Three remarkable destinations in Vietnam, namely Ha Long Bay, Hoi An, and Phong Nha-Ke Bang, have been recognized as some of the most awe-inspiring UNESCO heritage wonders in Southeast Asia. This prestigious accolade was bestowed upon them by Wanderlust, a renowned travel magazine based in the United Kingdom.
Cat Ba Island and Halong Bay in Vietnam offer a multitude of ways to immerse oneself in their breathtaking beauty. While cruising on an ancient wooden junker and gazing at the emerald waters and towering cliffs covered in lush jungle remains a popular choice, it is not the only way to experience this remarkable destination.
Although limestone karst formations can be found in other parts of the world, the scale and grandeur of Halong Bay’s 1,600 spires emerging from the Gulf of Tonkin are unparalleled. These majestic formations have given rise to towering islands and islets, which are inhabited solely by native seabirds.
Recognized by UNESCO in 1994, Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island have retained their natural splendor over the past few decades, with only the methods of exploration and the number of visitors evolving. Erosion has sculpted hidden caves and awe-inspiring arches into the limestone formations, adding to their allure.
For a more intimate encounter with this marvel, embark on a kayaking adventure. Explore Thien Cung, renowned for its impressive stalagmites and stalactites, or meander past oyster farms and floating villages connected by delicate walkways, in search of secluded beaches that remain undiscovered by the crowds.
To reach Cat Ba Island, take a bus from Hanoi to Haiphong, then hop on a ferry for a scenic one-hour and fifteen-minute journey.
How to get to Halong Bay from Hanoi City
To get to Halong Bay from Hanoi, you have a few transportation options:
- Local Bus: Taking a bus is one of the most common and convenient ways to travel from Hanoi to Halong Bay. There are several bus companies that operate daily routes between the two destinations. The journey typically takes around 4 hours, depending on traffic conditions. You can book bus tickets at travel agencies or through your hotel in Hanoi.
- Shuttle Bus: Many hotels and tour operators in Hanoi offer shuttle bus services specifically for tourists heading to Halong Bay. These buses usually provide pick-up services from your hotel in Hanoi and drop you off directly at your accommodation in Halong Bay. The travel time is similar to that of a regular bus.
- Private Car: If you prefer a more comfortable and flexible option, you can hire a private car to take you from Hanoi to Halong Bay. This allows you to have more control over your schedule and make stops along the way if desired. Private car services can be arranged through travel agencies or car rental companies in Hanoi. Private care will take about 3 hours, with one stop along the way.
- Train: While there is no direct train service from Hanoi to Halong Bay, you can take a train from Hanoi to the nearby city of Hai Phong. From Hai Phong, you can then continue your journey to Halong Bay by bus or taxi. The train journey from Hanoi to Hai Phong takes approximately 2 hours.
- Seaplane: For a unique and scenic experience, you also have the option of taking a seaplane from Hanoi to Halong Bay. This allows you to enjoy stunning aerial views of the bay during the short flight. Seaplane services are available through certain tour operators and typically include transfers to and from your accommodation.
It’s recommended to check the availability and schedule of transportation options in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, and to consider factors such as cost, comfort, and travel preferences when choosing your mode of transportation.
When in Vietnam, be sure to explore the best that the country has to offer beyond Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island.
Hoi An, A UNESCO-listed town in Vietnam
Hoi An offers a serene and tranquil escape from the bustling atmosphere often associated with Southeast Asia. Unlike many other destinations in the region, Hoi An presents a picturesque and carefully preserved reflection of traditional Vietnamese life.
In its heyday, Hoi An thrived as a vibrant port town, attracting merchants from various parts of Asia. However, around 200 years ago, the Thu Bon River silted up, leading to the decline of the port and the migration of traders to other locations.
Despite the passage of time, Hoi An’s rich multicultural history is evident throughout the town. French-style buildings, a Chinese Quarter, and a charming Japanese-style covered bridge serve as reminders of its past. The Chinese influence is particularly prominent in the assembly halls, each constructed based on the home province of its settlers.
Take a leisurely stroll through these assembly halls, exploring their cool interiors, before venturing onto Tran Phu, the city’s oldest commercial street. Lined with traditional wooden-fronted stores, this enchanting street comes alive during the monthly Full Moon Festival, when lanterns cast a soft, atmospheric glow, painting the facades in a hazy shade of red.
The heart of Hoi An’s Old Town is a traffic-free zone, allowing visitors to peacefully admire the faded pastel facades, colonnaded balconies, charming cafes, bustling markets, skilled tailors, and boutique shops that populate the area. Amidst the tranquility, the sound of temple bells and the footsteps of visitors create a harmonious ambiance. There is no wonder why so many people adore Hoi An.
To reach Hoi An, there are flights connecting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to Danang, with a travel time of approximately one and a half hours. From Danang, Hoi An is a convenient 45-minute taxi ride away. There is a private car provided by Vietnam Travel Deals Check with us daily for the best deals.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
With its sprawling 885 square kilometers of pristine evergreen jungle and ancient karst peaks, is not solely celebrated for its natural beauty. Surprisingly, the park’s main allure lies beneath the surface, in its captivating caves and subterranean rivers.
Even before Hang Son Doong, a colossal 5-kilometer-long cavern large enough to house a skyscraper, claimed the title of the world’s largest cave, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park had already earned recognition from UNESCO. Since its opening to visitors in 2013, guided tours into the immense limestone expanse of Hang Son Doong have been a relatively new endeavor. As exploration continues, new caves are frequently discovered, and recently, the spectacular Hang Va with its shimmering underground stalagmite field has become the latest addition to the park’s tour offerings.
For a more accessible cave experience, visitors can venture to Paradise Cave. Buggies transport crowds from the nearby village of Son Trach, a convenient base for exploring the park. Inside Paradise Cave, one can marvel at the enormous stalactites hanging from a ceiling that stretches an impressive 31 kilometers. To avoid the crowds, it is best to arrive early. Another option is the Dark Cave, which requires a kayak journey upstream. Once inside, visitors can indulge in a mud bath before refreshing themselves with a swim in an underground lake.
How to get to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park:
To reach Phong Nha, you can follow these transportation options:
- By Air: The nearest airport to Phong Nha is Dong Hoi Airport (VDH). You can take a flight from either Hanoi (approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes) or Ho Chi Minh City (around 1.5 hours) to Dong Hoi. From the airport, you can hire a taxi or arrange for a transfer to Phong Nha, which is approximately a 45-minute drive away.
- By Train: If you prefer to travel by train, you can take a train from Hanoi or Hue Imperial City to Dong Hoi Railway Station. From there, you can either hire a taxi or take a local bus to Phong Nha, which is approximately a 45-minute journey.
- By Bus: There are several bus companies that operate routes from major cities such as Hanoi, Hue, and Da Nang to Phong Nha. The travel time may vary depending on the departure location, but it is generally around 6-8 hours from Hanoi and 3-4 hours from Hue or Da Nang. You can book bus tickets at travel agencies or through your hotel.
- Private Car: Another option is to hire a private car or arrange for a private transfer service. This provides flexibility and convenience, allowing you to travel at your own pace and make stops along the way. Private car services can be arranged through travel agencies or car rental companies.
Once you arrive in Phong Nha, you can explore the national park and its stunning caves by joining guided tours or hiring local transportation services. It’s recommended to plan your transportation in advance and check the schedules, especially during peak travel seasons, to ensure a smooth journey to Phong Nha.