Bai Tu Long Bay – Halong Bay without mass tourism
Many of you are now looking for alternatives to the main Halong Bay, which experiences significant crowding, especially during the summer. After Lan Ha Bay, we invite you to explore another lesser-known part of the bay: Bai Tu Long Bay.
Few boats are allowed to sail here, and even fewer are permitted to anchor. This is a great opportunity to discover the bay in a pristine environment and tranquility.
In this article, we will provide you with all the information you need about this area so that you can make an informed decision about your visit!
Feel free to contact us for organizing your exploration of Bai Tu Long.
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The 3 areas of Halong bay
The bays of Halong, Lan Ha, and Bai Tu Long in Vietnam are all located in the Gulf of Tonkin and renowned for their breathtaking natural beauty. However, each bay has its unique characteristics that set them apart from one another.
Halong Bay, the most famous of these three, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is located in the Quang Ninh province in northeastern Vietnam. Halong Bay is renowned for its thousands of karst islands and islets rising from the water, creating a spectacular maritime landscape. Visitors can explore the bay aboard large boats, engage in activities like kayaking, swimming, and hiking. Tuan Chau Port is the usual starting point for excursions in this bay. Halong Bay is also home to several impressive caves and grottoes, such as Sung Sot Cave and Thien Cung Cave.
Halong landscape, Vietnam
Lan Ha bay
The Lan Ha Bay is located south of Halong Bay and is considered a natural extension of the latter. However, Lan Ha distinguishes itself with its tranquility and peaceful atmosphere. It is situated near Cat Ba Island, known for its beaches and hiking trails. Lan Ha Bay is less crowded than Halong Bay, making it an ideal destination for travelers seeking peace and serenity. Beautiful beaches, like Van Boi Beach, perfect for swimming, can be found in Lan Ha Bay. Visitors can also explore local fishing villages and interact with the residents.
Lan Ha from above, Vietnam. Photo : Mathieu Arnaudet
Bai Tu Long bay
The Bai Tu Long Bay is situated to the east of Halong Bay. It is less known than its neighbors, making it an ideal destination to escape the crowds. Bai Tu Long Bay is renowned for its crystal-clear waters, pristine beaches, and unspoiled landscapes. Visitors can explore caves, uninhabited islands, and fascinating marine biodiversity. Bai Tu Long Bay is perfect for a more intimate cruise experience. Travelers can also visit fishing villages and learn about the local way of life.
Bai Tu Long bay, Vietnam
Why choosing Bai Tu Long ?
Less known than its neighbor, Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay offers equally breathtaking landscapes. The bay is an ideal destination for those seeking a more authentic and less crowded experience. With its pristine beaches, impressive karst mountains, and untamed nature, Bai Tu Long Bay is a highly recommended area, even for first-time visitors to Vietnam.
To this day, Bai Tu Long remains largely unexplored. In many ways, it is, in fact, more spectacular than Halong Bay as it is still in its early stages as a traveler destination. Bai Tu Long offers numerous sites to visit, including the Cong Do area, Vung Vieng fishing village, Da Xep Park, Cong Dam area, Thien Canh Son Cave, and Tra Gioi Beach.
The bay also features some inhabited islands such as Quan Lan, Ngoc Vung, Cong Dong, and Cong Tay, which boast many beautiful beaches. Moreover, the Bai Tu Long Bay National Park is rich in biological diversity, housing various species of flora and fauna.
How to get there ?
It is the Hon Gai port that serves as the departure point for cruises to Bai Tu Long Bay. Here are the different options depending on your starting point:
From the city center of Hanoi to the Hon Gai port (Halong City): 3 hours and 15 minutes by bus/car, covering a distance of 136 kilometers.
From Noi Bai International Airport to the Hon Gai port (Halong City): 3 hours and 20 minutes by bus/car, covering 157 kilometers.
From Cat Bi International Airport to the Hon Gai port (Halong City): 2 hours by car/taxi, covering 79 kilometers.
The most common option is, of course, to book a cruise that also includes a shuttle service from Hanoi to Bai Tu Long Bay.
Travelers also have the option of hiring a private driver, but if your intention is only to take a cruise, the cruise shuttles will be more than adequate.
What to do in Bai Tu Long bay ?
Quieter, nevertheless, there are many things to do and discover in Bai Tu Long Bay. Here are the main ones.
Book a cruise
It’s obvious: it’s on a cruise ship that you’ll discover Bai Tu Long Bay. Cruises typically focus on the sailing route that passes through famous sites such as Thien Canh Son Cave, Vung Vieng Village, Ban Chan Island, Cap La Island, and the Cong Dam region.
Below, you will find our selection of cruise operators.
Visiting the floating villages of Vung Vieng and Cong Dam
The floating village of Vung Vieng, located almost 20 kilometers from the mainland in the heart of Bai Tu Long Bay, is an excellent place to learn more about the local lifestyle of navigation and fishing. Fishing boats with their nets stretched out to dry, along with the laughter of local families, have given Vung Vieng an idyllic and traditional character. You have the option to visit the village either in a rowing boat with a local resident or by kayaking to explore the surroundings on your own.
