How to Decide Between
Lan Ha Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay
or Halong Bay

With a breakdown of detailed information (geography, must-visit places, activities, cuisine) of each bay: Lan Ha Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay, this blog will help you answer your tough question.

Halong bay, undeniably, is a lock on every tourists’ Vietnam travel itinerary (if it is not, it should be because it’s worth it). It is also recognized as One of the New 7 Wonders of nature and it still keeps remaining its own evergreen charm.

But how about “its neighbor” – Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay? There is no denying that they are recommended to be “must-visit place” by more and more tourists and travel bloggers recently. Unfortunately, you don’t have enough time to explore both 3 of them. So, you must be so confused right now, innit? You’re wondering as if you will be missing something at Lan Ha Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay if you choose Halong Bay and vice versa?

This post will help you list out all the information of 3 bays so that I hope you can make your final decision.
OKAY! LET’S CHECK IT OUT!

A Bit of Background

cruise-ship

3 MUST-VISIT BAYS

WHEN YOU’RE TRAVELING IN VIETNAM

GEOGRAPHY

Lan Ha Bay

Bai Tu Long Bay

Halong Bay

  • 16 km to the east of Cat Ba Island
  • ~ 400 islets
  • Area: ~ 76 km2

  • 30 km to the east of Halong Bay
  • 3000 craggy and towering islets
  • Area: 560 km2
  • 170 km to the east of Hanoi
  • 1969 islets (most are limestones)
  • Area: 1553 km2
Cruise lines through 3 bays

TRANSPORTATION

Bay

Lan Ha Bay

Bai Tu Long Bay

Halong Bay

Port

Got Ferry

Hon Gai

Tuan Chau Marina

Transportation

  • From Hanoi city centre: 153 km – Shuttle Bus / Car (2h)
  • From Noi Bai Int’ Airport: 150 km – Shuttle Bus / Car (2h30’)
  • From Cat Bi Int’ Airport: 28 km – Private Car / Taxi (40’)
  • From Hanoi city centre: 136 km – Shuttle Bus / Car (3h15’)
  • From Noi Bai Int’ Airport: 157 km – Shuttle Bus / Car (3h20’)
  • From Cat Bi Int’ Airport: 79 km – Private Car / Taxi (2h)
  • From Hanoi city centre: 146 km -Shuttle bus / Car (3h25’)
  • From Noi Bai Int’ Airport: 148 km – Shuttle Bus / Car (3h) or Seaplane (45’)
  • From Cat Bi Int’ Airport: 62 km – Private Car / Taxi (1h45’)
how-to-get-to-halong-bay

ATTRACTIONS

Lan Ha Bay

Bai Tu Long Bay

Halong Bay

Lan Ha Bay

Bai Tu Long Bay

Halong Bay

Lan Ha Bay

Bai Tu Long Bay

Halong Bay

ACTIVITIES

Lan Ha Bay

Bai Tu Long Bay

Halong Bay

Exploring bay yourself on rent boat:

Kayaking
Rock climbing
Trekking
Stay in bungalows

Exploring many undiscovered and wild caves:

Kayaking
Swimming
Cycling
Tuktuk riding

Cruising overnight cruises, boats, junks:

Kayaking
Swimming
Canoeing
Fishing
Diving
Swimming
BBQ on beach

CRUISE SUGGESTIONS

Lan Ha Bay

Bai Tu Long Bay

Halong Bay

Day Cruise / 2D1N / 3D2N

Orchid Cruise

Azalea Cruise

Mon Chéri Cruise

Era Cruise

Peony Cruise

Perla Dawn Cruise

Stellar of the Seas Cruise

La Regina Cruise

Ginger Cruise

Calypso Cruise

2D1N / 3D2N

Swan Cruise

Emperor Cruise

Signature Royal Cruise

Signature Cruise

Dragon Legend Cruise

Starlight Cruise

Oriental Sails Cruise

Day Cruise / 2D1N / 3D2N

Glory Legend Cruise

Pelican Cruise

Jasmine Cruise

Calypso Cruise

Syrena Cruise

Stellar Cruise

Aclass Legend Cruise

CONDITION

Lan Ha Bay

Bai Tu Long Bay

Halong Bay

Tranquil and less touristy area because it is located adjacent to the “tourist giant’ neighbor

Small bay

Still remain unspoiled

Less visited due to its location which is harder to reach and fewer accessible caves

Still remain unspoiled

Hundreds of boats and tourists, especially in the high peak season, sailing every day

Most crowded and getting polluted

Let’s back to detailed information of each bay so that you could be surer of which bay is your best choice.

