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The magnificent view of Lan Ha Bay

Lan Ha Bay Vietnam – A Paradise Next To Halong Bay

Halong Bay is undoubtedly one of the most famous and attractive destinations in Vietnam. However, do you know that the UNESCO World Heritage Site has two neighbors with natural similarities? One of them is Lan Ha Bay, which features a diverse system of exquisitely primitive landscapes. Compared to Halong Bay, Lan Ha is less visited and less inhabited, making it a must-try alternative for those who love a peaceful place. This article will introduce highlights of Lan Ha Bay Vietnam and suggest the best things to do in this area.

Overview of Lan Ha Bay Vietnam

Lan Ha Bay Vietnam, part of the Gulf of Tonkin, belongs to Hai Phong City (30km from the city center). The bay is located in the East of Cat Ba Island and in the South of Halong Bay. Lan Ha Bay features an over-7000-hectare area that includes 5400 hectares under the management of Cat Ba National Park – the UNESCO biosphere reserve.

It is naturally gifted a pristine and magnificent beauty with nearly 400 green islands and islets, 139 splendid beaches, and numerous mountains of various sizes and shapes. Lan Ha and Halong share several natural characteristics such as limestone towers and caves, white sand beaches, and turquoise seawater. Compared to its neighbor, Lan Ha Bay is less crowded and bustling, contributing to a more tranquil and primitive charm.

In addition to such breathtaking landscapes, the “isolated paradise” encompasses diverse and one-of-a-kind ecosystems: cave ecosystems, tidal ecosystems, coral ecosystems, soft bottom ecosystems, and saltwater lake ecosystems. Another highlight of Lan Ha Island is its historical geological values with an 18,000-year development of pyramidal karst topography.

Thanks to the unique features of nature and biodiversity, Lan Ha Bay was ranked as a National Park on the Sea by the Vietnamese Government in 1986. Besides, in 2004, the Bay was recognized by UNESCO as a World Biosphere Reserve and in 2012, was ranked as a special national scenic spot.

Lan Ha Bay map
Lan Ha Bay map

Must-visit places in Lan Ha Bay Vietnam

Cat Ba Island

Possessing a 17,040-hectare land area (island) and a 9,200-hectare sea area, Cat Ba Island is one of the three largest islands in Vietnam. It comprises 367 small islands, shaping an upside-down and appallingly drawn triangle. The island attracts a significant number of domestic and foreign tourists every year due to its magnificent landscapes and spectacular activities.

Cat Ba beaches: 

The very first destinations that you must visit in Cat Ba are stunning beaches that are ranked among the most beautiful beaches of Vietnam’s Northern side. Three options for your choice include Cat Co 1, 2, 3, of which Cat Co 2 can be considered the best one featuring emerald and clean water and a long white sand coast. 1-4 Street in the land center is the most bustling area with a wide range of entertainment activities and accommodations/restaurants.

A gorgeous beach with emerald seawater and white sand in Cat Ba
A gorgeous beach with emerald seawater and white sand in Cat Ba

Cat Ba National Park:

One of the most remarkable attractions on Cat Ba Island is Cat Ba National Park, a World Heritage Site designated as a biosphere reserve in Northern Vietnam. It covers a 263-square-kilometer area, divided into the land (173 square kilometers) and the inshore water (90 square kilometers.

Visiting the National Park, you have a chance to indulge in majestic nature and admire tropical forests, coastal water, etc. This location acts as the home to a diverse and valuable ecosystem of flora and fauna. There are 300 species of fish, 40 species of animals, 150 species of birds, 620 species of plants; and many rare others. Cat Ba National Park is specially famous for the Cat Ba langurs, also known as the white-headed langurs. They live within the park and are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a critically endangered primate; one of the rarest in the world.

An evergreen view of Cat Ba National Park
An evergreen view of Cat Ba National Park

Trung Trang Cave:

Trung Trang Cave is located in Trung Trang valley, 1km far from Cat Ba National Park and 15km to the northwest of Cat Ba town. This is one of the largest and most typical caves for the cave population in Cat Ba Biosphere Reserve.

The cave features a 300m length through the mountain with thousands of stalactites in various shapes, offering geological and ecological values. An array of creatures including reptiles, insects, birds, and bats can be found in Trung Trang Cave.

Found in 1938, Trung Trang Cave used to be first named The Bat Cave due to the residence of bats. During the defendant war against the US invasion (1964-1968), the cave acted as the operating location of the naval command, leading to the name Navy Cave. Currently, there have been several historical traces inside the cave such as entertainment room, meeting room, water tank, etc. serving soldiers’ daily lives.

The marvelous interior of Trung Trang Cave
The marvelous interior of Trung Trang Cave

Cat Ba Cannon Fort:

Located 2km from Cat Ba town center and at an altitude of 177m above sea level, Cannon Fort (also known as Point 177) is a famous historical point worth your visit. It was constructed by the Japanese in the 1940s, with the foundations laid by the French colonialists in about 1938. The fort includes a battlefield of large artillery guns and a complex of military tunnels and ditches.

