The UNESCO World Heritage site of Halong Bay means ‘dragon descending to the sea,’ named for a family of dragons said to have helped the Vietnamese people fend off invaders. According to legend, the dragons spit out gemstones that turned into the islets dotting the bay.
Start your full-day tour with an early morning departure from your hotel to Halong Bay, located approx. 100 miles (160 km) east of Hanoi. Relax on the 3- to 4-hour drive as your private guide points out the diversity of northern Vietnam’s villages, and enjoy the breathtaking view of green rice fields and fruit gardens during the journey.
Board your sailboat upon arrival and begin your cruise around the picturesque waters where the reflections of 3,000 limestone islets are mirrored against the clear and calm emerald sea, many of them containing fascinating grottoes. Visit Thien Cung, also known as Heavenly Cave, which can be reached on the southwest side of the bay through a sailing route shrouded on each side by thick foliage. As you stroll the wooden walkway and marvel at the unique rock formations inside, learn about the legend of the dragon prince from your guide.
Next, disembark at Dau Go grotto, located on Driftwood Island, and climb 90 steps up to the entrance. Inside, numerous stalactites descend from the cave’s ceiling like a frozen waterfall.
Enjoy a provided seafood lunch on board as you continue to experience the charm of Halong Bay, sailing around Dinh Huong (Incense Urn), Cho Da (Stone Dog) and Ga Choi (Fighting Roosters) — rocky islets named for their animal shapes.
Weather permitting, you can opt to swim in the bay or rent a kayak (own expense).
In the late afternoon, sail back to shore and disembark for the drive back to Hanoi. Your full-day tour ends with a visit to Dong Trieu ceramic village en route to your hotel