Tag Archives: limestone karst

Excursion to Ha Long Bay

One of the most iconic images of Vietnam is one with a bunch of lush green limestone karst islands in the middle of the sea – this is none other than the Ha Long Bay. Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and lies in the northern coast of Vietnam. It is roughly a 2-hour drive from Hanoi and is a must-visit when in Vietnam. We plugged in this visit as the first leg of our trip (check out the complete itinerary here).

Planning your trip to Ha Long

There are two ways in which you can plan this excursion:

  1. Approach a travel agency who will arrange the whole trip for you. This can be done online or even a day in advance in Hanoi – there are dozens of agencies in the Old Quarter who can link you up.
  2. Look up various cruise options online through sites like booking.com for a DIY solution. Keep your eye on the inclusions and exclusions so that you can plan your day and make transfer arrangements if needed.

How many days to spend at Ha Long Bay

The are 3 popular options – a day-cruise, 2D 1N or 3D 2N. Breaking it down into Pros and Cons so that you can make a simple choice:

One day cruise: This would be a super-hectic option if you add in the transfers from Hanoi. We feel 4 hours on the bay is too less time to take in the beauty. And you do not get to experience sunrise or sunset here. Another downside is that in this time, they can only take you to the crowded parts of the bay. You can opt for this only if you are super crunched for time.

2D 1N: This is an optimal amount of time to spend as you get to explore more of the bay and also indulge in some water activities like swimming and kayaking. We went for this option and had an amazing time. Our van picked us up from Hanoi Old Quarter early in the morning and dropped us at the jetty where we transferred to a smaller boat – this took us to our cruise.

After lunch on board, we spent time enjoying the scenery from our balcony. Around 4 in the evening, we anchored close to one of the islands where we were taken to a floating cabin and given kayaks to go around and explore the bay. This was one of the best parts of the experience as we got to paddle around the gentle water weaving in and out of the islands. After about an hour here, there was more time for a swim. We were then taken back and served dinner.

We welcomed the sun the next morning with a round of Tai Chi on the boat’s deck followed by breakfast.

We were then taken to one of the floating villages where we boarded a rowing boat and explored some caves.

After this little adventure, we headed back for a cooking class where we made traditional Vietnamese spring rolls and also had a heavy brunch (to fall in love with Vietnamese food, click right here).

Our van was waiting at the jetty which took us back to Hanoi by evening.

3D 2N: This is the option you go for if you have no time constraints. If you are going for this, make sure you choose a cruise which goes to the Bai Tu Long Bay and also has more excursions. It will include everything we’ve mentioned above in the 2D 1N option and some more, like bicycle tour in a nearby village, fishing trips, hike trails.

Which cruise to pick?

There are a few factors you need to consider while picking the perfect cruise.

Budget: There are quite a lot of luxury options available (most of them are pretty good). We went for the mid-range as it suited our overall budget. Try to avoid the absolute low range as the quality of the boats will not be great.

Inclusions/Exclusions: Most cruises have the above-mentioned activities and food included in the price – but do check out the fine print to make sure there are no last-minute hiccups/surprises.

Transfers: It is always convenient to have transfers included along with the cruise. They will ensure that you are always on time and don’t end up missing your boat. Public transport is an option – but we feel it is best to spend a few extra VND and forget about the hassle. They provide an option of hotel pick up too if you are staying in the Old Quarter.

Reviews: The more the reviews, the more reliable and predictable the service. It always helps to look at the most recent reviews – so keep your eye for those!

We chose to go for the Halong Sapphire Cruise which combined everything we were looking for.

The Vietnam experience is incomplete without a trip to the beautiful Ha Long Bay. We headed back to Hanoi after our cruise – check out how you can make the most of your days in Hanoi here!

Hope this helps you plan your trip better – do let us know in the comments below. For all our other blogs on Vietnam, click right here! Check out our latest travels on Instagram at @fridgemagnet.tales

A Day in PlitviCe

The place we were looking forward to the most in Croatia was Plitviče National Park. Why you ask? Take a look at these pictures we shot, and you’ll get an idea why.