Vung Vieng floating village.
Cong Dam looks similar to Vung Vieng in appearance, but it is located far from the mainland and houses a smaller floating village of around 120 inhabitants. Travelers can take a kayak excursion in the area to enjoy the landscapes or join local fishermen to try their hand at fishing. There are many lagoons and sea caves around the village, as well as several beautiful beaches such as Tra Gioi, Cay Bang, and Cat Oan that are worth exploring.
Swimming and snorkeling at Ban Chan beach
If kayaking is a must-do activity in the fishing village of Vung Vieng and the Cong Dam area, swimming and snorkeling are other activities not to be missed at Ban Chan Beach.
Ban Chan Beach is renowned for its clear waters, white sandy beach, and excellent visibility ideal for swimming and snorkeling. The rugged rocks and lush forest surrounding it add to its charm, making this beach a majestic destination.
Enjoying the beach life in Ban Chan
Visiting Thien Canh Son cave
Thien Canh Son is a vast cave composed of three large chambers. The entrance to the cave is hidden under a thick forest cover, near a rocky wall. The formations inside the cave take various shapes, resembling lotus flowers, young elephants, seals, and blossoms. The cave’s ceiling, in particular, resembles a sparkling carpet adorned with glittering stalactites hanging down.
There is also a beautiful beach bearing the same name, Thien Canh Son, making it an ideal spot to take a break after a few hours of exploration.
Thien Canh Son cave
Visiting Bai Tu Long national park
The Bai Tu Long National Park was recently recognized as an ASEAN Heritage Park. Surrounded by towering limestone mountains, the park covers 15,783 hectares and is home to nearly 500 plant species, 37 bird species, as well as hundreds of marine animals such as seagulls, mussels, and abalones. The heart of Bai Tu Long National Park is the Ba Mun Island group, which hosts around 800 species of rare and diverse plants.
Bai Tu Long national park
Companies for exploring Bai Tu Long
There are far fewer cruise options for Bai Tu Long than for the main Halong Bay. We have made a selection based on several criteria: duration, private or not, and finally, the quality of the boat.
Daily cruise : La Muse
La Muse is the day boat of the company Indochina Junk, which has a total of 9 junks. The boat offers two itineraries: a full-day or a half-day.
Group cruise for half a day: you will board at 12 pm, have lunch, then visit the Mat Quy and Teapot islets, followed by Thien Canh Son Cave. In the afternoon, you will have a kayaking session, followed by relaxation, and disembarkation at 5:30 pm. The price is 1,550,000 VND (60 euros) per person.
Private full-day cruise: if you are with family or friends, you can charter the boat for a day. The cruise starts at 8:30 am, visiting Mat Quy and Teapot islets, followed by Thien Canh Son Cave and a kayaking session. Lunch will be served on board. In the afternoon, you will visit Vung Vieng village on a small wooden sampan. Return to the port and disembarkation at 4:30 pm. The company offers the price of 400 euros for the full-day rental.
La Muse boat
Private cruise : L’Amour and Prince
L’Amour and Prince are two other boats from the Indochina Junk company. Both are intended for private cruises.
L’Amour: it is a wooden boat with a single cabin and a private bathroom. The bedroom with a bathroom has a large window with a sea view, and the outdoor dining area is a perfect spot to observe the natural scenery during the cruise. It is the ideal junk for honeymooning couples.
La jonque L’Amour
Prince: this is a boat with 4 cabins, each with a private bathroom. The junk has been designed based on traditional fishing boats in Halong Bay, but on a slightly smaller scale with 4 cabins. It has 2 decks with dining spaces both inside and outside, as well as cabins decorated in a traditional style with a window overlooking the sea, where you can relax and admire the wonderful view. This junk is perfect for families or groups of friends.
These junks are unique, therefore their prices are quite high, and they need to be booked in advance – contact us at least 3 months in advance to secure a reservation.
Moderne cruise : Garden Bay boats
For a quality stay at a lower price, we recommend the boats from the Garden Bay company. There are four boats in total, with 10, 12, 13, and 14 cabins. The 10-cabin boat is the most luxurious and offers impeccable service highly appreciated by our clients. Onboard, there is an English-speaking guide, which facilitates the cruise activities and interactions with the crew and people encountered during the cruise. You can find the details of the two-day program and photos of the boats by clicking on the link below.
The 10 cabins Garden Bay boat
Luxury cruise : Dragon Legend
Finally, here is the largest boat on this list – 24 cabins – but also the most luxurious. Each spacious cabin features traditional handmade Vietnamese decor as well as modern amenities. A private bathroom includes a bathtub and large windows overlooking the sea. The boat has no less than 4 decks with both indoor and outdoor restaurants, a spa, a bar, and the sundeck. There are a total of 35 people on board to make your cruise an unforgettable experience. The itinerary has been carefully designed to take you off the beaten path.
Dragon Legend boat
You now know everything about the beautiful Bai Tu Long Bay !
Feel free to contact us for organizing your exploration of Bai Tu Long
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