VietnamNorth Vietnam TravelFirst Time in Ha Long

First Time in Ha Long

Ha Long City is located in Quang Ninh Province in northeastern Vietnam. It is a coastal city about 4 hours by bus to the east of Hanoi.

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A view of Ha Long City from the Poem Mountain

Population of Quang Ninh Province (2019): 1.4 mil, Ha Long City: 300,000

Ethnic groups: Viet (Kinh), Dao, Tay, San Diu, San Chay, Hoa

Highlights: Ha Long Bay, Van Don, Bai Tho Mountain (poem mountain), Tra Co Beach, Yen Tu Mountain


The average annual temperature is 23.8oC (74.8oF). The warmest month of the year is July, with an average temperate of 29.1oC (84.4oF), and the coldest month of the year is January with temperatures averaging 16.9oC (62.4oF).

With a generally warm and temperate climate, the summer has a good amount of rainfall with precipitation of about 2,061 mm (81.1 inches) per year. Most of the precipitation is in July.


Ha Long City is 155 km east of Hanoi and takes 4 hours by bus, 45 km from Cam Pha City, and 55 km from Hai Phong City.

Most people will travel from Hanoi to Ha Long through 2 options:
1) Take a group bus tour or a shuttle bus
2) Drive their motorbikes


Hanoi -> Ha Long Bay: Check bus prices and availability from Hanoi to Ha Long

Ha Long Bay -> Hanoi: Check bus prices and availability from Ha Long to Hanoi

Boats to visit Ha Long Bay

There are hundreds of tourist boats offering tours at Ha Long Bay, with about 200 of them offering overnight stays on the boat cruise. It takes around 4 – 8 hours to visit the bay, depending on the selected tour and program. Contact Tuan Chau Wharf (view map) or other tourist boats of your preference booked from Hanoi or at Ha Long.


Since it is 155 km from Hanoi to Ha Long, you should plan for the petrol station for 1 re-fuel along the way.

At Ha Long City, motorbikes for rent are available for around VND 150,000 per day at the hotels or hostels.


Taxis are available almost everywhere in the city. Some of the taxi brands are Bai Chay, Mai Linh, Hoa Anh Dao, etc. 


Northern Service Flight Company (NSFC) offers helicopter tour flights from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay. NSFC is at Gia Lam Airport, Gai Thuy Ward, Long Bien District (view map). 


Daily ferries run between Tuan Chau Island at Tuan Chau Wharf (view map) and Cat Ba Island (view map) at Hai Phong City.

High-speed boats run daily on these routes: Hon Gai – Mong Cai/Quan Lan, Van Don – Quan Lan/Minh Chau/Ngoc Vung/Co To.

Ticket booking office from the wharves locations at Tuan Chau Wharf and Cat Ba.

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Travel Guides:

Ha Long Bay Travel Guide

Packing list for Vietnam

How to get to Ha Long Bay

Accommodations in Ha Long City:

Spend a night on a boat, cruise, or Hotel options:

(View on Agoda)

See our recommended places on where to stay in Ha Long

indochina sails ha long

Spend a night on a boat cruise like the Indochina Sails in Ha Long (view prices & availability)

Attractions in Ha Long City:

Ha Long Bay

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The legendary Ha Long Bay spreads over the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin with a total area of 1,553 km2. There are 1,969 islands of various sizes, 989 of which have been given names. The islands are concentrated in 2 main zones: Bai Tu Long Bay to the southeast and Ha Long Bay to the southwest.

Ha Long Bay was first recognized by UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage in 1994 and again in 2000. It is also one of the seven new wonders of the world since 2011 by New Open World Organization.

The limestone and schist formations of the islands date back to 250 or 280 million years ago. At the center of the islands lie wonderful beaches, coral reefs, and caves.

Bai Tho Mountain (Poem Mountain)

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The Poem Mountain is 106 m high running along the coast with half on land and half in the sea. In 1468, King Le Thanh Tong made a stop at the foot of the mountain and after being inspired by the grand beauty of the surroundings, he wrote a poem and had it engraved on the wall of the mountain.

