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The 3,000 limestone islands rising some 50 to 100m from the waters of Ha Long Bay have long inspired poets and artists, who saw in the islets’ sinuous silhouettes as a “dragon’s back” emerging from the waters. 

You can make a day-trip of a visit to Ha Long Bay, covering the basics on a four-hour “junk” cruise. To get to know its magic, spend a night at one of the resorts on the bay’s biggest island, Cat Ba, and explore the islands by kayak; arrange a hiking trip through Cat Ba National Park; check out a cave or three, or try a “deep water solo” climb up one of the islands’ vertical walls. 

To see Ha Long Bay at its best, visit between July and August—the beaches along Cat Ba and Bai Chay make the most of these months’ sunny weather. Hanoi is some 150km away, taking a 2-3 hour drive to cover the distance.