Halong Bay

Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular travel destination in the Quảng Ninh Province in northeast Vietnam. It is known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped by rainforests. Junk boat tours and sea kayak expeditions take visitors past islands named for their shapes, including Stone Dog and Teapot islets. The region is popular for scuba diving, rock climbing and hiking, particularly in mountainous Cát Bà National Park. 

For many, the seascape of Halong Bay is synonymous with Vietnam. Its mystical beauty has made it a bucket list attraction within the country, but it’s still possible to find secluded corners to call your own. Halong Bay is home to a number of fishing communities that live in floating villages.

Probably the best way to experience the spectacular marine landscapes of Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay is via the elegant Junk boats. Many come complete with onboard Wi-Fi. You can also Kayak or ride a local boat through sea caves and lagoons; enjoy a gourmet lunch with a cooking demo.

There are some notable islands worth stopping off at. Ti Top Island and Cát Bà Island are two well-known ones. Ti Top has a steep walk to the top of a 110 meters (360 ft) mountain. At the top, you are greeted with stunning views. There are small cold drinks/coffee vendors and a compact souvenir stand on the island, which you would not want any bigger.

Cat Ba Island is the main and the largest island among the 367 islands making up the Cat Ba Archipelago. Surrounded by clear water and virgin forests, the weather on Cat Ba Island is cool and fresh all year round.

Halong Bay has made it widely well-known as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, however, not many people know about the mystery under that name. In Vietnamese, Halong literally means descending dragon and it has its origin in a legend on this ancient land

There are more than 1,600 islets in the bay, their limestone worn down by 500 million years of tropical downpours, and topped by thick jungle growth. Some of the islands are hollow, and visitors can take guided tours inside to explore majestic caves. Some of the larger islands even have their own lakes. 

Halong Bay – conclusion

On the downside, there is now a well-worn path that leads from the hostels of Hanoi straight to Halong Bay. It attracts young and hedonistic party-goers. If you are going to visit it, I would thus recommend you hire a small boat and go out of season. You can find good trips on the Viator website. I personally enjoyed Ninh Binh more. It is much harder to get to and thus, attracts very few party-goers. The area is also a lot more interesting.

Halong Bay does offer a variety of things to do, such as:

  • spelunking at Hang Sung Sot Cave
  • explore the main islands
  • explore Me Cung Cave
  • visit the shrine at Virgin Cave
  • hike around Cat Ba National Park
  • go swimming, diving, cycling, fishing or kayaking, etc
  • shop at Cat Ba Island Market
  • enjoy a fabulous seafood barbecue

So, if you enjoy these kinds of activities, Halong Bay will be a must-see place. I would avoid the town on the mainland. It is a little false for my tastes. Instead, head for the Cua Van fishing village as it is beautiful and is genuinely interesting too. You can stay at the Catba Sandy Beach Resort, Whisper Nature Bungalow or the Lan Homestay I would recommend booking them early and you will have a fabulous time.

Author: Piers Midwinter
I am an artist and a teacher. I am currently teaching at a Cambridge International School in Vietnam.