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Each year, millions of tourists are drawn to Vietnam from the far corners of the world, their minds firmly fixed on seeing the legendary beauty of Halong Bay, a renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site, sitting in the Gulf of Tonkin.

What you may not know is that the Gulf of Tonkin is actually home to three bays, Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay, and Lan Ha Bay. Geologically, they are all similar, with the famed dramatic landscape of karst formations and limestone cliffs.

For savvy visitors looking for a tranquil and off the beaten path cruise, Halong Bay surprisingly plays second fiddle to Lan Ha Bay.

Sister to superstar Halong, the quieter and more isolated Lan Ha Bay offers plenty in her own right, particularly in the form of white sandy beaches. Both bays are best explored via overnight cruises.

If you are deciding between the two, or looking to explore Lan Ha Bay, we are here to help!

Read on to find out why, arguably, Lan Ha Bay might be the best bay in the area to visit while doing a Halong Bay cruise.

Overview of Lan Ha Bay
Located south of Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay is by far the smallest of the three primary bays in the area. It comprises around 400 limestone islets spread over 76 km2, and is just as pleasing to the eye as Halong Bay.

Lan Ha Bay features the same jaw-dropping landscape of towering karst outcrops that tourists typically associate with Ha Long and if it weren’t for the conspicuous absence of crowds in Lan Ha Bay, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the two bays.

Because of its distance from Halong City and the main tourist wharf, the popularity of Lan Ha Bay never really took off as it did for Halong Bay in the 1990s, and Lan Ha has remained in the shadow of its celebrity neighbour ever since.

This is good news for you – Lan Ha Bay remains an untouched gem, with isolated areas, pristine waters, and caves to discover. Of course, it is most famed for its clean white beaches, a rarity in Halong.

With no less than 139 white sandy beaches in the bay, it doesn’t take much effort to find your perfect spot for swimming, snorkeling and, for the more adventurous – cliff jumping!

Home to Cat Ba Island, the largest island in the area. Rugged, craggy, it showcases all the dramatic features of Halong. Many cruises start from Cat Ba, making it a great destination to start your trip. Enjoy the seafood market, the lovely beaches, and the national park.

Overall, if you are looking for a more secluded and laidback version of the area, Lan Ha Bay is ideal.

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