Halong Bay: A Luxury Travel Guide To Natural Wonder Of Vietnam

by Quynh Anh
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Halong Bay is a floating world with a completely different ecological system of its own that deserves your admiration. Cuddling in the northeastern territory of Vietnam near the Chinese border, Halong Bay is a UNESCO recognized World Natural Heritage Site that welcomes millions and millions of tourists every year from all across the globe.

Why? Okay, let’s go through a brief overview of Halong Bay to see why it is so admiring.

Halong Bay features a cluster of more than 1600 limestone pillars and small primeval islands jutting out of the emerald waters of Gulf of Tonkin. This spectacular seascape is a result of karst evolution, some 300 million years ago. Its mystical allure and magical beauty are highly admirable. So many tourists fly to Vietnam just to experience Halong Bay. The tour can be for a day or two or maybe a complete offbeat exploration. Halong Bay is also one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Halong bay tour is a must to enjoy itinerary in Vietnam. Its ethereal beauty has made it the number one tourist destination in any Vietnam tour. Many of these limestone mountains are hollows forming around 100 caves in this region. Only a few of these are open for tourists as the rest are still unexplored.

Halong Bay, your must-see destination in Vietnam

Have you ever visited a diamond craftsman center where uneven diamond pieces remain scattered everywhere on his work table? You will experience exactly the same view in your Halong Bay tour, where miles and miles of Gulf of Tonkin offers the beauty of scattered limestone caves, islands, and grottoes. Absolutely flawless and pure, these jungle clad structures soaring out of the water offers a picture-perfect view that gradually disappears towards the horizon leaving behind just the impression of the alpine outline. As the dusk sets in, the last daylight hides behind the gigantic karst limestones. The most amazing charm of Halong Bay starts reflecting its beauty to gift you a once-in-a-lifetime sunset view and evening experience on the sundeck. Just to experience this after-sunset beauty, many tourists prefer Halong Bay overnight cruise.

Halong Bay Sunset

Halong Bay Sunset

Besides its captivating view from the top of Poem Mountain (Nui Bai Tho- Vietnamese name), Cannon Fort or Titop Island, you can actually experience the mountains and caves by exploring them physically and witnessing the magnificence of naturally formed stalagmites and stalactites during your Halong Bay tour. According to researchers, these limestone structures have formed as a result of 3000 years of chemical reactions between limestone sedimentary rocks and water.

So, it is 100% natural. And when it took so many years to get into its present shapes, won’t you feel, it is worthy to experience such a natural yet dynamic location on earth?

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Halong Bay Tour- Top Attractions in Halong

With thousands of wind-and-water eroded mountains and caves, Halong Bay Vietnam stands almighty in the South China Sea. Halong Bay is the central area of the entire karst zone. It is encircled by Bai Tu Long Bay in the northeast and Cat Ba archipelago in the southwest. Amongst these thousands, explorers have named many mountains and caves but many are still waiting for the first human visit. Halong Bay is very much extensive and diversified in terms of beauty and adventure. You can spend the entire duration of your Vietnam trip for a week or fortnight on Halong Bay tours if you want to explore it explicitly.

So check out this list where you can actually go and experience the purest forms of Halong Bay.

Halong Bay

Vietnam tour is never considered as complete without visiting Halong Bay. A natural wonder, a UNESCO heritage site and on top of everything, the most stunning natural landscape in Southeast Asia that is sure to enthrall you. Halong Bay is an extensive region in Gulf of Tonkin with numerous limestone structures, very few of which are named. So check out some of the important sightseeing destinations in Halong Bay which you can never afford to miss while on Halong Bay tour.

Sung Sot Cave

Sung Sot cave or Surprise cave is named so because of the bizarre stalactite structures that had been formed for million years inside the cave to surprise every man who visits here for the first time. This cave is located on Bo Hon Island. The way towards the cave is quite steep and dark because of thick plantation and foliage, however, once entered, it is a distinctive world.  The cave features two chambers, the first one looks like a wide theatre hall while the inner one seems like a centuries-old desolate castle with unusual stalactite formations resembling a number of animals, army general with troops etc. The second chamber is so wide that it can accommodate more than a thousand people at a time.

As you head towards the deepest point of the cave, you will discover a fascinating world with a clear pool, surrounded by a number of trees. This part is often known as the royal garden by the locals as you will see a lot of birds flying from one branch to another and if you are lucky enough, you can also meet a group of monkeys enjoying fresh garden fruits.

