The sun sets behind Halong Bay, Vietnam
Time seems to have stood still in Ha Long Bay. For millennia, its pocket of soaring limestone peaks have loomed over waters that transform, chameleon-like, from a deep murky blue to a vivid jade hue. Symbolism is scattered across this serene network of 1600 islands, known by their distinctive forms (Teapot and Stone Dog, to name a couple). Legend has it, Ha Long is named after a ‘descending dragon’ that was sent to protect it from northern invaders.
Halong Bay is home to a network of enormous caves
Nowadays, junk boats that have criss-crossed the depths for centuries still nip intrepid visitors from island to island, calling at hotspots like Vung Ha’s half-moon shaped beach, the jungle-cloaked Cat Ba Island, and the technicoloured crevices of Dau Go Cave. Paddle under your own kayak-powered steam from islet to islet, reaching dry land just in time to see the sunset drape crimson and violet streaks across the sky.
You can gain a different, loftier perspective after a hike up Cat Ba National Park’s verdant, clambering slopes, while the look-out from the historic Cannon Fort reveals the form of this captivating landscape.
Avoid peak season and visit in May or June
When to go?
If you want to avoid peak season’s high prices, head to the bay in May and June, when you’ll beat the more unpredictable – and stormy – weather. The sun still blazes, making it perfect water-going weather, while the boat-trip rates are lower and the beaches quieter.
Luxurious, Vietnamese-style decor at Paradise Suites Hotel
Where to stay?
Paradise Suites Hotel – Tuàn Châu, Vietnam
After a day exploring, the inviting surrounds of this boutique hotel are hard to resist. Rooms are spacious and adorned with tasteful furnishings. There’s also a spa, a fine-dining restaurant and a whisky bar at your disposal, and the hotel often puts on a spot of live Vietnamese music.
The boat-turned-hotel of Paradise Luxury Cruise
Paradise Luxury Cruise – Tuàn Châu, Vietnam
This boat-turned-hotel gives you the best vantage point of Ha Long Bay, as its junk boat-style sails flutter while it sets off from Tuàn Châu Island’s shores. A deck, al fresco bar and finely furnished rooms all capture views of the bay’s gorgeous seascape. Guests love the attentive service and lip-smacking cuisine dished up in the restaurant.
Incredible views of the bay from the Wyndham Legend Halong
Wyndham Legend Halong – Bãi Cháy, Vietnam
A dip in Wyndham’s seemingly endless pool rewards you with some stunning views of the islets that peak into the sky beyond. Sleek, spacious rooms offer oodles of space for relaxing, while the fourth-floor gym looks onto the water. Sun World Ha Long Park and the world’s tallest cable car are just a short walk away.