North Vietnam adventures in Halong Bay
Halong Bay highlights
Local legend says the bay's eye-widening geography was carved by a dragon's flailing tail, while geologists put it down to years of erosion. When you lay eyes on the enchanting emerald waters framed by towering pinnacles of craggy rock and rain forest, the scientific explanation feels harder to believe.
A typical cruise itinerary includes plenty of lounging, so that you have time to fully appreciate the beauty of the bay.
Cruising the bay
Halong Bay's warm, peaceful waters allow discovery to take the most relaxing of rhythms. Getting to your destination is often just as tranquil as lying out on the powdery white sand that greets you at the shore.
A two-day cruise around the bay comes with varying levels of luxury. For a taste of tradition, drift your way between the islands on a junk boat. Though often filled with modern luxuries, these boats with their rustic burgundy sails sit a little prettier against the mystic backdrop than western alternatives. The lavish cruise boats look more like floating five-star hotels, and you'll be pampered accordingly. A typical cruise itinerary includes plenty of lounging, so that you have time to fully appreciate the beauty of the bay.
If seclusion is more your kind of Zen, visit Lan Ha Bay on Cat Ba Island. More white sand, fewer tourist boats and scenery just as spectacular as the main bay make this a perfect spot for those seeking isolated beauty. Lan Ha is also home to various varieties of colourful wildlife, so keep your eyes peeled as you stroll or swim around.
Explore the shores
Cruises are the best way to see Halong Bay, but they're not all focused on relaxation. Some have a focus on adventure and exploration.
Many tours incorporate cave visits, where expansive caverns are beautifully illuminated to resemble theatre halls. The bay's waters have carved smooth walls and passageways over thousands of years, making exploring easier.
Sung Sot is the most famed of the bay's many grottoes and is worth seeing for its sheer size and natural grandeur. From the mouth of the cave you'll walk up a 100-step natural stone staircase that looks more fantasy than reality.
To get closer to Halong's array of limestone pinnacles than a boat can bring you, consider renting a kayak. You can manoeuvre beneath rocky overhangs and get an arm workout as you slide through the bay's emerald expanses. Or paddle ashore to get some real perspective on Halong's incredible geography with a hike. Tracks often lead to dizzying panoramic views of the bay.
Flavours of the bay
Halong Bay's magic isn't just found above the water's shimmering surface. There's an abundance of delicious sea life, plenty of which lands fresh on the dinner table. From innovative fusion menus to more traditional Vietnamese dining, you'll find a seafood restaurant that grabs you - and it's usually beachside.
Most of Halong Bay's restaurants are found on the mainland, but there are also some on the islands. Cat Ba and Duan Tuan Chau both offer accommodation options, as well as eateries. To delve deeper into Halong's seafood culture, try a night-time squid fishing expedition.
For something quite unique, find a tour that offers cave-dining. The caves' moody lighting caters to dreamy dinners and awe-inspiring banquets alike.