Ha Long Bay is one of the most visited places in Vietnam and in the world.
Ha Long (Hạ Long) means “where the dragon plunges into the sea.“ According to legend the islands were formed by a dragon who flew over this area and using his tail carved each valley with his tail. Then he plunged into the sea and the valleys were flooded with seawater. Many visitors come to take a 2-3 day cruise between the enchanting islands in the bay and soak up the atmosphere of this unique and beautiful place.
Tens to hundreds of cruise ships offer tours in the bay.
Ha Long Bay has a lot of types of accommodation. It is one of the most visited places, and prices are a bit higher than elsewhere. Even without a reservation, you are bound to find Guesthouses and Nha Nghi (hotels). The city is divided into the two parts. Bai Chay is a tourist area with many hotels and restaurants. Hon Gai is a district with businesses, supermarkets and other shops. These two parts are connected by the Bai Chay bridge.
Almost 2,000 mountainous islands are located in Ha Long Bay.
Ha Long Bay has up 1,969 small and large inhabited and uninhabited limestone islands of various shapes and sizes. Among the islands the villages of local fishermen can be seen. They have built houses on rafts, and between the houses they string fishing nets. On these islands, people and their animals live together. A lot of mountainous islands reach a height of around 100 meters and some even contain lakes. Dau Be Island has 6 enclosed lakes.
There is not much to see in Ha Long city, take a trip to the islands.
If you stay a while in Ha Long town, definitely go to the Nui Bai Tho sightseeing stop located at the port of Hon Gai. If you are not taking a sightseeing aircraft flight or helicopter ride , this place offers the best view onto Ha Long Bay and its hundreds of islets. Nui Bai Tho is very easily accessible from the town. In 2016 the Sun World Ha Long park was opened with a cable car, a ferris wheel, and many other attractions for tourists (a bit Disneyland).
Ha Long Bay was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The whole area covers around 1,553 km². The center of the bay has an area of 334 km² with a high density of 775 islets. The islands in Ha Long Bay are formed of limestone and slate and they are almost 250 million years old. Ha Long Bay comprises an area of islands northeast of Bai Tu Long Bay and Cat Ba Island to the southwest. Ha Long Bay is one of the seven wonders of the world and it is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
CAT BA is the largest island in Ha Long Bay with beautiful caves and jungles.
Half of Cat Ba Island (Cát Bà) is a National park with its beautiful hills, lakes (Ech – the largest lake) and two caves (Hospital Cave and Hang Trung Trang Cave). The park was founded in 1986 primarily to protect the interesting ecosystems (forests, swamps, mangroves and reefs). The island occupies an area of approximately 350 km² and is one of the prettiest islands in Ha Long Bay. In the southern part of the island you can visit the Hospital Cave (Han Quan Y). It was built between 1963-1965 and it was an important place in the war with the USA. You can see 17 rooms here, an operating room and a large cave that was used as a cinema.
Cat Ba Island is the perfect place for a stay by the sea-side in northern Vietnam.
The island has rich flora and you can find up to 745 kinds of plants, trees and herbs. They can be seen when you are trekking through the island. You can also stay of course on Cat Ba Island itself. Accommodation and services are found around the town in the southern part of the island. It is recommended to take some cash to the island. According to my information, there are only about 3 ATMs.
Visit the beautiful Lan Ha Bay on the southeast side of the Cat Ba Island.
Lan Ha Bay is the perfect place where you can take a boat trip and is about 30 minutes sailing from the town of Cat Ba. Explore some of the beautiful and deserted beaches where you can swim or kayak. Lan Ha is a better place than some full tourist beaches in Ha Long Bay. In the Lan Ha Bay area there is approximately 300 islets, these islets are as beautiful as those in Ha Long Bay, including 200 species of fish and 500 species of molluscs. Ask for trips in the city or at the hotel in Cat Ba town. Lan Ha is characterized mainly by untouched nature and deserted islands. Watch this video from Cat Ba Island.