Climbing to the summit offers panoramic views of Ha Long Bay. Due to recent safety regulations, the entrance to the mountain is officially closed to visitors. Visitors enter to climb at their own risk. To get to the top of the mountain, you will need to ask the homeowners to enter through their homes to access the tampered entrance gate (pictured) shared in their backyard. The homeowners (along Hang Noi street, adjacent to Le Thanh Tong Street) will let you through for a small fee, usually VND 20,000 – 50,000 per person. Check the latest reviews and tips by other travelers on Google reviews.

ha long poem mountain gate

To climb the Poem Mountain, you will need to get through this tampered entrance gate, but the view is rewarding

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Thien Cung (Heaven Palace) Cave

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Considered as one of the most beautiful caves in Ha Long Bay, Thien Cung (Heaven Palace) Cave is related to the legend of King Dragon. According to legend, the Dragon Prince fell in love with a beautiful young lady named May (Cloud) and they got married in the center of the cave. Their wedding lasted 7 days and 7 nights, and astonishingly, all of the scenes of their wedding have been fossilized in the cave. Thien Cung Cave is near Dau Go (Driftwood) Cave.

Dau Go (Driftwood) Cave

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Dau Go cave is on Driftwood Island, formerly known as Canh Doc Island. The name Driftwood Cave comes from the story of the resistance battle against the Yuan-Mongol invaders when Tran Hung Dao, a national hero of the 13th century, was given an offensive order. To prepare for a line of defense blocking the Mongol retreat, he ordered many sharpen wooden stakes planted on the riverbed of the Bach Dang River. On 9th April, 1288 the tide ebbed and the Mongol’s fleets were thrown on to the wooden stakes while Tran Hung Dao’s army moved in for the kill and destroyed 400 enemy warships.

The wooden stakes were stored in the cave hence the name. Dau Go Cave is 40 minutes from Bai Chay Wharf.

Sung Sot (Surprise) Cave

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Sung Sot is one of the finest and widest caves in Ha Long Bay covers an area of 10,000m2. Many stalactites hang from the high ceiling with numerous possible forms and shapes.

Bo Nau (Pelican) Cave

Many pelicans often take shelter at this 200m2 cave, which is 2 – 3 km southeast of Trong Mai Islet.

Hanh Cave

At the bottom of Quang Hanh Mountain, Hanh Cave is located 9 km west of Cam Pha City and 20 km from Bai Chay Beach. Hanh Cave is the longest cave in Ha Long Bay with 1,300 m in length and stretches throughout the stone mountain of Quang Hanh. The mouth of the cave is so low that visitors have to go by small boats to pass through and the entrance of the cave only appears when the tide is out. To get there, you can hire canoes at Doan Wharf (view map) at Ha Long City or take a coach to Cam Pha City and hire boats or canoes at Cam Pha Wharf Cai Rong (view map). Small boats taking you through the stone passageway use flashlights casting magical colors on the hanging stalactites. You should visit this beautiful cave at low tide and the journey takes 60 – 90 minutes to complete the trip.

In the cave, there is a Ba Co Shrine (Shrine of Three Girls) beside a smooth stone block. According to legend, once there were 3 girls who often went to the sea together and then one day, they were caught by pouring rain and took shelter in the cave. They found the scenery of the cave so captivating that they forgot the time of the rising tide. Unable to escape, they passed away and became Water Gods. Today, fishermen often go to the shrine to pray for favors from them.

Bai Chay

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Bai Chay Beach is a tourist site full of places to eat and activities that run along the sea for more than 2 km.

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ha long bai chay beach sunset

Trong Mai Islet 

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The image of Trong Mai is the symbol of Ha Long Bay and Vietnam tourism. The islet is located on the southwest side of Ha Long Bay, 5 km from Bai Chay Wharf. With a height of over 10 m, the islet looks like a pair of cock (Trong) and hen (Mai) in the sea.

Another similar symbol, Dinh Huong Island (view map) of Ha Long is represented on the back of the Vietnam Dong 200,000 bill. Learn more about the Vietnamese currency.

ha long bay trong mai islet

Tuan Chau Island

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Tuan Chau Island is southwest of Ha Long Bay, 2 km from National Road 18 and 8 km from Bai Chay Wharf. It is a schist island with beautiful beaches of fine white sand. It is possible to go to Tuan Chau Island via the 2 km cement road from the mainland. At the island, Tuan Chau International Port, constructed in an area of 200 hectares nearly 7 km long, has a capacity to receive 2,000 ships at a time.

