Halong Bay is a famous tourist attraction located in the North-East region of Vienam, in the Gulf of Tonkin including the large urban areas of Halong City, Cam Pha Town and a part of Van Don Island District.
Honorably recognized twice in 1994 and 2000 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Area for its universal values of landscape, geology and geomorphology, Ha Long Bay has attracted an enormous volume of visitors all year round to enjoy the system of islands, caves and grottoes here.
There are 1,969 islands of various sizes in Ha Long Bay, which are divided into two kinds of limestones and schists concentrating in the southeast and the southwest. Inside the islands are numerous beautiful caves which are abundant in majestic stalactites and stalagmites of various sizes and shapes. Some popular caves and grottoes are Thien Cung, Dau Go, Sung Sot, Trinh Nu, Tam Cung, Bo Cau. Different types of tourism are offered to tourists such as sightseeing, bathing, research and water sport.
WHEN TO GO
The best time to travel Halong is from October to April when the weather is pretty pleasant. In summer, it’s hot, humid and rainy, while monsoons flourish. In winter, it’s cold, dry, and sees little rainfall.
Bus from Hanoi, catch a Hoang Long Co Express bus from Kim Ma bus station in Nguyen Thai Hoc Street (tel:845-2846). The trip takes three and haft hour (165km). You may also take a bus from Haiphong (75km).
CAT BA ISLAND
Cat Ba Island is situated in Ha Long Bay, 50 km to the east of Hai Phong City, in Northern Vietnam. Of 366 islands in the Cat Ba Archipelago, it is the largest one covering the surface area of about 140 square km, approximately half of which is covered by a National Park, which is the home of plant and animal species. Cat Ba National Park is Vietnam’s first national park to include both terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
It was established in 1986 with a view to protecting the island’s diverse ecosystem. The park is the great place to explore as it includes many kinds of forests such as subtropical evergreen forests, freshwater swamp forests, coastal mangrove forests, etc. Besides, it possesses a great variety of precious plant and animal species that are in danger. The typical example is the golden-headed langur which is officially the world’s most endangered primate with 60 left in the park.
In the islands, there are also many caves containing abundant stalactites and stalagmites of various sizes and shapes that make visitors feel as if they are entering the dream-land. Some popular caves that can be named are Trung Trang cave, Quan Y cave, Thien Long cave, etc. There are also few nice sandy beaches here that may help tourists take a rest comfortably.
Cat Ba Island, its national park and the surrounding area are of great value in biodiversity, exemplified through the recognition of the Cat Ba Archipelago as a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve, in 2004. Spectacular scenery and high diversity of landscapes make Cat Ba be overrun by streams of national and international tourists year round.
BO HON ISLAND
Bo Hon Island is situated in the center of the UNESCO – declared World Heritage area on Halong Bay. It takes about an hour and a half by boat from Bai Chay Tourist Wharf to reach the island.
Bo Hon Island is one of the most beautiful and largest islands on Halong Bay. It’s actually an island range of linked islets. High lime-stone mountains on Bo Hon Island are featured with vertical cliffs and ever-green forest. From a far, it looks like a majestic citadel in a Chinese ink-brush painting.
Bo Hon Island is famous for its grottoes including Sung Sot Cave (Surprise Cave), Luon Cave, Trinh Nu Cave (Virgin Cave) and Trong Cave (Drum Cave). Therefore, the island has become a preferred stop of tourists in the trip on Halong Bay.
Bo Hon Island seems like a natural park with diverse species of flora and fauna. Various kinds of plants such as benjamin fig trees, cycads, orchids, etc. can be found on the island. It’s also home to several wild animals like monkeys, deer and chamois
BAI THO MOUNTAIN
Bai Tho Mountain is 106 m high. It runs along the coast, half on land and half in the sea. Sailing in the bay, one or two hundred meters from the mountain, one can see a poem carved on a flat stone cliff. In 1468, Emperor Le Thanh Tong, who was also a poet, made an inspection tour of the North-East region. He stopped at the foot of the mountain, and inspired by the magnificent beauty of his surroundings, he wrote a poem. Later, he had the poem engraved on the wall of the mountain. It is very interesting to climb the mountain and enjoy the panoramic view of the bay.