1. Lan Ha Bay – Energetic Lifestyle

Not many foreign visitors are aware that the limestones karsts and islands go beyond the actual “Halong bay park”.
If you don’t mind the Halong bay “brand” but care about the experience, you will start to see the bigger picture.

What’s happening now?

People now tend to switch from Halong Bay to this place. This place is confirmed to be in the developing phase; everything is just getting started.

As being called “A forgotten Eden”, Lan Ha Bay shows itself energetically in green covering the entire area. And although being the smallest bay among the trinity, it actually owns the strongest character over the rest.

Lan Ha Bay - A forgetten Eden

Lan Ha is small, and the amazing thing is that you can rent a cruise boat to explore the bay by yourself. This is excellent for those people who are self-confident and experienced and want a whole new kind of adventure.

It’s not all plain sailing though:

I tried it once and almost lost my way! But it’s well worth the effort. Maybe in these circumstances, you’ll learn some survival skills. You should invest more time and money to visit Cat Ba island, one of the best spots for outdoor adventure activities.

For example:

You can go trekking in the island’s national park operated by local travel agents, climbing to the top of Bai Tho Mountain or take a look at Height 177, formerly a French military observation and defense point.

Biking on Cat Ba island Lan Ha Bay
Way leads to Height 177
Way leads to Height 177

When choosing between Lan Ha Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay – if you’re an adventurous traveler – I would highly recommend Lan Ha Bay.

Why?

Rock climbing in Lan Ha Bay
Lan Ha Bay is called the Kayaking Paradise

You’ll have the chance to try out some trekking, deep water bouldering, and rock climbing. This place is the perfect destination for this type of activities.

Lan Ha Bay is also called “Kayaking Paradise”. You can even paddle through a cave!

Lan Ha Bay is called as the Kayaking Paradise
Monkey island in Lan Ha Bay is a great escape

I am quite an introvert and found that I really fitted in this place. Lying on the deserted beach on Nam Cat island area and watching the clouds blown by the wind, I really felt an inner peace. Memorable, to say the least.

Recommended activities:

  • Kayaking 
  • Water bouldering
  • Rock climbing
  • Trekking
  • Cycling

Recommended visits:

… and so on.

List of cruises that go to Lan Ha Bay:

2. Bai Tu Long Bay – The Secret Hidden Beauty

This is something which is really different:

The whole bay area occupies three quarters of Halong Bay World Heritage site – but it seems that people hardly know of this place.

However, the bay has the most magnificent views out of all three bays, earning itself a reputation as one of the top off – the – beaten track destinations in North of Vietnam.

The peaceful scenery of Bai Tu Long Bay

If you’re not good with crowd and want to experience a private and peaceful atmosphere, it’s an easy choice between Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay.

Here’s the reason:

The local tourism industry hasn’t exploited Bai Tu Long Bay yet. Hence, this destination still carries a quiet and wild beauty.

When I went there, there were almost no other travelers or tour boats anywhere. That’s the reason when you meet locals out on the islands, or in the floating fishing villages, they look genuinely amazed because they hardly ever see any tourists.

Another reason may be because Bai Tu Long Bay, by literal translation of Vietnamese, is just where the Child Dragon has landed – that nearby the place the Mighty Mother Dragon touched down (Halong Bay).

Indeed, Bai Tu Long Bay is a hidden gift for tourists who are eager to discover a wild land without requiring intensive travel assistants.

From a comparison of drama, if Halong Bay is the Earth, Bai Tu Long Bay would be the Moon that was left with very few footprints of human.

bai tu long bay
In legend, Bai Tu Long Bay is where the Child Dragon landed

But the best thing is:

Bai Tu Long Bay has a strong connection with local people in non-tourist areas, and of course, you will find more interesting stuffs in these rural areas.

Exploring the lesser – known caves in this bay area was the most exciting experience for me. You will never know what you’ll find and it’s hard to imagine just how beautiful and breathtaking they are. Let’s have a quick check about Sung Sot Cave or Thien Cung Cave, for example.

You have to figure it out by yourself! If you’re now on your own, you’ll feel like a professional explorer – it really is a great fun. Of course, this area is pretty large so there are many caves waiting for you to discover.

Thien Cung Cave
large interior cavern of Sung Sot Cave
Large interior cavern of Sung Sot Cave
Co To Island in Bai Tu Long Bay - More than a natural escape

The bay is also home to the large Bai Tu Long National Park, one of seven Vietnamese national parks, which has both a terrestrial zone and an aquatic zone.