Thien Cung Cave

The other name of this cave is Heaven cave and you can analyze the name from different angles once you visit here. You will also love to describe Thien Cung Cave as a natural art museum as well. The stalagmites and stalactites artfully formed different shapes and figures to represent different phases of human life, animals and as a whole a complete legendary tale. This cave is very closely related to Vietnamese mythological legend that narrates a sad love story which begins with a happy wedding but ends with a separation where 100 children of the couple are also divided equally between the parents. The mother donated one of her breasts to feed the children with their father. This relates to the naturally formed fountain inside this cave and a small stream. This is probably the most spectacular cave in Halong Bay, mostly because of its artistic formations.

Fighting Cock Islet

Immerse yourself in the magic of limestone architecture while you are on your Halong Bay tour. You will gladly accept the name of this island as it actually resembles the scene of two fighting cocks, ready to start their battle. If you pass by this Trong Mai or Fighting Cock Islet during sunset, you will enjoy the celestial view of the rocks turning red because of setting sun reflection, which is somewhat similar to cock’s comb and there this islet gets its name.

Fighting Cock Halong Bay

Fighting Cock Halong Bay

Cua Van Floating Village

A unique world of its own where people born and their entire lives on the water. Cua Van is a floating village with a community of around 170 families, mostly living on fishing. Small kids here in this village learn how to row a boat or swim in the sea water before they even turn 5 years old. There is only one primary school in this village and all these homes and schools are built on water. In recent times, a few families are actively involved in the tourism industry and offer floating homestays to tourists. So if you really want to live like a local in this Cua Van Floating Village during your Halong Bay tour, you can opt for a homestay in this small floating world.

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Cat Ba Island

The biggest island in Halong Bay, Cat Ba Island is the center of attraction for tourists in Cat Ba archipelago. The highest point of this island rises up to 331m above sea level. The entire island is dotted with a number of lakes, waterfalls, and grottoes. Comparatively less crowded than Halong Bay, but in the recent years, the island witnessed a lot of footprints as most of the luxury travelers of today’s date look for off-beat destinations and Cat Ba is one of such off-beat part of Halong Bay that offers a lot apart from cruising, swimming and relaxing on its exotic beaches. Cat Ba cruise is an extended part of your Halong Bay tour.

Cat Ba Island

Cat Ba Island

Cannon Fort

A piece of human-made ancient history lies in the heart of this less-explored wild island. Cannon Fort is situated in the heart of Cat Ba Town which was developed by the Japanese during World War II but, later used by the French and Vietnamese as well. It’s highly thrilling to explore the underground tunnels and well-designed gun emplacements.  There is a small museum to narrate the historic stories and evidence.

Oh, not to forget, you are in Cat Ba right now! Enjoy the view of the island and karst-punctuated sea all around from the top of the Cannon Fort.

Cat Ba National Park

Time to explore Jurassic Park of your imagination. Featuring a wide range of flora and fauna including the most endangered primate on earth, golden-headed langur, Cat Ba National Park is a home to 32 species of mammals, 70 species of birds and many other animals. If you are an avid trekker, nothing can stop you from spending a day hiking through the majestic landscape of this Cat Ba National Park while enjoying the beauty of sub-tropical vegetation along with prolific mangrove plantations around the freshwater Ech Lake.

Hospital Cave

Situated on the way to Cat Ba National Park, Hospital Cave is a natural cave which was tactfully designed and utilized by Viet Cong soldiers as a bomb-proof safe hospital zone. This 3-story hospital within the cave was designed during American War between 1963 and 1965 to house 17 cabins, one operating theatre, and a huge natural cavern. In today’s date, this historic site is being presented beautifully with mannequins to narrate the historic tale to the tourists.

Cat Ba Beaches

Besides these three important attractions, Cat Ba Island also presents a number of idyllic beaches like Cat Co 1, 2 and 3, Tung Thu and Pineapple Cat Beach on Monkey Island, which is a small island, just 2 km away from Cat Ba. Pineapple Beach stretches for 1 km only but is one of the best beaches in Halong. This beach is still very less explored and hence its tranquil and peaceful ambiance is mostly enjoyed by high-end luxury travelers to whom experience is more valued than anything else.

