Travel Blog Tips & Tricks

Halong Bay is a vast natural expanse of marine water of more than 1500 km2 touching 120 km of Vietnamese coastline. The beauty of its landscapes (nearly 2,000 karst peaks rising out of the water) as well as the richness of its ecosystem earned it a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994.

Halong Bay today is in a way a victim of its success… the number of tourists has reached 6 million in 2018.

Is it then still possible in these conditions to visit the bay while enjoying the experience? In our opinion yes, if you choose Lan Ha Bay, a part of Halong Bay still preserved from mass tourism.

In this article, we explain why you should choose this part of Halong Bay for your cruise.

What is Lan Ha Bay?

Halong Bay is divided into three zones: Halong, the most famous, Tu Long Bay in the north, and Lan Ha in the south.

Each zone is managed by a different province: Halong Bay “belongs” to Halong Province while Bai Tu Long Bay is under the authority of Quang Ninh Province and Lan Ha Bay is under the authority of Hai Phong Province.

Of these three bays, Lan Ha Bay is the smallest and the most little known, but also the one with the most authentic character

Less touristy, less populated, more affordable, cleaner and just as lovely as its two sisters, Lan Ha bay has everything to please.

We tell you all the all the good reasons why you should choose Lan Ha bay for your cruise.

View of Lan Ha bay and a floating village
Fisherman boats in Lan Ha bay

How to get to Lan Ha bay?

Going to Lan Ha Bay means taking a cruise in the bay. To take a cruise in Lan Ha Bay, you will have the choice to start from Cat Ba Island (which we recommend) or from the port of Pha Got just before Cat Ba Island.

To get to Pha Got or Cat Ba island, you can follow our guides:

  • How to get to Cat Ba island from Hanoi ?
  • How to get to Cat Ba island from Ninh Binh ?
  • How to get to Cat Ba island from Halong ?
  • How to get to Cat Ba Island from Sapa ?

You can make these trips by yourself, by bus or by booking with a cruise operator / travel agency. In the latter case, everything will be organized from Hanoi and you won’t have to worry about the trip – you will be perfectly taken care of!

Our agency organizes a motorcycle tour on the island of Cat Ba to go to the port of Ben Beo. One hour ride to break the monotony of the bus!

Top of the ferry to Cat Ba
Top of the ferry to Cat Ba
Enjoying the view in Cat Ba island
Enjoying the view in Cat Ba island

Five reasons to choose Lan Ha bay

We have listed for you the 4 main reasons why you should visit Lan Ha bay rather than Halong Bay.

For its calm environment

More than 5 million tourists a year visit Halong Bay and most of them sail in the waters of the main area. If you choose this bay, you should be prepared to see hundreds of boats around yours. What’s more, today’s boats in Halong Bay look more like large ocean liners than the small junks of yesteryear.

On the contrary, in Lan Ha Bay, only 135 boats are registered with Hai Phong Province and only 60 of them are allowed to anchor and spend the night there.

The relatively small number of boats navigating these waters, compared to the main Halong Bay, allows travelers to fully enjoy the enchanting atmosphere of the Bay.

Fisherman village in Lan Ha bay
Peaceful of environment

For its traditional wooden boats

As we said, the main Halong Bay nowadays only welcomes large cruise boats. Small boats are still available, but only for 1 day tours.

So if you want to sleep in the bay, you will have to choose a boat that looks more like a floating hotel than a ship of yesteryear… If it is comfort and “modernity” that you prefer, fine! But if you’re looking for a little authenticity during your trip… it’s to run away!

On the contrary, in Lan Ha bay, it is still possible to live an authentic experience on a traditional junk, which will undoubtedly remind you of the most beautiful movie scenes of movies…

If this is what you are looking for, you can choose a junk from the small port of Ben Beo in the south of Cat Ba Island. To help you in your choice, we have selected for you the best junks and cruisers. You can trust us !

The Four Season boat from our company

For its local life

As the traditional junks, which have disappeared from Halong Bay, there are no more fishing villages in this bay either… Halong Bay thus looks more like a “park” for tourists with no real life inside….

Again, this is not the case in Lan Ha Bay. Indeed, according to the figures we have, more than 300 families live in Lan Ha Bay on floating homes.

If you choose a cruise in Lan Ha Bay, you will not only discover landscapes (400 karst peaks in Lan Ha Bay) but you will also be able to see the local life: the merchants, the shell-fishermen and fishermen, those who supply the houses with drinking water etc.

To get a closer look at the life of the fishermen, Lan Ha Cruise organizes tours on a small fishing junk, which most people use in their daily life. These tours are available by the day or over 2 days. The boat does not have a cabin, so travelers sleep on a floating house. The sunrise and sunset are superb there!

Local life in Lan Ha bay

For its hidden beaches

Lan Ha bay does not have as beautiful (and overcrowded) caves as Halong Bay but we still can find very beautiful beaches and creeks. By sailing or kayaking, you can discover them and why not stop there for a little sunbathing?

You will not be disturbed by other travelers!

You can also discover Van Boi resort which is a luxury refuge in the bay of Lan Ha, surrounded by majestic cliffs. Known for its almost undisturbed calm, Van Boi resort is ideal for a moment of relaxation away from the crowds, noise, and bustle. The waves are soft, which offers a perfect setting for diving in the heart of the coral.

While travelers jostle each other on Titov Beach in Halong Bay, Van Boi is a great alternative for relaxing on a beach in Halong Bay.

Hidden beaches in Lan Ha bay
Hidden beaches in Lan Ha bay

For Cat Ba island

The bay of Lan Ha surrounds the island of Cat Ba and it would be a pity not to discover the island if you plan to sail in the Lan Ha bay.

While a cruise in Halong Bay is often just a round trip between Halong and Hanoi, it is possible to combine a cruise in Lan Ha Bay with a stay on Cat Ba Island. We often advise to spend one night on board and one night in one of the hotels on the island.

Cat Ba island has indeed many activities to offer you: from the amazing view from fort Cannon to the caves and the national park. 

Nevertheless, if you want to have a glimpse of Cat Ba island without having to stay overnight on the island, you can choose during your cruise to cycle to Viet Hai village, a small village lost in the middle of the rainforest. You will discover by pedaling a small part of the Cat Ba National Park.

View from Fort Cannon
View from Fort Cannon

You now know all the good reasons to visit Lan Ha Bay
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