Halong Bay, located in northeast Vietnam around 165 km from the capital Hanoi, stretches over 43,400 hectares. It includes more than 1,600 islands and islets, most uninhabited and unaffected by humans, offering a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars and an ideal model of a mature Karst landscape.
The area’s exceptional scenic beauty is a result of its limestone karst towers, now islands, which come in the form of spectacular pillars and are marked by a variety of coastal erosion features such as arches and caves which only add to the majestic natural scenery. Halong Bay has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site twice, in 1994 and 2000. Cruises bring visitors to caves, beaches and lagoons, all amidst Halong Bay's iconic and magnificent vistas.
At over 8 hectares, Soi Sim Island is larger than many of its neighbours in Halong Bay, and has two peaks reaching over 100m above the sea. Only recently developed as a destination, Soi Sim remains clean and pristine. Enjoy the white sand and shallow waters which are ideal for swimming, or simply relax under an umbrella and take in the scenery. There is a natural trail you can hike to reach the peak of the island to catch wide views over Halong Bay's myriad islands. The island's unique geology has resulted in a preponderance of the rose myrtle plant which locals call sim, giving the island its name.
Titop Island is a well-known destination in Halong Bay for the scenery it offers and its white sand beach. Although Titop is a small island, the established path up to the peak offers visitors the chance to take in a magnificent panoramic view over Halong Bay – at the cost of climbing a lot of stairs! After you've conquered the peak, lay back on Titop's crescent of white sand or take a relaxing dip in the emerald waters. A great off-board excursion for a bit of climbing and a bit of relaxing, it is no wonder so many people remember Titop Island.
Ba Hang Village, a small floating village in the same area as Thien Cung Cave and Dau Go Cave, is a popular spot for visitors to witness the unique lifestyle of local residents on this majestic bay. Around 50 families live in Ba Hang, supporting themselves either by fishing or, now, by providing kayaking or rowing boat service to the growing numbers of visitors to Halong Bay.
The village has been home to generations of these families,; children learn to swim early and spend the bulk of their time on the water. Rising and falling with the tides and sheltered by towering limestone, the village is home to a unique lifestyle and is a true water world.
The three chambers of Dau Go Cave, spreading over some 5,000 square meters, are located just 300 meters from Thien Cung Cave, and the two are usually visited together. The beauty of Dau Go Cave is in its ancient and mossy appearance. Its first vaulted chamber resembles a large opera hall, with the colours and shapes of its formations representing a harmonious design. The middle and rear chambers of Dau Go are full of stalactites which are carefully and colourfully lit. Locals tell several stories about the name of this cave, one of which links the spot to the historic battle against Mongol invaders in the 13th century under the Tran Dynasty. It is said that this cave is where wooden stakes were hidden, which were later driven into the river bed to trap enemy vessels – the name “Dau Go” means wooden stakes.
Me Cung Cave, located on Lom Bo Island some 2 kilometres southwest of Titop Island, has numerous chambers linked by small passageways often just large enough for one person to pass through at a time. Me Cung Cave is notable as the site of archaeological evidence of prehistoric life in this area. Initial scientific explorations of the cave revealed piles of freshwater seashells along with fossilized animal remains. Experts believe the cave was inhabited some 7,000 to 10,000 years ago by a Stone Age culture using the bay as a food source.
Considered the most beautiful cave in Halong Bay, Thien Cung Cave is located only a few km from Halong City, the embarkation point of most Halong Bay cruises. The cave's vast interior is some 3,000 square meters, including several levels and impressively high ceilings. The stalactites and stalagmites in Thien Cung Cave come in many forms, and visitors enjoy learning the local stories about them, including the legend of the Dragon Prince falling in love the Lady of the Clouds.
Halong Bay's largest and most famous cave, Sung Sot Cave consists of two major chambers. The first, comparable to a theatre hall, features numerous stalactites hanging from the ceiling. From here a narrow passageway leads to the massive second chamber, where a flow of natural light brightens the surfaces of a space roomy enough to hold thousands of people. Sung Sot Cave's 10,000 square meters of space hold thousands of stalactites and stalagmites, and are threaded by a 500-meter paved passageway.