Located in the Gulf of Tonkin, Ha Long Bay is a spectacular natural attraction that boasts more than 2,000 islands and islets to make a stunning vista of emerald water and limestone pillars. Halong, meaning 'where the dragon descends into the sea', is said to have been created by a great mountain dragon that charged the coast, flailing its tail which gouged out crevasses and valleys before it plunged into the sea, filling the area with water and only leaving the pinnacles visible above the water.
While its name may be the stuff of legends, so too is the unsurpassed beauty of this iconic Vietnamese natural attraction. The lush islands receive a high level of rainfall and most are uninhabited, leaving little more than spectacular beauty and a diverse biological habitat. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994, the limestone islets of Ha Long are reminiscent of China's mystical Guilin or southern Thailand's breathtaking Krabi. However Ha Long is widely considered even more beautiful with its immense bay of islands home to grottos eroded by wind and wave over thousands of years. Home to a treasure trove of flora and fauna, the sparse and undisturbed hills are alive with the songs of birds.
Most visitors experience the beauty of Ha Long Bay on a boat cruise however there is also the opportunity to go ashore and explore one of the many caves that are found on the islands. There aren't many true beaches in Ha Long Bay however Lan Ha Bay, just a brief boat ride from Cat Ba Town, offers some lovely sandy coves which are ideal for relaxing and enjoying a little dip in the water. Ha Long City is renowned as the gateway to this amazing natural attraction, however many visitors also choose to forgo the city and head straight to Cat Ba Town. From here you can enjoy cruises to some of the more secluded and less-visited islands and the equally incredible Lan Ha Bay.
Nearby Cat Ba Island is a great base for exploring the landscape of Ha Long Bay itself and as northeast Vietnam's most popular tourist attraction, Ha Long Bay is busy with visitors year round. However despite its evergreen popularity, visiting Ha Long Bay anytime during May to September can be unpredictable as this is tropical storm season and tourist cruises can often be affected by inclement weather. February to April also sees some drizzly and cool weather and even low visibility with the occurrence of fog however this can often add to the ethereal atmosphere of this majestic natural attraction.