Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay – Everything you need to know
Ha Long Bay harbors natural phenomena, historical significance, and divine mythical legend, the combination of which has astounded generations of Vietnamese and recently tourists from around the world.
The Jade green emerald waters infinitely pierced with limestone megaliths has awarded this bay with many accolades, most prestigious being the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ha Long Bay earned this title from its outstanding examples representing major stages of the Earth’s history and its original limestone karst geomorphology features.
Ha Long Bay expands around an area of 1,553 km2 which comprises nearly 2,000 limestone islets. The core of the bay consists of a high density of 775 islets spanning the area of 334 km2. These 500 million-year-old limestone islands and islets are home to a unique bio-system with many endemic flora and fauna species.
Legend has it that at the beginning era of the country, the Vietnamese had to face fierce invasion from the North through the sea. The Vietnamese prayed Emperor Jade for help. so he sent a mother dragon together with her children to stop the enemy. As the invader’s ships advanced into Vietnam’s sea, the dragons spat fireballs at them. At the same time, they were spitting out jewels and jade which turned into limestone islands and linked together to form a high wall preventing outsiders’ intrusion.
After the invaders were defeated, Vietnamese people name the places that the dragon landed as a way of showing gratitude. The place the mother dragon descended onto is now called Ha Long Bay. The place where the children dragons landed upon is called Bai Tu Long Bay and where their tail’s placed is called Bach Long Vi.
Ha Long Bay was recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site twice, voted as one of New 7 natural wonders of the world and many other titles due to its uniqueness.
Exceptional scenic beauty
With numerous limestone islands and islets in different shapes and forms, rising from the sea Ha Long Bay is a spectacular seascape sculpted by nature. Drowned karst towers under the effect of wind erosion and water dilution, become awe striking arches, caves and lagoon.
If you are visiting Vietnam, you should never miss the impressive scenery of Ha Long Bay.
Outstanding Geological values
Ha Long Bay has experienced at least 500 million years through marine transgression and marine regression and in various geological states. Ha Long Bay used to be a deep sea during the Ordovician and Silurian periods (500-410 million years ago) Which later rise at a shallow sea level During the Carboniferous and Permian periods (340-250 million years ago). The present landscape that now you see was formed around seven to eight thousand years ago by the sea invasion during Holocene transgression.
The magnificent towering limestone pillars and associated notches, arches, and caves of Ha Long Bay is among the best presented of their type in the world.
Historical and cultural values
Historical researches have proved the presence of prehistorical human beings in this area ten thousand years ago. Some of the successive ancient cultures are the Soi Nhụ culture (around 18,000–7000 BC), the Cái Bèo culture (7000–5000 BC) and finally the culture named after the Bay (5,000–3,500 years ago). Ha Long Bay also marked significant events in the history of Vietnam with many artifacts found in Bài Thơ Mount, Đầu Gỗ Cave, and Bãi Cháy.
Today, floating fishing villages of local people are the most important example of Ha Long indigenous culture.
Ha Long Bay has its own unique sphere of life. An entire ecosystem is thriving within the bay.
A research of the Marine Resources Institute & Environment has shown that Ha Long Bay is home to 435 terrestrial plant species, 28 saline-submerged species, 5 seagrass species, 234 coral species, 139 seaweed species, 278 phytoplankton species, 133 zooplankton species, 315 fish species, 545 bottom-dwelling mollusc species, 178 terrestrial mollusc animals, 8 reptiles, 53 foraminifer species, 22 mammal species living on the islands, 76 birds species, 4 amphibian species. There are many endangered species listed among Vietnam and World Red Book. According to the Fauna & Flora International (FFI), Ha Long Bay is home to 14 endemic plants and 60 endemic animals. That means you cannot find these plants and animals anywhere else in the world.
What you should know about the weather in Ha Long Bay
Located in the north of Vietnam, Ha Long has a tropical climate and affected by monsoon. The climate can be divided into four seasons including two main seasons and two transition seasons. It is hot and humid in the summer. The average temperature is 27℃. You may encounter rain in the day, but overall you can get about 8 hours of sunshine per day.
The winter will last three months from October till January. Weather in winter is dry and cold. The temperature varies from 18℃ to 20℃. During January and February, you may experience some misty days when the vision is limited, and you cannot see the landscape. However, the karst towers partly hidden behind the fog creates a surreal and mistery scenery.
Here is monthly break up of temperature in Ha Long Bay.
Overall, the best time to visit Ha Long Bay is between September and October. March and April is also an ideal time for you Ha Long Bay trip.
The weather during these periods is mostly cool and pleasant with a light breeze. The storm season hasn’t come, and the mist will clear by mid-morning.
How to travel from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay
Hanoi and Ha Long Bay are among must-see destinations of Vietnam. The 1000-year-old capital city presents a one-of-a-kind mix of modern city life and ancient culture While Ha Long Bay is ideally located just 160 km away.
Therefore, the most popular travel plan for those who want to discover the best of this Southeast Asia country is spending several days in Hanoi before heading to Ha Long.
There are a huge number of options to travel from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay.
Previously, it takes 4 hours to travel from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay by car. Now with the new highway coming into operation, the time is only 2.5 hours.
