GET OFF THE BEATEN TRACK WITH HALONG BAY CRUISES
Are you searching for a place where you can leave all the chaos and stress of the daily life? Do you desire to immerse yourself in the wilderness of nature? Then Halong Bay is a must-visit destination that you should never miss.
1. Where is Halong Bay?
Nestled in the Gulf of Tonkin, just around 160 km from Hanoi, Halong Bay consists of more than 1,600 limestone islands and islets which are in varied shapes and sizes. It is a perfect model of karst formation with hundreds of caves and grottos which were created millions of years ago. Named “Halong” (the descending dragon), the Bay is said to be where a dragon family landed after having supported the country in fighting against the invaders and the limestone islets nowadays were the bodies of the dragons in the past.
Million years of evolution under different conditions and environments have left Halong Bay today with significant geological value and exceptionally breath-taking scenery. The limestone pillars topped by green forests, the turquoise sea water, the pristine beaches, and the marvelous grottos are such a huge appeal that it could capture travelers’ hearts from their very first meet. Millions of people from different corners of the world head their ways to the Bay each year, making Halong Bay the top tourism hub in Vietnam and Asia.
2. What does Halong Bay offer?
The attraction of Halong Bay is just so overwhelming to be true. It is a priceless gift that nature has blessed us. There is no wonder why this destination is voted to be one of the new Seven Wonders of Nature with resounding votes.
Exquisite natural settings of limestone islands on emerald waters
Taking a very first glimpse at Halong Bay, you will stand in awe when seeing a thousand green marks dotting the turquoise sea water of Tonkin Gulf. Magnificently, many of them are in special shapes that would make us think of the familiar things in our daily lives. For instance, in Cho Da Islet stand a sitting “stone dog”, which the Vietnamese believe to have protected the Bay for millions of years. Or “Trong Mai” Islet (Chicken Mate) – the landmark of Halong Bay resembles two chickens facing each other. To the north of the Bay is Oan Islet – a 22-meter high limestone islet that shapes like the traditional Vietnamese cake offered to the Buddha. Other easily-identified islets are Con Coc Islet which looks like a frog (“con coc” in Vietnamese is the equivalent to “frog”) and Ngon Cai Islet (Thumb Islet), which is like an enormous thumb in the middle of the sea. Taking a cruise on the emerald water of Halong will enable you to fully capture the wonderful creation of these islets with your bare eyes.
Magnificent caves and grottos
A Halong Bay trip also offers you the opportunities to enter a whole new word – a land that you can never imagine it could appear on earth. Inside the limestone islets exist hundreds of caves and grottos, which are of both enormous geological value and spectacular scenery. Plentiful as it is, only some of them are accessible by tourists. The magical natural creation, altogether with the colorful lights makes up a wonderful yet hard-to-believe scenery.
Sung Sot Cave
Always included in the itineraries of any Halong Bay cruises, Sung Sot Cave is absolutely a must-see spot for any Halong Bay group tours. Located on Bo Hon Island, Sung Sot Grotto is among the widest and finest grottos in this area. Following the steep and shady path upwards, you will enter the outer chamber, the walls of which are so smooth as if they are human-made products. Deeper inside is the inner chamber, where there are several formations of varying poses. Some look like trees and animals, some are like fairies, while some others shape like humans. There is even more to explore when you go deeper inside. The small ponds along with crumbled rocks are home to different species of plants and birds.
The scenery inside the cave is just so jaw-dropping that when the French visited here, they were so amazed that someone exclaimed “Grotto des Surprises” (equivalent to “surprising” in English and “sung sot” in Vietnamese”), which later on became the official name of this grotto.
Thien Cung Cave
This grotto is so awe-inspiring that is called “Heavenly Palace” (Thien Cung). Myth has it that a beautiful girl called “May” (cloud) fell in love with the Dragon King who lived in the cave. They celebrated their wedding here within 7 days with the attendance of gods, genies, fairies, and dragons (the stalactites and stalagmites that fill the cavernous halls shape like them). Also, somewhere in the cave, you can hear the drum-like sound in the celebration, which is indeed the natural wind blowing through the holes in the grottos. In the back of the cave are 3 small natural ponds, where May used to bath her 100 children. Looking even more beautiful with colorful lighting systems, Thien Cung Cave deserves to be one of the highlights of Halong Bay that any travelers should not ignore.
A Halong Bay Cruise cannot be complete without kayaking along the turquoise sea water of the east sea. It is considered one of the top things to do in Halong Bay that any travelers would be regretful to miss. That is why Luon Cave, which is not as beautiful as Sung Sot and Thien Cung caves, is always voted as the top favorite destination in this Bay.
