Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular day trip from the capital Hanoi, is renowned for its limestone karsts and nearly two thousand islands and islets scattered across its turquoise-green waters. While most of these islands are imposing rock formations without accessible landing spots, many offer excellent climbing opportunities or feature caves that can be explored by boat.
Only 40 of the islands in Halong Bay are inhabited, and just a handful of those have been developed to provide accommodations, dining options, and recreational activities for visitors. This includes the larger Cat Ba Island, which serves as a primary docking point for most cruise boats. Nevertheless, many travelers who arrive in Halong Bay via a cruise choose to spend their nights onboard the ship, reserving daytime hours for activities like snorkeling, kayaking, or sunbathing.
If you are contemplating a trip to this area, you can explore the top attractions in Halong Bay to plan your visit.
Take a Cruise
To fully experience the breathtaking wonders of Halong Bay, embarking on a boat cruise is an absolute must.
There are numerous travel agencies available, offering a wide selection of options for your next adventure. One exciting possibility is the opportunity to explore multiple islands while island hopping in the breathtaking Halong Bay.
When it comes to traveling to Ha Long Bay, there are over 2,000 islands for you to explore. You’ll have a plethora of options to consider, from popular destinations to hidden gems, allowing you to customize your journey based on your preferences.
A lot of the boats utilized are constructed in the traditional manner and are commonly referred to as ‘junk boats’. Depending on the travel agency, you can also indulge in a delicious buffet meal as part of your travel package or even spend the night on the cruise ship for an unforgettable travel experience.
Sung Sot Cave
One of the most sought-after and renowned destinations in Halong Bay, Sung Sot Cave is a must-see for travelers seeking the beauty of nature. The cave’s enchanting rock formations are sure to captivate visitors. The cave was first uncovered by the French in 1901. Situated on Bo Hon Island, eager explorers must ascend a lengthy staircase to reach the entrance of this captivating cavern.
Here, you can either pause for a moment to admire the breathtaking sights of Halong Bay or venture into its expansive interior. With its three immense chambers that are brilliantly lit, this cave is truly a mesmerizing spectacle, and the formations of the rocks give the impression of being transported to a different realm.
Bai Tu Long Bay
Situated in the eastern part of Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay offers a serene travel experience with fewer tourists compared to other popular destinations in the region. As such, it is perfect for travelers seeking an off the beaten path adventure. Discover a hidden gem in the world of travel – an alternative to Halong Bay that boasts stunning beaches, magnificent caves, and charming villages waiting to be explored. Immerse yourself in a plethora of thrilling activities such as hiking, snorkeling, and rock climbing, all amidst the breathtaking scenery.
In its secluded location, the travel destination boasts unspoiled natural beauty, where magnificent karst islands covered in lush jungle can be found scattered across the sea. Embarking on a cruise around the world truly offers an unforgettable travel experience.
Lan Ha Bay
Lying just off the south and east coasts of Cat Ba Island, Lan Ha Bay is a remarkable destination that can easily compete with Halong Bay in terms of its breathtaking natural landscapes. What sets Lan Ha Bay apart is its tranquil atmosphere and lesser-known status, making it a perfect choice for travelers seeking a more peaceful and authentic experience.
With its vast expanse of more than 300 karst islands and islets, this breathtaking bay invites you to explore its stunning white sand beaches and indulge in a wide range of thrilling watersports activities. Nestled amidst breathtaking landscapes lie a few enchanting floating villages, like the mesmerizing Cai Beo.
Embarking on a thrilling voyage around Lan Ha Bay is an absolute necessity for those seeking to explore its diverse facets. Alongside the breathtaking landscapes, travelers have the opportunity to engage in thrilling adventures such as rock climbing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and kayaking amidst the islands.
Ti Top Island
Featuring one of the most exquisite vistas of Halong Bay, Ti Top Island stands as a highly sought-after destination, with numerous cruise ships including it in their bay tours. Its picturesque crescent-shaped beach provides an ideal spot for unwinding and basking in the sun, while the surrounding waters offer excellent opportunities for swimming and snorkeling.
Named in honor of the Russian cosmonaut, Gherman Stephanovic Titov, this small island boasts a range of tourist amenities, including deck chairs, a restaurant, and a bar. Nevertheless, the highlight undoubtedly lies in the breathtaking panoramic views awaiting visitors at the island’s summit.
To reach the mountain’s summit, which is nestled at the heart of the island, visitors must ascend over four hundred steps that wind through the densely forested karst landscape. The 360-degree vista from the pinnacle is truly awe-inspiring.
Speaking of vistas, Cannon Fort in the southern part of Cat Ba Island is the go-to destination if you seek to revel in one of the most breathtaking panoramas imaginable. From the fort, lush jungle-clad hills and islands pepper the shimmering waters as far as the eye can see, with quaint villages and fishing boats dotting the incredible landscape.
In addition to enjoying one of the country’s most splendid views, visitors can also delve into the intricate network of underground tunnels beneath the fort, and its museum houses several captivating exhibitions chronicling its history.
Originally established by the Japanese during World War II, Cannon Fort subsequently served the French and Vietnamese in later conflicts, and the toy soldier-like mannequins stationed at the colossal artillery positions provide insight into how they were once operated.
