Ha Long Bay is the world renowned unique UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world's top tourist attractions. It located in Quang Ninh Province, in the northeast of Viet Nam
The city Ha Long is the main gateway to Ha Long Bay. Designated a World Heritage site in 1994, Ha Long Bay is a mystical and stunning landscape, comprising of a multitude of limestone islands and islets rising from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, in a variety of sizes and shapes and presenting spectacular and unspoiled nature.
Legend has it that the islands of Ha Long Bay were created by a great dragon from the mountains. As it charged towards the coast, its flailing tail gouged out valleys and crevasses. When it finally plunged into the ocean, the area filled with water, leaving only the pinnacles visible. That’s why the city is named Ha Long, meaning ‘the dragon descends into the sea. Sleeping overnight on boat in Ha Long Bay is a must-try activity for every visitor. What could be more interesting than relaxing on sundeck and witnessing the immense number of islands dotted with wind- and wave-eroded caverns, and their sparsely tree-covered slopes ring with birdsong. Beyond a boat cruise, visitors to Ha Long also come to explore the world’s most charming caves. Ha Long Bay possesses an incredible diversity of caves and other landforms, deriving from the uncommon geomorphological process of marine invaded tower karst. Some travelers dodge Ha Long City and head straight for Cat Ba Town, from where trips to less-traveled, equally captivating Lan Ha Bay are easily set up.
WHAT TO SEE
Cua Van Floating Village
Cua Van Floating Village located in Hung Thang commune, in the heart of the world famous Ha Long Bay, a Unesco heritage site.
Cua Van is one of the four floating villages in the bay and is the biggest one, situated 20km away from the main wharf. The village is the home of many generations of fishing families living on small floating houses, build next to the impressive limestone mountains rising from the sea. Cua Van floating village is a must-see attraction in Ha Long Bay and many travelers visit the village as part of their exploration of the bay.
The village is only accessible via boat. Visitors can get there from either Ha Long Bay or from Ben Beo harbor on Cat Ba island. Many tours are available to visit this unique place.
Vung Vieng Fishing Village
Vung Vieng Fishing Village located in the off the beaten track Bai Tu Long bay, not far from its world-famous sister Halong Bay. It’s a floating village, very small as it is only inhabited by 50 families.
Away from the busy and touristic Cat Ba island and Ha Long Bay, the village seduces travelers by its authentic features and its location at the heart of an amazing landscape of limestone mountains rising from the emerald sea of the Tonkin Gulf. The charms and peacefulness of the village have attracted more and more visitors for the past years. The everyday life of the villagers is closely linked with water and fishing activities. Most of the local people work as fishermen or do aquaculture. But few of them sell small goods and snacks to tourists passing by.
The floating village is only accessible by sea and can be reached after a few hour trip through organized tours. Journeys to the Vung Vieng fishing village allow visitors to explore more the World Heritage site Bai Tu Long. Going next to amazing rocky pillars dotted on the bay and through impressive caves.
Dau Go Grotto
Another interesting place worth exploring in Halong Bay is Dau Go Grotto (Wooden Stakes). The cave is situated on Driftwood Island, next to Thien Cung cave. There are some stories to explain the name of cave; but the most popular and well-recognized by locals is history story linked with victory battle against Mongolian enemy under Tran dynasty in the 13th century.
The entrance of the cave is 27 meters above the sea level (around 90 steps up) with 12 meters wide and 17 meters high. From a far distance, you can visualize the entrance’s shape with a jellyfish. The cave is separated into three parts. The exterior is full of natural lightroom and in the middle, there is a massive pillar supporting the ceiling. You can see numerous imagines in the rock formations, depending on the creative ability of each visitor. There is a narrow walkway from the first room to the second. The light here is mysterious with smaller but more graceful stalactites. Passing to the wide third chamber, a well of clear water appears. In the faint light, you will perceive pictures of an old stronghold and a fight of elephants, horses & men with bristly swords and lances surrounding you.
Thien Cung Grotto
Thien Cung Grotto is a must-see place in Halong bay for all travelers who stop by even just for a few days. Thien Cung cave (English name: Heavenly Palace cave) is located on a southwest island of the bay and the mouth of the cave is 25 meters above sea level. While Dau Go cave (on the same island) brings a magnificence beauty and honorable history, travelers visiting Thien Cung Cave will feel being in a heavenly world.