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Bai Tu Long Bay

Unleash your inner Robin Hood and set off for Bai Tu Long Bay which is a less traveled destination in this entire karst limestone region. Bai Tu Long Bay covers 3/4th part of entire Halong Bay and even today, a larger part of it is still unexplored. Luxury cruises do offer this off-the-beaten trip to Bai Tu Long Bay to create unique experiences for its sophisticated travelers. Being a less traveled destination, most parts of this area still inherits its primeval look with pristine natural beauty.

So if you are at Bai Tu Long Bay, you can actually explore a number of destinations, both natural and cultural and every experience is worth to be well-treasured.

Emperor Cruises Bai Tu Long Bay

Emperor Cruises at Bai Tu Long Bay

Quan Lan Island

With a few simple hotels having basic lifestyle amenities to make you experience a day very close to nature, complementing ancient human lifestyle, Quan Lan Island presents the most beautiful Minh Chau Beach extending for over 1 km. Crystal clear azure sea with sparkling waves adds an exciting spree to the most popular watersports here like kayaking and surfing. If you are bored with a lot of beach fun and looking for a switchover, make a trip to 200-year-old Quan Lan Pagoda that worships, Buddha, God Lieu Hanh along with the shrine of two other local men who had great contributions towards building this temple and saving the island from invaders.

Co To Island

The outermost circle of Bai Tu Long Bay presents the remotest inhabited island in Halong Bay, the Co To Island. This is the only island in this entire zone that houses the maximum number of beautiful beaches. Unlike other islands in this bay, this island mostly enjoys domestic tourists. Still, an unknown destination for foreign tourists, Co To Island can be your off-the-beaten-track in Halong Bay tour in Vietnam.

Bai Tu Long National Park

A home to many genres of flora and fauna, Bai Tu Long National Park is less polluted and in its original form. If you are in Bai Tu Long Bay trip, ensure that you pay a visit to this natural habitat center where nature has a lot to showcase in its purest form. Enjoy the wilderness amidst the assortment of tropical flora and fauna.

Vung Vieng Fishing Village

Get off from your luxury junk and board the bamboo boats to drift through Vung Vieng Fishing Village slowly and experience the local lifestyle. This village is a home to 30 families only and they live their daily lives in floating homes. It is a unique experience that you will miss otherwise.

Ngoc Vung Island

If you love the romance in nature, a visit to a small island in Van Don archipelago, Ngoc Vung Island is a must. It takes around 5 hours from Halong harbor to reach this beautiful island where mountain bikes wait for the tourists to explore the quirky landscape of the island. The mountainous line merges the blue sea in a picturesque way offering you a picture-perfect view to get it framed in your memory forever.

Van Don Island

The largest as well as the most inhabited island of Bai Tu Long Bay and Van Don archipelago, Van Don Island has a number of beautiful beaches along with a small town to offer you a city life kind of feel.

Lan Ha Bay

Very close to Cat Ba Island, Lan Ha Bay is relatively smaller in size as compared to its famous neighbors like Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bays. But this place is far more magical than the formers with a series of idyllic beaches, caves, and mountains. Here you can actually enjoy the spirit of an adventurer or explorer. Owing to its beautiful stretches of emerald water, Lan Ha Bay is also popular as a paradise for kayaking. Compared to other popular destinations in Halong Bay tour, Lan Ha Bay is still less popular among tourists and offers an unspoiled beauty to enjoy your closeness to nature and its wonderful creations.

In short, experience a super energetic tour in Lan Ha Bay that is sure to pump your adrenaline.

Getting around Halong Bay

Be it a traditional route to Halong or the off-the-beaten way, luxury travelers always look for customized trips that let you explore and experience each of the destinations in a unique and personalized way, that no one has ever experienced. Luxury Travel can be described as valued experiences that are unlike the mass travelers and so often, leading a simple lifestyle in one of the isolated islands of Halong Bay is also considered a luxury.

But how to travel Hanoi to Halong and experience the karst landscape?

There are three most special modes of transport for you to let you plunge into the splendor of the karst edifices of Halong. Halong Bay is 180 km away from Hanoi and so road transport takes nearly three and a half hours to reach the harbor, but when it is flights to Halong, time shortens into just 45 minutes.

Which one will you prefer to experience Halong Bay- Seaplane Tour, Helicopter Tour or Luxury Cruise?

