Ha Long Bay Itinerary 2024: Gems Amidst Emerald Seas

Halong Bay Blog: One early morning, we raced after a local bus from Bac Ninh to Vietnam’s Capital, Hanoi. We had booked our Halong Bay trip and the infamous Hanoi Opera House was our pickup point.

I still vividly remember dozens of day tour vans calling out their booked travelers for the day at the Opera House to different day trips from Hanoi. Trang An and Halong Bay (or Vinh Ha Long) were the popular ones.

We hopped on our minivan and awaited the adventure. FYI I hadn’t a clue of what Halong Bay was. I only knew it was ‘nice’. So here goes my Ha Long Bay itinerary.

Ha Long Bay Itinerary

For the Ha Long Bay Itinerary, the most commonly picked itineraries are for 1-day and 2-day-1-night trips. But others prefer staying longer to explore the fishing villages.

The deal is that Halong Bay has 1600 islands, most of which are limestones. As you cruise through the never-ending green blobs, there’s little to do here apart from the few treks, beaches, and cave exploration.

Unless of course, you wish to sit down and examine the entire ecosystem by yourself. Nevertheless, I visited Ha Long Bay for a 1-day trip and regretted not planning a longer itinerary.

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Halong Bay 1 Day Guide: Boarding at Tuan Chau International Marina

Also, keep in mind that Lan Ha Bay and Ha Long Bay aren’t very different. Lan Ha Bay is relatively a smaller area with more flora on peaks and fewer crowds. But Ha Long Bay is the most popular here.

If you’re particular about Lan Ha Bay, pick some tours specific to Lan Ha Bay and Cat Ba Island.

Ha Long Bay Itinerary 1 Day Guide

I visited Halong Bay with a 1 day tour and I loved it! Consider this my Halong Bay blog for 1 day. There were a few more places that we couldn’t quite cover, but the one day isn’t a bad idea for budget travelers.

For Ha Long Bay 1 day trip, I recommend picking Route 2 to explore the better parts. However, I’ve included attractions of both routes in this 1-day itinerary so that it helps you decide better.

For booking the tour, book in advance (at least a day prior). I recommend using Klook.com for the best rates and flexibility of choices. Also, our readers get better deals from Klook.com!

I handpicked this Ha Long Bay tour below- it begins at a decent rate and you get to choose different cruises, routes, and even the length of your itinerary. The second itinerary is for those who wish for a private tour. Grab your deals today!


Arrive at pickup point at 7:30 – 8:00 am.

Pick your nearest pickup location. Luxury tours pick you up straight from the hotel but make sure to be on time. We, on the other hand, ran our asses off from Bac Ninh to catch a local bus to make it on time to the Hanoi Opera House. Gladly, we were just in time.

Some common pickup points are Hanoi Opera House, Old Quarters, and Hoan Kiem Lake.

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We made some Indonesian friends on the tour!

Board the Cruise at Tuan Chau Marina Port

From Hanoi, after the two-hour shuttle bus ride to Tuan Chau Marina Port, the agency will typically take care of the cruise arrangement. The cruise itself is a short journey – have a seafood lunch on the boat before reaching Halong Bay (food is included in the package).

Explore the Thien Cung and Sung Sot Caves

Available on Route 1 & 2. Both caves are to be the first stop at Ha Long Bay. Some operators take you to both caves – we did too. While the caves are photogenic, they’re honestly similar to each other. So don’t mind covering only one.

Catch sight of Hon Dinh Huong and Fighting Cock Islet

Route 1 only: These are small islets you can’t land on. The cruise takes you around it for pictures. The Hon Dinh Huong is famous as its image is printed on the Vietnamese VND 200,000 note.

Fighting cock is a similar islet where two tiny islets appear very much like two chickens fighting.

Hike the Ti Top (Titov) Island

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Halong Bay 1 Day Guide: Sung Sot caves

Route 2 only: With the steps, we began climbing thinking it was easy. Well, it was easy except the hike to the top is 450 steep steps! After all that cave walk and accompanied heat, this gets tiring.

