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Halong Bay is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Vietnam thanks to its breathtaking natural landscape. Discover the bay from the comfort of a so-called junk, a traditional wooden sailing boat. The bay’s beauty, and its UNESCO heritage listing, is due mainly to the thousands of limestone islands that rise out of the sea.
Halong Bay is located some 150 kilometres (100 miles) east of Hanoi. The wharf of Bai Chay is a 3-hour drive away and the most comfortable way to get there is on an organised tour, with pre-arranged accommodation. You can also take a minibus or train to the bay and try to get a last-minute deal for a boat trip locally.
Follow a guide through illuminated caves or go rock climbing on the islets. The sheer cliffs can reach up to 90 metres (300 foot) high. Go kayaking in the bay by hiring gear from a floating hut. Most tours also include a fisherman’s floating house where you can try some fresh ngan (Vietnamese-style clams) for lunch. Buy fruit and nuts from the hawkers who row past.
Take an overnight cruise to see the more remote islands. Cat Ba and Tuan Chau Island offer adventure sports and man-made beaches. Watch the sunset and see the silver moonlight give the bay an ethereal appearance. Dive in to see the illuminating effects of your movements in the phosphorescent waters.
Back on the mainland, visit the stylish Halong Bay Marina and the nearby Dolphin Club or take a taxi to the Nha Tho Hon Gai Temple.
The best time to visit Halong Bay is between March and October. In winter, dense mist affects visibility, though the eerie effect of this is a sight in itself. When you see the rising mist slowly reveal the shapes in the bay, it’s easy to imagine the towering peaks to be gentle giants in a mythical landscape that is out of this world.