A journey through Thien Cung Grotto takes around 1 hour. In the middle of the cave, there are four large substantial columns supporting the “roof of paradise.” From floor to top of the cave, numerous peculiar pictures appear in the stone: birds, fish, blooms and even scenes of human life. On the north wall of the grotto, by your imagination, you can see many fairies dancing and singing in honor of the wedding. Under the tremendously high top, stalactites make a regular stone shade. In some places, there is the sound of a drum which originally made by the wind blowing through stone. To finish a voyage through Thien Cung Cave, you are to pass a thin way with dazzling stalactites, and at the existing door, you’ll be enchanted by the overview beauty of Ha Long Bay and Ha Long City.
Sung Sot Grotto
Halong Bay is a city teeming with attractions. Sung Sot Grotto or the Cave of Surprises is one of the most beautiful and widest grottoes of Halong Bay. Located on Bo Hon Island in the heart of Ha Long Bay, Sung Sot grotto was discovered by the French and given a name of “Grotte des surprises” initially. It is the most magnificent and enormous cave of Ha Long Bay.
To reach the cave’s mouth, you have to climb up around a hundred stone steps and it takes you around 45 minutes. You are advised to wear neat and have good shoes. The grotto is divided into two partitions; the first looks like a wide theater, with numerous stalactites dangling from the high roof. A narrow and short stair connects to the second chamber, where a stream of sunlight through a natural skylight showers the surfaces. The chamber is massive enough to hold a thousand people at one time.
The cave covers around 10,000 m2 with a huge number of stalactites and stalagmites along with the 500-meter entry. The cave is a perfect picture of the amazing formation of the rocks. Light is arranged along with the entry and enlighten the stunning landscape. Colorful spotlights are set in such an appropriately subtle way and add to the charm of the cave. The cave has 30-meter height with numerous innumerable cracks and crevices which are persuadable proof of natural creation throughout millions of years. The deepest point is an “imperial garden” with a small lake and an interesting scene of some mountains. Near the way out, a massive structure is straightened out from floor to roof, narrowing at the centre to create a concave pillar in order to keep the roof in place.
Tam Cung Grotto
Another highly recommended place to visit in Halong bay is Tam Cung grotto. Tam Cung (Three Palace) Cave is located in May Den Island in the centre of Ha Long Bay and far from Sung Sot cave around 5 kilometers to the northeast.
The cave has three chambers linked by narrow way. Each chamber is evidence for the richness of cave formation. Three statues on the high wall of the first one present for flourishing, bliss and life span. Additionally, you might seem to hear the sound of T’rung – a Vietnamese traditional musical instrument from near or far. In the second chamber, you can see various speleothems which make you associate to a natural museum of lively animals, such as lions, seals, or god of the sea. Passing to the last chamber, visitors can discover an impressive bas-relief in which are carved complicated strange shapes, lying layer in a harmonic design. By rich imagination, travelers can find out flowers, bamboos, or sleeping elephants on the wall.
Trinh Nu Grotto
Trinh Nu Grotto was discovered by French explorers and given name “La Virgin”. It is situated on Bo Hon Island, sharing the same location with Sung Sot Cave and about 10 kilometers far from Bai Chay Tourist Wharf to the south.
The grotto is separated into three chambers connecting by small windows. The first chamber is similar to a flat-roof house. In the middle of the room, there is a stone statue of a long hair girl looking to the ocean. The second one is smaller, just about 8 meters long, 5 meters wide and 4 meters high with numerous stalagmites and stalactites creating many skillful carving shapes on the wall. Arriving at the last chamber, in front of your eyes, diversified stalactites falling down from the roof makes beautiful pictures: a group of young lady; a phoenix with its wide wings, etc.
There is a love story about the girl statue in the grotto. It is said that the beautiful girl and a young fisherman in a village fell in love. While he was heading off far away to the ocean for fishing, she was compelled to get married to a rich man in the area. To keep a promise with her lover, she ran away and stay in a cave to wait for him. The time passed and she was petrified when overlooking to the sea. For local people, the Trinh Nu Grotto represents romantic love.
One of the most enjoyable things to do in Halong Bay is visiting Titov Island. The previous name of this island is Cat Nang. In 1962, the Russian astronaut Gherman Stepanovich Titov visited the island with President Ho Chi Minh. Thereafter, the island was renamed as Titov to mark this special visit of the hero of former Soviet Union. Titov Island is around 14 kilometers far from Bai Chay Wharf to the east. It’s a lovely rest stop for cruises in Ha Long Bay. The small beach has a shape of a half-moon crescent surrounding the island. It is well-known for the beautiful scene with calm air, white sand and blue water. It is definitely a paradise for relaxation and suitable for recreational sports activities as well. To reach the highest point of the mountain on this tiny island, you have to climb more than 400 stone steps up and you can keep in the eyes a stunning panoramic view of Ha Long Bay from there.
