Halong Bay – The Land of Descending Dragon
Halong Bay has located in Quang Ninh Province 160 km from Hanoi, in the Gulf of Tonkin, and is undeniably one of the must-visit postcard-worthy landmarks of Vietnam. In 1994 Halong Bay was by right granted the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just imagine over 1,500 km2 of serenity and emerald sea and over 2000 limestone islets covered with lush green jungles and towering above the waters. The islets are so pristine, that during their 500 million years long history, many of them have never been touched by a human. Intrigued?
Make sure to add this unmatched nature creation of enigmatic origin to your Vietnam travel itinerary. To make your planning easier, we’ve collected all that you need to know in this Ultimate Guide to Halong Bay .
A trip to remember awaits!
Halong Bay is located in Northern Vietnam, where the weather changes from season to season and from month to month. There is no right or wrong time to visit Halong Bay. However, to ensure your best experience, consider this seasonal breakdown:
February – April. In spring, the view is more romantic than ever. Not only do flowers burst into bloom, but this is also the time when most ramble through and tincture the sea-scape (and especially the caves!) with the special atmosphere. Don’t forget a sweater. The temperature holds around 18-24 degrees Celsius, coupled with humidity can feel quite chilly.
May–August. Summers in Northern Vietnam are hot, humid and generously washed with tropical downpours. If you take a tour of Halong Bay around this time, there are two possible scenarios. One – you will enjoy the scenic landscape highlighted with the bright sunshine. It will be scorchingly hot, but worry not – the sea breeze and dives will keep you refreshed! Scenario number two is less pleasant: the occasional storm might lay down its own rules, so keep the plan B for the day!
September – October. In the autumn, the temperature slightly drops, the rainfall stops and the sky clears up, which makes it a perfect time for comfortable traveling. The misty landscape, similar to that in the spring will mesmerize you.
November – January. The temperature is normally no higher than 19 degrees Celsius. You can’t take a refreshing dive into the emerald waters, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider visiting Halong Bay in winter! At this season, you will be enchanted by totally different settings, unmatched beauty and tranquility of the sights.
You can take the easy route and book a complete cruise tour to Halong Bay through a travel agency, then the transfer bus will pick you up from your hotel in Hanoi and save you of choosing, booking, and calculating. If you’re a more independent kind of traveler, there are a few options for you.
There are numerous bus services you can book your trip with. On average the ride takes 3.5-4 hours. The average price range is 5 to 20 USD (or higher for private vehicles), depending on the type of bus and the route. You can choose between Tuan Chau, Bai Chay, or Halong as your destination. In either case, upon arrival, you’ll have to take a bus, ferry, or taxi.
There is a direct train between Hanoi and Halong. It’s cheaper, 3 – 4 USD, but takes longer, about 6.5 hours.
The car or bike ride can be quite tedious, given the duration (no less than 3 hours) and frequently, poor condition of the roads. But the advantage of this option is that you are free to stop anywhere and at any time you want to rest or have a look at other interesting spots along the way.
Within the scope of affordable, this is the most extravagant, yet the fastest and most scenic ride you can take. The seaplane fits up to 12 passengers who can admire different perspective views on Halong Bay through the large windows.
If you are in the South and too limited in time to move slowly across the country, there are opportunities to cut the way and get to Halong Bay sooner.
The planes depart regularly between Tan Son Nhat Airport and Cat Bi Airport in Hai Phong province, which is the closest one to your destination. The airport is around 70km away from Halong Bay, so you’ll have to catch a bus once you land. Alternatively, you can fly to Hanoi (here, see above).
Over thirty hours of drive separate Ho Chi Minh City from Halong Bay. You can rent a car, book a sleeper bus or take a train. Yet, we wouldn’t say that these options will end up cheaper than taking a plane, given the ongoing expenses you’ll have along the way.
Comparatively short and inexpensive. Depending on the provider, different activities will be included besides observing the Halong Bay seascapes: kayaking, swimming, visiting the fishing village, etc. Great choice if you’re short on time but still want to see the most of Halong Bay.
Costly, yet they are the most popular choice among travelers. Longer time means less haste and more impressions and activities. And you can’t imagine what meeting the sunset in one of the world’s most fascinating nature sites is!
Vietnamese junk boat.
What is a junk boat? It is a traditional sailing ship, that originated in the 2nd century AD in China. The design and construction have naturally undergone minor changes throughout history, but you can still travel under their signature sails up to the present day.
Modern ships and boats.
The travel experience on these boats will be less authentic, but at the same time more comfortable. You can expect newer facilities, more spacious cabins and decks, and the ‘lux’ vibe.
All the cruises generally follow the same itinerary. The difference is the duration and number of activities, and the order (to avoid crowds at each site at a time).
The routes can include:
Most of the tourists seek to see Halong Bay, the most iconic site in Northern Vietnam. But in fact, it’s just one of many “bays”. We’d recommend you search for cruises that include Cat Ba Island, Lan Ha Bay, and/or Bai Tu Long Bay. They are not only on par with their beauty with their more famous “brother” Halong Bay. They can also be nicer to observe overall. You won’t see the same flocks of tourists and will have a chance to fully enjoy the pristine nature.
When it comes to the question “what to eat in Halong Bay?”, the exact location of the town is self-explanatory. Generations of fishermen in the surrounding villages have “lived on” the water, either literally or metaphorically, which resulted in numerous local seafood specialties. Today, hardly any tourist can resist trying the fish, oysters, crabs,, and other marine creatures that are just a step away from the sea to the plate!
The most famous example of Halong cuisine. Fresh oysters are carefully washed and grilled. And pepper and lemon sauce, spring onions, chili, and lemongrass add an extra boost of flavor.
Luxury is made affordable when you visit the fishing villages of Halong! You might get overwhelmed with all kinds of lobster dishes, but we’d recommend you start with the classic steamed recipe to experience its naturally delicious taste.
Something unexpected. You might have seen these small but stone-firm shells paste all over rocks or ships in the sea but never consider them edible. It takes effort and a heavy hammer to rend the layer of “ha” off the surface and crack the hard shells, but the hard work pays off with a hearty bowl of soup.
This marine creature looks like it has come to your plate from prehistoric times. The dishes with horseshoe crab are diverse, from more or less simple fried legs to crab eggs, to intricate salads, to “blood pudding”.
Otherwise known as “grilled chopped squid” or squid sausage or squid cake. For this dish, squid is ground manually, mixed with seasoning and fried until golden and crunchy. Typically it comes with boiled rice or a steamed rice cake, a handful of greens, and a special sauce to dip the pieces.
When raw, this animal?fish?worm? looks suspicious, if not to say unappealing. But give it a try and you will know what was on the menu of the richest people back in time. With the variety of ways to cook it, you will find a “Sa Sung” for yourself – boiled, dried, or fried with lemongrass and spices.
Surely, no matter the time, no matter the schedule, Halong is always the dream destination of tourists. Halong has many beautiful hotels to relax and experience. For the convenience of your stay, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the world’s natural wonders.
Hopefully, the above useful The Ultimate Guide To Halong Bay will help you have the most perfect trip!