Hospital Cave is a remarkable destination that served dual purposes during the Vietnam War. It functioned as a secure hideout for Viet Cong leaders and also provided medical care for the sick and injured. The expansive interior of Hospital Cave offers a truly awe-inspiring experience for travelers.
Between 1963 and 1965, a total of 17 distinct chambers were constructed within the cave across three different levels, and remarkably, there was enough space to accommodate a swimming pool and a cinema. In addition to admiring the impressive architecture and rock formations, visitors can explore the former operating theater, complete with mannequins and sickbeds.
While touring Hospital Cave, it is highly recommended to partake in a guided tour to gain deeper insights into the cave’s captivating history.
Quang Ninh Museum
Located in the vibrant city of Halong, this expansive travel destination spans across 24,000 square meters. It combines the elements of a museum, library, and exhibition space, providing a diverse range of attractions for visitors to explore. The collection showcased here is truly eclectic, encompassing various artifacts such as intricate sailboat models and significant relics associated with Buddhist culture. Additionally, the venue also pays homage to the courageous resistance movement against the French Colonial empire, offering a unique perspective on history.
While the attractions are easily identifiable, this is not your typical museum experience where you’ll encounter extensive collections neatly categorized into specific groups. Instead, it offers a comprehensive exploration of the diverse landscapes and cultures, including those of the minority ethnic communities, found in Halong Bay.
In addition to housing an extensive book collection, the library features a screening room, theater, coffee shop, and bookstore. Equipped with reading rooms, dedicated areas for children, and spaces for rotating exhibits, this complex serves as an excellent venue to delve into the city’s heritage. It also provides a tranquil respite from the heat when you’re in the vicinity.
Cat Ba National Park
Located on the stunning island of Cat Ba, Cat Ba National Park offers an array of captivating landscapes and ecosystems waiting to be discovered. With its breathtaking beauty, this park invites you to embark on an unforgettable journey of exploration. Traveling to this destination offers a diverse range of landscapes, from majestic karst mountains and lush forests to enchanting mangroves and captivating marine waters. The region boasts an impressive biodiversity, with an abundance of over 1,500 species of flora and fauna to discover.
Furthermore, while traveling, you will have the opportunity to observe a diverse range of wildlife. With a total of 160 bird species and 20 different types of mammals, including the magnificent golden-headed langur, which happens to be one of the most endangered primates on our planet, your journey will be filled with remarkable encounters with nature.
Exploring the scenic trails in the park is an enchanting experience, and it is highly recommended to enlist the services of a knowledgeable guide to gain deeper insights into the awe-inspiring natural wonders that surround you.
Known as Cat Dua in Vietnamese, Monkey Island serves as an excellent choice for those seeking a boat excursion in Halong Bay. This charming destination boasts an enchanting private beach where you can bask in the sun on the pristine white sands, partake in invigorating swims, or explore the underwater world through snorkeling adventures in the azure waters.
For the more adventurous souls, sea kayaking is also on offer, allowing you to paddle through the captivating surroundings. Additionally, the island features an extensive network of scenic trails that wind through lush green landscapes, providing an excellent opportunity for hiking enthusiasts to explore its natural beauty.
Dau Go Cave
Dau Go Cave stands as the grandest among the numerous caves and grottoes that adorn the area. With its three magnificent chambers, this cave captivates the eyes of all who behold its splendor. It has earned the fitting nickname of ‘the Cave of Wonders.’
Dau Go, a cave in Vietnam, derives its name from the Vietnamese phrase meaning ‘Wooden Stakes.’ Legend has it that during the Mongol invasion in 1288, a general strategically concealed wooden stakes within the cave. These stakes were eventually employed to successfully repel the invading horde. Incredibly mesmerizing, the cave’s illuminated beauty showcases numerous stalagmites and stalactites that gracefully emerge from the walls. The enchanting formations resemble scenes straight out of a whimsical travel tale.
Situated on the picturesque island of Dau Go, the captivating Dau Go Cave is a popular destination for travelers seeking adventure. It is frequently explored in conjunction with the enchanting Thien Cung Cave, which is conveniently located nearby.
Sleep on a boat
When booking accommodation in Halong Bay, you may not be aware of the various options available to you. While you can certainly opt for a conventional hotel, there’s also the opportunity to spend the night on a boat.
Several boats double as hotels, offering a range of choices from spacious cruisers to smaller, traditional junks. On the deck of these boats, you can gaze at the stars and fall asleep to the soothing sounds of the ocean waves, providing a truly distinctive and unique hotel experience in Halong Bay.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Halong Bay: Best Areas & Hotels
Q: Is Halong Bay safe for tourists?
A: Yes, Halong Bay is a safe and popular tourist destination. Just follow the standard travel precautions and enjoy your trip.
Q: When is the best time to visit Halong Bay?
A: The best time to visit is during the cooler and drier months from October to April.
Q: Are there vegetarian food options in Halong Bay?
A: Yes, most restaurants in Halong Bay offer vegetarian dishes to cater to diverse dietary preferences.
Q: Can I swim in Halong Bay?
A: Yes, you can swim in designated areas. However, be mindful of jellyfish during certain seasons.
Q: How can I book a cruise in Halong Bay?
A: You can book a cruise through a travel agency or online platforms. Make sure to read reviews and choose a reputable operator.