Bai Tu Long Bay or Halong Bay: Which one represents true exploration?

Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay are two breathtaking landscapes that you should definitely include in your Vietnam tours. Both of these beautiful coastal areas offer a range of natural wonders, cultural experiences, and unforgettable adventures. This travel blog will compare their accessibility, geography, scenic beauty, tourist activities, crowd levels, and ideal trip lengths to help you decide which one to visit: Bai Tu Long Bay or Halong Bay.

Charm of Halong Bay
Charm of Halong Bay


When it comes to accessibility, both Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay offer convenient options for travelers.

Bai Tu Long Bay

  • Embarkation point: Halong International Port or Sun Group Port (Halong City)
  • From Hanoi city center: 136 km – shuttle bus/car (3h15’)
  • From Noi Bai International Airport: 157 km – shuttle bus/car (2h30’)
  • From Cat Bi International Airport: 40 km – private car/taxi (40’)

Halong Bay

  • Embarkation point: Tuan Chau Marina (Halong City)
  • From Hanoi city center: 150 km – shuttle bus/car (2h25’)
  • From Noi Bai International Airport: 160 km – shuttle bus/car (2h30’)
  • From Cat Bi International Airport: 40 km – private car/taxi (40’)

Location & Geography

Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay share similarities in their geological formations and stunning landscapes.

Bai Tu Long Bay

Located 30 km to the east of Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay covers around 3000 islets showcasing limestone karsts, emerald waters, and countless islets dotting the horizon. This off-the-beaten-path paradise offers a more secluded and tranquil atmosphere, perfect for those seeking serenity amidst nature’s marvels.

Halong Bay

Located 170 km to the east of Hanoi, Halong Bay’s iconic limestone formations rise majestically from the emerald waters. Its unique topography features around 1969 islets, creating a breathtaking panorama that has earned it the title of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Halong Bay map
Halong Bay map

Scenic Beauty

Both bays boast awe-inspiring beauty but have distinct characteristics.

Bai Tu Long Bay

Bai Tu Long Bay’s unspoiled charm unveils pristine landscapes, secluded beaches, and hidden caves. The bay’s tranquility allows for a more intimate connection with nature, offering a sense of exclusivity and serenity.

Tranquility of Bai Tu Long bay
Tranquility of Bai Tu Long bay

Halong Bay

Halong Bay’s legendary beauty enchants visitors with its towering limestone karsts, mystical caves, and picturesque islets. Its iconic scenery, often shrouded in mist, creates a dreamlike and ethereal atmosphere.

Clear water of Halong Bay
Clear water of Halong Bay

What to Do and See

Both bays offer a variety of activities and attractions to captivate travelers.

Ha Long Bay

  • Take a cruise or traditional junk boat to explore the breathtaking landscapes of Halong Bay.
  • Visit stunning caves such as Sung Sot Cave (Surprise Cave) and Thien Cung Cave (Heavenly Palace Cave) to witness the unique geological formations and magnificent stalactites.
  • Kayak through the calm waters, allowing you to venture into hidden corners and appreciate the bay’s natural wonders up close.
  • Enjoy swimming in the emerald waters, surrounded by towering limestone karsts and picturesque islets.
  • Take part in a rock climbing adventure for an adrenaline rush and breathtaking views of the bay from above.
  • Witness mesmerizing sunsets over the bay’s horizon, creating a magical and romantic atmosphere.
  • Experience squid fishing at night, trying your hand at this traditional activity while enjoying the peacefulness of the bay under the starry sky.
  • Explore floating villages, where you can interact with local fishermen, observe their way of life, and even try your hand at rowing a traditional bamboo boat.
  • Engage in a Vietnamese cooking class, learning how to prepare traditional dishes using fresh local ingredients.
  • Relax on pristine beaches, sunbathe, and unwind amidst the stunning natural scenery.
  • Immerse yourself in the local culture through visits to markets, where you can sample delicious street food and purchase unique handicrafts.
Cruise in Halong Bay
Cruise in Halong Bay is a must-do thing

Bai Tu Long Bay

  • Take a cruise or traditional junk boat to explore the pristine and secluded landscapes of Bai Tu Long Bay.
  • Visit hidden caves and grottoes, such as Thien Canh Son Cave, to discover stunning stalactite formations and marvel at the natural beauty within.
  • Engage in kayaking and paddling through calm waters, surrounded by breathtaking limestone karsts and untouched scenery.
  • Enjoy swimming in the crystal-clear waters of Bai Tu Long Bay, relishing the serenity and tranquility of this unspoiled paradise.
  • Discover traditional fishing villages, where you can observe the daily lives of local communities, interact with fishermen, and gain insight into their unique way of life.
  • Relax on secluded beaches, basking in the peaceful ambiance and soaking up the sun in a tranquil setting.
Kayaking in Bai Tu Long Bay
Kayaking in Bai Tu Long Bay

Crowd & Tourism Impact

Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay differ in terms of crowd levels and tourism impact.

Halong Bay

As one of Vietnam’s most popular tourist destinations, Halong Bay attracts a larger number of visitors. This popularity has led to a more developed tourism infrastructure, increased boat traffic, and a higher concentration of tourists during peak seasons.

Bai Tu Long Bay

Due to its relative obscurity, Bai Tu Long Bay offers a more serene and secluded experience, away from the crowds. Its pristine environment remains less impacted by tourism, preserving the bay’s natural beauty.

Trip Length: How Long Should You Go For?

The ideal trip length depends on your preferences and the experiences you seek.

Halong Bay

With its variety of attractions and activities, Halong Bay offers an ideal 2 to 4-day itinerary. This duration allows for a comprehensive exploration of its iconic scenery, visits to caves, island hopping, and cultural experiences.

Bai Tu Long Bay

For those desiring a tranquil escape and a deeper connection with nature, a 2 to 3-day trip to Bai Tu Long Bay allows ample time to explore its hidden gems, engage with local communities, and immerse oneself in the serenity of this pristine bay.

As you are considering to visit Bai Tu Long Bay or Halong Bay, it’s clear that both destinations possess their own unique charm and allure. Bai Tu Long Bay is enticed by its secluded tranquility, unspoiled landscapes, and intimate encounters with nature. In contrast, Halong Bay captivates with its legendary beauty, iconic limestone formations, and a wide array of tourist activities. Consider your preferences for crowd levels, accessibility, and trip length when choosing your ideal destination. You can also customize your tours with these 2 fascinating bays and other destinations in Vietnam.

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