The lakes in Plitviče have been formed at different heights as a series of cascades. You can also spot many waterfalls and rapids as the water flows down from the upper lakes to the lower lakes. But what is most stunning in this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the colour of the water! The distinctive colours of the lakes is due to moss, algae and minerals which are deposited on the limestone topography. There are wooden pathways and bridges criss-crossing the park which give you the chance to experience nature’s beauty at its best! Now that we’ve resolved the why, here’s how you can make the most of your day at Plitviče.

Reach the park early in the morning

This advice holds true for many tourist attractions as you get to see the place in all its glory without tourists. I cannot emphasize how true this is for Plitviče (we got a glimpse of the crowded version as we left). We started our day at 7:30 am from our beautiful cottage in Rastovača (check out our tips on places to stay here) and we were at the ticket counter in Entrance 1 at 7:45 am. We didn’t have to face a queue and were one of the first people to enter. If you go during the peak season (July-August), you might have to wait a while in the queue, and you may even get a later slot – so make sure you book in advance if you visit in these months (we visited in June). The entrance fees also goes up in the peak season. You can check out the latest fees on their website.

Select the best routes

There are around 8 different routes (4 from each entrance of the park) you can choose to take on your tour depending on how much you are willing to walk and how much time you’d like to spend at the park.

We selected Route C – a 4-6 hours long trail which would span 8 km across the upper and lower lakes. This is one of the best routes to get a complete experience of Plitviče – there is one stretch on the route which is via boat too. We also took a deviation towards the end of the trail and walked through a stretch of route H to get a view of the upper-most lakes of the park.

Once you reach the end of the trail, you can take a shuttle bus back to your entrance or walk along a shortcut trail.

Alternatively, if you are entering the park from Entrance 2, select Route H (which covers the same route in the opposite direction).

If you are crunched for time, go for Route A or B which will take you through the best parts of the lower lakes. If you want to spend the entire day, go for Route K – the longest trail available.

Best spots in the Park

Most of the wallpaper worthy spots can be found along the lower lakes. The closest one to Entrance 1 is the Veliki Slap or Big Waterfall (you can find signboards which will guide you).

You can find plenty of amazing spots along the boardwalks. Take your time and enjoy the views as you make your way along the trail.

Cascade viewpoint – you can get this view when you walk back to Entrance 1 from the bus stop.

Additional spot: on the way to Veliki Slap, you will find a path going upwards – walk up and continue along the path towards the right and you will reach the viewpoint in about 200 metres.

Best time to visit

You can visit Plitviče anytime between April to October to enjoy the colours of the lakes. July-August is the peak season which you can skip if you want to avoid crowds. We visited in June and really enjoyed it. There were many parts of the park where we had the place entirely to ourselves. The weather was warm and comfortable – perfect for the long walk!

Getting to Plitviče

Plitviče is located 130 km south of Zagreb and 250 km north of Split which makes it a great place for a day trip. You can find several buses on this route which makes it very accessible. For all your local travel in Croatia, check out our guide here. We arrived in Plitviče a day before our planned visit to the park. This gives you the freedom to rest well and start early to beat the crowds.

Where to Stay

We recommend staying close to Entrance 1 – this will enable you to enjoy the beauty of the lower lakes before the crowds start hitting. We picked an Airbnb in the village of Rastovača. Check out our blog on places to stay.

We spent about 6 hours in the park and loved every second of it. Afterwards, we went back to our stay, picked up our bags, walked back to Entrance 1 and boarded our bus to Split at 3:15 pm. The story of Split and the journey beyond is chronicled here.

For all the water lovers, entering the water is not allowed in Plitviče. However, if you want to swim in such waters, head to Krka National Park and enjoy!

Do leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Feel free to shoot your queries as well! To catch all our latest travel stories, follow us on Instagram @fridgemagnet.tales