One of the most popular activities in Halong Bay is a cruise around the karst islands. There are many options to suit different timeframes and budgets so it can be difficult choosing the best option!
There are also different styles of a ship to choose from. Some are designed in the style of French steamers, reminiscent of the French colonial era with an air of grandness about them. Others are designed as traditional junk ships with their sails, much like dragons’ wings, hoisted high above the boat. There are many routes around the islands that stop off at different islands and caves and offer a range of activities depending on the price. Some offer kayaking trips which allow you to get closer to the islands and explore the magical caves. Others include early morning tai chi on the deck of the ship and some even include a cooking lesson.
The islands and islets in Halong Bay are plentiful, each one extending out of the water like a mythical creature rising from the deep. One of the most popular islands for tourists is the picturesque Titop Island. This conical island meets the water at a fringe of sandy beaches with the peak being swathed in a thick forest. Here visitors can enjoy relaxing on the sandy beaches or walking to the peak to enjoy stunning panoramic views of the bay. There are also hundreds of other interesting islands to visit. Some have been named after the animals they resemble such as fighting cock island, elephant island, and porcupine island.
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam travel – A traditional wooden sailboat.
Some of these caves are also home to fascinating cave systems that are ready and waiting to be explored. One of the most popular is Hang Sung Sot whose magnificent chambers are studded with incredible rock formations. Colorful lights and rays of the sun that break in from the roof light up the intricate designs of the rocks. Also buried deep in the cavern, is a particularly surprising rock formation. In the heart of the chamber, visitors can view a large fertility symbol illuminated by red lights.
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam must see and do – Sung Sot (Surprise) Cave.
Another fantastic cave is Hang Dau Go or Wooden Stake Cave. This remarkable cave is seated at the top of a 90 step climb. As you enter the cave a whole new world opens up before your eyes. Inside the roof and walls tower around high around the chamber, their surface weathered with varying formations. This cave takes its name from the power struggle between Vietnam and Mongolia that once took place here. The Vietnamese were able to defeat their enemy using wooden stakes to sink their boats, hence the name.
Thien Cung Cave or Heavenly Palace Cave is also very popular for its captivating stalactites and stalagmites that capture the imaginations of onlookers. After passing through a narrow entrance to the cave visitors will be treated to an ethereal world steeped in local legend. The rock formations create an organic sculpture whose surface changes from smooth undulating planes to jagged spikes.
Another unique attraction of Halong is the Halong Pearl Farm where you can see the incredible artistry and dedication that goes into creating a single pearl. Here traditional Vietnamese techniques are used in tandem with Japanese technology to produce the finest quality pearl jewelry.
The neighboring bays are also well worth a visit with a beauty that matches Halong Bay, but a more remote and undisturbed atmosphere. Lan Ha Bay which sits just south of Halong Bay, shares the same stunning karst islands, beautiful clear waters, and climate as Halong Bay with the added bonus of more sandy, white beaches. This area is less well known and the waters aren’t cluttered with the boats and cruise ships of Halong Bay. These tranquil waters are also home to seals and dolphins which can be spotted frolicking in the still bay. The enchanting Bright and Dark Cave is another fantastic attraction in Lan Ha Bay. This is best explored by kayak as the low-lying, the dark mouth of the cave is too small for other vessels. The Dark Cave is long and mysterious with visitors needing a torch to illuminate their way through to the other side whereas the Light Cave is small and flooded with natural light accentuating the weather and sea-worn rocks.
Lan Ha Bay nearby Ha Long Bay, more peaceful and remote.
To the east of Lan Ha Bay is the sublime Cat Ba Island. An incredible haven for explorers and lovers of outdoor adventure. This is a larger island and features a national park carpeted in thick green vegetation which is home to some amazing wildlife including the last remaining 65 golden-headed langurs. Because of the varied terrain, there is a fantastic ion of adventure sports on offer. The quiet waters make this the perfect place for guided kayaking around the islands or snorkeling in the bay looking for the plethora of ocean species inhabiting the waters. The jagged cliffs and rocky caves make many different types of climbing a possibility. There are also hikes and treks through the dense forests with great opportunities to spot the wildlife living there. Cannon Fort on the islands offers one of the best viewpoints of the island, especially at sunrise or sunset when the limestone islands are set against the dramatic skies and the water is dotted with resting fishing boats.
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam Must Do – Kayaking is a popular activity among the limestone formations.
North East of Halong Bay is Bai Tu Long Bay which, like Lan Ha Bay, shares the same striking vista as Halong