Praised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994, Halong Bay attracted million tourists every year with magnificent nature landscapes. Despite the evergreen charm that Halong Bay inherits, the area is becoming more and more overcrowded. Therefore, nowadays, a great number of tourists are seeking “off-the-beaten-track” journeys of discovering hidden gems in the Halong Bay area. The whole bay area consists of central Halong Bay, western Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay near Cat Ba Island. Perhaps you are wondering which to choose to spend your vacation? This article will list out the highlights of each bay to provide useful information and help you to have the unforgettable adventure in the Gulf of Tonkin in the northwest corner of Vietnam.
How to get there
The distance between Hanoi and Halong Bay is about 170 km and passengers will arrive at different harbours to visit Halong Bay center, Bai Tu Long Bay or Lan Ha Bay. Most of tour operators include transportation service in the package tour offered. The most common means of transport is by shuttle bus and limousine van.
Halong Bay cruises departs at Tuan Chau Marina, 160 km from Hanoi and takes about 3.5 hour to get to the harbour. Beside shuttle bus and limousine van options, you can travel by seaplane from Noi Bai Airport to Tuan Chau Marina and gateway to Halong Bay day and overnight cruises. The aerial view over the Red River Delta will definitely leave you in awe while embracing the natural beauty of Vietnam from above. Despite expensive fee, seaplane travelling only takes 45 minute, this is a perfect solution for a quick, comfortable, fun-filled and luxury trip.
Lan Ha Bay cruises depart at Got Ferry in Hai Phong and thank to the new Hai Phong Expressway, it only takes 2.5 hours to travel from Hanoi to Hai Phong. Even though it may cost you a little extra to go on this route, this would be a great choice when you want to skip the journey from Hanoi to Halong and directly head for the legendary bay
Bai Tu Long Bay is 160km far from Hanoi and you will go to Hon Gai Harbour to embark. Also, inland marina, Halong International Cruise Port has been recently built just to the left of the Hon Gai – Cai Lan fairway in Bai Chay Ward, easily accommodating tourist boats, high speed boats and yachts to visit Bai Tu Long Bay.
Everyday, passengers will be picked up at their hotels in Hanoi at around 7.30 am or at 9-10 am (if taking the highway). There are breaks on the half way so that passengers will not be exhausted from travelling. Shuttle buses/ Limousine vans arrive at the harbour at 12pm and passenger are taken on board to start this amazing journey.
HALONG BAY is among the world’s most beautiful bays with almost 2,000 islands and islets creating a spectacular landscape of limestone pillar. The green vegetation covering the islets has made the area a picturesque tropical forest. There’s no doubt tourists will be captivated in the mysterious scenery of Halong Bay inviting adventurous exploration. The center of the bay is also where most beautiful sights situate.
- Sung Sot cave
- Thien Cung cave
- Ba Hang fishing village
- Cua Van fishing village
- Titop island
- Soi Sim island
- Tuan Chau island
Unlike its famous twin, LAN HA BAY reserves a more pristine look with more intense concentration of over 400 limestone mountains and less than 139 beaches, suitable for ones who prefer a more tranquil hideaway from robust city life.
- Dark & Bright cave
- Peaches Beach
- Cat Ba Island
- Tra Bau area
BAI TU LONG BAY is recognized as one of the top off-the-beaten-track destinations in the North of Vietnam. The bay occupies nearly three quarters of Halong Bay; yet, not many has explored the untouched hidden beauty. Tourists will expect to witness glorious view and serene atmosphere, besides, the attractions are just as stunning as in Halong Bay center.
- Thien Canh Son cave
- Hon Co island
- Vung Vieng fishing village
- Cong Do area
- Cong Dam area
Activities & Experience
Halong Bay has this unique gracefulness that you can hardly find anywhere else in the world. Whether you are solo, couple or family travellers, exotic and entertaining activities are always ahead. The center clusters the best caves and scenery there are in the bay. You will definitely experience a lot of “wow” moments during your cruise. So why not becoming an adventurer and let’s explore this splendor.
Kayaking is considered the MUST DO activities in Halong Bay for the ultimate freedom one can experience when gliding along the foothill of these limestone mountains.
For Halong Bay cruise, Cua Van and Tung Sau are most popular spots to kayak since they both contain natural beauty as well as history and culture to boot.
Lan Ha Bay is even called Kayaking Paradise since the area is surrounded by hundreds of small sandy beaches and islets with calm and clean water to discover the beautiful nature of Cat Ba Island. Some famous places for kayaking is Cai Beo floating village, Ba Trai Dao area or Monkey island.
