Beautiful natural wonder, Ha Long Bay, located at 170 km from Hanoi, in northern Vietnam near the Chinese border, is popular for its fascinating limestone Karst scenery with thousands islands rising from the clear emerald water of the Bac Bo Gulf, the Gulf of Tonkin, topped by rainforests. “Halong” in Vietnamese means “the dragon descending to the sea” and is the spotlight of any Vietnam trip.
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1994, for many tourists, Ha Long Bay is like something right out of a movie, in fact has indeed featured in endless movies such as Pan in 2015, Kong: Skull Island in 2017 and many others.
The best way to get to Ha Long City is by car, minibus or bus from Hanoi and the best way to experience this landscape is by boat. These cruises typically include English-speaking guides, hotel transfers, and entrance fees, meals, and on-board entertainment.
For first timers a good option is joining a two-day, one-night Ha Long Bay cruise where you get to discover various islets, beaches, villages, and grottoes on a more relaxed pace. It also offers stops for swimming, fishing, snorkelling, kayaking, and trekking but if you are not a fan of outdoor activities, you can just relax and admire the stunning scenery. Ca Ba Island is one of the most popular stops in Ha Long Bay. It has floating villages, hotels, restaurants, and bars that are set against a backdrop of lush mountains and rainforests. The island is also home to endangered animals, such as Cat Ba langurs, southern serows, black giant squirrels, and civet cats.
No trip to Ha Long Bay is complete without a visit to its limestone caves and grottoes. Trinh Nu or Virgin Cave has a statue of a woman that was turned into stone after her death. Local legend says that unable to return home after being forced to marry an old Mandarin, she escaped from him because her father could not pay a debt. When fishermen found her body, they buried her and built a small shrine inside the grotto.
The symbols of Ha Long Bay, the Kissing Rocks islets, are the two rocks resemble a rooster and a hen facing each other. Locals believe they symbolise eternal love as they’ve been in Ha Long Bay for thousands of years.
With the cruise you can explore the grottoes, caves and tiny islands named for their shapes, including Stone Dog and Teapot islets. The region is also popular for scuba diving, rock climbing and hiking, particularly in mountainous Cát Bà National Park.
Any time can be a good time to travel to Ha Long Bay and each season has its own advantages or disadvantages.
For the weather, spring and autumn, March, April and September, October, is the perfect time for exploring Ha Long Bay. In March is also the time of Tet (Lunar New Year) celebrations. In these months, the weather is often delightful, the temperature is mild, the sky is clear and bright, and the activity level is high.
But also the period from May to September can be the best time, specially if you are a budget traveler and want to get the best deal. The period is often considered as the low season of Ha Long Bay and many cruise ships offer great discounts. However, due to the high frequency of heavy rains and storms some cruises are cancelled. If you are planning a trip to Vietnam in summer, maybe you can visit the other parts of northern Vietnam first and visit the Ha Long Bay later as the bad weather won’t last long. We travelled in Cambodia in low season and was supposed to be the rainy season and in 10 days it rained half an hour and for the rest was the most gorgeous blue sky I have ever seen, so yes, the weather is very unpredictable.
Ha Long Bay is a beautiful natural wonder with surrealistic scenery, definitely a must see for a nature lover.