Outside of recognizable places like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Quang Ninh is the most famous province in Vietnam. Home to the country’s number one tourist destination Ha Long Bay, the province is flooded by international tourists every year. Eager to explore the bay’s famous karsts, caves, and beaches, visitors have fallen in love with Quang Ninh’s amazing landscapes.
While the coast around Ha Long City is arguably the most famous part of the province, tourists shouldn’t overlook Quang Ninh’s inland landscapes. Featuring verdant mountains and dense forests, the province’s inland areas are also stunning destinations.
How to Get to Quang Ninh Province
Quang Ninh Province covers about 6,178 sq km (2,385 sq mi) of land, coastline, and offshore islands in Northeastern Vietnam. Bordered by 4 Vietnamese provinces and an international border with China, tourists to the area often either cross the border or visit from Hanoi. Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, is 154 km (95 mi) to the west of the provincial capital, Ha Long City.
As the most popular destination in Vietnam, Quang Ninh Province is well-connected to the rest of the country. Travelers from Hanoi will have the easiest journey as transportation options include seaplanes, private cars, buses, and trains. Moreover, Vietnam Airlines, Bamboo Airways, and Vietjet Air offer domestic flights from HCMC to Ha Long City daily.
Sometimes called a “Cradle of Mankind”, the history of the Quang Ninh Province goes back thousands of years to the days of prehistoric humans. Archeological relics, like jewelry money, and bones as well as remains found in the province, have been dated back to between 3000 and 1500 BC.
During Vietnam’s feudal period, Quang Ninh Province changed its name several times. As various dynasties took power, the province was first called Luc Châu under the Ngo Dynasty. At the time of the Nguyen Dynasty, the country’s last ruling dynastical empire, the province was known as Quang Yên. It wasn’t until the French colonial period that a new name was derived.
In 1899, the French invaded Tonkin, creating Ha Ninh Province from Quang Yen. Rich in minerals, the area became known for its mining and coal production. The 1945 August Revolution returned the province to Vietnam’s control and under the Hai Ninh Government Democratic Republic of Vietnam, Quang Ninh Province was established, deriving its name from Quang Yen and Hai Ninh.
Today, many of Quang Ninh’s historical sites have been preserved and are open to visitors such as Bach Dang River, Van Don District and Port, Tomb of the Tran Dynasty, and the Yen Tu Mountain. While history from prehistoric times has mostly been preserved in museums, tourists will be able to see colonial history on the streets of the provincial cities and towns.
- It’s estimated that there are nearly 2,000 islands in the Quang Ninh Province.
- The province is divided into 4 cities, 2 towns, 7 districts, and 177 rural communes.
- A census completed in 2019 estimates that 1,320,324 people live in the Quang Ninh Province.
A first-class city, Ha Long is the capital of the Quang Ninh Province. Ha Long City sits on the coast, and it is frequently used as the jumping-off point for tourists who are traveling to explore the bay. The city has been divided into two parts – Eastern and Western Ha Long, however, Eastern Ha Long isn’t touristy as it acts as host to most of the city’s industrial and administrative buildings.
The touristy part of Ha Long is the western half of the city, however, Eastern and Western Ha Long are connected by a bridge, so it is easy to travel between the two. Aside from its industrial productions, tourism in Ha Long City is thriving. As the place where most visitors stay the night before adventuring into the bay, Ha Long City has a flourishing tourist sector.
While Ha Long Bay is the main attraction, visitors should also consider visiting the Ha Long Cable Car at Sunworld, Dragon Park, Typhoon Water Park, or Beach No 1. All these attractions are in the city, and they offer excellent views of the urban and natural landscapes.
Furthermore, there are various highly-rated beach resorts, luxury boat cruises, 5-star hotels, and hostels in Ha Long City for every type of traveler. Ranging from luxury to affordable, some of the best accommodations in Ha Long City include the Vinpearl Resort and Spa Ha Long, Wyndham Legend Halong Hotel, Novotel Ha Long Bay, and the Halios Hotel Halong.
The influx of visitors has also helped create a diverse culinary scene in Ha Long City. With a mix of local and international cuisine, travelers in Ha Long City are guaranteed to find a great meal cooked with fresh ingredients by premier chefs. Some of the city’s best restaurants include Papa’s BBQ, The Jumbo Viêt Nam Floating Restaurant, and Sandy Bay Beach Bar & Restaurant.