1.    Halong Bay Seaplane Tour

Save time and energy for the next episodes in Halong where there is a lot waiting for your exploration. You will be enjoying a luxury limousine transport to Noi Bai International Airport, Hanoi from your hotel in Hanoi and there you will be boarding the largest single-engine floatplane that can fly on any waterway as well as speed up on any runway. Yes, it is the Cessna Caravan C208 which is the most reliable, fuel-efficient and safest seaplane, the world has ever seen.

Just 45 minutes fly to reach Halong and there the first glimpse of the bird’s eye view of the karst punctuated Halong Bay is sure to mesmerize you. Enjoy and capture the thrilling moments as and when your seaplane glides down amidst the limestone mountains during your Halong Bay seaplane tour to splash the jade sea water of the bay and again fly high. Halong Bay seaplane tour is an entirely new level of luxury and experience.

Halong Bay Seaplane Tour

Halong Bay Seaplane Tour

Sophisticated planning and intricate design of this seaplane allow excellent tourism sightseeing. Its large windows offer an unparalleled view of the surrounding. This is a 12-seater plane which offers all its passenger seats next to the large windows. Two pilots will make you experience Halong like a bird before landing and getting into your luxury junk for next phases of Halong exploration. Hai Vu Aviation offers this service. You have the option to choose the return trip to Hanoi by seaplane or luxury limousines. Halong Bay seaplane tour is a must try to explore this UNESCO World Natural Heritage from a completely new angle.

2.    Halong Bay Helicopter Tour 

Experience the mystic of limestone clusters by Charter Helicopter that allows you to enjoy the aerial view of extensive Halong Bay, which is otherwise not possible through cruising experience. A luxury transfer to Gia Lam airbase from your hotel in Hanoi city center will not take more than 20 minutes. Your charter helicopter to Halong will be waiting for you there which will take around 45 minutes to offer you the magical glimpses of the protruding limestone cliffs and mountains sprouting out of the sea water in Gulf of Tonkin. This Halong Bay helicopter tour is the quintessence of your entire Halong experience. Its up and down route through varied altitudes amidst the natural wonders will make you enjoy a cinematic yet exhilarating experience.

This MI8 helicopter offers two kinds of accommodations- 5-seater and 12-seater, depending on the size of the group you are accompanying. Both the helicopters offer all window seats to enjoy an unprecedented aerial view of Halong. This magical experience will be followed by another exciting cruising experience through the entire region and of course, you can customize your Halong Bay cruise tour depending on the destinations mentioned above. The helicopter tour will end at Halong Heliport on General Giap’s Hill from where your cruising experience will begin. You are free to select your return trip to Hanoi by either the same airway or road transport.

Compared to Halong Bay helicopter tour, the seaplane Halong tour adds a different dimension to your experience. Unlike the helicopter, it will make you glide through water surface while the splashing the sea water. However, both the tours have its unique aspect and are undoubtedly the best Halong Bay tours you will ever experience.

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3.    Halong Bay Luxury Cruises

Helicopter and seaplane tours to Halong Bay are always recommended because no other means of transport can offer you such a heavenly aerial view. But ultimately you have to set off for your real adventure on a luxury junk to cruise through the mountains and caves and grottoes. There are a number of Halong Bay luxury cruises like Grayline, Indochina Sails Junk, Red Dragon, Premium Valentine and many more to list down. But for best Halong Bay cruise experience, Emperor Cruises is incomparable. The artful design and enhanced craftsmanship of Emperor Cruises reflect the richness of ultimate luxury and royalty to make you feel like an emperor amidst the prehistoric natural wonders. Besides the grandeur of its interior décor, an onboard art museum,  royal hospitality is their key feature that they extend towards every guest.

Enjoy every bit of Halong while you are onboard at Emperor Cruises and their in-house staff will take care of the rest. Emperor Cruises Halong not only offers you the conventional Halong tour but also takes you off the route to explore the untouched beauty of this region.

So in Halong, you can actually fly like a bird or glide down to board a cruise. Be a fictional adventurer of your dreams from the pages of your childhood book.

Emperor Cruises Halong

View of Halong from Emperor Cruises

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Halong Bay Day Trip or an Overnight Cruise, how long do you want to stay

Hopefully, you won’t spend your entire vacation to Vietnam tour in Halong Bay, unless you are very much obsessed with the enigmatic allure of Halong Bay. So on an average, travelers generally go for a Halong Bay overnight cruise, which sometimes extends to 2-3 days. Halong Bay day trips are also quite popular for travelers with limited time. But if it is the conventional Halong Bay tour package, then the time span will be minimum of 2 days. You can easily customize your trip to Halong Bay, Cat Ba or Bai Tu Long Bay and other remote islands.  The duration of your stay amidst the natural wonders depends on the destinations and activities you want to experience.