Tuan Chau Island
A visit to Ha Long would be incomplete without a wander around Tuan Chau Island. Tuan Chau Island is an island on the south-west side of Ha Long City. The name of Tuan Chau is the combination between Tuan in “linh tuan” (the patrolman) and Chau in “tri chau” (district leader). In the feudal time, the armed force built a guard station here to patrol and safeguard the borderland.
Tuan Chau Island has been well known for its entertainment and recreation activities. It includes a dolphin & seal club, a circus, a crocodile club, a Vietnamese culinary area, a hotel & resort area of 5-star standard with 200 rooms; an artificial beach with 4 km white and fine sand long and a water recreation park with activities such as motor racing, canoeing, parachuting, etc.
Van Don Island District
Van Don Island District is situated in the northeastern of Quang Ninh province and around 50 kilometers away from Ha Long city. Agriculture, forestry and fisheries are three main economic branches of this area. Van Don has unspoiled natural beauty, cultural values and historical values.
Van Don is well-known with pristine beaches as Quan Lan, Minh Chau, Ngoc Vung which are the most magnificent beaches in the north of Viet Nam. Cai Rong Town located in the major island of Van Don Island was one of the first and most prosperous trading ports of Viet Nam under Ly and Tran dynasties. Vietnamese army under the leadership of General Tran Khanh Du succeeded in fighting battles against foreign foes on Van Don sea. In the near future, these natural beaches combine with Bai Tu Long Park and Cai Rong town will form a maritime tourism complex with many recreational activities such as trekking, beach relaxing and exploring caves. Van Don island district includes one main island (Cai Bau Island) and many offshore islands. The Cai Bau Island is linked with the mainland by a series of bridges from Cua Ong town. It takes about 1 hour from Ha Long City if traveling by car and around 90 minutes if traveling by buses. Another means is high-speed hydrofoil from Ha Long within 1 hour. From Cai Rong pier on this island, you can take a boat to other offshore islands. With some of the islands such as Quan Lan, you can start a journey from Ha Long by boat for 4 hours.
Quan Lan Island
Quan Lan Island is famous for three unspoiled beaches: Quan Lan, Son Hao and Minh Chau. All have white sand and are pristine compared with other beaches in the north of Viet Nam. Quan Lan beach is closest to the pier and is evaluated as the most beautiful. Son Hao beach is 4km further into the island and go further by next 10km is Minh Chau beach.
Many long sandy beaches covered by pine forests are along two sides of the islands on the streets. There are many means to explore the island. Motorbike and bicycle are the most reasonable and common means that you can hire but tuk-tuk is the most interesting means for a group of visitors. You can live with local people in their houses or book hotels/resorts.
To get to Quan Lan, you can take a boat from Cai Rong Pier or from Ha Long pier. From Ha Long: the boat’s schedule is once per day at 13:00-13:30 and the return route is 06:15-06: 30 AM and takes around four hours. From Cai Rong: There are two routes, one at 06:30-07:00 AM and one at 13:30-14:00. The returning leaves at the same time from Quan Lan. The journey takes two hours. If you can afford a higher budget, speed boat should be considered since it saves traveling time, just 45 minutes only.
Ngoc Vung Island
The unique transportation to reach this beautiful island is a boat from Cai Rong Pier or from Ha Long Pier with the same schedule as a boat to Quan Lan Island.
From Ha Long: the boat’s schedule is once per day at 13:00-13:30 and it takes five hours. From Cai Rong: There are two routes, one at 06:30-07:00 AM and one at 13:30-14:00. The returning leaves at the same time from Ngoc Vung Island. The journey takes two hours. If you can afford a higher budget, speed boat should be considered since it saves traveling time, just 45 minutes only.
After landing on the island, you will travel by mountain bikes since the local people do not use car or motorbike. Besides, do not hesitate to borrow bikes of friendly locals to move and discover every single aspect of this beautiful island. Another activity you can try is to visit the coastal villages to understand more about the daily work of people here. If you wish to enjoy fresh seafood, you can buy and ask locals to cook for you with a small charge.