BAI CHAY BEACH
Bai Chay is a resort located along the coast of Halong Bay. This is a windward ocean resort which has a year round average temperature of 20oC (68oF). Bai Chay is a low gently sloping range of hills that runs along the sea for more than 2 km. Blended in among the pine trees are large hotels and small villas with distinguished architectural styles. Traveling down the asphalt road along the coast, visitors see long white stretches of sand and green rows of Casuarina trees, tucked under which are small family-run restaurants. After swimming at the beach, tourists can enjoy cold drinks and cool off in the breeze that sweeps in from the sea.
HALONG CAVES & GROTTOES
Ha Long Bay is the number one tourist attraction drawing a steady stream of visitors year round in the North East region of Vietnam. Honorably recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994, it is a priceless collection of spectacular islands, grottoes and caves.
SUNG SOT CAVE
Situated in the central zone of Ha Long Bay, Sung Sot cave is one of the largest and most beautiful caves here. It covers an area of 10 000 square meters at an altitude of 25m. Following the steep path under shady trees, visitors will reach the cave consisting of two chambers separated by the 3m-wide path. The outer chamber is square, the ceiling of which is filled with fabulous stalactites. Different from the outer chamber, the inner one is vast with capacity for thousands of people. It features formations shaped like fairy tales. For example, in the middle of the chamber stands a formation resembling a general surveying his troops. Sung Sot is the popular cave to visit.
THIEN CUNG CAVE
Thien Cung is also one of caves that is worth a look in Ha Long Bay. It is located in Van Canh Island which is 4km from the wharf outside of Ha Long city. The way to the grotto is perilous, covered on both sides by thick forest. Though the entrance is quite narrow, the grotto gradually opens up when going further inside. With 130m in length, it is known as a magnificent palace filled with abundant stalagmites. In the center are 4 pillars fossilized many strange images from the base to the top including fish, birds, flowers, scenes of human life, singing and dancing fairies, etc. All were surprisingly formed by the hand of nature over million years. Dau Go cave:
Of all caves in Ha Long Bay, Dau Go is probably the most famous one. Located on a limestone islet 8km south of Bai Chay, the grotto requires 90 hike-up steps to reach the entrance. Its present name is derived from the war against Mongolian aggressor in the 13th century. The cave was used to store sharp wood stakes that the general Tran Hung Dao planted in the bed of Bach Dang River to form the barrier against the attacking Mongols. Dau Go cave is made of three chambers. The first one has the most spectacular stalagmites and stalactites of various shapes, depending on the imagination of observers. After passing the narrow passage naturally formed through erosion, the second chamber opens up in mysterious light. The walls here sparkle if bright light is shone on them. At the end of the grotto is a well filled with fresh water. In the grotto, there remains a stone stele carved King Khai Dinh’s praise after his visiting to the cave in 1929 and being absorbed by the cave’s beauty.
DAU GO CAVE
Of all caves in Ha Long Bay, Dau Go is probably the most famous one. Located on a limestone islet 8km south of Bai Chay, the grotto requires 90 hike-up steps to reach the entrance. Its present name is derived from the war against Mongolian aggressor in the 13th century. The cave was used to store sharp wood stakes that the general Tran Hung Dao planted in the bed of Bach Dang River to form the barrier against the attacking Mongols. Dau Go cave is made of three chambers. The first one has the most spectacular stalagmites and stalactites of various shapes, depending on the imagination of observers. After passing the narrow passage naturally formed through erosion, the second chamber opens up in mysterious light. The walls here sparkle if bright light is shone on them. At the end of the grotto is a well filled with fresh water. In the grotto, there remains a stone steele carved King Khai Dinh’s praise after his visiting to the cave in 1929 and being absorbed by the cave’s beauty.
Luon Cave is located in the northeast of Bo Hon Island. It’s about 14 kilometers to the south from Bai Chay Beach. Near the cave are Con Rua Islet (Turtle Islet) and Sung Sot Cave (Surprise Cave).