Bai Tu Long Bay cruises usually conduct kayaking in Cap La and Tra San area which are prime kayaking destination due to their vastness and serenity. Instead of cruising on big junk, isn’t it more interesting to kayak around and get the full flavor of local life in Bai Tu Long Bay?
Sung Sot Cave has long been Halong Bay Tour highlight with hundreds of sophisticated rock formation decorated with colorful lights making it even more impressive attraction to tourists.
Lan Ha Bay has Dark and Bright Cave which is only 2km away from Sung Sot Cave but the pattern of islets is fascinating. At the water-level, there’s an arched entrance that leads to the grotto. It is like finding yourself going through a secret entrance to behold in front of your eyes a tranquil round lake with luxuriant trees around. Moreover, you can go trekking or cycling around Cat Ba island.
Thien Canh Son Cave is a wild cave located on Bai Tu Long Bay, in the center of Cong Do island.
Once you ascend about 80 stairs a clear and stunning sight is making you breathless in the thick foliage that makes Cong Do Island so outstanding.
Titop is an artificial beach in Halong Bay center area, locating on Titop Island. There are various activities on this island such as sunbathing, swimming and hiking to the top to catch sight of panoramic view of breathtaking scenery. However, this destination is a hot spot for vast majority of tours; therefore, overcrowded to expected frequently here.
Surrounded by 139 gorgeous beaches, Lan Ha Bay is such an utmost delight for those who want to simply indulge in the warm, tropical vibe and enjoy the tranquility of the area.
Located in a large area of Bai Tu Long Bay, isolated Paradise Beach (Hon Co island) is probably its longest and most popular site with the forested nature of limestone rocks, giving the beach a very ‘Castaway’ feeling. There are also many other isolated wild beaches dotted in the islands.
People do not fall in love with Vietnam by stunning scenery but by the littlest things they treasure there. Explorers not only love how great and marvellous Halong Bay is, but also for peculiar wonders created by the locals. Visiting these rusty floating fishing villages will take you back to what it truly means to travel. This is the real image of Halong Bay, the beauty of people’s everyday life. Walking along connecting panels brings you a whole new experience of a harmony between man and nature. Cua Van village, Ba Hang village (Halong Bay) and Vung Vieng village (Bai Tu Long Bay) is the most worth-visiting destinations in Halong Bay that you wouldn’t want to miss for life.
Generally, all cruises offer a wide range of tour packages and prices so that customer can fully enjoy Halong Bay. You can literally do anything from a few hours cruise to multiple-overnight cruise including a cabin on a tourist boat, outdoor activities in the vicinity of the bay. It’s really up to your budget.
1 Day trip provide you 4-8 hours trip to visit Halong Bay. This tour package is suitable who desire to visit Halong Bay but don’t have much time in their travelling schedule.
2 Day 1 Night trip is the most popular among visitors. Extending to at least one overnight allows more time to really enjoy the scenery, take full advantage of the activities, kayak to small secluded beaches and wake up with a heavenly view would make your day the best day.
3 Day 2 Night cruises are recommended for people looking to really unwind and explore more remote areas of the bay.
If you are on a budget and planning to get the cheapest boat you can get then it would not be recommended since cheapest boats have many problems and complaints about services and maintenance. The mid-range are advised for those are on a budget looking for overnight stay, since the price is reasonable, the fundamental safety equipment is assured. The luxury cruise all offer extremely professional service that worth every penny you pay. You will receive luxury accommodation, delicious and high quality food, excellent service and the staff always make sure you have the best experience on the boat.
Reason to choose
Halong Bay Cruise is no doubt the most popular cruise in the area since it is in the center and inherits the best highlighted destinations that tourists crave for when they come to Halong Bay. However, due to high rise in tourists every year, you may experience a sight of overcrowded sailing boats. Generally estimated, there are about 300 boats operating in Halong Bay so you can imagine yourself trying to relax with all tourists around. Moreover, the environmental issue is arising in Halong Bay as the center is over polluted due to excessive tourism.
In contrast, Lan Ha Bay is less touristy, less inhabited, cleaner blue water offering a different view from different angle. However, the area is smaller than the center so that passengers may not experience the magnificence they expect.
Ultimately, Bai Tu Long Bay is suitable for people who like to indulge and relax in tranquil atmosphere and discover the pristine beauty of the bay. The area is not as polluted as in Halong bay; however, we strongly appreciate any effort of responsible travel to keep Halong Bay an heavenly destinations worthy of being the Nature Wonder in the world.