Halong Bay, meaning bay of descending dragons, is one of the most famous tourist attractions in northern Vietnam. The destination was twice recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, and better known for towering limestone islets topped with forest rising from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin.
Administratively, the bay belongs to Halong City of Quang Ninh Province, in the northeast Vietnam. Halong Bay is the center of a larger limestone karst zone, which includes Bai Tu Long Bay to the northeast and Lan Ha Bay to the southwest. Those three bays share a similar geological, geographical, climate, and cultural characters.
The total area of Halong archipelago is around 1,553 km2, including 1,969 islets, most of which are limestone formations. The UNESCO listed the core area of 334km2, with a density of 775 islets, as World Heritage Site for aesthelic value in 1994. Then in 2000, it was recognized as a heritage site again for its outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, and its original limestone karstic geomorphologic features.
As a local legend goes, once upon a time when Vietnam was attacked from the sea, the Jade Emperor sent a family of dragons to help the Vietnamese fight against their invaders from the sea. Those dragons flew down upon where is now Halong Bay and spat countless pearls into the sea, which turned into a myriad of jade islands linking together to form a barrier against the invaders, and helped the Vietnamese defend their land. Therefore, the area where the dragons landed was Bay of Descending Dragons.
This mystical landscape of limestone islands is often compared to Guilin in China or Krabi in southern Thailand. In reality, Halong Bay is much more spectacular. The best way to discover the beauty of Halong Bay is to cruise among the islands and islets by boat. Some 550 boats in Halong are offering different itineraries to suit almost every travel taste, from 4 hours cruising to 4 days or longer cruising programs, from leisure cruising to kayak adventure, from budget lodgings to luxury for high-end travelers.
Most people choose to drive 3,5 hours to Halong for an overnight trip on boat, some do two nights which allows them to really relax on the boat or explore the beaches and lagoons on their kayaks.
Recently, tourist going high-end can take a seaplane to Halong Bay from Hanoi. This option offers great opportunity to see not only the beauty of Halong Bay from above, but also the scenic views of the Red River Delta scattering along the way.
Most cruising itinerary include a visit to one of some 23 limestone caves, a beach, or a floating village to help tourist learn about life of Halong Bay’s fishing people. Kayaking is always one of the highlights for tourists seeing Halong Bay, every boats offer this free of charge.
Incense Travel’s trips for Halong Bay is a selection of handcrafted cruising itineraries for various explorations of beauty, culture, and adventure across Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay, and Lan Ha Bay. All trips offer a great time cruising among magnificent limestone formations. However, some are more relax than others, which means the boat cruises further and stay longer out in the middle of the bay, giving you more time to discover the best of what Halong Bay has to offer.
While most one-day trip gives you 4 hours cruising in the bay, 2-day trips give you an amazing overnight on the boat in the middle of the bay, and the 3-day trips bring you down to the Southern of the bay to explore hidden lagoons and sandy beaches. For nature and adventure lovers, a 3 day-trip cruising on a private boat through the dramatic limestone islands with occasionally stopping to enjoy quiet beaches is far more rewarding.