Halong Bay is a beautiful natural wonder in northern Vietnam. The Bay is dotted with 1,600 limestone islands and islets and covers an area of over 1,500 sqkm. This extraordinary area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. For many tourists, this place is like something right out of a movie. The fact is that Halong Bay features a wide range of biodiversity, while the surrealistic scenery has indeed featured in endless movies.
Halong Bay is located in Quang Ninh Province, northeast Vietnam, just 180 km east of Hanoi; surrounded by Bai Tu Long Bay, Lan Ha Bay, Cat Ba Island, Tuan Chau Island and Halong City. While Halong Bay is not a large area, it packs some 1,600 limestone islands and islets into its 1,553 km2. Limestone towers, green islands and islets boast karst caves, caverns and grottoes, many hidden and still waiting to be discovered. Some islands are completely hollow. Framing the islands are gorgeous beaches, the emerald sea lapping gently on the soft, white sand.
Cruising the green islands is the only way to truly experience Halong Bay. On a wooden junk or cruise vessel, you can take in the picture-perfect serenity of the area from balcony, sun deck and the front of the boat in complete luxury. Watch the sun rise and set over the Bay, all pink and orange and plump, and breathe the fresh air – tangy with salt – deep into your lungs, recharging your soul.
TOP THINGS TO SEE
- Islands: Tuan Chau, Ti Top, Cong Do, Soi Sim, Bo Hon, Rang Dua, Reu
- Beaches: Tuan Chau, Bai Chay, Titop, Ban Chan, Ba Trai Dao, Soi Sim, Ngoc Vung
- Karst grottoes: Sung Sot, Luon, Trong, Tien Ong, Thien Cung, Dau Go, Trinh Nu, Thien Canh Son
- Floating villages: Cua Van, Vung Vieng, Cap La, Ba Hang, Cong Dam
- Onshore sights: Halong City with Night Market, Quang Ninh Museum, Dragon Park (Halong Park), Bai Tho Mountain, Bai Chay Bridge
- Nearby sights: Bai Tu Long Bay (Ngoc Vung and Quan Lan Island), Lan Ha Bay (Cat Ba Island), Co To District.
TOP THINGS TO DO
- On-board: cruising, enjoying food and drink, spa and wellness treatments, cooking demonstration, Vietnamese tea ceremony, Vietnamese wine tasting, BBQ, Tai Chi sessions, reading, sunbathing, sightseeing, watching the sunrise and set, squid fishing, taking photos, movie nights.
- Off-board: visiting islands, visiting caves, kayaking, getting up close with the locals, fishing village excursion, swimming, dining on beach, photos, enjoying food and drink, spa and wellness treatments, BBQ, sunbathing.
HOW TO GET TO HALONG BAY
Getting to Halong Bay is easy, and round trip transfers are usually arranged as part of your cruise package. The nearest airports are Noi Bai International Airport (in Hanoi) or Cat Bi Airport (in Hai Phong).
- HANOI OR NOI BAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT TO HALONG BAY: Halong Bay is located just about 180 km east of Hanoi, and generally a shuttle bus or private rental car is used to transfer guests. The drive is usually between three and a half to four hours, with a comfort stop of around 20 – 30 minutes at the half-way point. Noi Bai International Airport – which is located 30 km north of Hanoi – is 169 km from Halong Bay and the drive takes a similar amount of time as the trip from Hanoi to Halong Bay, roughly 3.5 hours.
- HAI PHONG OR CAT BI AIRPORT TO HAlONG BAY: At just over 88 km from Halong Bay, the drive from Hai Phong – and Cat Bi Airport – is typically around 2.5 hours. Private cars or mini-vans are usually booked, however, guests can take taxis if they prefer, but this is not common.
- NINH BINH TO HALONG BAY: Located about 216 km south-west of Halong Bay, the drive to Ninh Binh usually takes 4.5 hours. A private car is the best option for guests wishing to travel to or from Ninh Binh and Halong Bay.
- HO CHI MINH CITY TO HALONG BAY: Ho Chi Minh City is located over 1,700 km south of Halong Bay, and flying is the quickest, easiest and cheapest option. The flying time is around two hours, there are many flights available. Guests can either fly to Noi Bai International Airport or to Cat Bi Airport and then book shuttle or a private car to Halong Bay.
BEST TIME TO VISIT HALONG BAY
March – June, and October – November is the best time to visit both Halong when the sun mostly shines. From July to September, the temperature reaches its highest point, the weather might be very uncomfortable. Moreover, this is the high season of domestic tourism, so just expect locals around you.