Luon Cave is about 60 meters long and 4 meters wide. Height of the ceiling ranges from 2.5 – 4 meters up on tidal level. Therefore, it only can be accessed by small boat or kayak.
Passing through Luon Cave, tourists will reach a lake formed by an enclosed group of lime-stone mountains. The lake inside seems like a stadium surrounded by high podium. It’s a brackish lake with calm and green sea water. Size of the lake is nearly 1 square kilometers. On the cliff are many fossilized freshwater snail shells proving that place used to be a deep freshwater valley. Especially, it’s highlighted with pristine setting of ferns, orchids and wild golden monkeys.
The perfect combination of lime-stone mountains and jade-green sea makes Luon Cave a unique site to visit on Halong Bay. Furthermore, Luon Cave is a preferred place of tourists for kayaking.
THIEN CUNG GROTTO
Thien Cung Grotto is at the height of 25 meters above the sea level. Visiting the grotto, tourists will feel like visiting an art museum with variety of sophisticated statues and reliefs. In the center of the grotto, there are four big pillars propping against the roof.
The original inhabitants of Halong Bay have told an ancient story about Thien Cung Grotto over many generations. The story is told that Dragon Prince was fallen in love with “Nang May” (Ms. Cloud). They held a lavish wedding party inside the grotto in 7 days and 7 nights. All kinds of animals and all genies took part in to share happiness with the couple. The celebration was that fun and bustling like on the heaven. Nowadays, entering Thien Cung Grotto, visitors can gaze party sceneries in the setting of stalactites and stalagmites inside.
The grotto has been discovered recently by explorers. Thien Cung Grotto is considered as one of the most beautiful caves of Halong Bay.
KIM QUY GROTTO
Kim Quy Grotto is 100 meters long and stretches in a north-south direction. The grotto’s width ranges from 5 to 10 meters.
Legend has it that after helping Le Loi defeat the enemy, Kim Quy (the Golden Tortoise) came back to the sea. When he was arriving Halong, witnessing the criminals of monsters, he stopped to fight them and save local residents. He died from serious wounds after the battle. Nowadays, in the grotto, tourists can find a block of stone which is believed to be petrified body of the Golden Tortoise.
TAM CUNG GROTTO
Located in the center of Halong Bay, 5 kilometers from the Sung Sot Cave to the northeast, Tam Cung Grotto (Three Palaces Cave) is one of the most wonderful caves in Halong. Tam Cung Grotto is situated on the May Den Island – an island which is almost separate from the other islands. On the May Den Island, there are many precarious cliffs and lush forests.
The grotto has three compartments alternating throughout each rock gap. In all three compartments of the grotto, stalactites create many vibrant and wonderful shapes. A lot of lively stalactites look like human figures, flowers and animals.
When entering the first compartment, visitors may hear a strange sound like the traditional instruments sound. Around the cabinet, there are plenty of stalactites that look like elves. On the roof of grotto, stalactites form a picture of a white flower. In the second compartment, there is a clean stream and stalactites are arranged into many strange curtains. When entering the last compartment, visitors can see a magnificent bas-relief which carved into many meticulous and strange shapes.
TRINH NU GROTTO
Trinh Nu Grotto (Virgin Grotto) is situated on Bo Hon Island, the same location with Luon Cave and Sung Sot Cave (Surprise Cave). It’s about 8 kilometers from Bai Chay Tourist Wharf to the south. The original name of Trinh Nu Grotto was La Virgin, a name in French named by French explorers.
Trinh Nu Grotto has three chambers in total. The tallest ceiling is about 4 meters high. The biggest chamber is the third with the size of 60 meters long, 20 meters wide. Inside the grotto are many stalagmites and stalactites in various living forms of people and animals.
For the locals, Trinh Nu Grotto represents the endless love. The ancient story has it that a beautiful girl fell in love with a young fisherman. While he was going far away to the sea for fishing, the girl was forced to get married with a rich man in the region. In order to keep the faithfulness with her lover, she ran away and waited him in a cave overlooking the sea. The time passed and she was petrified. Nowadays, when visiting the grotto, tourists will see a big stone in the middle. The stone has the shape of a girl with long hair looking forward to her love to be back.
