Ha Long Bay is located in the Tonkin Gulf, Quáng Ninh Province, and northeast of Vietnam. Its major identifying attraction is its deep emerald waters interspersed with thousands of lofty limestone karst and isles and amazing biodiversity. Several of these are cavernous and many have island lakes such as the Dau Be Island with six of these. This renowned national landmark has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994 and a one of the new seven wonders of the New 7 Wonders Foundation.
The breathtaking scenery and karst formations reflect antiquated geological processes. It has tremendously evolved over 500 million years from era to era resulting in what the world now sees as splendid prehistoric marine limestone buildup. The one-of-a-kind Karst formation is a product of tropical climatic factors (presence of limestone) and geological processes (erosion and gradual tectonic uplift).
On top of the enigmatic geological processes, the amazing value of Ha Long Bay as a tourist destination is made more enticing by its biodiversity, local culture, history and archaeology. As an enormous conservation area for its flora, it offers some of the world’s rarest species. It has several productive ecosystems harboring an unbelievable array of flora and fauna.
How to Explore Ha Long Bay
Finding a way to explore this attraction is easy because virtually every tour operator offers an excursion to this tourist spot. Since getting to the bay takes about 6 hours to and fro, the popular tours are one-night to 2-day tours with the return trip spent on a night trip by the sea. Longer trips are also available if you want an extended stay.
Explore islands such as Stone Dog and Teapot islands by junk boat tours or sea kayak expeditions. The region is a magnet that attracts rock climbers, scuba divers, naturalists, and hikers. The mountainous Cát Bà National Park is a popular destination.
Duo competition, trips that budget tours abound, but many are wanting in terms of safety features and comfortable amenities. Mid-ranges are recommended, and if you can afford it, there are luxury tours and cruises that offer distinctive tours you’ll certainly enjoy. Rough Guides’ Organized tours of Ha Long Bay offers this information:
- Buffalo Tours: … Impeccable tours on one of the best junks around – the Jewel of the Bay. The seafood is as delectable… and kayaking is included in the cost of the trip…at $159 per person.
- Emeraude: … A replica of a nineteenth-century paddle-steamer, the five-star Emeraude is one of the most luxurious vessels on the bay … From $169 per person.
- Handspan: … perhaps of most interest is the trip around the less-visited Bai Tu Long Bay ($165 per person), which eschews the usual caves for excursions to fish farms and local schools.
- Life Resorts: … Fancy your own luxury vessel? On these tours it’s just you … From $600 for a night on board, much cheaper for day-trips.
- Paradise Cruises: …Sumptuously decorated cabins hint at high luxury – this is the only operator that expects guests to dress for dinner … From $190 per person.
If you’re a seasoned traveler or backpacker, going independent or DIY is tempting. The cost may not be significantly different from a tour, but it can certainly whet your appetite for adventure. Head to Ha Long City then to Bai Chay where you can pick a boat ride of your choice.
Things Not to Miss When in the Area
Enjoy this destination with this Rough Guides’ list of the things that every tourist must try and enjoy when in Ha Long Aside from exploring Ha Long, there are 24 exciting things you can do:
- Ethnic Markets – Don’t miss the lively and colorful culture, especially in Bac Ha and Can Cau.
- Temples and Pagodas – Reflect the diverse faiths and beliefs in Vietnam; don’t miss Nha Trang’s Long Son Pagoda.
- Tet – The festival that ushers New Year replete with enthralling dragon dances, impresive fireworks and flower markets.
- Cu Chi tunnels – These tunnels come with surprises; ask your guides about them.
- Bia Hoi – Meet locals over a bottle of the local lager called bia-hoi in any bar at the back lanes of the Old Quarter of Hanoi.
- The Citadel, Hué – Visit the glorious capital’s celebrated citadel, gardens and mausoleums.
- Express Silk Tailoring – If you wish to don a native wear, get one right here that can rustle up a custom-made in a jiffy.
- Trekking around Sa Pa – It’s a small market town sitting on a plateau; the fun is in trekking here to get a view of Vietnam’s highest peak, Fan Si Pan.
- Lak Lake – The serene waters are a treat for your weary body and mind. You can paddle a canoe, go for an elephant ride or explore the nearby forests before a sumptuous dinner by sundown.
- Hoi An – Experience slow travel in this charming town.
- The Red River Delta – A countryside trip down here offers another way to slow travel
- The Mekong Delta – This farming region is another idyllic spot perfect for a relaxing holiday.
- Take a Cyclo Ride – Get into action with this conventional Vietnamese mode of transport.
- Chill out on Phu Quoc – Swim or snorkel in the pristine beaches. Try visiting An Thoi islands.
- Ride the Reunification Express – For experience, board this train to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.
- Colonial architecture – Be awed with the France’s legacy to Vietnam; a classic example is Hanoi’s Opera House.
- Traditional music – Don’t miss the chance to witness cultural performances and arts.
- Browse the markets – Immerse your senses into unforgettable flavors, aromas and sights in markets such as Binh Tay.
- Adventure sports – Thrill-seekers can have their fill with activities such as kayaking, kitesurfing, rock-climbing, and mountain biking.
- Cao Dai Cathedral – Discover Vietnam’s enigmatic indigenous religion in this cathedral.
- Bahnar villages – Experience local culture by staying the night in a rong or communal house where you can witness timeless rituals.
- Street food – Have a blast visiting and experiencing cheap but delicious and fresh street kitchen concoctions.
- Nha Trang – More snorkelling await if you’ll take time out to go to the outlying islands around Nha Trang.
Lovely Time to Go
You can come here any day of the year. If you want to come here at a time when the weather is cool and drizzly, February, March and April would be perfect. If you want to avoid tropical storms, avoid the months between May and October.