During the following period until 1975, Cannon Fort played an important role in defence in World War II and two Indochina Wars (Vietnam Wars). It was an ideal strategic location with good control of Halong Bay and the coast of Northern Vietnam.

Thanks to a prime location on the hill top, Cannon Fort offers a splendid panoramic view of Lan Ha Bay. It not only acts as a historical witness in the national defense wars but also has become a popular tourist destination on Cat Ba Island.

Cat Ba Cannon Fort - a historical destination
Cat Ba Cannon Fort – a historical destination

Monkey Island

This is a small pristine island in Cat Ba archipelago, about 3km from Cat Ba center; and takes about 15 minutes by boat from Beo Pier. On Monkey Island exists a 1km-long beach called Cat Dua, featuring beautiful white sand and turquoise and calm seawater. The interesting island name originates from the residence of over 20 monkeys. You can see the monkeys coming to the beaches to play with visitors and eating the given food. The animals hanging and playing on the trees create exceptional experiences for travellers.

Monkey Island in Cat Ba, Lan Ha Bay
Seeing monkeys playing on the island is a fun experience

Van Boi Beach

Van Boi Beach is another not-to-be-missed destination, nestled in a tranquil and transparent area of Lan Ha Bay. This hidden paradise dazzles travellers with crystal-clear water so much to see the bottom and the colorful coral beaches. Additionally, the sea here is shallow and calm, which is ideal for swimming and snorkeling. If you want to admire the charms of Van Boi to the fullest, Kayaking is definitely the best activity. Indulge in the peace and treat your eyes to such picturesque nature with a perfect harmony of blue sea and majestic cliffs surrounding the beach. What fantastic experiences for an ultimate getaway!

Van Boi beach in Lan Ha Bay
The picturesque and pristine beauty of Van Boi beach

Three Peaches Beach

Three Peaches Beach consists of three small islets that look like three giant peaches on the ocean, embraced by a crescent-shaped beach. These islets are located in an airtight area, which is enclosed by limestone mountains. The mountains are the homes to a diverse system of plants and colorful flowers blooming on perching cliffs. Besides such majestic islets, Three Peaches Beach mesmerizes travellers with emerald seawater with gentle waves and white sand. It is undoubtedly a perfect place for swimming, snorkeling, Kayaking, or just sunbathing and relaxing on the beach.

The breathtaking splendor of Three Peaches Beach (Lan Ha Bay)
The breathtaking splendor of Three Peaches Beach

Dark and Light Cave

Dark and Light Cave belongs to Cat Ba Biosphere Reserve, located in the bordering region of Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay. It is a typical example of frog-jaw-shaped cave: the floor is under seawater and the ceiling is above sea level. Kayaking, sitting on a bamboo boat, or swimming are the best options for tourists to explore the cave’s interior.

Inside the cave exists marvelous sparkling stalactites in various shapes and sizes on the arch-shaped ceiling. Passing through the 100-meter length of Dark and Light Cave, you will marvel at an impressively picturesque scene. The cave leads to a peaceful lake surrounded by limestone mountain cliffs. Luxuriant plants covering the top and the slope of mountains create a giant green wall on the water. Besides, the lake here also contains a marine diversity including shrimp, fish, crab, and cuttlefish in abundance.

Dark and Light Cave in Lan Ha Bay
Explore Dark and Light Cave on a bamboo boat

Cai Beo Fishing Village

Cai Beo Fishing Village, about 1km South of Cat Ba Island, is one of the largest and most famous ancient villages in Vietnam. It covers an 18,000m2-wide area with 300 small houses that mainly live on seafood farming and fishing. Rows of colorful boathouses on the green water, the blue sky, and the surrounding sublime mountains, all paint a rustic but splendid picture. This location impresses tourists not only with the tranquil atmosphere and the primitive landscape but also with the friendliness of local people. Coming to Cai Beo Village, you will have a great chance to learn about the culture and lifestyle of fishermen by chatting with them or experiencing fishing activities.

Tranquil and rustic Cai Beo Fishing Village in Lan Ha Bay
Tranquil and rustic Cai Beo Fishing Village

The best activities in Lan Ha Bay Vietnam

Swimming in Lan Ha Bay’s beaches

Naturally gifted with a collection of exquisite beaches with turquoise and calm seawater and white sand, Lan Ha Bay is no doubt a wonderful destination for swimming lovers. What a greater way of relaxation than immersing yourself in the refreshing water and beholding the magnificent beach scenery.

Swimming in Lan Ha Bay
Immerse yourself in the crystal-clear seawater

Exploring marvelous caves in Lan Ha Bay

Similar to Halong Bay, Lan Ha is also the home to a number of majestic limestone caves. Trung Trang Cave and Bright and Dark Cave are the most outstanding grottos that you cannot miss when visiting Lan Ha Bay. Indulge in the mysterious beauty, marvel at unique rock formations, admire spectacular ecosystems in the caves, or enjoy the tranquility on a Kayak or a bamboo boat.

