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In northern Vietnam, Halong Bay is a collection of some 1,600 islands so breathtaking it has been designated a world heritage site by UNESCO. Its seascape of limestone landforms has earned it the title of one of the new seven wonders of the natural world and makes for an unmissable destination.
The best way to experience Halong in all its natural beauty is by cruise boat. These are the most luxurious and unique.
The Indochina fleet has six luxury boats, all ideal for the typical three days, two nights stay. With an onboard chef and dedicated guide, the Indochina has a reputation as one of the very best. It’s the only cruise to include both a dining experience in one of Halong’s hidden caves and to explore Bai Tu Long Bay, Halong’s lesser known yet equally beautiful sister.
Winner of TripAdvisor’s Choice Award for the last three years, Au Co follows through on it’s pledge for five-star luxury. The accommodation is perhaps the most beautiful you’ll find in Halong and the five course meals exceptional. Highlights include the traditional Vietnamese tea ceremony and dining with the Captain.
Foodies should opt for the opulent Dragon Cruise. Its seafood platter is unrivalled for its range, freshness and taste. The experience is also enhanced by the fact that each party gets a personal butler. If the meal wears you out, you can choose to retire to your boutique wooden cabin or unwind with a treatment in the onboard spa.
Different cruises offer a variety of experiences – these are the ones not to miss.
Traditionally, Halong was home to numerous floating villages of fishermen and their families. While in recent years the population of these villages has shrunk, there are still a large number of families that live on the waters. Pay a visit and you’ll be welcomed warmly and encouraged to look around. It’s an intriguing glimpse into a way of life on the decline as the younger generations chose urban life over aquatic.
It seems that Halong has an infinite amount of caves, the exact number of which remains unknown. One of the largest and most impressive is Sung Sot, the ‘cave of surprises’, so named for the multiple caves within that get bigger and more beautiful as you progress. Take the steep, twisting steps up the side of the mountain to explore the winding caverns within.
A surprisingly magical and relaxing activity in Halong and one not only for the more adventurous. It’s easy, safe and the best way to explore the hidden coves and grottos. If you’re lucky you’ll also spot wild monkeys playing on the cliffs. Kayak at dusk and prepare yourself for the highlight of your trip.
Halong is as awe-inspiring beneath the water as above. As it is a protected UNESCO site, tourists are asked not to swim. Instead, arrange to scuba dive or snorkel and witness the underwater world of coral reefs and sea creatures. Unfortunately, like other reefs around the world, Halong’s are in decline. Take the opportunity while you can to see one of nature’s most diverse habitats.
TO GET THERE
As one of Vietnam’s top destinations, there are many options when it comes to travelling to the area. Halong Bay is a three and a half hour drive from Hanoi Airport or five hours if going by minibus. Book a private car through Hanoi Transfer Service for £64. You can also fly to Haiphong which is a two-hour drive away from Halong Bay.
Getting there in style
If roads aren’t your scene, you can travel from Hanoi to Halong via helicopter. This will cut your travel time to one and a half hours and give you a rare glimpse of the Bay that most can only dream of. This service is run exclusively by the Northern Vietnam Helicopter Company. Alternatively, you might consider charting a seaplane from Hanoi with Hai Au Aviation; it’s by far the most unique way to travel and offers unparalleled views.
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