Considered to be one of the world’s natural wonders, Halong Bay is a mysterious and magical limestone archipelago, which lies 100 kilometres off the eastern coast of Vietnam. Consisting of over 1000 islands, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994.
The islands span across 120 kilometres of emerald green water and support a diverse ecosystem including mangrove swamps and coral, which attract visitors from all over the world who come to experience this unique hidden treasure. Several of the islands are dotted with caves to explore and ponds to swim in and visitors can be sure of a warm welcome from local fishing communities. The lush green islands are said to have been spat into the sea by dragons who wished to help local people fend off intruders during war.
How To Get There
There are several ways to see Halong Bay as it is such an established site of interest. You can take a domestic flight from the nearby Halong City or if you are coming from Hanoi you can join locals on a four hour bus journey. It should be noted that public transport is usually very basic and conditions can get cramped and very warm.
The islands can also be visited as part of an organised boat tour. Boat tours give you the option to utilise the services of an experienced guide and many will include food, drink and excursions such as kayaking or snorkelling.
Several ports service the islands, with Cai Roong, Halong City and Haiphong being the most popular with visitors. Halong City has ports used exclusively by tourist boats and due to its location, serves as the ideal starting point for exploring the islands.
Due to the size of the archipelago, it is popular with those who enjoy sailing holidays and sail boat charters are available for visitors who wish to be more in control of their trip. Chartered boats offer the security and comfort of a knowledgeable crew who can show you the biggest attractions and provide fresh local meals, but also the freedom to tailor your trip to your own needs.
Due to the bay’s UNESCO status, many areas are protected and cannot be developed. As a result, visitors are instantly transported back in time and are afforded a rare glimpse of a world untouched by modern ideals. Head to Dau Be for some diving amongst the surrounding coral or the opportunity to swim in the hidden inland lakes. If you time your visit well it is even possible to explore the interlinking caves at low tide.
Dau Go Island and Pelican Cave on Bo Hon Island offer the chance to witness the extraordinary stalactites and stalagmites projecting over 20 metres from the surface. This is one sight you must capture on camera.
Bo Hon Island is home to the The Virgin Cave, which is the most popular cave on Halong Bay due to its shrine. Local folklore states a young woman committed suicide in the cave to escape a forced marriage to an old man who took her when her parents could not afford to pay their debts. The girl’s body was found by local fishermen, who buried her and created a shrine that still exists today.
One of the main attractions of the area is the people who live there. Many locals live in floating villages and continue to fish for a living as their ancestors did. It is possible to stop at a village and pick up fresh fish from local fishermen or even spend a night or two staying with a local family .
Lily Lehrer writes on a regular basis on several subjects including sailing holidays, sail boat charters, lifestyle and family. She also writes for several specialist sites regarding yacht charter destinations as well as guides to the sailing of a bareboat charter yacht.