Ha Long Bay or Vịnh Hạ Long in Vietnamese means descending dragon. This fascinating natural phenomenon is located in the northwest of Vietnam, in the province of Quảng Ninh. Ha Long Bay covers an area of 1,500 km2 and can be divided into central Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay which is close to Cat Ba Island and western Bai Tu Long Bay. The distance from Hanoi Noi Bai Airport to Ha Long is 160 kilometres and a car ride takes around 3 hours.
Ha Long Bay Facts
Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994. The area counts 1,969 islands/islets of limestone karsts. The limestones are about 500 million years old and spread over the northern arm of the South China Sea in the Gulf of Tonkin. Not many travellers skip the Ha Long Bay. Next to the Sapa rice fields, the history-packed city of Hué and Ho Chi Minh City, it is one of the top sights in Vietnam and for sure the highlight of every Vietnam trip. Although the number of tourists grows and one might have their environmental concerns, it is still possible to find the loneliness and beauty out there.
What is the best travel time to visit Ha Long Bay?
The good news is, Ha Long Bay can be visited all year around. The weather can be severe though and typhoons might lead to trip cancellation, but the chances are small. You can distinguish between summer time from April until October (hot and humid) and winter time November until March (much cooler and dry). The best time to enjoy swimming or kayaking in Ha Long Bay is from March till April and September till October. The closest airport to Ha Long Bay is Hanoi Noi Bai Airport.
What are the best spots in Ha Long Bay to visit?
Ha Long Bay is a tourist hotspot, visited by almost every Vietnam tourist. From Americans, Chinese, Koreans, over Europeans to Australians, no one wants to miss out this destination. Ha Long Bay covers an area of 1,500km2 and can be divided into central Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay which is close to Cat Ba Island and western Bai Tu Long Bay.
Ha Long Bay Area
The direct area of Ha Long Bay is crowded and nowadays mostly visited by day tourists from China or Japan who usually don´t stay on the boat overnight. If you have just a little time, a day trip with a traditional dragon junk will take you around the busier areas. But don´t worry, the beauty of this natural wonder is immediately visible. Some operators offer cave visits or stop at a beach.
Cat Ba Island and Lan Ha Bay
The second option, mostly popular among backpackers and the active tourists, is to stay on Cat Ba Island. It´s the largest island in Ha Long Bay; you can choose to book a homestay. Lan Ha Bay located southeast of Cat Ba town offers lovely sandy beaches and about 300 karst islands. A sailing trip in this area is a nice opportunity to discover the limestone outcrops. And if you are lucky, you might see some dolphins.
Bai Tu Long Bay
The third option is to visit beautiful Bai Tu Long Bay, located northeast of Ha Long Bay and belongs to the Bai Tu Long National Park. This is, where you will find the remote, lonely nature, untouched by the mass tourism (although numbers are still increasing).
Tip: From budget to high-end luxury cruises, everything is available in Ha Long Bay, Cat Ba Island and Bai Tu Long Bay. When choosing a cruise, you should consider spending some more to enjoy the full experience!
Indochina Junk gives you one of the best Bai Tu Long Bay experiences
And here is why: One of the first and today biggest cruise operators of Halong Bay is Indochina Junk. You can choose from 1 day to 4 days / 3 nights cruises. Most Asian tourists would choose for the one-day trip without sleeping on the boat. Which leaves the trips including an overstay to American, European and other tourists from around the world.
Indochina Junk boats´ offer 1 to 24 cabins, all are including a high standard service and a unique experience. Dragon Legend, a 24-cabin junk, has spacious decks for sunbathing, reading or just to enjoy the view on the bypassing limestones.
The Bai Tu Long Bay cruise itinerary in detail
If you decide to go on a 2 day – 1-night tour, you go on a Bai Tu Long Bay cruise. Yet one of the lonely spots every visitor is longing for. It gives you the possibility to get further away from Halong City and discover the wonderful remote places.
Hanoi – Ha Long Bay
This is how the ultimate luxury cruise in Halong Bay looks like: You will be picked up at around 7.30h from your hotel in Hanoi at the Old Quarter, French Quarter or wherever you stay in Hanoi. Not more than seven people fit in the bus, free water and Wi-Fi is provided. Comfortable seats make the four-hour journey fairly comfortable.
A stop of 30 minutes gives you the chance to rest, buy a Vietnamese coffee and see a handwoven picture and sculpture factory. At 11:30h the first limestone karsts appear on your window. Once you arrived at Halong Bay, you will have a small break before you embark a tender boat which will bring you to your cruise junk.
On board at the Dragon Legend
The program may vary, but once arrived on the junk, you will have the most precious 24 hours of your Vietnam stay! From a lunch on the deck, seeing the limestones pass by, to kayaking in the afternoon with just you, the sun (if you are lucky) and your kayak. For the brave ones, it´s even possible to swim!
Spare time is rare since you will have to enjoy every minute of the beautiful landscape. Ordering a cocktail on the deck and enjoying the sunset is probably the highlight of the Bai Tu Long cruise, you might sit on one of the comfortable sun beds or in the pool.
Second day at the Bai Tu Long Cruise
The next morning take a bath in your own hot tub. Continue enjoying the limestone karsts, since the bathroom has big windows. Or take the Taichi class on the sun deck while seeing the sunrise.
Visiting a cave after breakfast rounds up this unique two-day cruise with Indochina Junk. On the way back to Hanoi, you get the chance to see a water puppet show.
Review of a 2 day – 1 night cruise with Indochina
Most of Southeast-Asia travellers enjoy the low costs, due to a less developed economy of these countries. But there are things in life, where the hard-earned Dollars, Euros or Pounds are worth to spend. The Indochina Junk cruise to the Bai Tu Long Bay is one of them. The outstanding service, the super-friendly staff, caring about your well – being and safety from the second you step in the bus.
This cruise gives you the chance to get to see the untouched nature of the natural heritage site Halong Bay. You will go further than most of the cruise operators. Bai Tu Long Bay is the lonely place you were dreaming of. The excellent service provided by
the Indochina Crew on board will help you recharge the batteries. Enjoy the sun on the deck, get up at sunrise and feel the nature you are surrounded by. The almost intimate atmosphere on the junk will make you feel comfortable.
Indochina Junk is a cruise operator who cares about the environment of Ha Long Bay and taking responsibility for the development of this region at the same time.
Booking a tour:
The Website is available in French and English, they have an office in the Old Quarter of Hanoi and are easily reachable via mail or chat.