From Bai Chay Wharf, there are cars to take visitors to Tuan Chau Island every 15 minutes.

Quang Ninh Museum and Library

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Built on an area of 24,000m2 and assembled with 14,000m2 of glass to look like a giant mirror reflecting the image of Ha Long Bay, the impressive museum also has a library with over 100,000 books.

Sun World Halong Park Complex

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A grand amusement park filled with roller coaster rides, a Ferris wheel, water park, sky-rail, entertaining shows, and landscaped grounds.

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The Ferris Wheel of the park can be seen along the Highway

Other Attractions in Quang Ninh Province:

Yen Tu Mountain

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See our Yen Tu Mountain Travel Guide

The historic site of Yen Tu is 40 km from Ha Long City and 14 km from Uong Bi City. The beauty of Yen Tu consists of mountains, forest, and ancient and solemn quietness of its shrines and pagodas.

Yen Tu became the center of Buddhism when King Tran Nhan Tong gave up this throne to establish a Buddhist sect called Truc Lam Zen. On the mountain, the bronze statue of King Monk Tran Ngan Tong is the largest bronze statue in Asia in 2014 weighing 138 tonnes and standing 15 m tall.

Ba Vang Pagoda

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Covering an area of 22 hectares, Ba Vang Pagoda is located on Ba Vang Mountain in Uong Bi City.

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A view of Uong Bi City from the Pagoda

Quynh Lam Pagoda

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Quynh Lam Pagoda was first built at the end of the 5th century and has been restored many times. It was the center for sacred books, peaching Buddhism, for training pagoda wardens. Quynh Lam Pagoda stands on a hill in the village of Tran An Commune, 83 km from Ha Long City.

Cua Ong Temple (Dong Hai Linh Tu)

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Cua Ong Temple is located in Cam Pha City, 40 km to the northeast of Ha Long City. This mountaintop temple built at the beginning of the 19th century provides a magnificent view of Bai Tu Long Bay.

The main temple was formerly used to worship Hoang Can, a regional hero, but it was later changed to honor the third son of Tran Hung Dao named Tran Quoc Tang, who defended the border in the Cua Suot area. This temple is sacred to the whole family of Tran Hung Dao. There is an annual Cua Ong Temple Festival (see the festival section below) to honor the Tran family.

Cai Bau Pagoda

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Cau Bau Pagoda, also known as Truc Lam Giac Tam Zen Monastery, is located on a high mountain facing the sea in the Van Don Island District. Built in 2007 in a total area of 20 hectares, the highlight is the 6,000 m2 sanctum consisting of 2 floors. The upstairs has the statue of Shakyamuni Buddha in the middle, statues of Manjushri Boddhisattva and Samantabhadra Bodhisattva on the two sides. The downstairs is the place for worship of patriarchs of Truc Lam Zen. Visitors at this mountaintop pagoda can get a rewarding panoramic view of Bai Tu Long Bay.

Van Don Island District

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Covering an area of 584 km2 with 600 islands, Van Don Island District belongs to Bai Tu Long Bay. It is currently home to 8 ethnic groups: Kinh (Viet), San Diu, Tay, Dao, Hoa, Cao Lan, Muong, and Nung.

The area is famous for Van Mountain with a height of 445 m at Ban Sen Island, Bai Tu Long National Park at Ba Mun Island, Dai (Long) Beach at Cai Bau Island, Ngoc Vung Beach at Ngoc Vung Island, Son Hao, Minh Chau, and Quan Lan beaches at Quan Lan Island, and other important relics such as Cai Bau Temple and Pagoda, Truc Lam Monastery at Cai Rong Island, Quan Lan Temple at Quan Lan Island, etc.

Tra Co

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Tra Co is on the eastern border of Vietnam with many beautiful sites, such as Tra Co Beach, Tra Co Communal House, Con Mang, Sa Vi, Linh Khanh Pagoda, and Doi Temple.

