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Halong Bay is one of the most popular destinations in Vietnam, and for good reasons. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that boasts stunning natural scenery, fascinating cultural heritage, and a variety of activities for all kinds of travelers. Whether you are looking for adventure, relaxation, or romance, you will find something to suit your taste in Halong Bay. Here are the top 15 best things to do in Halong Bay that you should not miss.
1. Cruise around the bay on a traditional junk boat.
This is the classic way to experience the beauty and charm of Halong Bay. You can choose from different types of cruises, ranging from budget-friendly to luxury, and enjoy the views of the limestone karsts, islands, caves, and fishing villages along the way. Some cruises also offer kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, cooking classes, tai chi, and other activities on board.
2. Explore Sung Sot Cave (Surprise Cave).
Sung Sot Cave is one of the most impressive caves in Halong Bay, and aptly named Surprise Cave because of its size and beauty. The cave has three chambers, each with different formations and colors. The first chamber is like a theater, with a high ceiling and a wide opening. The second chamber is more spacious and has many stalactites and stalagmites that resemble animals and plants. The third chamber is the most spectacular, with a large lake and a skylight that illuminates the cave.
Halong Bay has hundreds of caves and grottoes that are waiting to be discovered. Some of the most famous ones are Sung Sot Cave (Surprise Cave), Thien Cung Cave (Heavenly Palace Cave), Dau Go Cave (Wooden Stakes Cave), and Trinh Nu Cave (Virgin Cave). Each cave has its own history, legend, and beauty. You can admire the stalactites and stalagmites, learn about the local folklore, and take amazing photos.
3. Climb to the top of Ti Top Island (Titov Island).
Ti Top Island is a small island with a sandy beach and a viewpoint that offers panoramic views of Halong Bay. You can swim or sunbathe on the beach, or climb up the 400 steps to the top of the island, where you will be rewarded with breathtaking scenery. The island was named after Gherman Titov, a Soviet cosmonaut who visited Halong Bay in 1962 with Ho Chi Minh.
4. Relax at Bai Chay Beach.
Bai Chay Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Halong Bay, located near the mainland city of Halong. It is a long and wide beach with soft sand and clear water, ideal for swimming, sunbathing, or playing beach games. There are also many restaurants, bars, hotels, and shops along the beachfront, where you can enjoy some local food and drinks.
5. Visit the floating villages and markets.
Halong Bay is home to several floating villages and markets where you can see the local life and culture of the fishermen and their families. You can take a boat ride or kayak to visit these places and interact with the friendly locals. Some of the most popular ones are Cua Van Floating Village, Vung Vieng Floating Village, Ba Hang Floating Village, and Cong Dam Floating Market.
6. Kayak or paddleboard through the bay.
If you want to get closer to nature and enjoy some adventure, kayaking or paddleboarding is a great way to explore Halong Bay. You can paddle through the calm waters, admire the scenery from a different perspective, and access hidden spots that are not reachable by boat. You can also kayak into some of the caves and grottoes for a more thrilling experience.
7. Hike or bike on Cat Ba Island.
Cat Ba Island is the largest island in Halong Bay and a national park that offers many hiking and biking trails for nature lovers. You can hike or bike through the lush forests, hills, valleys, and beaches, and spot some wildlife along the way. You can also visit the Cat Ba Langur Conservation Project to learn more about the endangered primates that live on the island. Cat Ba Island also has a lively town with restaurants, bars, and hotels.
8. Watch the sunrise or sunset over the bay.
One of the most magical moments in Halong Bay is watching the sunrise or sunset over the bay. You can witness the changing colors of the sky and water as the sun rises or sets behind the mountains and islands. You can watch it from your cruise ship, your hotel balcony, a viewpoint on an island, or a kayak on the water. You can also take a seaplane or a helicopter tour to see Halong Bay from above at these times.
You will see the sky change colors from pink to orange to purple, and the limestone karsts cast dramatic shadows on the water.
9. Enjoy a seafood feast.
Halong Bay is famous for its fresh and delicious seafood that you can enjoy at many restaurants and stalls around the bay. You can try some local specialties such as grilled squid, steamed crab, fried fish, clam soup, spring rolls, and more. You can also visit one of the floating markets or villages where you can buy seafood directly from the fishermen and have it cooked for you on the spot.
10. Experience the nightlife in Halong City.
Halong City is the main city on the mainland near Halong Bay, and it offers a lively and vibrant nightlife for those who want to have some fun after dark. You can find many bars, clubs, karaoke, casinos, and night markets in the city, where you can drink, dance, sing, gamble, or shop until you drop. Some of the most popular places to go are Halong View Club, Sky Bar, Flightless Bird Cafe, Royal Casino, or Halong Night Market.
11. Learn about the history and culture of Halong Bay.
Halong Bay has a rich and diverse culture and history that dates back thousands of years. You can learn more about it by visiting some of the museums, temples, pagodas, and historical sites in the area. Some of the most notable ones are Bai Tho Mountain (Poem Mountain), Quang Ninh Museum, Long Tien Pagoda, Cua Van Floating Cultural Center, and Tuan Chau Island.
