Just a few hours from Hanoi, a marvel of nature and UNESCO World Heritage Site rises out from the emerald waters of Bac Bo Gulf. Ha Long Bay’s 1,969 jagged limestone islands spread out in different shapes and shades provide an almost other worldly backdrop against the horizon where visitors can hear of the tale of a dragon descending into the sea and spewing pearls from its mouth to create the impressive spectacle they see before them.
To see Ha Long Bay, boat tours are offered from different tour agencies in Hanoi or Halong City. Most of the package tours offer the same and inclusions and itinerary, but depending on your budget will have differences in food and boat amenities.
An overnight cruise on board a boat is probably one of the most unforgettable experiences you’ll have in Viet Nam where you get to kayak around some 250-million-year-old islands, go swimming, lie on the beach, visit a cave and a floating village, and get lulled to sleep by the water. Here are some of Ha Long Bay’s unique spots to explore:
- The caves and grottoes tucked in some of the islands that are beautifully lit up to highlight the cathedral-like interiors and rock formations at Thien Cung or Heavenly Palace Cave and Dau Go Cave or Cave of Wonders;
- Cat Ba, which is considered the largest island in Ha Long Bay, is a good place for some snorkelling and taking a hike on its limestone hills; and
- The beaches at Lan Ha Bay. Geologically an extension of Ha Long Bay, Lan Ha lies further south of Cat Ba and is not typically included in many tour boats’ itinerary, which gives it a more secluded appeal.
Similar Southeast Asia Experiences
Many other water-based communities exist in Southeast Asia – see them when you visit Viet Nam’s floating markets in the Mekong Delta; the lakeside communities in Tonle Sap, Cambodia; and the water village at Kampong Ayer, Brunei. For similar karst-based landscapes, visit El Nido in the Philippines and Gunung Mulu Park in Malaysia.