An otherworldly landscape of limestone towers jutting from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, Halong Bay is one of Southeast Asia’s most jaw-dropping tourist attractions. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 and featured among the New Seven Natural Wonders of the World in 2012, it impresses even the most experienced traveler.

Countless cruise liners shuttle between the main attractions of the bay, their decks full of camera-wielding tourists, but with an area of 1,600 square kilometers Halong Bay is able to accommodate all of them. Better still, the neighboring bays of Bai Tu Long and Lan Ha are as impressive but receive just a trickle of tourists compared to Halong Bay, offering a quieter alternative for those wishing to avoid crowds.

Geologists estimate that the area took over 500 million years to form, but according to traditional lore, the rocky formations were created by dragons rescuing Vietnam from a foreign invasion. Whatever the truth, Halong Bay is a bliss to explore, a delightful location for various outdoor activities.