Luon Cave is around 2 – 4 meters high, 60 meters long and can be crossed by small boats and kayaks only. Passing the cave, you will enter a picturesque round lagoon that is enclosed by steep stone walls and dense foliage. Entering the lagoon, you will be totally separated from the bustle and hustle of life and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere of Halong Bay.
Stunning Colgate-white beaches
Beach is an indispensable part of any cruises, and Halong Bay ones are not an exception. Most of the islands and beaches remained intact from human activities, thus retaining a pristine look that can satisfy even the toughest travelers.
The soft white sandbank and the transparent water of Halong Bay beaches are just too good to be true. Scrunching your toes, you can feel the softness of the sand, which is still damp from the retreating tide. The beach is even more poetic at dawn. The flaring hues of the sun melt into the sky and ocean like a divine painting. The forever stretching sea is masked with an apricot color, that beautiful umber flowing into turquoise. Admiring the wave overlap one another, sending the white bubbling crests descending, and masking the shore with the transparent water, visitors cannot help claiming how wonderful and peaceful can it be.
The pristine beaches on the Bay are just perfect for couples. Nothing is better than walking hand-in-hand with your loved one in such this beach in a Halong honeymoon tour, right? If you are traveling alone, don’t worry to think it would be boring, as your stress and fatigue will be all blown away with this mesmerizing scene.
A cannot-mention beach for any Halong Bay cruises is Titov beach. The beach is beautiful, clean, and suitable for different activities. More importantly, travelers can climb up the rocky mountain in the island to take a bird’s eye view of the Bay. The panoramic scene from Titov summit has been an endless inspiration for nature lovers and photography enthusiasts.
Friendly locals on floating villages and pearl farms
A Halong Bay cruise tour also enables travelers to get a deeper approach to the life of the lovely Vietnamese farmers on the floating villages. Touring the floating village you will have the opportunity to meet locals and see what it is like to live daily life right above the most beautiful emerald waters in the world.
On Halong Bay locates many floating villages, namely Ba Hang, Cua Van, Vung Vieng and Cong Dam. From the cruise, travelers will go aboard the rowboats to paddle out to these isolated villages where the locals warmly welcome outsiders to share glimpses into their special world. Sheltered amidst the spectacular limestone pillars, the floating villages are a true water world that rise and fall with the tides. Each village consists of 30 – 50 families with a population of around 200 – 600 people. The floating homes are tied together to protect against storms. Since it is quite hard to cultivate in such these rock island terrain, the farmers here mainly live on fishing and tourism activities. At an early age, the children in the villages learn to swim to and help their parents sustain the floating village they call home.
With a Halong Bay group tour, aside from the floating villages, visitors also venture off to see the cultivation of pearls at a nearby pearl farm. Though pearl cultivation has been a long tradition in Halong, the sharing of this process has been added to the cruising itineraries recently. Here you can witness the complicated process of making a valuable pearl from the first step of growing and harvesting a pearl to the process of making the shiny pearl necklace that everyone loves to wear.
3. When to travel to Halong Bay?
There are two distinct seasons in the north: a cold season from November to March and a hot wet season from April to October. It might be extremely cold and frosty in December and January. There might be also dense mists, which can reduce visibility in Halong Bay. However, from November to March is still considered the best time to travel to Halong Bay. It is dry and suitable for sightseeing journeys.
From April to October, it is very hot and humid. The north experiences the highest rainfall in this period, too. The unfavorable weather condition might make cruising inconvenient but if you want to explore the beauty of Halong Bay but cannot stand the huge flocks of tourists at peak seasons, coming in summer might be a great choice. Kayaking and diving into the cool sea water are not bad an idea for summer trips.
4. How to travel to Halong Bay?
It’s quite easy to travel there, honestly. It is only about 4 hours to drive from Hanoi to the docks along these beautiful bay waters. If you are traveling with Halong Bay cruise tour operators, they will care about your transferring. There will be shuttle buses to take you there.
Regarding how to choose a Halong Bay cruise, there is a variety of options. Choice is great but the multitude of tours on offer can be overwhelming. You must take everything into serious consideration such as accommodation, service, itinerary, brunch, onboard activities, and of course, price. Check out some reputable cruises like Margaret Cruises, Paradise Cruises, Emperor Cruises, etc. for a quick review. They commit to offering tourists the luxurious and joyful cruising experiences with 5-star vessels and first-class services.
Paying a visit to Halong Bay, you will be overwhelmed by the awe-inspiring seascapes and distinctive lifestyle of the locals here. Do not feel hesitated, just arrange your schedule, book a Halong Bay cruise tour, pack your luggage, and head your way to the Bay. The extraordinary beauty of Halong Bay will definitely leave you in awe.