Perhaps one of the most iconic features of Vietnam, Ha Long Bay is a breathtaking location like no other. With as many a 2,000 limestone islands and rocks, covered with wildlife and filled with caves and grottoes, its UNESCO world heritage status is well deserved.
A place that must be seen to be seen to be believed, Halong Bay has risen to become one of Vietnam's most popular tourist destinations, and is likely to be voted #1 in the New 7 Wonders Of the World.
Most visitors get a bus to Halong from Hanoi, before embarking on a boat trip of 2-3 days, where they can sleep on a junk boat, swim in the waters and go kayaking or canoeing. The quality of tour does vary (you do get what you pay for!) but even the bargain trips aren't bad, as you can quite happily spend your day looking at the beautiful scenery and ignoring the less beautiful boat you're sat on.
Don't be put off when you first arrive in Halong by the sheer number of tourists - most of the tours set off at the same time and it will appear very crowded, but soon after leaving the docks the boats split up and head off in different directions - it may not seem it at first but it soon becomes a very peaceful journey as its not hard for the boats to hide behind one of the thousands of islands.
One interesting feature of Halong bay is the floating villages you will see nestling in the sheltered bays between the stones. These ingenious construction allow landless people to farm fish - each house will be built on planks bordering nets where they raise fish, crabs and shrimp in the sea water below.
Cruises and Tours of Halong Bay
For most people, taking an organised cruise from Hanoi to Halong Bay is a better option than staying in Halong City, where entertainment is sparse.