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Vietnam is a spectacular country full of all sorts of attractions. In Vietnam, one will find exotic food, the world's largest cave, pristine tropical beaches, and the iconic Halong Bay in northern Vietnam. Halong Bay and Vietnam's other dramatic coastlines are just some reasons why Vietnam should be on one's bucket list. The country is stunning from north to south. In the far south is the stunning tropical island paradise of Phu Quoc one should also visit.

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Halong Bay draws visitors from far and wide to see its stunning towering limestone pillars impossibly topped by forests. The best way to explore the bay is to take a boat tour through the emerald waters and soak in the atmosphere. It is easy to see how they are North Vietnam's top tourism destination.

What Is So Special About Halong Bay

For many, the dramatic seascapes of Halong Bay are synonymous with tourism in Vietnam. The rugged islands, countless caves, and uncountable islets are the main pull to this stunning Southeast Asian country.

Halong Bay (or Ha Long Bay) means "descending dragon" in Vietnamese. The bay is eye-catching for its dramatic limestone karsts and isles - thousands of them. They dot the area in many shapes and sizes. Halong Bay is part of the larger zone that includes Bai Tu Long Bay and Cat Ba Island.

  • Islets: 1,960-2,000 Islets Over 600 Sq Miles
  • Core Of The Bay: 775 Islets Over 129 Sq Miles
  • Designed: UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994

The limestone outcrops one sees dramatically rising above the waters of the bay have been millions of years in the making. They have been formed from the impact of the tropical wet climate.

Related: Vietnam Vacation: Skip Ha Long Bay And Visit This Stunning Destination, Instead

Visiting Halong Bay

There are token entry fees to visit the national park of 40,000 Vietnamese Dong (or around $1.70). Similar fees are payable for specific attractions in the bay (like caves and fishing villages).

  • Entry Fees: There Are Token Entry Fees

Vietnam is tropical, so while the bay is stunning for much of the year, one should avoid the monsoon season from June to August.

  • Monsoon Season: June to August

Another option is to skip the main bay and go straight for Cat Ba Island. There it's less touristic but just as magnificent.

Top Activities In Halong Bay

Go For a Cruise:

Naturally, the most popular activity is to explore Halong Bay on a cruise. Nothing beats the relaxing experience of drifting through the bay on a serene morning surrounded by these dramatic formations.

Explore The Floating Villages:

Take time to explore the various fishing communities that have occupied this bay for centuries. It is possible to take a boat tour around the floating villages to get a glimpse of a very different way of life.

Rent A Kayak:

Another option is to explore the bay by oneself, paddling out with a kayak. The evening before sunset is the best time to go for a paddle as the colors soften, the lagoon goes quiet, and the fishermen are out.

Tour The Caves:

The bay is also famous for its many spectacular caves. Many of the bay's ancient karsts have been so carved by unrelenting eons of rain and water currents that they are now peppered with caves. Take a look inside some of these wonders of the natural world. Some are tiny and a squeeze to get in, while others are huge.

Go Rock Climbing:

Finally, another option for rock climbing enthusiasts is to go rock climbing. It has become increasingly popular.

Related: Here's How To Relax On Vietnam's Tropical Island Paradise Phu Quoc

Booking A Cruise Of Halong Bay

Independent travelers can make their own way to Halong Bay and book a boat tour or other attractions when there. Often there's no need to book ahead.

For those wanting more planning and certainty and a luxury cruise, there are plenty listed on Visithalongbay.com. It is popular for visitors to take a cruise tour of the bay that includes sleeping on board within the bay. There are numerous cruises offering overnight cruises on the bay.

  • Price: $150-500 For Overnight Cruise For Two

Booking a cruise takes the hassle out of travel, and many will offer shuttle services from one's hotel. A trip to Halong Bay is one of the most stunning activities one can enjoy in Southeast Asia and one no one will forget.