With its aqua-green water and cluster of limestone rocky outcrops rising from the water like sea dragons, Ha Long Bay resembles a scene from a fantasy story. Located about 80 miles (130 km) east of Hanoi in northern Vietnam, this otherworldly bay features more than 2,000 jungle-covered islands pitted with intriguing caves, grottoes, sinkholes and lakes. Ranging between 160 and 300 feet (50 and 90 meters) high, many of the islands and outcrops have been sculpted over the centuries by natural processes into fantastic formations. The names of these islands reflect the unusual shapes they resemble such as Voi Islet (elephant), Mai Nha Islet (roof) and Ga Choi Islet (fighting cock).
Although most of the islands are uninhabited, some of the larger islands such as Cat Ba offer restaurants, bars, hotels and tourist attractions like beaches, historic sites, a national park, markets and souvenir shops. Other islands like Dau Be and Bo Hon feature lakes, coral and grottoes that are ideal for swimming, kayaking, diving and cave-exploring. Rock climbing, jungle trekking and wildlife viewing are also available activities.
Boat cruises are the best way to experience the natural wonder of Ha Long Bay. With hundreds of boats ranging from traditional Chinese junks to luxury cruisers, boat tours can vary from day trips to multiple-night journeys. These tours often provide meals, nightlife activities and excursion stops where islands, caves and lagoons can be explored. Most boat cruises are arranged either from Hanoi or from ports such as Haiphong, Halong City and Cai Rong.