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Halong Vietnam.

Halong City is gateway to one of the most majestic sites in Vietnam. Capital of its province, Halong is a reformed coal-mining town that realized even greater profits could be turned by promoting tourism. Domestic tourists come on holiday and book accommodation in Halong City. International visitors use it as little more than a transport depot, honing in instead on nearby Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Halong Bay is the kind of rare site that inspires fairy tales and landscape paintings. It centers on a field of limestone karst towers jutting out the bay and soaring high over green waters. These rock formations take a number of odd, often surreal shapes. The name itself means 'descending dragon', and looking out over the myriad rock shapes, its easy to imaging the undulating tail of a dragon snaking its way through the water.

A first visit to Halong Bay, with craggy, forested spires and perpetual mists, requires a few moments' processing. After that initial gaze, visitors descend for all kinds of activities. Weaving through the pillars by kayak or rappelling off a limestone precipice are especially popular pursuits. Old Chinese junks launch sightseeing cruises from the pier.

The best hotels near Halong are on Cat Ba Island. It's an oasis of jungle in the midst of the bay, home to sandy beaches that are many times better than any other in the region. With lakes, Buddhist grottoes, waterfalls and five-star resorts, Cat Ba Island is an enviable place to spend a night or two.

The thousands of limestone cliffs reflecting off the clear seas of the bay is a truly breathtaking sight to be seen in Vietnam. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, this is considered to be on the “short list” of natural wonders of the entire world.

Many of the towering peaks are hollow and contain seemingly endless series of caves to be explored and two of the islands Tuần Châu and Cat Ba have permanent inhabitants, tourist facilities and even hotels. It is a good idea to take a guided tour of the area, because some of the islands have hidden enclosed lakes that would otherwise be relatively impossible to find. The caves, often detrimentally to the natural balance, have had their entrances widened to allow for more tourists to enter, and the area, for the most part, is very well looked after in an attempt to conserve its natural beauty.

Halong’s hotels are abundant and varied from budget to extraordinarily luxurious, so nearly any taste (and budget) can be accommodated in Halong. Daily excursions to the Bay are the main reason why people flock to this gem in Vietnam, and most people will agree that several days are required in order to witness Halong in its full majesty. At night, there are wonderful dining options including fresh local produce and seafood including cuttlefish and locally caught prawn. This area is arguably the most popular destination in Vietnam with the Vietnamese as well. Just one look at the sweeping views of the cliffs in the distance and it is easy to understand why that would be.


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