Situated in Vietnam’s northeastern province of Quang Ninh, Halong Bay rightly deserves its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thousands of limestone islands rise from the sea, each differing in size and shape. Some offer dramatic arches and hollowed caves, while others are so sheer they remain completely untouched. Mythical, beautiful and vast, it’s a landscape only nature could have envisioned. There are many ways to experience Halong Bay. Here’s our guide with some handy ins and outs for your trip to Halong Bay.
Getting to Halong Bay
The best way to get to Halong Bay is from Hanoi via an organised tour. Vietnam’s vibrant capital serves as an ideal base, with most cruise companies operating in and around Hoan Kiem Lake and the Old Quarter.
You can cut out the middleman and make your own way to Halong Bay, choosing to book a tour when you get there. However, competition is fierce, and many boat operators at Bai Chay Wharf aren’t afraid of jacking up the price of an on-the-spot tour. With a little research, choosing the perfect Hanoi-based tour will take the stress out of arriving. Round-trip transfers are included, and you’ll know exactly what you’re paying for. For first-timers, it’s definitely the way to go.
Depending on the company, you’ll make the 4 hour journey via private van, minibus or coach.
Cruising Along Halong Bay: Picking The Right Tour
Cruising through the towering pillars of Halong Bay on a Chinese-style junk is an unforgettable experience. With hundreds of companies competing for your attention, choosing the right tour for you is important.
As a general rule, steer clear of ultra-budget offers. Do some research, ask around a bit, and even get feedback from other travellers who’ve just come back from their tour. The total cost of your package should include meals, activity and entry fees, transfers and the right length of accommodation.
Halong Bay Day Trip
If pressed for time, opt for a day trip to Halong Bay. With a respectable company, this will include transfers to and from Hanoi, a four-hour boat circuit, lunch on board, and fun detours to fishing villages and caves.
However, if you really want to experience the astounding beauty of Halong Bay, 2 day or 3 day cruise trips are the way to go. From early morning mist to sun drenched afternoons, overnight tours offer a much greater level of intimacy.
Where to Stay in Halong Bay
Accommodation in Halong Bay ranges from budget hotels to luxury hotels. Unsurprisingly, the more you spend, the greater the comfort. Many find that moderate to high-end cruises are the best option. You can even stay on a boat on the Bay. Below are some popular hotels in Halong Bay.
Having access to great local food, comfortable cabins, knowledgeable guides, and first-rate facilities makes the experience as special as Halong Bay itself. For this kind of adventure, try for reputable companies like Emeraude Classic Cruises, Bhaya Cruises, Glory Cruises or Paloma Cruises.
Top Halong Bay Hotels
What to do in Halong Bay
For most, the experience of simply being in Halong Bay is enough. But if you’ve got your explorer hat on and want to do a little more, local tours offer a number of great activities that can really enrich your time spent on the water.
1) 3Day Tours in Halong Bay
For three-day tours, it’s possible to spend a night on Cat Ba Island. This jungle-shrouded paradise is offers an ideal base from which to sail, kayak and explore the stunning Lan Ha Bay.
2) Explore a National Park in Halong Bay
Cat Ba National Park also presents amazing hiking opportunities. With its sheer, coastal cliffs, white beaches and sleepy fishing villages, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the island is too good to be true. If you really want to visit, check that your tour company provides the option.
3) Kayaking in Halong Bay
Kayaking is a popular activity in Halong Bay. A lot of package tours include this on their itineraries, but it’s always a good idea to check. With low-arching caves, picturesque lagoons, and tranquil conditions, it’s as if the landscape was created with kayakers in mind. Popular sites include Luon Grotto, Ho Ba Ham Cave, and Bai Trai Dao Lagoon.
4) Halong Bay Caves
Halong Bay also offers the chance to explore some spectacular caves. Sung Sot, or Surprise Cave, is a popular stop-off. The chamber feels mythical and otherworldly; multi-coloured spotlights line the passages, illuminating thousands of stalactite and stalagmite formations.
Smaller in size and bathed in natural light, Dua Go Cave is another must-see. Upon entering, the falling stalactites above give the unusual impression of a waterfall frozen in time.
When to go
Halong Bay is a year-round destination. That being said, people do have their preferences.
Weather in Halong Bay: The periods of September to November and March to May are ideal. The climate is dry and the temperature pleasant. If you encounter mist or fog, don’t be alarmed, it adds to the landscape’s ethereal beauty.