Recommended activities:

  • Kayaking 
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Tuktuk riding

I think I don’t need to name out exactly what type of travelers should come here, as long as you treasure the nature and appreciate the tranquility, as well as the peacefulness of Bai Tu Long Bay, you will choose this bay whatever.

List of cruises that go to Bai Tu Long Bay:

3. Halong Bay – Colorful Bustling Beauty

Halong Bay earned the title as One of the New 7 World Wonders of Nature for a reason:

Its unique gracefulness.

which obviously is hard to find somewhere else.

So, pleasing your eyes with the dazzling scenery of Halong Bay from the deck of a stylish cruise is already the joy that you want to take, innit?

Since Halong Bay has been acknowledged by the whole world, you may guess the tourist arrivals here. Reportedly, it might reach millions during its high peak season and getting more crowded year after year.

Accordingly, services including entertainment, restaurants and accommodation have also risen to satisfy the needs. Now Halong City and the bay have become busier than ever.

March to May: Best time visit Halong Bay
Carnival in Halong City

Regardless you are a solo, couple or family traveler, exciting and interesting activities are always ahead. Group activities such as canoeing, kayaking or fishing are all on offers in this part of the bay; even for solo travelers, this provides opportunities to meet many interesting people and make new friends.

Let’s come to explore Halong Bay, there is always something for you to discover around the clock!

Kayaking in Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay
Kayaking in Halong Bay

Recommended visits:

… and so on.

(See top 10 magnificent attractions in Halong Bay HERE)

Those tourist attractions appear in their own nuances and are unmistakable. Their beauties and the true stories behind might make you “wow” continuously. Witnessing them by your own eyes, and you will know why Halong Bay is listed on New 7 Wonders scroll.

Titov Island in Halong Bay
Titov Island
Tuan Chau beach
Tuan Chau beach
3 Peaches Beach
3 Peaches Beach

A further reason makes me think that travelers enjoy Halong Bay much more than Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay is because of the fantastic nightlife. Nowadays, there are plenty of cool bars and pubs always on ready to serve foreign visitors and locals.

In case you’re wondering:

You can find them both on land and on special cruise boats. A night party out on board would be an amazing experience that you should try even once in your life. A wide range of beers (and Halong beer which is called the taste of Halong spirit), wines, soft drink and cocktails are served on these cruises.

Halong Bay nightlife
Nightlife in Halong Bay
Halong Bay cruising
Cruising in Halong Bay region is wonderful

But that is not all about.

Sport – lovers will find themselves enjoying off-the-cruise activities and happy to make friends with on-board companies, while actively blending in the heaven – like nature through moderate exercises.

And let’s not forget about the food (of course):

Giving a little hint to food-lovers, you can easily find a long list of fresh cooked seafood, as well as typical Vietnamese cuisine in menu, both offshore and onshore. How wonderful it would be when you can have a BBQ party on a beach during your travel schedule?

Top 5 Halong Bay foods you must try

Seafood in Halong Bay is a must-try for gourmets
Seafood in Halong Bay is a must-try for gourmets
Enjoy BBQ food on the beach in Halong Bay
Enjoy BBQ food on the beach

Thanks to the reputation and easy accessibility, cruising’s traffic in Halong Bay is heavy the most. And it is agreeable to say this is the safest and most convenient area to visit, where you can hardly find yourself in boredom awhile.

So, if you are the one who enjoy the leisure and doesn’t mind the crowd, Halong Bay will definitely fit you very well.

FYI: Halong Bay is where the Mighty Mother Dragon has landed from the sky, by its mythology of Vietnamese.

Recommended activities:

  • Kayaking
  • Canoeing
  • Diving
  • Fishing

List of cruises that go to Halong Bay:

Conclusion

To sum up, you may now be well aware of the differences among these three bays and figure out which destination suits you best then. However, besides those, they still have two things in common: irresistible natural attractions and excellent cruising service, which are promised to preserve at the highest standard by both Vietnamese authority and Halong Hub.

So, if time and budget permit, I strongly suggest you experience all, to capture the entire pictures of what formed the renown Halong Bay – One of the New 7 Wonder of Nature.

If you need any other advices of choosing between Lan Ha Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay or Halong Bay? Get in touch for advice, itineraries, and bookings.

And if you like our blog and consider it’s useful, please help me to share it. By this way, I can help more and more people answer their tough question also!

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