Halong Bay Travel Guide

Overview

Halong Bay (Vietnamese: Vịnh Hạ Long which means “descending dragon bay”) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular travel destinations in Vietnam. Halong Bay attracts thousands of travelers thanks to majestic, beautiful, and unique landscapes as well as spectacular culture. The bay features with thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various shapes and sizes, thick jungle vegetation on the isles, caves, lakes inside the isles, fishing villages, beaches on the islands.

Administratively, Halong Bay belongs to Ha Long City, Cam Pha City, Van Don District, Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam. Halong Bay is a center of a larger zone which includes Bai Tu Long Bay to the northeast, and Cat Ba Island to the southwest. These larger zones share a similar geological, geographical, geomorphological, climate, and cultural characters.  The bay has a 120 km long coastline and is approximately 1,553 km² in size with about 2,000 isles. Most of the isles are limestone has gone through 500 million years of formation in different conditions and environments. The evolution of the karst in this bay has taken 20 million years under the impact of the tropical wet climate. The area designated by UNESCO as the World Natural Heritage Site incorporates 434 km² with a high density of 775 islets. The limestone in this bay Almost all these islands are as individual towers in a classic fenglin landscape with heights from 50m to 100m, and height/width ratios of up to about six.

A dense cluster of some 1,600 limestone monolithic islands are topped with thick jungle vegetation which rises spectacularly from the ocean. Ha Long Bay is home to 60 endemic faunal species and 14 endemic floral species. Many kinds of birds and animals including monkeys, bantams, antelopes, and lizard are also found on some of the islands. Many islands are hollow, with enormous caves. Wooden stakes cave (Hang Dau Go) is the largest grotto in the Ha Long area. There are two bigger islands, Tuan Chau and Cat Ba, that have permanent inhabitants, as well as tourist facilities including hotels and beaches. There are some beautiful beaches on the smaller islands. Besides the beaches, there are also lakes inside the limestone islands in Ha Long Bay, all of the island lakes occupy drowned dolines within fengcong karst.

989 of the islands have been given names. Several of the islands are named after their unusual shapes: Elephant Islet (Dao Voi), Fighting Cock Islet (Dao Ga Choi), Monkey Islet (Dao Khi), and Foof Islet (Dao Mai Nha). The climate of the bay is tropical, wet, sea islands, with two seasons: hot and moist summer, and dry and cold winter. The average temperature is from 15 °C- 25 °C, and annual rainfall is between 2 meters and 2.2 meters.

Research surveys have shown the presence of human beings in the area tens of thousands of years ago. In the recent, about 1,600 people live on Ha Long Bay in four fishing villages: Cua Van, Ba Hang, Cong Tau and Vong Vieng in Hung Thang commune, Ha Long city. Residents of the bay mostly live on floating houses and make their livings from fishing and marine aquaculture, plying the shallow waters for 450 different kinds of mollusks and 200 species of fish. Today the life of Ha Long Bay inhabitants has much improved due to new travel businesses. At present, the Quảng Ninh provincial government has a policy to relocate the households living in the bay to resettle, in order to stabilize their life and to protect the landscape of the heritage zone. The province will only retain a few fishing villages for travel.

How to reach Halong Bay

It is easy to reach Halong Bay from anywhere in Vietnam and other neighboring countries thanks to the popularity of the attraction and modern transportation. You can choose to go by plane, car, helicopter, train, motorbike. The most popular ways to get to Halong Bay are:

From other places except for Hanoi:

  • By plane: Fly from Ho Chi Minh City/Danang/Nha Trang to Hanoi/Hai Phong Airport. Then catch a taxi or private car to the bay, for about 4 hours.
  • By train/bus: Take a train/bus to Hanoi/Hai Phong. Then catch a taxi or private car to the bay, for about 4 hours.

From Hanoi:

  • By private car/taxi: It takes about 4 hours. This option is ok, but it is
  • By bus: catch a bus from My Dinh bus station in Hanoi to Bai Chay bus station in Hanoi. It takes about 4 hours.
  • By train: It takes about 7 hours. This option is not very popular because 7 hours are too long and travelers may be tired.
  • By motorbike: It takes more than 4 hours. This is a choice for whom loves adventure.
  • By helicopter: It takes about 45 minutes. Being fast, superb to see the entire magnificent landscape of the bay from the sky. Price is higher than the others.
  • By seaplane – a powered fixed-wing aircraft capable of taking off and landing on water: It takes about 45 minutes. Being fast, superb to see the entire magnificent landscape of the bay from the sky. It is the most expensive mean of transportation from Hanoi to Halong Bay.

When to travel to Halong Bay

The best time to visit Halong bay is the Spring (from March to May) and the Autumn (from September to November), the weather is perfect for a trip to Halong. It is not too hot and not too cold, the temperature is around 25oC, and the sun shines nicely.

In the Summer season (from June to August), the weather is great. The sun is brighter, the water is super warm for swimming. Summer is also a low tourist season so you won’t feel tired of crowdedness and you will get the really good prices and promotion from tour operators, hotels, restaurants, etc.  The typhoon season in Halong Bay starts from June to August when infrequent storms unexpectedly come and your trip might be canceled. Heavy raining in the bay also makes your trip less enjoyable.

The winter (from December to February) in Halong Bay is a little uncomfortable because it is misty and soft raining all day. In fact, the cold weather doesn’t impact some activities such as kayaking, climbing mountains. However, in the winter, travelers are not very interested in swimming and could not sunbath. Occasionally, it is colder and there is heavy fog which makes the sights in Halong Bay blurred.

What to Do in Halong Bay

Spend a romantic night on a traditional junk

Go kayaking around the bay’s islands

Visit a floating village

Participate in a BBQ on beach

Do Tai Chi exercises

Go squid fishing at night

Attend a cooking class

See the whole Halong Bay from helicopter/seaplane

Have a dinner in a cave

Go swimming

Riding a bicycle around

Shopping in Halong

Contemplate sunrise and sunset on desk

Enjoy scuba diving

Enjoy scuba diving

Best dishes

What to Eat in Halong Bay

Where to Stay in Halong Bay

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