Vietnam’s Halong Bay is nothing short of spectacular; when the first jungle-covered island monolith comes into view, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed at the beauty of nature. Made up of thousands of limestone karst formations, islands, tiny islets, grottos and floating fishing villages, the region has been 20 million years in the making.
Ha long roughly translates to “descending dragon”. Legend suggests that the area was formed when the Jade Emperor (also known as the King of Heaven) sent a dragon and her children to earth, to help protect the Vietnamese from invaders. Fire and emeralds shot from the dragons’ mouths, scattering about the sea and sinking enemy ships; the enormous emeralds eventually turned to karst, forming the bay’s many islands.
We use a fleet of traditional-style wooden boats, with comfortable twin-share cabins and en suite bathrooms. Our on-board chef will keep hunger pangs at bay with a delicious lunch and seafood dinner, served alongside amazing vegetable sculptures; who knew a turnip could become a horse in just a few carves of a knife?! As evening falls, relax on the deck with a Bia Ha Noi and enjoy views of stunning scenery, floating villages and small fishing vessels while sharing travel stories with your group.
There’s more to Halong Bay than just cruising through emerald waters, admiring lush islets and waving to passengers on passing boats (although this level of relaxation is an activity we wholly endorse!). Hit the water in a kayak for an active adventure, enjoy a swim at Ti Top beach, or head ashore and explore the caves on one of the bay’s many islands. Some of the caves involve a walk up a number of steep steps, so it’s important to pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes with good grip.
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When to visit Halong Bay
There’s never a bad time to visit Halong Bay, however the temperature and climate vary fairly dramatically depending on the time of year. Peak season is during the summer months (June, July and August), when the weather is hot and humid, with the occasional downpour. January to March can be quite cool; fog shrouds the karsts, giving the area an otherworldly feel. Be sure to pack a few warm layers as the nights can get cold. November is a lovely time to visit, as the weather is beautiful and there are fewer crowds.
How to get there
Departing from Hanoi, travel west by private vehicle to Bai Chay (Halong City West). The drive takes just over three hours, so be sure to load up your iPhone with a couple of good podcasts or some music to help pass the time. When we arrive at the jetty in Halong Bay, we board small boats that will take us to our main boat.
The personal safety of our travellers is paramount on all Peregrine trips. Life vests must be worn by all passengers on the boats between the jetty and our main boat, and our crew are available to provide assistance to anyone who needs a hand along the way. All the boats we use in Halong Bay comply with strict safety standards.