Halong Bay, UNESCO-listed World Natural Heritage, is among the most attractives destinations in Vietnam, besides Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Halong simply has too much to offer: emerald water, lush mountains, clear blue sky and idyllic fishing villages. However, the scenery changes throughout the year, which is why you need to do some research before heading to this wondrous heaven on earth. Read on to find out the best time to visit Halong Bay, considering weather and budgets.
I. An Overview of Halong Bay Complex
Halong Bay (literally “the bay of descending dragons”) is located 170 kilometers from Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. The bay belongs to Quang Ninh Province, a northern province which shares a border with China.
Halong Bay boasts an area of around 1,553 km2, including 1,960 – 2,000 islets, most of which are limestone. These limestone are said to have gone through 500 million years of formation, weathering different environmental conditions. Under the influence of wet tropical climate, the most magnificent caves and islands in the world can be found in this area.
Situated in the north, Halong Bay and Hanoi share a lot of similarities in weather conditions. Both have four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter, with temperature and humidity changes across the year. Even though temperatures might fluctuate substantially from summer to winter, Halong Bay retains its unique charms during the year.
II. Best Time to Visit Halong Bay for Great Weather
Though Halong Bay remains appealing all year round, the scenery changes slightly during the months. Here is the summary of the best time to visit Halong Bay in terms of weather:
|Best Period||Best Month|
|Spring||March – April|
|Autumn||September – October|
Read on below to see how the weather in Halong by season is:
1. Late winter (January – February)
The temperature is 14-21°C on average, with its lowest end reaching 0°C. It will be cool during the day, a bit chilly and foggy in the early morning and late afternoon. The scenery will be so beautiful, almost surreal in this time of the year. Drifting on the water, you will feel like being in the movie Captain of the Caribbean, with hidden sights of limestone islands and fishing boats. The bay will look extremely dreamy in the early morning, with visibility reaching its lowest.
Coming to Halong Bay in February, you will be experiencing the most exotic festival of the year: the Lunar New Year Festival. During this national holiday, a few enterprises/state agencies might be closed. Carefully check with your tour operator if you’re staying over the festival.
- Beautiful weather, a bit chilly and foggy
- Experience the exotic Lunar New Year Festival (Tet Festival)
- Watch out for Tet Festival closedown
2. Spring (March – May)
Spring comes along wiping off thick fog and bringing along cheerful sunlight. During March and April, the weather is extremely pleasant, with clear and blue sky and light rain now and then. Temperature ranges from 18°C to 30°C, with extremes reaching even 40°C.
May is the start of summer in Vietnam. The temperature will gradually rise, with longer sunshine hours everyday and a few occasional light rain. When sunshine comes, it’s perfect to have a day out swimming and kayaking!
- Pleasant weather, better visibility
- Rising temperatures in May
3. Summer (June – August)
Here comes summer, the season of burning sun, heavy downpours and sudden storms in Vietnam. It will be a bit too hot and humid for Westerners, with the temperature ranging from 24°C – 32°C, with occasional extremes reaching 40°C! Yes, without doubt it is the season of bikinis.
The picturesque scenery will compensate for it all, the sky will be exceptionally high and brilliantly blue and the water will be stunningly emerald. Swimming, kayaking and other water activities will be available, and you can stay in the cool water as long as you want! August will be the wettest month in the year, rains and storms will visit regularly.
- Very hot and humid
- Regular rain and storms, especially in August
4. Autumn (September – October)
It’s the most beautiful time in the year in Halong Bay. It’s going to be cool, sunny and breezy during autumn. The average temperature is 25°C, with no significant changes. You won’t be much bothered by the rains and storms as in the summer.
- Most beautiful weather in the year
- Cool, sunny and breezy
5. Early winter (November – December)
The typical winter in the north is cold, dry and cloudy, with the temperature reaching its low end of 1-2°C. You will still see some sunny, cloudless days when it hits 23-26°C outside. Halong Bay’s weather during these months are relatively similar to that of January and February. It’s also the time in the year to catch squids and celebrate Christmas!
- Cold and dry, with few sunny days
- Squid catching season
- Experience Christmas in Vietnam
Find below a summary of weather conditions in Halong Bay throughout the year:
|Relative daytime humidity||Days with rain/drizzling|
Also there are a few national holidays on which you should take into consideration, including the International New Year, Lunar New Year, Hung King Festival, Liberation Day, Labor Day and Independence Day. Lunar New Year days and Hung King Festival will vary from year to year, as the dates are based on the lunar calendar. The other national holidays will be as followed:
- International New Year: January 1st
- Liberation Day: April 30th
- Labor Day: May 1st
- Independence Day: September 2nd
III. Best Time to Visit Halong Bay to Get the Best Deal
The peak season in Halong Bay falls from October to December, while the shoulder season is from January to April. If you’re traveling on budget, you’d better visit Halong Bay in the period from May to September, when the prices are 10-20% lower than that in the peak season. However, you might want to avoid the national holiday on May 1st (Labor Day), when the volume of tourists will skyrocket, making it a less favorable time for visiting.
During the months of summer (June – August), due to frequent showers and thunderstorms, cruise ships and beachside activities might be prohibited. In that case, you may visit other parts of the country, say Hanoi, and come back when the storm has passed. If you’re planning to visit Halong Bay in the other months, make sure you book well in advance to avoid overpriced services.
IV. Tips on Visiting Halong Bay
The better you prepare yourself for the trip, the more enjoyable you will be. Here are some of the most important things you should keep in mind:
- If you’re traveling in summer, don’t forget to bring along sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, swim-suit and changes, hats, flip-flops/waterproof sandals. Also, keep regular updates with your tour operator in case the trip is canceled/postponed due to bad weather.
- If you’re traveling in winter, you should carry with you sweatshirts, as it can get chilly in the early morning.
- In case of getting canceled, you can travel back from Halong Bay to Hanoi to enjoy the rest of your trip. Hanoi is only a two to three hour drive away.
- There is no bad month to visit Halong Bay. Don’t worry if you miss the best months. The bay appeals with different charms across the season, and you will always find it worthy to visit it.
In conclusion, the best months to visit Halong Bay is from March to May, and from September to October. Don’t forget to stuff your stomach with hot grilled squids and the famous “banh cuon”, two of the most famous cuisines of the neighborhood! A visit to this UNESCO-listed Heritage Site won’t dare to disappoint!