Generic Itinerary for Halong Bay Overnight Cruise

Day 1:

On the way to Halong Bay from Hanoi, the guide will brief you about the day’s plan. You will start visualizing the most iconic destinations in your Halong Bay junk boat cruise. Once you reach the harbor, the luxury cruise will welcome you with a soothing welcome drink. Soon your luxury junk will start drifting through the rippling azure water, revealing new scenes at every angle.

The first visit will be at the Cua Van Floating Village. Here, you can enjoy a bamboo boat ride or kayak by yourself. While enjoying onboard fresh seafood lunch, you will admire the beauty of Fighting Cock, Duck Island etc. These are small islets naturally formed in the shape of certain animals. Finally, your cruise will anchor near Thien Cung Cave. It takes nearly an hour to explore this cave. Back to cruise, you will enjoy light snacks onboard to energize yourself for the next activities. Ride on bamboo boats or enjoy kayaking on your own. Glide through the small dark caves and grottoes to discover the bountiful creativity of nature. Enjoy the sunset from the deck. Halong Bay sunset is one of the non-compromising moments in your Halong Bay overnight cruise tour.

The evening gifts you a magical ambiance with a twinkling star-studded clear sky above. Huge limestone caves surround your Halong Bay luxury junk from all around. You will be enjoying a cooking class on the sundeck. You can try squid fishing with the crew and then cook the same squids in your collection. Enjoying spa and massage or enjoying some indoor games are some of the other activity options for your evening entertainment. Later, enjoy a lavish dinner on sundeck under the night sky before diving into one of the most luxurious rooms.

Day 2:

The next days begins with a mystic scenery. The beauty of Halong Bay seems heavenly as the dawn sets in. The first ray of sunlight kisses each of the mountains one by one. You can practice tai chi and yoga on the sundeck to start the day with positive vibes. After breakfast, you will be on one of the first explored caves in Halong Bay, the Sung Sot cave. A French explorer discovered this cave in 1901. This will be the final destination in your Halong Bay overnight cruise. Before bidding you a goodbye, you will enjoy an onboard buffet brunch.

This Halong Bay itinerary is just a sample sketch out. However, your period of stay and your destination preferences will help in planning Halong tours.

Halong Bay Hotels, where to stay

Halong Bay tour packages generally include overnight stays on cruises. But some travelers also look for hotel accommodations and in that case, Halong City is the best option. Tuan Chau Marina is the nearest pier to Halong City and is well accessible within a few minutes. There are multiple numbers of luxury hotels and resorts in Halong City. So, booking the same will not be an issue based on your preference. Very few tourists look for hotel accommodations while on Halong Bay tour. Halong Bay hotels are mostly dependent on business travelers and so bookings are easily available.

Halong Bay Travel Tips

  •          Take your time to unwind the charm of Halong Bay because Halong Bay day tour or overnight cruise is not enough to discover the purest beauties of Halong
  •          Be on your safety jackets while swimming, kayaking or bamboo boat ride
  •          Swim only in those areas as instructed by your travel guide
  •          Follow the other safety instructions as guided by your travel guide
  •          Don’t be too desperate to kayak through unknown areas because there are many islands that are uninhabited and might welcome unwanted dangers

About Luxury Travel Ltd.

luxury travel

Luxury Travel Ltd. is the first luxury tour operator in Vietnam. It has won a number of national and international accreditations and awards because of its high-end travel services that are touching hearts of thousands of travelers for the last 15 years. Luxury Travel Vietnam offers 100% private and tailor-made holiday packages to Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries. So the Halong Bay tour packages by Luxury Travel Vietnam also stand out in the crowd. Halong Bay day tour, overnight cruise or a week-long trip for an intense exploration of this karst limestone wonder site! Which one do you want to enjoy? Share your needs with the travel experts of Luxury Travel Vietnam. The experienced team will take care of the rest to gift you an unforgettable vacation.

So if you are planning a complete Vietnam trip, or exclusively a Halong Bay tour, get in touch with us here.

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