General Information: Located in the Gulf of Tonkin, the bay is recognized by UNESCO as the Natural World Heritage that contains some 1,600 islands and islets, forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars. Because of their precipitous nature, most of the islands are uninhabited and unaffected by a human presence.
The bay's outstanding scenic beauty is complemented by its great biological interest. It is an incredible place to explore and discover its many islands, coves and hidden grottoes. Administratively, Ha Long Bay belongs to Ha Long City, Cam Pha Town and part of Van Don District. Ha Long Bay is a center of a larger zone which includes Bái Tử Long bay to the northeast, and Cát Bà islands to the southwest. These larger zones share similar geological, geographical, geomorphologic, climate and cultural characters. Ha Long Bay has an area of around 1,553 km², including 1,960 islets, most of which are limestone. The diversity of the environment, climate, geology, geography, and geomorphology in the area has created biodiversity, including tropical evergreen bio-system, oceanic and sea shore bio-system. Ha Long Bay is home to 14 endemic floral species and 60 endemic faunal species.
Nowadays, Ha Long Bay is one of the most popular travel destinations in Vietnam. The beauty of the site is the mingling of a number of factors: the mountain's size and form, the color of the water and the clouds. Halong bay, because of its varied terrain, climate and soil, features a diversified and abundant environmental system.
"Ha Long" is literally translated as "Bay of Descending Dragons". But the origin of this name is itself a mistery.
The local legend, which has been handed down, tells the following tale: "Long ago, in the first founding days, the Viet people were attacked by foreign aggressors. The Jade Emperor sent the Mother Dragon and her band of Child Dragons to help the Viet people fight the invaders. While the enemy vessels were launching massive attacks against the mainland, the dragons descended in flocks from the sky. They spat out innumerable pearls which changed into jade stone islands the moment they touched the water. These islands linked together to form firm citadels that checked the enemy's advance and smashed their vessels to pieces. After the invaders were driven out, Mother Dragon and her Child Dragons did not return to Heaven but stayed on earth, right at the place where the battle occurred. The spot where the Mother Dragon landed was Ha Long, and where the Child Dragons came down was Bai Tu Long. The place where their tails violently wagged was called Long Vi, the present-day Tra Co Peninsula with its soft sandy beach stretching many kilometers."
However, prior to the 19th century, this name was not recorded in any document or archive. When mentioning the present-day Quang Ninh Sea or Ha Long Bay, old historical books often referred to them by the names of An Bang, Luc Thuy or Van Don. Not until the late 19th century did the name of Halong Bay appear on a French Marine Map.
"The Hai Phong News", a French newspaper of the time, had an article, "Dragon appears on Ha Long Bay", reporting the following story: In 1898 a sub-lieutenant named Lagredin, captaining the "Avalanse" reported seeing a huge sea snake on Ha Long Bay. This was also witnessed by many of the crew. Thus emerged the European image of the Asian dragon. Whether this appearance of a strange animal looking like a dragon resulted in the name of Ha Long Bay is not known. Whether or not you are a believer of legends you will be lulled into a sense of peace and contentment by the magical and surrealistic seascape of Halong Bay.
The tranquil emerald green waters and the captivating vistas of the seemingly countless jutting limestone mountainous islands will soothe the soul and stimulate the senses. Few places in the world offer a more breath-taking glimpse of the awesome creativity of Mother Nature. The Halong Bay World Heritage Site is universally recognized for the significance of its exceptional geology and distinctive biodiversity, and the rich culture of the local people adds to the charm and enchantment of cruising the bay. Halong Bay cruises have been a favorite pastime for the Vietnamese for centuries.