Halong Bay is one of Mother Earth’s most amazing natural wonders and one of Vietnam’s most prized treasures. A comfortable 3 hours drive from Hanoi, Halong Bay is in Northeastern Vietnam on the shores of the Gulf of Tonkin. The bay is dominated by more than 1,600 limestone karsts and islets which rise out of the waters of the bay to heights of up to 100 meters (330 feet) and the numerous caves and grottos spread throughout the bay. Abundant scenic beauty, archeological and geological significance, cultural and historical connections, fresh seafood and proximity to international gateways make Halong Bay one of Vietnam’s most popular places to visit.
Halong Bay is located on the Western side of the Gulf of Tonkin in Northeastern Vietnam. The bay is approximately 35 km (21 miles) Northeast of the port city of Hai Phong and approximately 170 km (105 miles) by road from the capital Hanoi. The town of Halong is situated on the coast to the North of the bay. The journey from Hanoi to Halong takes approximately 3.5 hours.
Halong Bay is formed by Cat Ba island to the South, Ngoc Hung and Van Canh islands to the East and the Vietnamese coastline to the North and West. The bay covers a total area of 1,553 square kilometers (600 square miles). Occupying the heart of the bay between Halong town and Cat Ba island, the central World Heritage area stretches for 434 square kilometers (167 square miles).
The most outstanding feature of Halong Bay and undoubtedly its greatest attraction are the 1,696 islands, islets and rocky karst outcrops. 989 of these islets and rocky outcrops have been been given imaginative names by the locals over the years. These have been derived from their perceived shapes and include names such as Man’s Head, Fighting Cocks, Wading Ox and Wallowing Buffalo.
With heights ranging from 50-100 meters (160-330 feet) and a height-to-width ratio of about 6:1, the majority of these karst pinnacles and islets have sheer, vertical cliffs. They are uninhabited and unaffected by human activities. The pure size and numbers of these outcrops provide a stunning contrast and backdrop to the turquoise waters of the bay when viewed from sea level.