Discover the unique and mysterious interior of Trung Trang Cave
Discover the unique and mysterious interior of Trung Trang Cave

Kayaking

Lan Ha Bay possesses a variety of tranquil beaches that are perfect for Kayaking all seasons. This is one of the greatest ways to discover breathtaking natural charms. Van Boi Beach, Monkey Island, Three Peaches Beach, and Dark and Bright Cave are highly recommended locations where you can join Kayaking. Paddle slowly through grand islets to explore cliffs beneath the waves, enjoy the fresh air, and treat your eyes to sublime landscapes. With specific instructions about how to paddle and guide on the safe area, you will take delight in the fun and amazing experiences.

Kayaking in Lan Ha Bay
Kayaking is a great way to admire the natural beauty

Rock climbing

Encompassing numerous limestone karst islands featuring steep walls emerging directly from the sea surface, Lan Ha Bay is one of the best rock climbing destinations. There are well-bolted crags in the bay that are perfect for this adventurous activity: Butterfly Valley, and Hidden Valley. It is thrilling but exciting to behold a magnificent overview of the bay from the height. There is also a chance for experienced climbers to deep water solo in some areas of Cat Ba Island and Lan Ha Bay.

You can find some operators arranging rock climbing tours on Cat Ba Island. They will guide base skills and notices during the climbing time, and provide you with safe and comfortable certified UIAA harnesses, shoes, and helmets. Even if you are a beginner, the instructive guide will help you to conquer the rocks.

Rock climbing in Lan Ha Bay
Rock climbing – an adventurous but exciting activity in Lan Ha Bay

Visiting fishing villages in Lan Ha Bay

If you love cultural experiences and interactions with local residents, why not visit fishing villages, namely Cai Beo and Viet Hai villages? You can explore features of the locals’ daily life and work related to fish farming as well as experience interesting fishing activities. Besides, in Viet Hai villages, tourists can also take part in cycling along the road through a tunnel cave, old trees, rice paddies, and green mountains.

Visit fishing villages in Lan Ha Bay
Visit fishing villages in Lan Ha Bay is an interesting experience

Trekking in Cat Ba National Park

Cat Ba National Park covers a land area of 173 square kilometers, including a variety of trekking routes. It is exceptional to pass by tropical forests and admire hundreds of beautiful plants and animals. The end of the trekking is Ngu Lam peak, which offers a gorgeous panoramic view of Cat Ba Island and Lan Ha Bay.

Trek through tropical forests in Cat Ba National Park
Trek through tropical forests in Cat Ba National Park

Taking a cruise in Lan Ha Bay Vietnam

Cruising is regarded as a perfect way of sightseeing and approaching closer to Lan Ha Bay’s nature. Not only take visitors across stunning landscapes, cruises also provide a selection of spectacular activities and high-quality services. You can make a choice between a day cruise and an overnight cruise (2-days-1-night itinerary).

Cruising in Lan Ha Bay
Discover Lan Ha Bay on a luxury cruise

The best time to visit Lan Ha Bay Vietnam

Lan Ha Bay shares the same weather features as those of Northern Vietnam in general and Halong Bay in particular. It is characterized by a typical humid and tropical monsoon climate with four distinctive seasons. The weather is warm and humid in Spring, hot and rainy in Summer, cool and dry in Autumn, and cold and dry in Winter.

Overall, the best time to visit Lan Ha Bay is the autumn (September – November), followed by the spring (February – April). Thanks to pleasant weather, these are the perfect seasons for swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, or cruising. You should consider the peak tourist season in the early summer as well as the storm period between July and August. If you plan to take a Lan Ha Bay cruise in summer, you should make an early booking to avoid room unavailability or check the weather forecast to avoid unexpected weather.

> Learn more about Halong Bay’s weather

How to travel to Lan Ha Bay Vietnam

The most popular means of transport for travelling between Hanoi and Lan Ha Bay are private car, luxury shuttle bus, and coach. If you make a booking for a Lan Ha Bay cruise with a Hanoi-based cruise company or travel agents, they usually provide a round-trip shuttle bus transfer. Two main harbors where Lan Ha Bay cruises depart from include Got Pier on Cat Hai Island and Tuan Chau Marina on Tuan Chau Island.

To sum up, Lan Ha Bay is a fascinating destination with a lot of splendid landscapes. It embraces natural charecteristics that are similar to those of Halong Bay. From a complex of islands and islets, picturesque beaches with turquoise water, to limestone caves with unique interior. If you are seeking for an off-the-beaten-track vacation, Lan Ha Bay can satisfy all you need. Due to less tourists compared to Halong Bay’s, it offers a tranquil atmosphere and pristine sceneries for your ultimate relaxation.