Co To Island
Co To Island has become a well-known tourist destination in the north of Viet Nam because of its charming, unspoiled shorelines with smooth white sand, special ancient stone ground and friendly locals. The island belongs to Co To island district. To get there, you can take the 3.5-hours boat from Cai Rong pier in neighbor Van Don Island District to get this magnificent island. The island has pristine beaches, one of which is Trinh Sat Beach.
This beautiful tropical shoreline has a great shore with white sands and blue, pearl-like water. There is a romantic 1-km long path lying pine tree forest full of fresh and aromatic violet wildflowers which leads to the lighthouse – the symbol and the highest peak of the island (about 70 meters above sea level). You can walk or pay a small fee to hire a motorbike taxi of locals. When you reach that lighthouse, you can hear the breath of the ocean and fill your mind with the peaceful scenery of Co To. Orange is a special fruit on this island. During harvest time, the island seems to turn a splendid orange-yellow color.
WHAT TO EAT
Halong Bay is famous for its fresh and delicious seafood. Restaurants serve fresh seafood which usually comes right out of fishing boats in the early hours of the morning. There are many good restaurants located in Bai Chay Town (Halong Bay Town) and most are situated in desirable beachfront positions.
WHAT TO BUY
Though you may see only a limited selection of items to buy in Halong Bay, shopping in Halong Bay can be still very interesting. Try the bustling night market at Bai Chay Town. It is a complex of small open-air stalls selling a variety of Vietnamese products including famous traditional Vietnamese silk dress (ao dai), lacquerware, chopsticks, trinkets, ceramic tea sets, Vietnamese conical hats (nón lá) and dolls. Most shops accept US Dollars as well as the local currency, Dong.
WHERE TO STAY
Novotel Ha Long Bay Hotel
Located in the heart of Bai Chay and overlooking Ha Long Bay, Novotel Ha Long Bay has been designed combining European and Asian influences to provide a harmonious and relaxing atmosphere. The hotel is committed to ensuring international standard service that the Accor Brand has been attributed with for many years.
Victory Halong Cruise
Inspired by traditional junk manufacturing, Victory Cruise is the symbol of Halong Bay’s legendary beauty. Tropical precious wood, fine arts decorations and a devoted staff will lead you to an amazing journey discovering Ha Long Bay.
The Au Co Cruise
The Au Co strives to provide a minimum impact on the local environment and will operate under the concept of sustainable tourism. It’s the owners’ major goal and commitment to support local communities and conserve the beauty of the Gulf of Tonkin for future generations.
Legend Halong Cruise
Travel to Halong Bay with Legend Halong, which has expanded its fleet to a total of 08 vessels to offer you more choices for dream charter cruises in Halong Bay. The Legend fleet includes 01 junk of one cabin, 02 junks of two cabins, 04 junks of three cabins, and 01 junk of four cabins. Offering luxury junks cruises fit for Imperial Royalty, each cabin can accommodate 02 passengers with comfort and relaxation.
Built in oriental style with contemporary luxury, Bhaya Cruises established new standards of luxury cruising in Viet Nam when Bhaya Classic I entered service in summer 2007. Our fleet consists of 04 Bhaya Classic junks. Recently, Bhaya Classic, with total 75 Cabins and Suites, offer tours of Halong Bay in junk boats which boast ultimate comfort and luxury. Bhaya Classic proudly presents the premium cruise operator in Halong Bay which guarantees greater availability for your cruises.
Indochina Sails Cruise
Backed by 15 years experience hosting international guests on the tranquil waters of Halong Bay, Indochina Sails has set a new standard for luxury cruising. The first company to offer overnight cruises on the bay, Indochina Sails is now widely known as the number one choice for discerning travelers, operating a fleet of four newly built wooden junks designed in time-honored traditional style, with contemporary and luxurious cabins and facilities.
Paradise Luxury Cruise
Paradise Cruises is one of the most luxurious cruise companies operating in Halong Bay. There are nice vessel based out of their exclusive marina Tuan Chau Island divided into four categories, ranging from 3 to 17 cabins and 2-day boats: Paradise Privilege, Paradise Luxury, Paradise Peak and Paradise Explorer.
Built in accordance with traditional Vietnamese style and modern-day luxury, Syrena Cruises have maintained the high standards of luxury cruising in Halong Bay. The Syrena Cruises fleet of 2 ships offers a total of 34 luxury cabins & suites accommodating a total of 68 passengers for Halong Bay cruises or hosted events./.