You'd be forgiven for thinking Vietnam’s Halong Bay is a land torn from the pages of a fairytale book, especially when its majestic limestone columns are shrouded in dense morning mist. The UNESCO-listed landscape, with its collection of 1,900 beautiful islands and jagged islets, is one of the New7Wonders of Nature and an integral stop on any Asia-bound traveler’s itinerary.
On a Halong Bay cruise, you can discover the mystical beauty of secluded grottoes and narrow lagoons as you glide on turquoise water, past quaint rowboats and floating villages such as Cua Van, Vung Vieng, and Cong Dam. Here in this serene bay, the incessant bustle of Vietnam’s capital feels worlds away. Disembark on Cat Ba Island to recline on North Vietnam’s only white-sand beaches, or search for endangered langurs during a hike through Cat Ba National Park. Also keep in mind that mysterious caves abound in Halong Bay—jump off your junk boat at Bo Hòn Island and descend to the stalactite-studded lair of Sung Sot Cave, a massive chamber replete with limestone formations.
There are few sights more spellbinding than Halong Bay obscured by ethereal morning mist. Opt to spend a peaceful night on a junk boat to watch the sun rising over the UNESCO World Heritage Site—you won’t regret it.
How to Visit with Viator
Undoubtedly, the best way to explore Halong Bay is by junk, an ancient Chinese sailing ship. Guided tours are the best choice to ensure you see the bay’s most scenic areas and receive roundtrip transportation with a tour guide. Halong Bay tours depart primarily from Hanoi’s Old Quarter—small-group or private tours combine bay cruises, which cover highlights such as Lan Ha Bay, West Lake, and the Dau Go Caves, with kayaking and a seafood lunch. Multi-day boat tours allow for deeper exploration, while day trip excursions can also cover nearby towns such as Tam Coc, Haiphong, and the rural Mai Chau, hemmed in by green mountains. Splurge on a luxury cruise for the full experience.
Set in the Quang Ninh Province 103 miles (165 km) east of Hanoi, Halong City can be reached independently from Hanoi by car or bus in about 3.5 hours. From there, it’s possible to take a two-hour ferry ride to Cat Ba. Most travelers fly into a Hanoi airport (Noi Bai International or Gia Lam) before making the journey to Halong Bay.