The best sunsets (and sunrises) in Vietnam are waiting for you…
Any Halong Bay sunset and sunrise is worth its weight in gold. Being there at that magical hour when the sun hits the water between spectacular limestone peaks and emerald green coves is a memory you’ll want to hold onto.
Synonymous with Vietnam thanks to its UNESCO Heritage site listing, and coverage in travel publications globally, most people consider a visit to Halong Bay a must-do during their time in Vietnam. A scan of any of your well-traveled friends holiday snaps will likely reveal a Halong Bay sunset or two.
Dotted with thousands of tiny islands, crescent moon beaches and rugged mountain outcrops, this entire destination is very instagram-friendly. Whether you’re cruising amongst it on a four-star liner or making day trips from your hotel, experiencing Halong Bay is a bucket list item your eyes won’t want to miss.
For this very reason we recommend never visiting Halong Bay without your camera. Capturing these kinds of stunning panorama – Halong Bay sunset and sunrise – is an absolute holiday must. This also makes booking your sunset cruise one of the top things you can do in Halong Bay. You won’t be disappointed when you’re sipping champagne on a boat and encountering view after incredible view.
Even if you perch yourself high on one of the more accessible islands, or get your hands on a kayak and explore the deepest cave you can find, the photo opportunities will be some of the best in your life, especially if you time it well.
Great timing: when is the best time to visit Halong Bay?
This depends on your preference. March through May has the most sunshine, with only a slight risk of downpours, while September through November is favored for its cooler temperatures and clearer skies, although there is an overlap with typhoon season, which runs from August to November.
Generally speaking, high season is December through February when the temperature drops again but rain is also infrequent. That said, because Halong Bay is popular with domestic travelers, on just about any weekend, especially during the summer months and school vacations (June – August), this well-known tourist spot can be busy.
In terms of the best time of the day to get that stunning panoramic shot away, it’s always early in the morning for sunrise, no later than 6am, and in the early evening twilight for sunset, just after 5.30pm, as the sun dips slowly beyond the horizon.
One thing’s for sure, Halong Bay sunrises and sunsets are something you won’t forget, so making that little effort to be there at the right time of year, and at the right time of day, is well worth it.
Location is everything: the best places in Halong Bay
Great photo ops abound in Halong Bay, so once you’re there, you won’t have to go too far to discover that photo-worthy scene.
Cat Ba Island lies just south of Halong Bay and offers intrepid explorers like yourself the chance to get off your boat and discover a largely untouched wilderness.
On Cat Ba you can take part in a host of activities, including bird and animal photography, as the island is home to over 100 native species. These include the elusive Cat Ba Langur, a small primate once thought to be on the verge of extinction.
Cycling and hiking are also popular daytime activities, and you can hire a motorbike if you really like the wind in your hair. For those feeling more athletic, the island offers some of the country’s best rock-climbing, with guided climbs by Asia Outdoors for climbers of every level including what’s known as Butterfly Valley. Stick a point-and-shoot in your back pocket and get a perspective on the island most don’t.
While still on Cat Ba, it’s worth visiting a place of military significance called Cannon Fort, as it offers inspiring views of Lan Ha Bay, where around 140 white sand beaches await you.
Away from Cat Ba, if you’re on a boat that moors at Ti Top Island, (don’t worry, most do) the walk up the approximately 400 hundreds steps there is another mini-adventure worth your time, because the panorama from here is one of the best in the area.
Of course, you shouldn’t come all this way without seeing Bai Tu Long Bay as well. Slightly to the northeast of Halong Bay itself, this is its lesser known neighbor, but is still home to hundreds of its own karst islands, and is where the Vung Vieng floating fishing village lives. Perfect for getting away from the crowds a little, this part of the Ha Long region has its own list of attractions.
Beach-wise you should definitely get to Ban Chan Beach, one of the best places in Halong Bay, offering that ‘solitude in paradise’ feel, though you probably shouldn’t expect to be completely alone. Swimming, snorkeling and kayaking are all available here, the latter of which we highly recommend. It won’t be long before you’re claiming a piece of sand of your very own – just think of the possibilities.
One of the largest caves in the area – there are 59 discovered thus far – is Sung Sot Cave, and this is also a must-do. Set your camera to night mode here and discover all sorts of fascinating shapes. Stalagmites and stalactites adorn the cave’s interior, and there’s a legendary story behind each of them – think dragons, dwarves and demons! If you have time, we also recommend Thien Cung Cave, otherwise known as ‘Heavenly Cave’ on Da Gau Island.
Finally, if you’re keen on some mainland style entertainment during your time in Halong, the recently developed Tuan Chau Island could be for you. Although only covering an area of 2.2 kilometers, it’s full of beachside resorts and recreational activities that are fun for the whole family. A good stop for those with children.
Other places worth seeing include Ba Hang Village, Cong Dam Fishing Village and…
Where else to get perfect shot of Halong Bay sunset and sunrise?
As we’ve already said, Halong Bay offers an embarrassment of riches for would-be professional and amateur photographers alike. It is easily one of the most photographed destinations in the world, and any search of the internet brings up a cache of stunning imagery.
To take your pics to the next level, quite literally, you might consider a chartered seaplane experience, which will have you flying over this incredible part of the world and seeing things from a completely different angle. Imagine what it’s like to see these dramatic limestone rock formations and perfect turquoise blue waters from above. Of course this isn’t cheap by any means, but is an option offered by Hai Au Aviation who also fly directly from Hanoi.
Alternatively, the Ha Long Queen Cable Car might be a better option if getting high is still on your agenda. The aerial tramway, which boasts two cars that can carry up to 230 passengers each, cruises over Halong Bay between the Bai Chay district of Halong City and the top of Ba Deo Hill, which has its own observation wheel, giving users breathtaking views of the bay and what might be the perfect spot to observe Halong Bay sunset and sunrise with that someone special.
Right in the heart of the city center, climbing this famous peak is an adventure of its own. Not well signposted and a little hard to find, once you do locate the staircase to the top, one of the best views of Halong Bay in its entirety will be yours.
In terms of technical know-how, we’re not here to tell you how to slice bread when it comes to photography. There are millions of websites that specialize in doing that.
However, because we understand the unique challenges that the vast open spaces and variable light conditions of Halong Bay throw up, whenever we take pictures, we do like to concentrate on a few basics. Here they are:
1) Have a focal point
Be it a rock, a boat, a person or a plane, having a focal point conveys scale and meaning in your picture. Use whatever is available to create what photographer’s call a ‘center of interest’ in your photo.
2) Include some foreground
Make your photos more interesting by including something in the foreground to engage the viewer. Again, this offers scale and context, as well as an insight into the environment you’re shooting in.
3) Wait for sunset
The Halong Bay landscape reaches its optimum as the sun slowly descends onto the far horizon, creating some unforgettable light between its rugged limestone islands. You’ll kick yourself if you don’t capture this, just remember to use landscape rather than portrait settings and don’t forget to get the ratio between sky and water correct.
4) Make use of your camera’s settings
In low-light conditions don’t forget to alter the shutter speed where necessary. Slowing it down will let more light in and speeding it up will let in less. If this isn’t part if your in-built camera phone, there are apps you can download to help you. Also, hold your camera still!
5) Crop, don’t zoom
This is simple, but true. If you’re zooming in on a smartphone, you will lose resolution, so even if something is far away, resist the urge to zoom in too much. If it’s too far away, it’s probably not worth taking a picture of.
We hope that 3 major tips above will go a long way with you in capturing the best moments of Halong Bay sunset and sunrise!