Home to 59 ‘discovered’ grottoes, the caves in Halong Bay are fascinating, significant, and laden with culture.
The twice-recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site is an ethereal landscape not to be found anywhere else in the world; among the features that make it so are the numerous caves and grottoes scattered throughout the bay. You may have seen our article before on Thien Cung Cave, if so you know how much we love and appreciate these natural wonders. To give you even more of an idea, below you will find a list of 5 Halong Bay caves worth visiting.
1. Sung Sot Cave (Surprise Cave, Halong)
This is possibly the most talked about and most commonly visited of all of the Halong Bay cave tour, so let’s get it out of the way. First discovered by the French in 1901, the early visitors named it “Grotte des Surprises”, Sung Sot Cave is located on Bon Hon Island, considered to be more or less the center of Halong Bay.
The cave area easily clears 10,000 square meters, 200 meters long and about 80 meters wide at its broadest point making it just about the largest of all the Halong caves. When you dismount your boat you will need to climb up about 100 steps to reach the cave entrance, so be prepared for a little trek. Inside the cave is well ventilated, which you’ll be thankful of especially in the sticky summer months.
An impressive display of stalactites and stalagmites adorn the cave interior, this is where having a really good tour guide will come into play – someone with the right knowledge will be able to explain to you the unusual and culturally loaded folklore associated with the formations of the Halong Bay caves.
2. Dau Go Cave (Wooden Stakes Cave)
Located on an island of the same name, Dau Go Cave is estimated to be an impressive 2 million years old and boasts a history and mythology unparalleled by any other of the Halong Bay caves.
The folklore is made more interesting by the element of mystery that enshrouds it, as is the way with many of the amazing caves in Halong: take the name for starters. Theories cover a range of alternate possibilities as to the origin of the name, from fisherman sheltering from brutal storms to repair their boats, to tales of the Vietnamese battle against invading Mongols in the 13th Century. If you’re looking to get to grips with some Vietnamese history, or if you’re a general knowledge quiz buff who likes showing off to his friends in the pub – Dau Go Cave is one of the Halong Bay caves to put on your list.
3. Hon Trong Cave (Drum Cave or Male Cave)
Also known as “Male Cave”, it’s surmised to be a romantic location, although it has to be said this “romance” is pitted in a pretty grim legend.
It’s said that there was once a woman in living in Halong Bay who fell deeply in love with a fisherman, but coming from a poor family, she was forced to marry a wealthier man whom she did not love in the slightest. Faced with her awful fate, she fled to a cave (Trinh Nu Cave, which you can also visit) where she hid and waited for her fisherman to return.
Upon hearing this news, the fisherman got into a row boat and set off to find her, desperate to be reunited – but fortune was not on their side as his row boat was hit by a terrible storm and he was forced to take shelter in another one of the nearby Halong Bay caves, opposite the one his lover was hiding in. They could see each other, wave to each other, and yet the storm kept them separated. As the storm raged on they both became exhausted and miserable until death finally came to the fisherman’s lover – within sight but still out of reach.
Until last year, there were a few select cruises that set up dining parties in Drum Cave, but the practice has now been banned in all Halong Bay caves.
4. Dark and Bright Cave (Day and Night Cave)
Those looking for a less populous visit of Halong Bay will often choose cruise routes through the quieter areas of Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay. The islands within these bays close off in parts to form caves, one of which is the Dark and Bright Cave. Only accessible by kayak or rowboat, the entrance to the Dark Cave is sheathed in fig trees and orchids.
Located at a sheltered sea-lake, once you pass through the mouth of the cave you are enveloped in low natural light. Paddle through for 100 meters or so and you’ll see the sun breaking through, marking the end of the Dark Cave and the beginning of the Bright Cave. This is one of the Halong Bay cave that’s definitely worth a visit for those with an adventurous streak.
5. Luon Cave
Bo Hon Island, the home of Luon Cave, sits starkly alone in the middle of the bay. Luon Cave is another one of the Halong Bay caves that are only accessible by kayak, which makes it a great choice for those looking for a more hands-on adventure and the chance to explore at their own speed.
The craggy cliffs, flowering orchids and ancient trees of Bo Hon Island make the landscape quite spectacular, but what sets this island apart is its population of golden monkeys that can be seen swinging up and down the sides of the cliff. If you fancy leaving the cruise ship behind and taking your experience into your own hands, hop in a kayak and paddle through Luon Cave.
If you want a shorter version of the blog, check out our infographic:
Curious which of these caves have made the cut as our top 20 tourist attractions in the Halong Bay area? There’s so much more to Ha Long than just jaw-dropping caves, needless to say!