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Like an enormous, half-completed jigsaw puzzle, the island pieces of Halong Bay cover 1500 square kilometers. These massive limestone and dolomite pinnacles, known as “karsts,” have inspired legends, myths, poets and tour operators since they were first seen by humans. Billions of years ago, layers of sedimentary rock were laid down in what is now called Halong Bay. Cataclysmic tectonic action forced it up through the surface of the sea creating a land mass the size of Delaware. But it was of soft, porous material. Wind, wave and rain erosion carved it into the cave-riddled islands and towers that now make up Halong. Think of the Grand ...

Like an enormous, half-completed jigsaw puzzle, the island pieces of Halong Bay cover 1500 square kilometers. These massive limestone and dolomite pinnacles, known as “karsts,” have inspired legends, myths, poets and tour operators since they were first seen by humans. Billions of years ago, layers of sedimentary rock were laid down in what is now called Halong Bay. Cataclysmic tectonic action forced it up through the surface of the sea creating a land mass the size of Delaware. But it was of soft, porous material. Wind, wave and rain erosion carved it into the cave-riddled islands and towers that now make up Halong. Think of the Grand Canyon and the classic landscapes of the American southwest desert, then add the tropic sea. Being a seascape, the best way to enjoy Halong is by boat. Helicopter and airplane tours are not yet available. In Halong City any number of boats are tied up at harbor waiting for you to arrive. There are big ones and small ones. Some are day boats and some will sleep 14-20 people for one- or two-night tours. A few of the islands have small tourist developments. You can still feel like the first person to sleep there. You may even be able to spend a night in one of the ancient “floating villages,” tightly knit collections of houseboats occupied by fisher folk.

Richard Sterling
About the Expert

Richard Sterling is the author of Lonely Planet's World Food: Greece, Eyewitness Travel Guide Vietnam, and many other books.

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Richard Sterling for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Northeastern Vietnam
  • Language: Vietnamese
  • Currency: Vietnam Dong
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    March - September