But the peak of Ti Top Island is worth all the effort!

Kayak at Hang Luon Caves

Kayaking is on Route 1 & 2. But I’m only certain you get to kayak at Luon Caves on Route 2. Kayak under the arched Luon Cave to an open sky area amidst the peaks! Other spots to kayak are Bai Tu Long Bay, Cong Do, and Cong Dam.

This is the last activity at Halong Bay for a 1-day trip. Get ready to sunbathe your way back on the cruise to the port and back to Hanoi.

Ha Long Bay itinerary for 2 Days

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Ha Long Bay itinerary: It’s so soothing yet touristy :(

The Ha Long Bay itinerary for 2 days is the most popular tour. While the 1-day trip covers most, it’s very hurried. The 2 Days 1-night itinerary lets you seep in the experiences.

Added to it, you have the privilege of visiting attractions on a less touristy schedule. Some cruises let you Kayak in solitude at sunrise! But my favorite on this itinerary is squid-fishing!

As day one’s schedule is similar to the 1-day Ha Long Bay itinerary, I’ve skipped its descriptions below.

Here’s a quick list of Ha Long Bay Itinerary for 2 Days from Hanoi:

  1. Day 1: Arrive at pickup point 7:30 – 8:00 am
  2. Board at Tuan Chau Port and Have a Seafood Lunch
  3. Walk the Sung Sot Caves
  4. Sight the Hon Dinh Huong Islets
  5. Hike Ti Top Island
  6. Go squid fishing: This is only possible with the 2-day itinerary as it’s an evening activity. You get to hold light out the waters from your cruise and wait till squids take the bait! Ha Long Bay is known for fishing among local fishermen!
  7. Karaoke or take a cooking class! These are additional privileges of a 2-day tour. Some host cooking classes, and you can vibe to music on the evening sun deck or karaoke. Some rare ones even have martial arts training!
  8. Day 2: Go for kayaking at sunrise (at Luon Caves)
  9. Tour the Lang Chai Tra Bau: (new route only) The Tra Bau area is a fishing village. This is a guided tour around the spot of peaks where the Kong Skull movie was shot.
  10. Have another brunch. This gets to the end of this itinerary. After your long kayak and Tra Bau tour, head back to Tuan Chau Airport as you have brunch.

For a 2-day 1-night itinerary, the Golden Cruise and Oriental Cruise are the most popular options for reasonable rates and comfortable stays. Book your 2D1N tour below for the best price!

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Halong Bay 1 Day Guide: Cruising the Islands

Ha Long Bay Itinerary for 3 Days

3 Days is best for those looking for luxury cruises. In my opinion, there isn’t more to explore. Of course, there are more limestone islets you’ll traverse by, but nothing new of sorts.

As not many people choose these tours and they’re pricey – the tour itineraries vary a lot from one another. Some are simply luxurious hotels with incredible views. To get the most out of the 3-day itinerary, scroll to my recommended Klook tour below.

But for those simply looking for a plush relaxation by Ha Long Bay, I highly recommend the Orchid Cruise. They offer relaxed slow sailing with luxurious facilities and rooms with private balconies.

Some additional places to visit on the Ha Long Bay 3 Days itinerary are Ba Hang floating villages, and Frog and Chopstick Islands (according to one of the popular 3-day itineraries).

Anyway, here’s an example of a Halong Bay itinerary for 3 days:

  1. Day 1: Get to the Tuan Chau International Marina and begin with lunch (as usual)
  2. Cruise by Swan, Dog Head, and floating villages (Ba Hang floating village)
  3. Check out the thumb island – yes, it DOES look like a thumb.
  4. Walk the Luon Caves and Ti Top Island
  5. Go Squidfishing!
  6. Day 2: Again begin with swimming and kayaking (Frog Island and Chopstick Island)
  7. Lunchtime!
  8. Visit the Halong Bay Pearl Museum
  9. Laze around the beach
  10. Day 3: Visit the Sung Sot Cave
  11. Last cruise around the Fighting cock islets and Incense Burner Island
  12. Have lunch and back to Hanoi.

