With a mind-blowing landscape of limestone karsts emerging from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, Halong Bay ranks among the most impressive tourist attractions of Southeast Asia and is guaranteed to awe even the most experienced, world-savvy traveler. The most common way to see the bay is a one-day or an overnight cruise on traditional, junk-style boats.
Roughly half of these formations have names representing their unusual shapes, for instance, Hon Ga Chọi – the Fighting Cocks Islet. A few of the bigger islands, especially Tuan Chau and Cat Ba, are inhabited and offer a range of tourist facilities, but the majority of Ha Long’s islets are just desolate rocky outcrops – rising from the ocean and topped with thick jungle, some of them hiding enormous caves in their hollow interiors.
The hot and wet tropical climate of Halong Bay is characterized by two distinct patterns, featuring a hot and humid summer and a cold winter. Between these seasons are the short and transitional seasons of spring and autumn. Although Halong Bay remains appealing all year round, the scenery changes slightly throughout the course of the year, which is helpful since you might like to combine the visit with seeing other parts of Vietnam or even a Mekong Cruise.
While the best time to visit Halong Bay might be the peak season, it naturally means higher prices and more visitors, however, you will enjoy better weather conditions at this time. In contrast, the off-peak season could also be the best time to see Halong Bay because it will mean discounts on tours and accommodation, albeit with a higher risk of weather warnings.
A happy medium would be in the months of March to May, in between the peak and off-peak seasons. There are fewer international travelers, meaning that prices are typically not at their highest and there are fewer crowds. Then there’s the added bonus of better weather compared to the rest of the year − not too hot, or too wet.
Winter without a doubt is the coldest time of the year. A typical winter here is cold, dry, and cloudy, with the temperature reaching its low end of −16°F to −17 °F / 1-2°C. You will still see some sunny, cloudless days when it hits 73-79°F / 23-26°C outside. It’s also the time in the year to catch squids. In January and February, the temperature is 57-70°F / 14-21°C on average, with its lowest end reaching 32°F / 0°C. It will be cool during the day, a bit chilly and foggy in the early morning and late afternoon.
Although the weather is chilly, this is a wonderful time for travelers who want to avoid the sweaty summer season of Vietnam. The scenery will be so beautiful, almost surreal at this time of the year. The bay will look extremely dreamy in the early morning, with visibility reaching its lowest. If you come to Halong Bay in February, you will experience the most exotic festival of the year: the Tet or Lunar New Year Festival.
Tet is considered the most important of all national holidays in Vietnam, it is above all a time for Vietnamese people to spend with their family and friends. It’s traditionally celebrated on the first day of the Lunar New Year which is always in January or February.
Spring comes along wiping off the thick fog and bringing along cheerful sunlight. During March and April, the weather is extremely pleasant, with clear and blue skies and light rain now and then. Temperature ranges from 64-86°F / 18°C – 30°C, with extremes reaching even 104°F / 40°C. May is the start of summer in Vietnam. The temperature will gradually rise, with longer sunshine hours every day and occasionally some light rain. When the sunshine comes, it’s perfect for having a day out swimming and kayaking.
May is considered the secret ideal month to visit Halong Bay by many travelers. There are not many tourists visiting the Bay in this month and many cruises put on promotion programs. After Tet Holiday, there are many cultural and spiritual festivals held. If you are traveling to Halong Bay at this time, you should consider taking a side trip to Yen Tu Religious complex or Yen Duc village. Yen Tu Festival is when thousands of people make a pilgrimage to the top of Yen Tu Mountain to pray for good tidings in the new year. It runs from the first to the third lunar month, which is usually February to April.
The Bach Dang festival celebrates historic military victories on the Bach Dang River and attracts many more tourists and visitors each year. During the Bach Dang festival, there is a river procession, human chess, and wrestling as well as a general atmosphere of celebration. Bach Dang is also celebrated around April or May.
The Halong Bay Carnival is one of the most exciting annual festivals in Vietnam and draws thousands of tourists from all over the world. Highlights include lively street parades, performances from international troupes, dazzling fireworks and a great display of local culture. The carnival is usually held in late April or early May which is great timing as it coincides with the best weather.
Summer in Halong Bay is the season of burning sun, heavy downpours, and sudden storms. It will be a bit too hot and humid for Westerners, with the temperature ranging from 75-90°F / 24°C – 32°C, with occasional extremes reaching 104°F / 40°C. The picturesque scenery will compensate for it all, the sky will be a brilliant blue and the water will be stunningly emerald green. Swimming, kayaking, and other water activities will be available in the summer months.
August is the wettest month in the year, rain and storms will visit regularly. Therefore, cruise ships and beachside activities might be prohibited.
Summer is when many Vietnamese people take their annual vacation, adding domestic tourists to the usual mash of international tourists. Prices become more inflated and there may be long waits to see attractions. The off-peak season tends to be in the mid-to-late summer months, as the weather is not ideal for a Halong Bay Cruise due to the higher risk of bad weather. Prices drop to a more acceptable rate and the crowds disperse.
Autumn is the most beautiful time in the year in Halong Bay and the second peak tourist season there. It’s going to be cool, sunny and breezy during autumn. The average temperature is 77°F / 25°C, with no significant changes. You won’t be as much bothered by the rains and storms as in the summer.
Make sure that you visit well-known attractions of the Bay such as Tuan Chau Island, Ba Trai Dao beach, Vung Vieng Floating Fishing Village, Luon Cave, Co To Island, Surprising Cave, Vung Vieng Floating Fishing Village, and Luon Cave. Water-based activities in autumn include kayaking, swimming, boat rowing and scuba diving. Squid fishing at night is also worth trying if the weather permits.
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