The USD$572-million highway connecting Hanoi and Ha Long bay allow tourists to maximize their time and enjoy much more.
The traveling time introduced below is calculated assuming your route running through the new highway.
There numerous bus lines departing from My Dinh and Gia Lam station to Ha Long on a daily basis.
This is an option at a reasonable price! It costs you around 120.000 VND (USD$5) per person.
However, the traveling time can be from 3 hours to 5 hours because the bus will stop along the way to pick up or drop guests. If you are on a tight schedule, the bus may not be a good choice
Traveling time: 4 – 5 hours
Cost: USD $5/ person
The train starts from Yen Vien station and stops at a terminal in Ha Long city which is about 5 km away from the Harbour. This train departs at 4:55 am and return at 1:30 pm every day. You should be ready for delays and cancellations
Traveling time: 6 hours
Cost: USD$4.5/ person
By private car
Private car is the best choice if you start from or get to Noi Bai International Airport right after the cruise. This option is also travelers’ favorite due to its flexibility, safety, and valuable rates.
Traveling time: 2.5 – 3 hours (from Hanoi center)
Cost: depends on your route
By shuttle bus
Shuttle bus is a bus line that only serves tourists who travel to Ha Long. Hence, the overall quality is much better than the regular bus. It is also time-saving with only 3 to 3.5 hours to get to Ha Long.
If you are going for an overnight cruise, book the shuttle bus service of the same cruise operator. The bus will take you directly to where you will embark, and you never have to worry about being late.
Some cruise packages will include a shuttle bus service. Otherwise, you can purchase this transportation service separately.
Travelling time: 2.5 – 3 hours. (Expect a mid-way stop)
Cost: USD$30 – USD$40/person
The fastest options!
Instead of 3 to 4 hours in a car, seaplane only takes 45 minutes. It’s not only fast but also allow you to enjoy the magnificent aerial view over the countryside.
An additional 15-minute scenic tour over the bay can be added as an extension to your flight. This is Vietnam’s only seaplane service.
Traveling time: 45 minutes
Cost: USD$175 one way.
Things to do in Ha Long Bay
There are so many amazing things to do in Ha Long. To help you enjoy the most out of your time in Ha Long, we made a list for you. Check out top 20 things to do in Ha Long.
Padded to move around the karst formations or take a laid-back at a white sandy beach. Kayaking is among the most favorite activities in Ha Long Bay. The calm water current makes it safe even for beginners.
The bamboo boat is a traditional way of transport of local people which is now turning into a tourism service. If you don’t want to paddle yourself with kayak, the bamboo boat is a perfect alternative. A local people will do the job for you, so you can have more time enjoying the view and taking pictures.
Explore the Ha Long’s caves with spectacular stalactites and stalagmites. Let your imagination run wild with its various shapes and sizes.
These caves were home to prehistoric human thousand years ago making it an interesting site for archaeology enthusiasts as well.
Floating fishing villages
There is a group of people who were born and lived on the emerald water of Ha Long for generations. After years, they formed floating fishing villages with their unique way of life. Nestled between limestone towers these villages create a surreal landscape like a village from old fairy tales. That’s why they are repeatedly voted among insanely beautiful villages of the world.
Take a break from the sea and trek into the lush jungle over limestone mountain of Ha Long. Cat Ba island and Titov mountain are the most popular places for this activity.
The best way to discover Ha Long Bay is to take an overnight cruise which takes you to the far-most corner of this natural wonder.
There are two popular itineraries for an overnight cruise, one night and two nights. A typical journey often includes kayaking, swimming, visiting the floating fishing village, exploring caves.
Two-night cruise allows you to reach further areas of Ha Long Bay where the pristine beach and exotic lagoons can be found.
The luxury cruise offers comfortable accommodation and a wide range of activities both on and off the boat. A cruise package is a great idea for a stress-free Ha Long Bay trip.
How long to spend in Ha Long Bay
The ideal time to spend in Ha Long Bay is three days two nights. It’s long enough for you to discover the famous sites within the bay.
Don’t ever go for a day trip from Hanoi. It won’t worth your time!
Tips for traveling Ha Long Bay
If you are planning a Ha Long Bay trip. These handy tips might be helpful for you.
In the summer, to protect you from hash sunshine, remember to bring sunscreen with you.
Don’t forget to pack a comfortable shoe. You will need to walk and claimt the mountain when visiting caves.
Ha Long during winter is not too cold with an average temperature of 18c. However, the strong wind and heavy mist can be annoying. So you should bring a light jacket with a hood. It’s better to have a waterproof jacket.
Stay away from the ultra-budget cruises
Don’t risk your safety with ultra-budget cruises. Most of These boats are converted from old fishing boats which are not up to any safety standards.
Inform the cruise early if you have a food allergy
Food will be prepared in advance and loaded onto the ship the same day you embark. So you need to tell the cruise operators about your allergy at least a week before departure. Otherwise, there will be no food supply when you already in the middle of the sea.
Follow the tourguide when you kayak
Variety of limestone pillars and caves can become a maze when you kayak. Small arches with unpredicted water current can turn your kayak upside down or even drag you deeper into the cave. Make sure you listen to the instructions of tourguide and follow your group.