⛴ HOW TO GET TO CAT BA ISLAND:
1. From the island of Tuan Chau
• boats / ferry from terminal
• ferrys sail 3 times a day in the off season and 5 times a day in high season
• to the northern part of Cat Ba Island – into Gian Luan Pier port
• the quickest and shortest option (price – 70,000 dongs for ticket, the journey takes around 1 hour)
• You can take a motorcycle with you (price – 90,000 dongs per person with a bike)
• then you still need to get into the town in the southern part of the island, you can take the bus for this (25,000 dongs)
2. From the city of Hai Phong (Ben Binh Harbour)
• boats / ferry from Ben Binh harbour and Dinh Vu Pier
• tickets for boats from Hai Phong > Cat Ba can be booked online at Baolau
• boats from Hoang Long company go from Dinh Vu Pier
• the journey is longer and more expensive (about 150-250,000 Dong) but you will arrive straight into the town on the island of Cat Ba
• if you arrive by train from Hanoi, Hai Phong is probably the best option for getting to the Cat Ba Island
• sometime in 2017 there should be a city connection with the island of Cat Ba with a bridge, so the trafficlevels and options will change.
The other islands in Ha Long Bay are:
• Ban Sen (densely forested, almost uninhabited island)
• Quan Lan (historically significant remote island with several beaches)
• Van Don (big island that is also inhabited, little visited by tourists)
• Tuan Chau (much frequented by tourists)
The islands can be accessed from various ports:
• Cai Rong – small harbor to the northeast areas (for Quan Lan island)
• Ha Long city – there are a several ports (for Tuan Chau but also for Cat Ba island)
• Hai Phong – large historic port city at the mouth of the Red River (for Cat Ba island)
The caves in Ha Long Bay are the biggest attraction for tourists:
• Dau Go (Wooden Stakes cave) – large cavern consisting of three underground halls
• Thien Cung – one of the most beautiful caves, 130 m long, impressive image of the characters stories
• Sung Sot – most visited cave on the island of Bo Hon, 3 halls, another cave Hang Bo Nau
• Trong (Drum Cave) – named after the sound of distant drums, visitors hear the sound when there is a wind
• Luon – about 3 km northeast of Sung Sot cave
• Trinh Nu – close to the Trong Cave, also called the „Romantic Cave“
• Tam Cung – on an isolated May Den island, 5 km northeast of Sung Sot Cave
• Ba Ham – the most distant caves in Ha Long Bay, Dau Be Island in Lan Ha Bay
• Thien Long (Dragon Cave) – this cave is on Cat Ba Island
There are another caves in Ha Long Bay, not all are written here. Some of the caves are not open for tourists and some have been discovered more recently.
Planning to stay on a ship in Ha Long? Carefully consider a selection.
Ha Long Bay attracts large numbers of tourists from all over the world throughout the year. If you come here, be careful with the selection of a boat. It is better to choose a smaller boat with a smaller number of tourists and cruise for two days. You will see so much more and you will experience the true authenticity of this magical place.
You can also use some cruise ships which you can come across in the ports. It is possible to take a cruise for a few hours or a whole day. Then you can also sleep on one of the habitable islands.
Do you want to take a 1 day only cruise in Ha Long Bay?
You can ask for a fee one of the local fishermen to take you , they can take you in Ha Long Bay on shorter trips. This trip with the locals sometimes surpasses expectations, it avoids the tourist crowds and maybe you’ll learn more than with a tourist tour.
One of the several places in Vietnam where th „Kong: Skull Island“ movie was filmed.
Ha Long Bay, one of the several locations in Vietnam, where the movie Kong: Skull Island (2017) was filmed in 2015-2016. Some places of the Ha Long Bay scenes are: Ngoc Vung Island, Sung Sot Cave, Thien Cung Cave and Ba Hang area. All are marked on the map below this article. It’s not the first time that this bay was used for filming. Other films filmed in Ha Long Bay: Pan (2015), James Bond (1997), Indochina (1992).
QUAN LAN Island is a good alternative without too many tourists.
Quan Lan Island is located in Bai Tu Long Bay, and its total area is approximately 11 square kilometers. Quan Lan was in the 11th century a bustling port designed mainly for international trade between Vietnam and other countries. Many remains related to trading activities have been found here. There is also a preserved temple from the 18th century with an interesting architectural design.
