In Halong Bay in the north of Vietnam, some 2,000 spectacular limestone rocks of various sizes and shapes rise out of the water along a 120km-long coastline. In addition to the breathtaking landscape, Halong Bay attracts visitors with cave tours, dream beaches and idyllic canoe trips.
Halong Bay is located in the Gulf of Tonkin in northern Vietnam and is an absolutely spectacular piece of scenery. Over an area of about 1,500 square kilometres, some 2,000 rugged limestone islands and rocks of various sizes and shapes rise out of the water along the 120-kilometre-long coastline. The highest elevation is 330 metres. Since 1994, Halong Bay with its 775 rocky islands has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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PICTURES: Halong Bay
Formation of the limestone cliffs in Halong Bay
Vjnh Ha Long means "Bay of the Submerged Dragon". According to legend, the gods sent a family of dragons to help the Vietnamese defend their young country against invaders. The dragons spat jewels and jade, which formed into huge rocks in Halong Bay.
Some of the rocks buried the enemy ships under them, others suddenly appeared in front of the boats, which then smashed against the steep cliffs. After the work was done, the mother dragon settled in Halong, while her children retreated to the island of Bái Túr Long ("Home of the Dragon Children").
In fact, the impressive rock formations in Halong Bay were formed millions of years ago by a sunken cone karst and were previously exposed to erosion under a wide range of climatic conditions for over 500 million years.
Lonely Paradises of Halong Bay
Many of the beaches, grottos and caves are normally under water and can only be entered at low tide. Some of the caves are densely overgrown, others have bizarre stalagmites and stalactites.
Due to the difficult accessibility, the islands have been virtually spared by modern humans until now. 14 plant and 60 animal species live only on the stone rocks of Halong Bay. Finds in Bài Thơ Mout, the Đầu Gỗ Cave and Bãi Cháy prove that the islands were already inhabited by humans 20,000 years ago.
Especially the larger islands, such as Cát Bà, which covers 354 square kilometres, were used as refugee camps, supply depots and hospitals during the wars against the French and Americans.
Today, a national park has been established there, and visitors enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches. The island also leaves nothing to be desired for tourists - hotels, restaurants and bars line up one after the other.
On the Road in Halong Bay
Today, Halong Bay is one of Vietnam's most popular sights. Its rugged cliffs, winding caves and impressive karst arches make a boat trip an unforgettable journey.
The disadvantage of the great popularity is, of course, the mass handling of tourists, but once you have travelled a few kilometres between the spectacular rocky hills, it slowly becomes quieter and you can really savour the idyll.
Besides the impressive panorama, the trip can be used for trekking, swimming, visiting caves and canoeing to remote beaches with crystal clear water.
The most beautiful cave is on Dau Go, Dau Be is the best tip for snorkellers. So spending a few days on the road in Halong Bay certainly won't leave you bored either!
In the last ten years, shadows have repeatedly fallen over Halong Bay as tourist boats capsized and sank, even killing people in the process. The poor safety standards and the old age of the boats were often heavily criticised in the media.
Tip: Sometimes horrendous prices are charged for tickets, so it's best to ask around first or negotiate directly at the port. Many of the islands are protected, but locals still break off corals and stalagmites to sell them as paperweights, jewellery or ashtrays. If tourists participate less in this profiteering, perhaps the natural resources of Halong Bay will soon be left alone.