Tra Co Beach is 17 km long and considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Vietnam with an average temperate of 22.7oC (73oF) together with soft sandbanks, rows of mangrove forests and ironwoods.

Co To Archipelago

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Co To Archipelago includes 30 large and small islands, of which Co To, Thanh Lan, and Tran are the 3 largest. The large Co To Island is about 1.5 hours by express boat from Cai Rong Town in Van Don Island District. The crystal clear blue water and white sand at Trinh Sat Beach and Hong Van Beach at Co To are very beautiful. At Co To Island, visitors can catch boats to discover other islands.

Eating and Drinking in Ha Long:

There are many open-air pubs in Bai Chay (view map) and along the beach near Vuon Dao Street (view map). Fresh kinds of seafood and cha muc Ha Long (Ha Long fried squid) are specialties of Quang Ninh Province and available in most restaurants in the city.

ha long fried squid

Deep-fried squid

ha long mantis shrimps

Mantis shrimps

ha long sa sung worms

Earthworms are locally known as Sa Sung

ha long shellfish

Grilled shellfish

ha long snails

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Shopping in Ha Long:

Peaches and plums are the fruits of Ha Long. Peaches harvest season is in May and Plums are from May to July. If you want to support the local minorities, during the fruit seasons, you can stop by and buy fruits from them. They are usually sold by women and children sitting on the roadside.

Other local specialties include tea (bought from tea plantations or packaged at the local market) and products from fresh milk, such as yogurt.

Bai Chay Market (view map) has a selection of fresh produce, seafood, streetfoods, and items of clothing.

Festivals in Quang Ninh Province

Quang Ninh province has witnessed many glorious battles against foreign invaders, notably the history of Bach Dang Victory against Yuan-Mongol invaders. These heroic traditions made up the foundation of ceremonies to commemorate these historic events.

Ha Long Carnival is an annual culture, sports, and tourism event at the end of April in Ha Long City. There are colorful parades and art performances showing different cultural identities of the ethnic groups in Quang Ninh Province.

Bach Dang Festival happens on the 9th day of the 4th lunar month. The ceremony involves burning incense and making offerings to the spiritual ancestors, boat race, and wrestling. Notable mention of the national heroes who fought off foreign invaders include Ngo Quyen, who planted sharp wooden stakes into the riverbed of Bach Dang River and defeated the Chinese invaders in the year 938, then Le Hoan in 981, and Tran Hung Dao in 1288 who repeated the same strategy.

Cua Ong Temple Festival happens from the 2nd day of the 1st lunar month until the end of the 3rd lunar month. Cua Ong Temple (see more about Cua Ong Temple above) is one of the famous ceremonies of the Tran Dynasty.

Yen Tu Pagoda Festival is from the 10th day of the 1st lunar month until the end of the 3rd lunar month. See more information about Yen Tu Pagoda in the attraction section above.

Tien Cong Temple Festival is on the 7th day of the 1st lunar month. Tien Cong Temple (view map) is devoted to the founders, which according to legend over 500 years ago, discovered an underground spring on the island on that day.

Long Tien Pagoda Festival is held annually on the 24th day of the 3rd lunar month. Long Tien Pagoda (view map) was built in 1941 at the foot of Bai Tho (Poem) Mountain to honor Buddha, the Holy Mother, and the heroes of the Tran Dynasty.

Quan Lan Temple Festival is located in the central area of the ancient Van Don Harbour (view map). The traditional village festival happens on the 18th day of the 6th lunar month, but the whole celebration lasts from the 10th to the 20th days to commemorate the victory against the Mongol invaders in 1288.

Tra Co Village Festival is from the 30th day of the 5th lunar month to the 6th day of the 6th lunar month. Annually, the festival takes place to commemorate the founder of the village who built a communal house over 600 years ago. Tra Co Village (view map) is 8 km from Mong Cai City and 175 km from Ha Long City.

Tourism Department: 14th Floor, Office Complex 2 Building, Nguyen Van Cu Street, Ha Long City

Tourism Promotion Center: 9 Anh Dao Street, Ha Long City

Post Office: (view map) Ha Long City, Quang Ninh Province

Have questions or comments? Please feel free to leave us a comment below.

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