Located in Gulf of Tonkin in northern Vietnam, about 170 kilometers east of Hanoi, Halong Bay’s towering limestone pillars and tiny islets topped by forest provide picture-perfect sceneries for any postcard. There are over 1,900 pillars, islets, and islands around the bay, but most of these are uninhabited and hence remain naturally rich and unaffected by human activities. Diverse species of life and caves are another highlights of the bay; The surrounding reefs and seas, as well as forest growing up top the islets and islands are home to great diversity of biology. Undoubtedly, Halong Bay has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1994 and its views of ethereal beauty has, unsurprisingly, made it northern Vietnam’s number one tourist destination.
Tip: You might want to allow a few days to explore this magical bay as its attractions are extremely numerous.
When to visit?
Halong weather is typical for tropical coastal climate, which has two main seasons all year around. From April to September, it is often hot and humid; from October to March the weather is dry with some cold months. March, April, September, and October seem to be the best time to visit Halong bay because the weather is cool and enjoyable.
Cruising the bay
Indeed, the main attraction of Halong Bay is the bay and its thousands of magnificent towering limestone cliffs, and what better way to explore and enjoy the world natural wonder than jumping onto a traditional cruise boat sailing to hidden lagoons, unexploited beaches and exotic grottoes. Most cruises run out of Halong City, but choose wisely as there are literally hundreds of agencies yet only a few actually run their own boats.
Preferably, overnight cruises are better way to soak in the amazing atmosphere and explore famous corners of the bay. Here are some recommendations for great cruise tour in Halong Bay:
Emeraude Cruise – if somehow time does not permit for an overnight cruise, you can still enjoy the bay in style on Emeraude Cruise. Most day cruise operators downgrade their boats to a smaller and not so beautifully decorated as an overnight cruise ship, but Emeraude operates the same ship whether it’s a day or an overnight cruise.
Dragon Pearl Cruise – the highly-rated Dragon Pearl doesn’t just operate distinctive traditional cruise ships that are modeled after traditional Chinese junks, but it surpasses all others in terms of activities it offers. First of all, the ship sails exclusively in the most beautiful part of Halong Bay. Secondly, the boat features 11 thoughtfully decorated cabins and 3 decks. Each cabin is beautifully decorated in a traditional style and equipped with modern amenities for a comfortable stay and large sea view windows for fantastic views outside. Lastly, it organizes an awesome program such as dining in a romantic cave or on the sundeck with scenic panoramas and the best of local cuisine.
Paradise Peak Cruise – if luxury is your priority, then Paradise Peak is your choice of cruise. Tiny, yet elegant, the Paradise Peak is Halong Bay’s most sophisticated explorer and it promises luxury comfort and service that goes beyond the expectation of a small cruise ship. It’s a 5-star cruise artistically designed with a cozy touch with only 8 cabins on board and a personal butler for
each cabin or guest group. Paradise Peak will take you exploring Halong Bay’s finest attractions, including Ba Hang & Cua Van Floating Villages, Soi Sim & Ti Top Islands, Ho Dong Tien, Trong, Trinh Nu, and Tien Ong Caves.
Tip: out of all spectacular islets dotting the bay, try to include a stay on Cat Ba Island to your cruise trip!