If you want to swim its no problem, there are 3 beaches for swimming – Quan Lan, Son Hao Minh Chau. These beaches are untouched by tourists compared to other beaches in Ha Long Bay. Accommodation in Quan Lan is possible in guesthouses or dormitories. Prices are from approximately 10 to 30 USD per room. There is also a good hotel on Minh Chau beach – Minh Chau resort. The best way to get to Quan Lan island is from the port of Cai Rong, where you can catch boats. The journey takes approximately 1 hour.
Tra Ban is the large island north of the Quan Lan island. It is a place without tourists. If you go on a trip to Tra Ban island its worth knowing there is no accommodation here. The island is covered by jungle and hilly and rocky cliffs. This island is best mainly for ship sightseeing trips. You can visit also Co To island.
💰 Prices for transport in Halong Cat Ba, Quan Lan:
• bus from the Gia Luan port > Cat Ba town – 25,000 dongs
• ferry/boat from the Tuan Chau island > Cat Ba island – 70,000 dongs
• taxi from the bus station in Ha Long city > Tuan Chau island – 100,000 dongs
• bus from Tuan Chau island > Van Don (Cai Rong port) – 30,000 dongs
• ferry/boat from Cai Rong port > Quan Lan island – 100,000 dongs
• ferry/boat from Ha Long port > Quan Lan island – 200,000 dongs
• ferry/boat from Hai Phong town > Cat Ba island – 150 – 250,000 dongs
How to get to Ha Long Bay and Hai Phong:
1. Direct bus from Hanoi to Ha Long town (My Dinh and Yen Nghia bus stations in Hanoi), end bus station is Bai Chay in Ha Long. The buses from My Dinh bus stop are comfortable and they are only about 1 USD more expensive (price 4 USD). You can use also luxury bus service – find them on Baolau.
2. Direct bus from Hanoi to Hai Phong (Nuoc Ngam or Gia Lam bus stations in Hanoi), end bus station is in Niem Nghia (Hai Phong). Hoang Long bus company with the comfortable buses drives every 20 minutes. One-way ticket costs about 4-5 USD – buy them on Baolau.
3. Train from Hanoi to Haiphong (use a search engine of transport links Baolau or 12go.asia, here you can buy train tickets). You can take a boat from Haiphong to the biggest island in Ha Long Bay – Cat Ba.
Weather in Ha Long Bay:
The weather in Ha Long Bay has two different periods. There is the typical coastal climate and the monsoon season.
• hot and humid with rains (April – September)
• dry season with a few cold months (October – March)
The average temperature in Ha Long Bay is 23 °C. In the summer the temperatures can reach up to 35 °C. In the summer months you can also get typhoons and the most precipitation falls. Winter season in Ha Long Bay can be very cold, and the temperature may fall to 13 °C. It is not very convenient to travel to Ha Long Bay in the winter months (especially December, January) and summer (July and August). Weather in Ha Long Bay, however, can be unpredictable at any time. When there is very heavy rainfall or typhoon conditions boat trips around the bay can be stopped. September and October are the best months for visiting Ha Long Bay.
➜ Current weather in Ha Long Bay
Accommodation in Ha Long:
Ha Long has a lot of accomodation of various categories. Cheaper hostels, luxury hotels but also guesthouses . It is not a problem to quickly find some hotel or hostel on this place, but also in nearby islands.
➜ Accommodation in Ha Long – AGODA.com
Places of Interest in Ha Long Bay:
• Nui Bai To sightseeing top
• Sun World Ha Long park (cable car, wax museum, ferris wheel…)
• Ba Vang buddhist temple (35 km from the town of Ha Long)
• Yen Tu mountain (50 km from the town of Ha Long)
• sightseeing flight above the Ha Long Bay from the Tuan Chau Island (Hai Au Aviation)
• Dau Go, Thien Cung, Sung Sot, Trong caves
• Quan Lan Island, Tra Ban Island, Co To Island
• Cat Ba Island (caves a national park), Dau Be, Cong Tay, Cong Do islands
• hospital cave in Cat Ba Island
• Lan Ha Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay and Monkey Island
• Haiphong port
• cruise boat or kayaking
• deserted and magical beaches in the islands
• floating villages