Trong Grotto (Drum Grotto) is opposite to Trinh Nu Grotto (Virgin Grotto) which is located on Bo Hon Island. It’s about 8 kilometers from Bai Chay Tourist Wharf to the south.
Over several generations, local people have told a beautiful love story as the origination of Trong Grotto and Trinh Nu Grotto. The story is told that when the young fisherman came back to find his girl, he lost the way and reached a cave. That cave is right in front of the cave where his lover was petrified. The young man saw the girl and called her name. He called, called still being exhausted and died there.
Trong Grotto has two entrances: the eastern mouth and the western one, linked with each other. Entering the grotto, visitors will see spectacular scenery of stalactites hung down from the ceiling. Inside the grotto, there is the sound like the sound of drum as wind blows through the grotto. As this interesting sound in the grotto, people also call it as Drum Cave.
At Trong Grotto, archaeologists found a relic of Soi Nhu Culture dating back to 18.000 – 7.000 years ago. It shows that Trong Grotto had been the residence of the ancient Vietnamese in the past.
THINGS TO DO IN HALONG BAY
HALONG BAY CRUISING
Visiting the most famous Vietnamese World Heritage Site with Halong bay cruises is bound to be one of the highlights of your travel itinerary in Vietnam. Cruising is the best way to explore and feel attraction of Halong bay. You could see drowned karst landscape that has been elevated and eroded over millions of years to create thousands of small. The islands emerge from the muffling mists like tombstones, stark vertical forms thrusting 10 stories or more above the water and flat in the thin light. Their sheer sides and sharp peaks defy any comforting notion of human habitation. This is a ghostly though gorgeous seascape, an environmental phenomenon that forces awe and pleasure — as well as needed serenity.
Halong Bay is a ideal travel destination – a World Heritage Site, with thousands of limestone islands and caves. There are countless places to stop for swimming, fishing, snorkeling and kayaking when cursing around islands. There are many charming and attractive beaches; it is suitable for swimming activities such as Tra Gioi Beach, Ba Cua Beach, Tuan Chau Beach, Titov Beach, Minh Chau Beach. The stunning scenery of sheer mountain cliffs rising out of the bay makes an ideal backdrop to water-based activities.The water of beach is emerald green and turquoise color so you cannot see the bottom. Halong Bay is the safe place for swimming. Because beach is calm waters and tourists will be provided useful equipment such as: life jackets. Moreover the sailors and staff of the ship watched while you were swimming to alert you for dangers in case. Swimming in Halong bay is really nice and refreshing.
KAYAKING IN HALONG BAY
Kayaking is one of the most attractive actions in Halong bay. Over the last decade or so, kayaking has become a popular activity in Halong Bay, which covers an area of 1,500 square kilometers, offering many options for both the less and the more adventurous. With modern kayaking equipment, visitors can maximize on speed and maneuverability as they explore the open sea and many hidden lagoons, unspoiled beaches and floating fishing villages, they unwind on the boat and enjoy a sumptuous dinner. Travelers can paddle into peaceful lakes surrounded by Limestone Mountains and through amazing caves. Kayaking inside limestone karst is one of specialties in Halong bay. Aside from the comforts, escort boats allow your efficient experience of the remote geology and untouched culture harbored within Ha Long’s scattered limestone islands. With tranquil on-the-water sunsets and sunrises, you chances of wildlife sightings are good, and the eerie romance of the islands is unforgettable.
TREKKING & CYCLING
Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island is ideal trekking and cycling destinations to explore wild nature of the area around. There are lots of rare animals to sea, including green and hawksbill turtles and golden-headed languor monkeys. Visitors can choose from various trek routes, either way it is an impressive experience. When trekking on the beach, tourists will be free to enjoy cozy white sandy ground and gaze stunning seascape of Halong. We suggest the trekking in Ban Sen Island, Quan lan Island, Cat Ba Island and Titov Island (short). You can cycle in some fishing village such as Viet Hai village, Cat Ba island, Tuan Chau island.
