A local story says that gods sent a dragon and her children to help protect Vietnam. The dragons made valleys with their tails, which filled with water to create Halong Bay, meaning “descending dragon.” The limestone pillars in the mist look magical to many people.

Over time, the rocks wore down and formed caves, grottoes, and arches, which are best seen by boat. These steep rocks are mostly empty, covered with jungle, and sometimes have narrow beaches. People live in colorful floating villages on the bay.

Set sail on a cruise aboard a traditional Vietnamese junk.

Junks were Chinese sailing boats introduced to Vietnam in the 14th century. They have become important in Vietnamese culture, used to transport goods and people along the coast. Today, many have been turned into comfortable passenger boats for one or two-night cruises.

From a junk, you can kayak around the islands to explore quiet bays and hidden caves. Onboard, you can enjoy freshly cooked food like spiced squid (muc rang muoi) and chicken curry (cari ga), along with cocktails at sunset on the top deck. Boats range from 10 to 24 cabins, and private boats are available for a more personal experience.

Visit Bai Tu Long Bay – Off the beaten track

If you stay on your junk for two nights, you can see more of Vietnam’s coast. Bai Tu Long Bay is 30 km (19 miles) east of Halong Bay. Both bays have green limestone rocks in the sea, but Bai Tu Long has fewer boats and is more peaceful.
Rise to watch the sunrise and join a t’ai chi class on deck

One great perk of staying on a junk in Halong Bay is watching the sunrise on the water. Wake up early and you’ll often find tea and coffee ready for you. The sky turns peach-pink, reflecting off the limestone rocks.

Many junks offer a t’ai chi class on deck in the morning. An experienced teacher will guide you through gentle, relaxing movements while you listen to the waves gently hitting the boat.

Climb up the stairs to the lookout on Ti Top Island

While most Halong Bay pictures are taken from the water, Ti Top Island offers a unique perspective. You can hike to the island’s summit, named after Russian astronaut Gherman Titov, who visited in the 60s to improve relations with the Soviet Union.

Located southeast of Bai Chay Harbour in the west of Halong Bay, the island is covered in jungle with a set of stairs leading to the top. At the peak, there’s a wooden platform for breathtaking views of the bay. After the climb, unwind on the small crescent beach. If you make it in the late afternoon, the beachside bar might be open for a cocktail.

When to visit Halong bay?

The best time to visit Halong Bay is from March to November, with April usually having the clearest skies and least rain, although there may still be occasional showers. January and February are cooler and wetter, but the fog can create a very atmospheric vibe.

Here are some festivals, events, and seasonal reasons to visit Halong Bay:

  • Quan Lan Island holds an annual festival in June to commemorate a historical victory against Mongol invaders in the 13th century. During the two-week celebrations, villagers stay on the island, but guests are welcomed warmly. The festival ends with a traditional rowing competition across the bay.
  • Carnaval Halong takes place in Halong City in April, with festive dances through the streets. Performers from all over Vietnam showcase traditional costumes, attracting locals and visitors to join in the celebrations.
  • Vietnamese New Year, known as Tết, usually occurs in late January or February and is the most important festival in Vietnam. It is celebrated nationwide, with decorations in yellow and red symbolizing good luck in towns, cities, and even on boats.

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