What to see in Vietnam
Tourist attractions Halong Bay
One of the world’s most famous natural wonders, Ha Long Bay is an otherworldly landscape of limestone karsts suspended on misty waters and is situated in northern Vietnam, in the Gulf of Tonkin. 1,600 islands and islets conspire to create a magical landscape, full of unique and surprising natural phenomena for visitors to explore. A cruise on Ha Long Bay has long been a mainstay of any tour of Vietnam and is easily accessible from the capital of Hanoi.
Grottoes, caves and rugged beaches are excellent fodder for groups of canoeists, whilst holiday-makers tend to soak up the sunset onboard one of the traditional junk boats, preferably with a cocktail in hand. Such is Ha Long Bay’s appeal, it is often filled with cruise ships, but thankfully the 600 square mile site is large enough for everyone to find their own slice of bay bliss. 500 million years of oceanic activity has formed this unique landscape and nature lovers can search out the endemic flora and fauna that flourish on the islets of Ha Long Bay.
Fishing communities live on the bay in four different villages, some of which consist of quaint floating houses and huts. An overnight cruise is the best way to experience Ha Long Bay and see the changing landscapes and karst shadows as the sun rises and falls. Most overnight cruises on Ha Long Bay include island-hopping activities, kayaking and food onboard. Translated as the ‘Bay of Descending Dragons’, visiting Ha Long Bay is sure to be a highlight of any tour of Vietnam.
Things to see in Ha Long Bay
If you can bear to tear yourself away from the sunny deck of your junk cruise, there are many things to see in Ha Long Bay. Bon Hon Island is one of the more frequent stops for cruise ships on Ha Long Bay as it’s home to a number of interesting caves, such as Virgin Cave, home to a shrine dedicated to a legendary love-sick young woman who is said to have died there. After fishermen found her body, legend has it that they created a shrine in her memory inside the cave and the story has lived on ever since.
Aside from the mysterious legacy of the cave, its stalactites and stalagmites cast beautiful shadows over the cavern walls, making for a particularly fascinating landscape. Dan Be Island is another of the most popular sights around Ha Long Bay. This island is famed for its swimming and snorkelling opportunities due to its coral-filled grottoes and inland lakes. The grottoes can only be reached by rowing boat or canoe during low tide. To discover the wildlife of this beautiful part of Vietnam, a trip to Cat Ba Island is a must-visit and highlight of any Ha Long Bay Cruise.
The Cat Ba archipelago makes up most of the south of Ha Long Bay and the largest island of Cat Ba is home to a number of hiking trails as well as the endangered white-headed langur. If you’d rather get to know the locals you can also visit the floating villages of Ha Long Bay: Cua Van, Vung Vien, Cang Dam and Ba Hong. Here, you can gain some insight into life on the bay and admire the ingenious floating homes and fishing techniques of the locals. Other things to do in Ha Long Bay include kayaking and snorkelling tours, which enable you to explore more freely than you can onboard a cruise ship.