Halong, Bai Tu Long and Lan Ha - Three Brothers in the Gulf of Tonkin

1751 View

The legendary Gulf of Tonkin, bounded by both Vietnam and China, covers three bays: Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay. Composed of thousands of islands rising from turquoise water, the Gulf of Tonkin creates truly amazing seascape. 

The Gulf of Tonkin is a shared semi-enclosed sea area, embraced by the Vietnamese and Chinese coasts. Composed of thousands of islands rising from turquoise water, the Gulf of Tonkin creates truly amazing seascape. In fact, there are about 4,000 islands in the sea of Vietnam, and 3,000 of those are in the Gulf of Tonkin. Resulting from millions of years of erosion, the islands feature numerous grottoes and caves, lagoons and coral reefs which display an amazing range of biodiversity. The abundant fisheries resources of the Gulf of Tonkin have supported the livelihood of Vietnamese and Chinese fishermen for centuries. 

The aquamarine Gulf of Tonkin covers three bays: Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay.

The aquamarine Gulf of Tonkin covers three bays: Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay. From an administrative point they are three separate parks, each with its own entrance fees, but from a geological and geographical standpoint they are a whole! Halong Bay is by far the most well known by tourists from all over the world. However, Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay have exactly same scenic beauty as Halong Bay. 

Halong Bay – a World-renowned site

Halong is a lock on every tourists Vietnam travel itinerary and if it’s not, it should be. Often described as one of the natural wonders of the world, the stunning bay is home to a multitude of beautiful islands and striking limestone towers. The core of the Bay was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994. The mystical Halong Bay tells the story of a dragon descending from the mountain, and as it plummets into the waters, its lashing tail furrowed the massive land leaving only its sharp crests.

Cruising in Halong Bay is in every traveller's list. 

If you’re an extrovert, solo traveller or are travelling with a group of friends, Halong is the one for you. Formed over 20 million years by the tropical coastal climate, the inspiring landforms are accessible by a fleet of impressive traditional junks that let you see Ha Long Bay in all its natural glory. Sailing in a traditional junk off the Ha Long coast inspires a journey of tales and regional folklore that invokes fortresses, dragons and jewels. These sweep you away to the very best hidden lagoons, gorgeous beaches and magnificent grottos the Bay has to offer. Spending time on beautiful beaches like Titop Island Beach, Three Peach Beach and Tuan Chau beach with a couple cans of beer would be a great choice. Sung Sot and Dau Go caves are perfect for exploring the incredible interior of the natural landmarks, which are home to magnificent rock formations as well as swarms of bats. 

Bai Tu Long Bay – a secret hidden beauty

Bai Tu Long Bay, occupies three quarters of Halong Bay World Heritage site, is a stunning embodiment of the area, with peaceful serene azure water surrounded by a variety of striking, tree-topped limestone towers. Bai Tu Long has becomes one of the top off the beaten track destinations in North Vietnam. If you don't like crowds or want to experience a peaceful atmosphere, Bai Tu Long Bay would be a place for you. The local tourism industry hasn’t exploited Bai Tu Long Bay yet meaning it still carries a quiet wild beauty.

Peaceful Bai Tu Long

Exploring the lesser-known caves in Bai Tu Long might be the most exciting experience. You never know what you’ll find and it’s hard to imagine just how beautiful and breathtaking they are. There is no light and paths like Sung Sot Cave or Thien Cung Cave in Halong Bay. You have to figure it out yourself! If you’re on your own now you’ll feel like a professional explorer. Of course, this area is pretty large so there are many caves waiting for you to discover.
Popular sites often included on Bai Tu Long Bay cruises are Vung Vieng fishing village, Thien Canh Son Cave and Hon Co Beach. The more remote attractions such as Co To Island, Quan Lan Island or Ngoc Vung Island, well known among Vietnamese tourists, are harder to reach by waterway. The area is also home to the large Bai Tu Long National Park, one of seven Vietnamese national parks, which has both a terrestrial zone and an aquatic zone.

Vung Vieng Fishing Village.

Lan Ha Bay – energetic lifestyle

While Bai Tu Long bay is in Northeast of Halong, south you find Lan Ha bay away from the majority of tourist boats. As travellers are now tending to switch from Halong Bay to Lan Ha Bay in increasing numbers, this place now is firmly in the developing phase; everything is just getting started.
There are around 400 karst limestone islands in various interesting shapes in the bay. All islands in Lan Ha Bay are verdant, even just a tiny island. Without noisy karaoke tourist boats, only the sound puter putter of small fishermans boat engines can breaks up the serene stillness.
Cat Ba is a pretty big island in the area. This is a perfect place for outdoor activities. For example, you can go trekking in the islands’ national park, climbing to the top of Bai Tho Mountain, relaxing on the island’s beaches or just soaking up the stunning scenery.

Biking On Cat Ba Island in Lan Ha Bay

Lan Ha Bay is also called a “kayaking paradise”. You can paddle go through an interesting cave known as Hang Luon (Luon Cave), Hang Sang Toi (Dark & Light Cave). Passing through the natural entrance, you will see a tranquil round lake, surrounded by luxuriant trees and different sized stone walls. There are weeping fig trees shading the inside and many orchids displaying their sweet-scented flowers; a secret treasure for nature-lovers.