SCUBA DIVING IN HALONG BAY
Halong Bay is a spectacular location for sightseeing in Vietnam. Located in the Gulf of Tonkin, it forms an amazing seascape of limestone pillars along with more than 1,600 islands and islets. Travelers coming to Halong Bay will enjoy not only the boat trip, sea kayaking but also the very scuba diving experience. Scuba diving has been recently opened in Halong Bay making this place a must-sea for underwater lovers. The time from April to December is the most wonderful period for Travellers to join “Halong Bay Scuba Diving”. The temperature of water at this time is from 26-29 celsius degrees.
CAVING IN HALONG BAY
With Karst terrain, Halong bay has many caves and islands. These caves are attractive destination in route visiting Halong bay. Some famous caves are known extensively by tourist such as “Dau Go” cave, “Thien Cung” cave, “Sung Sot” cave… Magnificent masterpieces of the Creator will definitely dazzle all visitors by the magical world of stalactites and stalagmites in various sizes and shapes. Tourists are also have chance to dine in a cave and experience an exotic feeling of dining in spacious and romantic ambiance inside.
The most famous cave is “Dau Go” cave, located in Dau Go Island. “Dau Go” cave is divided into three parts. Outside part has roll in dome with ceiling look like huge oil paint picture. Beauty of this cave is praised in many poems and songs. It was honored as “caves of wonders” in World Wonder book by French.
MOUNATIN CLIMBING IN HALONG BAY
Halong Bay is one of the most majestic climbing areas of the world. There are over 3000 limestone islands in the Halong Bay region of Vietnam and we hardly scratched the surface in our two week quest to explore them. The area has several sport climbing routes and has vast potential for further development. It is unusual to spend an entire climbing trip on a boat, but then it is unusual to do over 40 new routes without using a rope.
All professional climbers coming to Halong agree that Halong bay is the paradise of adventurous mountain climbing as it has thousands of islands with high lime-stone mountains. Tourist could see countless beautiful limestone faces. To enjoy this stunning archipelago of karsts you can try climbing Rock Mountain. If you never climb Rock Mountain, guides will guide some base skills and some notice during climbing time.
HELICOPTER TOURS IN HALONG BAY
Do you think about obverse Halong bay panoramic view? It is very amazing; you will see one of the world’s natural wonders – a bay with more than 3,000 islands at the height of 300 meters. Visitors will have stunning views to this World Natural Heritage from many different perspectives. The setting under with jade-green sea water, lime-stone islands and white sand beaches will certainly make you strongly impressed.
If you would like to visit Halong bay by helicopter, you will only take 45 mintues flight by helicopter MI 8 to Halong bay, The World Heritage site. Tourists will be picked up from the hotel and transfer to Gia Lam airbase where Heliport waiting for you, which is not far away from Hanoi center. By helicopter, you will have chance to see Halong from the bird eyes views.
Ha Long market, located in the Ha Long city center, is the largest market in Quang Ninh province. Built in 2003, Ha Long market has become a popular shopping place for locals and tourists alike. There are a variety of goods sold here. Most of which are made in China.
Stalls selling coal-made souvenirs, woodwork and seafood are often crowded with tourists near and far. As situated in a coastal city, Ha Long market is well-known for fresh and cheap seafood, especially fried fish pastes. In the market lie many stalls serving this tasty dish. Besides, since commodities are orderly and neatly arranged into market stalls, visitors will find it easy and convenient to find favorite items. The market is also equipped with spacious parking area to serve buyers. If you are seeking for a place to shop when coming to Quang Ninh province, Ha Long market is a good choice.
Ha Long fruit market
The floating market selling mostly fruit on Ha Long bay is also an interest for visitors. These boats, carrying lots of local fruit, travelling on the bay and sell fruit to the tourists who sit decadently on their junks
Ha Long night market
At night, Ha Long night market is an attractive place for getting some souvenirs.
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