12. Take a seaplane tour over the bay.
If you want to see Halong Bay from a different perspective and have an unforgettable experience, you can take a seaplane tour over the bay. You can fly over the stunning landscape of Halong Bay and enjoy a bird’s eye view of its beauty and splendor. You can also opt for a water landing and take off for some extra thrill.
13. Go rock climbing or zip-lining.
If you are looking for some adrenaline-pumping activities, you can go rock climbing or zip-lining in Halong Bay. You can climb some of the limestone cliffs and karsts that offer different levels of difficulty and challenge. You can also zip-line across the bay and feel the wind in your hair and the excitement in your heart.
14. Snorkel or dive in the bay.
If you want to discover the underwater world of Halong Bay, you can snorkel or dive in the bay and see the colorful coral reefs, fish, and other marine life. You can also see some shipwrecks and caves that add to the mystery and adventure of diving in Halong Bay. Some of the best places to snorkel or dive are Cong Do Island, Tra Gioi Island, Van Gio Island, and Co To Island.
15. Take a cooking class or a tai chi lesson.
If you want to learn something new and have some fun, you can take a cooking class or a tai chi lesson in Halong Bay. You can learn how to make some of the local dishes such as spring rolls, pho, banh xeo, and more. You can also learn how to practice tai chi, a form of martial arts that promotes health and wellness. You can join these classes on your cruise ship or at some of the hotels around the bay.
16. Relax at a spa or wellness center.
After a day of sightseeing and adventure in Halong Bay, you might want to pamper yourself at one of the many spas or wellness centers in the area. You can choose from a variety of treatments like massages, facials, body scrubs, aromatherapy, and more. Some spas also offer yoga classes or meditation sessions for a holistic wellness experience. You can find many spa and massage centers on your cruise ship or at some of the hotels around the bay.
17. Try squid fishing at night.
Squid fishing is a popular activity in Halong Bay, especially at night when the squid are more active. You can join a cruise that offers squid fishing as part of their itinerary, or rent a boat and equipment from a local fisherman. You will learn how to use a rod and bait to catch squid, and enjoy the view of the bay illuminated by thousands of lights from other boats. If you are lucky, you might even catch your own dinner.
18. Watch a water puppet show or a cultural performance.
Water puppetry is a traditional art form that originated in northern Vietnam, and Halong Bay is one of the best places to watch it. You can see a water puppet show at the Yen Duc Village Cultural House, where you can also enjoy other cultural performances like folk music, dance, and storytelling.
19. Shop for souvenirs and handicrafts.
Halong Bay has many souvenir shops and markets where you can buy some unique and handmade items to remember your trip. You can find things like pearl jewelry, embroidery, ceramics, paintings, wood carvings, and more. You can also support the local artisans and communities by buying their products.
20. Visit Thien Cung Cave (Heavenly Palace Cave).
Thien Cung Cave is another stunning cave in Halong Bay, located on Dau Go Island. The cave is named Heavenly Palace Cave because of its magnificent and majestic appearance. The cave has a high ceiling and a large space, decorated with countless stalactites and stalagmites that form various shapes and figures. Some of them resemble animals, such as dragons, elephants, or horses. Some of them resemble human characters, such as a king, a queen, or a fairy. The cave also has a legend about a love story between a dragon prince and a human girl, which adds to its charm and mystery.
21. Hike or bike on Quan Lan Island.
Quan Lan Island is a peaceful and pristine island in Halong Bay, far from the crowds and noise of the mainland.
The island has a long and sandy beach, a green and hilly landscape, and a quaint and quiet village. You can hike or bike on the island to enjoy its natural beauty and rural atmosphere. You can also visit some of the historical sites on the island, such as the Quan Lan Temple, the Quan Lan Pagoda, or the Minh Chau Communal House.
22. Visit Yen Tu Mountain and Yen Tu Pagoda.
Yen Tu Mountain is a sacred mountain in Quang Ninh Province, near Halong Bay. It is considered to be the birthplace of Vietnamese Buddhism, as it was where King Tran Nhan Tong founded the Truc Lam Zen sect in the 13th century. Yen Tu Mountain has many temples, pagodas, statues, and relics that reflect the history and culture of Vietnamese Buddhism. The most famous one is Yen Tu Pagoda, which is located at the summit of the mountain, at an altitude of 1,068 meters. You can hike up the mountain or take a cable car to reach the pagoda, where you can enjoy the panoramic view of the surrounding area and feel the spiritual atmosphere of this holy place.
23. Try some local street food in Hon Gai Market.
Hon Gai Market is a bustling and colorful market in Halong City, where you can find all kinds of goods, such as clothes, souvenirs, fruits, vegetables, seafood, and street food. You can try some of the local delicacies that are sold in the market, such as banh gat gu (rice cake with pork belly), banh da cua (crab noodle soup), banh cuon nong (hot rice noodle rolls), or che dau xanh (green bean sweet soup). You can also buy some fresh seafood from the market and have it cooked for you at one of the nearby restaurants or stalls.
Halong Bay is a destination that will leave you speechless with its beauty and charm. It is a place that you will want to return to again and again. If you are planning to visit Halong Bay in 2023, make sure you don’t miss these best things to do in Halong Bay.