Monkey Island

Monkey Island is an attractive point as well. The island has a nice sandy beach and the main attraction – as you can imagine – are the cute monkeys.

One may regard Halong Bay as a "successful businessman" and Bai Tu Long Bay as a "traditional Vietnamese woman with her hidden charm", then Lan Ha Bay would be a "young energetic guy". But anyway, each of them will make you glad you took the trip. Just to be sure, while you are in, all of your computer desktop wallpapers comes to life. Many cruise tours are available to explore this extraordinary environment, including trips departing from the capital city of Hanoi (approximately three and a half hours away). These excursions offer a variety of experiences such as kayaking, exploring limestone caves, nature walks, visiting local fishing villages and swimming in the refreshing emerald gulf waters.


Image Sources: Internet.

1751 View

Related travel guides

Similar destinations

Best of Halong Bay Tours

Orchid Cruise 2 days

Price Included:

Price Excluded:

  • VAT
  • English speaking tour guide on boat
  • Luxury Cruise through Halong bay – Lan Ha Bay ( apply for 2 days 1 night) and Bai Tu Long Bay ( apply for 3 days 2 nights)
  • All meals aboard as mentioned in the itineraries, ( 02 lunches, 01 dinner, 01 breakfast) for 2 days 1 night, ( 03 lunches, 02 dinners, 02 breakfast) for 3 days 2 nights
  • Kayaking, Cooking class, Tai chi exercise, Bamboo boat, Swimming (if the weather permits), Fish fishing, Movies, Squid fishing, Music entertainment
  • Sightseeing entrance fees
  • Luxury cabin with A/C
  • Day boat, Exploring Sung Sot cave, Vung Vieng village, kayaking and tour guide for the 2nd day of 3 days/2 nights package
  • Welcome drink, cold handkerchief, fresh flowers and fresh fruits basket, two bottle of mineral water in each cabin
  • Shuttle bus Hanoi - Halong - Hanoi
  • Airfare, visa arrangements
  • Beauty Spa Services & Massage
  • Beverages, tips, gratuities and other personal expenses
  • All other sevices NOT clearly mentioned above
Paloma Cruise 2 days

Price Included:

Price Excluded:

  • English Speaking Guide on boat.
  • Entrance and Sightseeing fees.
  • Luxury Paloma Cruise in Halong Bay
  • All meal on board (2 lunches, 1 dinners, 1 breakfast).
  • Cooking demonstration.
  • 1 Sunset party
  • Bamboo boat trip rowed by local people
  • Welcome drink, cold handkerchief
  • 2 bottles of mineral water in cabin
  • Daily fresh fruit
  • Service charge, Insurance on board
  • Transfer Hanoi - Halong - Hanoi (book in next step)
  • Airfares,private Car Transfers and Hotels
  • Massage Services
  • Beverages, Tips and Personal Expenses
  • All other services not clearly mentioned above
Glory Legend Cruise 2 days

Price Included:

Price Excluded:

  • Welcome drink
  • Excursions as itinerary
  • Entrance and sightseeing fees
  • In-house English-speaking tour guide
  • Luxurious cabins and suites
  • Deluxe Vietnamese and international lunch and dinner
  • Vietnamese and international breakfast
  • Conference equipment (charter only)
  • All meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B= Breakfast, L= Lunch, D= Dinner, BR= Brunch)
  • Transfer: Hanoi - Halong - Hanoi
  • Beverages, tips, gratuities and personal expenses
  • All other services not clearly mentioned above
Pelican Cruise 2 days

Price Included:

Price Excluded:

  • Welcome Drink
  • Entrance & Sightseeing Fees
  • In-house English-speaking Tour Guide
  • Luxury Cabins & Suites with A/C
  • Luxury en-suite Bathroom
  • All meals on board
  • Sunrise Tai Chi Class
  • Insurance on board
  • Taxes and Service Charges
  • Transfer Hanoi - Halong - Hanoi (book in next step)
  • Airfares, Car Private Transfers & Hotels
  • Beauty Spa Services & Massage
  • Beverages
  • Tips & Others Personal Expenses
  • All other services not clearly mentioned in Inclusions
  • Surcharge for Lunar New Year’s Eve
Aphrodite Cruise 2 days

Price Included:

Price Excluded:

  • Welcome drink
  • Cruise itinerary and program
  • Entrance and sightseeing fees
  • In-house English-speaking tour guide
  • Luxurious cabins and suites with A/C and en-suite bathrooms
  • Luxury Vietnamese and international lunch and dinner (Set Menu)
  • Vietnamese and international breakfast
  • Sampan boat trip
  • Tai Chi session
  • Conference equipment (Charter only)
  • Insurance, taxes and service charges.
  • Transfer Hanoi - Halong - Hanoi (book in next step)
  • All airfares and hotels arrangements
  • Beauty, Massage and Spa therapy
  • Beverage
  • Tips and other personal expenses
  • All services not clearly included
View More ❯