To get the most out of Halong Bay’s 3-day itinerary, I recommend taking the Phoenix cruise from Klook.com. It’s the most popular option with budget pricing and incredible amenities. Check it out below!

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Ha Long Bay itinerary: One of the best views!

Funnily, all the itineraries begin with the long ride from Hanoi and kickstart with a seafood lunch. That’s more or less the standard for any itinerary.

To summarize, the caves and Ti Top Island are the most popular. Kayaking, swimming, and beaches are the next most popular things to do. Floating villages and the additional cruise for viewing different islets are for additional days.

Ha Long Bay Blog FAQs

Before we begin with my experience, here are some common FAQs about Halong Bay.

Is Halong Bay Worth Visiting?

Halong Bay is worth visiting! When in Hanoi, I recommend taking at least one day to visit Halong (or Ha Long in Vietnamese) Bay.

It’s even better when you haven’t an idea of the place and simply hit the road! For this article’s sake, it isn’t only nature – Ha Long Bay is a unique experience that’s impossible to find elsewhere. Among the list of Phu Quoc Island and Cat Ba Island, this is one of Vietnam’s must-see.

The limestone peaks amidst hypnotic green seas and the fact that you’ll cruise through these is no less of a paradise.

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Halong Bay 1 Day Guide: Tired as we returned to Tuan Chau International Marina

How Many Days to Spend in Halong Bay?

How long in Ha Long Bay? Hmm, this isn’t easy to answer. With Halong Bay so popular in the world today, travelers pick every itinerary option available on the cruises.

Some take a 4-day 3-night cruise and many even take the 1-day trip option. But the most popular option in terms of budget (and time) is taking the 2-day 1-night cruise in Ha Long Bay.

A Halong Bay 1 day trip is sufficient to check out what the hype is all about. 1 Day trip is even enough to get around the main attractions of Halong Bay. But you’ll also realize you should have stayed longer.

I recommend the 2 days for Ha Long Bay as you’ll get to see the more offbeat parts of Halong Bay. Anything longer can also get boring to some.

How to Get to Halong Bay?

The best way to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi is via package tours that take care of transport. It’s cheap as they cover the shuttle bus ride and the cruise trip costs till Halong Bay.

Halong Bay is 172 km from Hanoi and takes 2.5 to 3 hours to get there through the New Highway 5B, Hai Phong City. These shuttle buses pick up travelers from spots like Hanoi Old Quarters and the Opera House.

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Ha Long Bay Itinerary: Thien Cung caves

As taxis get expensive, the shuttle bus is a budget-friendly option. They cost 350,000 VND – 560,000 VND (USD 15 – USD 23) depending on the comfort of the shuttle bus. The fare gets higher for private charters.

Rented bikes are an alternative if you don’t mind the heat. Another wild option (for the rich) is taking a 45-minute seaplane from Hanoi Noi Bai International Airport to Tuan Chau Island Marina. Yes.

Is Halong Bay one of the seven wonders of the World?

This came across when I was researching for this post – I thought it to be funny to add. There’s a lot of criticism in this list but Halong Bay, in the end, did make it. Read more on Wikipedia.

Though not on the same 7 Wonders of the World as the Taj Mahal, Halong Bay was voted in the new 7 Wonders of Nature in 2011. 200-plus countries were participating in this!

The evolution of Karst in this bay is said to have evolved over 20 million years. The limestone in these little islands is said to have taken 500 million years.

A whole biodiversity is in place today and thus, apart from all the tourism trends, there is so much more to Ha Long Bay than just having a drink with a view from your cruise. I’d say it has every reason to be on the 7 Nature Wonders of the World.

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Ha Long Bay itinerary: Finally, the view from Ti Top Island!
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Manas Patil

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