Ha Long Bay is definitely a must-see attraction in Vietnam, and we highly recommend to add it to your Vietnam travel itinerary.
In 1994, Ha Long was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It’s easy to see why. The area is surrounded by natural limestone and forest formations, caves and grottoes along with beautiful hidden and pristine sandy beaches for you to explore. Ha Long Bay is a home to some 1,600 limestone islands and islets and covers an area of more than 1,500 square km or 600 square miles!
These days, more and more visitors from all over the world come to visit Ha Long Bay. Here we would like to share with you the essential information for the first visit to this natural wonder.
I. Time to visit
While it is possible to visit Ha Long Bay year-round, it’s wise to take note about the weather when booking your trip. It will help you to have the best holiday possible.
Ha Long Bay is located in the North of Vietnam and can experience tropical monsoon-type weather. Ha Long Bay has four distinct seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. However, for trip planning, it is most important to know about the rainy season vs. dry season. From May to September it is hot with short-duration heavy rain. And from October to April is a dry season with cooler weather and little rainfalls. The rain will not always affect your trip to Ha Long Bay as the rains here are short in duration. However, in the case of very bad weather, cruises can cancel the trip to ensure the safety of their guests.
SPRING AND AUTUMN
Spring (February, March, April) and Autumn (September, October, November) is the best time to visit Ha Long Bay. At this time of the year the sea is calm and the water is fresh blue.
Winter (December, January) is a busy time with tourists from all over the world traveling during their Christmas and New Year’s holiday. Although this is the coldest time of the year, and you are not allowed to swim. There is little chance of rain as you are in the dry season.
Summer (May – September) – is the peak period for local tourists. Despite you may see the Bay crowded during the weekend, Ha Long Bay is quiet during the weekdays, which is a perfect time to visit. If you travel to Ha Long Bay in summer, you will have a chance to enjoy azure-blue water and relax on white-sand beaches in splendid seclusion. In addition to great weather and fewer crowds, taking a trip to Ha Long Bay during this time of year often means you can get a better deal on tours.
II. Type of tour
Ha Long Bay receives more than 6 million tourists each year. It is a popular destination not only in Vietnam, but also in Southeast Asia.
There are 3 main types of tours to Ha Long Bay:
- One day trip (8 hours)
- Two days one night trip staying overnight on a cruise
- Three days trip (2 nights staying on cruise or 1 night on cruise and 1 night on the island)
ONE DAY TRIP
A day trip lasts around 8 hours starting and ending in Hanoi. If you are limited in time, this is a good option not to miss this top experience in Vietnam. However, you may not fully enjoy the beauty of the landscape and fun activities in the bay with such a short excursion. A day trip includes about 2-3 hours transfer from and to Hanoi, thus, the most popular option is a 2-day trip.
2/3 DAY CRUISES
Two and three-day cruises around Ha Long Bay offer the perfect escape from the city. We’ve heard from our clients that the longer they are able to stay in Halong bay, the better their experience is at the end. Normally 2/3 days cruise tour will start from Hanoi. A bus or limousine will pick you up from your hotel and transfer you to the pier. From here you will begin the most breathtaking trip in the North of Vietnam.
When you board the cruise, you will enjoy delicious seafood and local meals lunch while watching the marvelous limestone rocks and grottoes stretching for as far as the eyes can see. Activities on the cruise, are mostly centered around relaxation, discovering secluded islets, visiting floating villages by sampan bamboo boat, swimming in the calm, blue waters of the bay, and , for the more adventurous, even kayaking. As the waters are typically calm in Ha Long Bay, a kayak trip is not challenging and is a great way to explore the area. Normally, most of cruises include kayaking in the itinerary, however some of them keep it s an optional activity with a surcharge. So this is definitely something to keep an eye for before booking your trip. If you book your tour with us, rest assured, kayaking is always included in our tours.
III. Routes In Ha Long Bay
Besides the duration and tour type, Ha Long Bay cruise itineraries can vary with different routes and places to see. In an effort to manage tourism in a sustainable way, the Ha Long Bay authorities has developed three distinct routes that cruise ships can utilize.
1. Route 1 – Highlights Include: Tien Ong cave, Cua Van fishing floating village, Three peach islands (an ideal place to kayak or swim), Viet Hai village (on Cat Ba island), Coc Cheo islet, Maze cave.
2. Route 2 – Highlights Include: Vung Vieng Fishing floating village, Tung Sau pearl farm, finger islet, Kong Skull Island, Dau Be island, Thien Canh Son.
3. Route 3 – Highlights Include: Titov beach, Ho Ba Ham islet, Surprise cave, Trinh nu cave, Luon cave, Cong Do island.
Besides the routes, Ha Long Bay is actually divided into three bays which can confuse travelers when choosing a tour. The three main bays of Ha Long Bay are: Ha Long Bay (the most common bay), Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Long bay.
- Ha Long Bay
This bay is known as “descending dragon” which name comes from a Vietnamese folk tale. This bay is the most common route for cruises and includes Surprise cave, Vung Vieng village and Titov island.
All of the one-day cruises will operate here, as well as some of the 2/3-day cruise tours. This is why, in peak season, the bay seems very busy and sometimes is not what travelers are expecting to see.
- Lan Ha Bay
Lan Ha Bay is located in the east of Cat Ba Island. It’s area is about 70 square kilometres (or 27 square miles). The biggest part of this area is under the jurisdiction of Cat Ba National Park. This is a gulf-shaped bay with 400 large islands which create a picturesque views that inspire many travelers when they think about a visiting Ha Long Bay.
- Bai Tu Long Bay
This bay includes less-known attractions, such as, Thay cave, Vung Vieng fishing village, Thien Canh Son cave, Ban Chan beach and Ang Du ara. But it doesn’t mean that this area is less beautiful, it is just the last to open for tourism. Don’t miss Bai Tu Long if you are seeking for a peaceful escape where tourists are few and far between.
So there you have it! Our best suggestions and tips for planning a trip to Halong Bay that fits with your travel preferences and style. Interested in learning more? Click here to contact us today and one of our representatives will be happy to talk to you about a custom trip to Ha Long Bay!