly Son. Photo by Shutterstock/Big Pearl.

From Ha Noi or Ho Chi Minh City, you can fly to Chu Lai Airport in Quang Nam Province, and then either catch a taxi or a bus to Sa Ky Port, which lies 42 kilometers away. If you depart from Da Nang City, you can take a taxi or experience a train ride to Quang Ngai for VND180,000 ($7.7) two ways.

Ly Son Island can only be reached by boat from Sa Ky Port. There are three round trips by speedboat each day for VND300,000 ($13) to VND350,000 ($15), taking around half-an-hour to reach shore. Remember to bring your ID, driving license or passport when purchasing tickets.

On the island, you can rent a motorbike from locals for VND120,000 ($5.2) per day.

Here are some suggestions for a three day, two night trip to Ly Son.

Day 1: Hang Pagoda, Cau Cave, Thoi Loi Mountain

Hang Pagoda, a 400-year-old pagoda, is located inside the largest cave of Ly Son Island. The sculpture of Goddess Quan Am stands outside the entrance, looking out to sea, with locals coming here to pray for peace and luck. Remember to wear proper clothing and take off your shoes when entering the cave.

Before heading to Cau Cave, you can drop by the lighthouse located on the east coast of the island. From top of the 45-meter-tall tower, you can view the entire island, including its garlic fields.

Locals believe that as the sand is brought from the beach it makes Ly Son garlic and onions special. Growing garlic and onions has become the main source of income for many Ly Son islanders.

Cau Cave is a 15-minute-drive from the center of the island, with local waters ideal for scuba diving or kayaking.

If you prefer, a trek to Thoi Loi Mountain at sunset could be a great ending to the day. Thoi Loi Mountain, one of five volcanoes, is 170 meters above sea level. At its peak stands a 20 meter national flagpole, alongside a freshwater lake that supplies the entire island.

At night, you can enjoy fresh seafood like onion grilled clams, king crabs, sea urchins, and oysters along the pier. Phat Hai Restaurant in West Village, An Hai Commune is the most famous among all. You should ask the price and way of cooking before ordering. A meal here normally costs around VND200,000 ($8.6) to VND300,000 ($13).

You can also visit Ly Son night market, open from 6 p.m. daily, for fresh seafood and other island specialities.

Day 2: Mu Cu Islet, Small Island, To Vo Gate

Mu Cu Islet lies on the eastern side of Big Island. It is the smallest uninhabited island. It is better to visit the islet early in the morning at sunrise.

Afterwards, you can visit Ly Son Port for a motorboat ride to Small Island, also known as Vietnam’s Maldives, for VND100,000 ($4.3). It takes only 20 minutes to reach the island.

Small Island is small, therefore you can either rent a motorbike or take a tuk tuk or tram to traverse the island in half a day.

Bai Sau Beach is the most famous on Small Island. It is small, yet the water is crystal-clear. Tourists are offered services like life jackets and diving googles for snorkeling amid coral for VND90,000 ($4).

Besides, you could drop by to take a photo of the lonely velvetleaf soldierbush.

Dao Be covers 0.7 square kilometers and is popular for its circular basket boats. Photo by Shutterstock/Tran Thanh Sang.

Small Island covers 0.7 square kilometers and is popular for its circular basket boats. Photo by Shutterstock/Tran Thanh Sang.

At lunch time, you can visit Dai Hang or Ut Ngoc restaurants in Tay Village, An Vinh Commune, Big Island at an average cost of VND150,000 ($6.4) per person.

In the afternoon, why not visit To Vo Gate, one of the most Instagrammable spots on Ly Son. The gate is two meters high, formed via the remnants of volcanic activity millions of years ago when lava encountered the sea and hardened to create the unique arch.

Day 3: Visit a local seafood market

Wake up early on your last day to visit the seafood market near the port and buy some seafood, dried goods or garlic to bring back home