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Its emerald waters dotted by countless limestone pillars and abrupt islets topped by lush patches of forest, Halong translates as 'where the dragon descends into the sea’. The legend tells that this mystical seascape was created when a holy dragon sent by the Jade Emperor spat out pearls and jades to form barriers preventing incursion by northern invaders. While the geological explanation of karst erosion is more realistic, it doesn't make this incredible seascape any less poetic.
Recognised twice as a UNESCO World Heritage site, in 1994 and 2000, Halong Bay is clearly Northern Vietnam's number one tourism hub and is located only 150km from the capital Hanoi. Most visitors reach the bay via a drive of about 4 hours from the capital, to join 2 or 3 day cruises. The overnight cruise boats offer full accommodation while you are touring some of the nearly 2,000 islands and islets found in the bay and enjoying the numerous on-board and off-board activities such as swimming, kayaking, trekking, sightseeing, dining in a cave or rock climbing.
Halong Bay attracts visitors year-round, while the best time of the year to visit is April-May or October. January to March is often cool and drizzly with ensuing fog which can make visibility low. From August to September, tropical storms occasionally occur so cruise boats sometimes must alter their itineraries to avoid inclement weather.
With 1,969 islands and islets on Halong Bay, there are numerous caves and grottoes for travelers to discover. Although many are inaccessible, there are beautiful caves which have become popular sightseeing destinations. Excursions to these sites are a must for nature lovers cruising Halong Bay.
The most famous caves to visit in Halong Bay are Sung Sot Cave, Thien Cung Cave, Dau Go Cave and Me Cung Cave. Once you enter the caves, stretching deep into the mountains, you will be bewitched by the magical beauty of limestone formations dating back millions of years. Huge grottoes with separate chambers and multiple layers burrowing into the mountains lead you from one surprise to another, while you witness giant stalactites. Inside the caves, the walls and innumerable cracks and crevices are evidence of millions of years of spectacular natural creation.
Kayaking in Halong Bay is the best way to explore the hidden beauty of the area. Paddle past tiny islets; visit hidden caves, lagoons, unspoiled beaches and floating fishing villages; kayaks go where big cruise boats cannot. It is easy to find ideal spots in Halong Bay for relaxing sessions of slowly paddling through the turquoise water. Among them, Ba Hang (Three Caves) is the most prominent site for kayaking.
Ba Hang Village is a small floating village located near Thien Cung Cave (Heaven Cave). The village is a popular location in Halong Bay, and you should pay a visit to see the different lifestyle here in majestic Halong Bay. Found in the area is a cave with 3 connecting chambers, creating a perfect routing for kayaking.