Famous Places in Quang Ninh Province
Apart from Ha Long City, there are a few cities and towns that have also become tourist attractions in the Quang Ninh Province. For international tourists, the spotlight shines on smaller urban areas like Cam Pha, Mong Cai, and Uong Bi. Attractions in these destinations range from natural landscapes to historic sites and cultural communities.
Located just one hour north of Ha Long City and driven by agriculture, forestry, fishing, and coal industries, Cam Pha is a lesser-known destination in Quang Ninh. Home to the Bai Tu Long Bay, Câm Pha is becoming more popular with tourists each year. Top attractions include Vang Island, Cua Ong Temple, Reu Island, and Vang Duc Historical Site.
One of Vietnam’s wealthiest cities, Mong Cai is in the northern part of the Quang Ninh near the international border with China. Smaller than Ha Long, Mong Cai pulls its wealth from international trading with China. Tourists can stay at one of the quality guest houses or five-star hotels while exploring Trà Cô Beach, Night Market, and Sa Vi Cape.
Slightly inland from the coast, Uong Bi is a stunning city famous for its Buddhist heritage. High in the mountains, Uong Bi’s top attractions are the Bach Dang River, Yen Tu Relic, Yen Tu Mountain, and Ba Vang Pagoda. There aren’t a ton of overnight options in the city, though there is a 5-star near Ba Vang Pagoda as well as boutique hotels and hostels.
With a beautiful landscape, most of the attractions in the Quang Ninh Province are outdoors, however, there are a few historical and cultural sites that are worth visiting. The diverse array of activities ensures that visitors to Quang Ninh will be able to thoroughly enjoy their vacation as they venture through the province.
Ha Long Bay
The star of the Quang Ninh Province, Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has become Vietnam’s number one tourist attraction. Located just offshore from Ha Long City, the bay is filled with hundreds of limestone karsts. Day and overnight cruises are the way to see the bay and its islands. Activities in the bay include kayaking, hiking, snorkeling, and caving.
Popular destinations in the park include Cat Ba Island, Bon Hon Island, and the Hang Sung Sot Cave.
Cat Ba National Park
Within Ha Long Bay, Cat Ba Island is a famous destination known for its small-town and national park. Technically a part of Hai Phong, most people will visit the island or national park on their tour of Ha Long Bay. Cat Ba National Park covers much of Cat Ba Island and it protects delicate marine habitats like the in-shore tide pools.
On the island, tourists can explore the small town or head off into the rainforest to observe the park’s unique plants and animals. Tourists are welcome to navigate the park solo or with a local guide. Trung Trang Cave, Frod Lake, and Ngu Lam Mountain are all popular destinations in Cat Ba National Park.
Bai Tu Long National Park
To the north of Ha Long Bay is the smaller, but just as stunning Bai Tu Long Bay. Less touristy than Ha Long Bay, Bai Tu Long gives visitors the chance to see the same breathtaking scenery that is found in Ha Long, but without the massive crowds. Within the bay, the Bai Tu Long National Park is another conservation area that boasts both terrestrial and marine habitats.
With clearer water than Ha Long Bay, Bai Tu Long National Park is a great place for boaters and swimmers to visit. Visitors will have the chance to explore the beaches, cruise the bay, or head underground to see the area’s impressive caves.
Tuan Chau Island
In the southern part of Ha Long Bay, Tuan Chau Island has become a booming tourist destination. Mixing ancient and modern, the island’s history can be traced back to nearly 5,000 years ago. Today, the island boasts a variety of tourist activities including various cruises that set sail from Tuan Chau, artificial beaches, and gentle hills that gives excellent views of the bay.
Once a vacation spot for Vietnam’s former president, Ho Chi Minh, the island is now dotted with resorts and hotels that provide getaways to Vietnamese families and international tourists.
Ba Vang Pagoda
In the mountains of the Quang Ninh Province, Ba Vang Pagoda is a massive complex devoted to Buddha. A spiritual place, the temple is visited by both worshippers and tourists. The immense size and beautiful architecture make it a popular destination. The quietest time to visit is during the week as festival days and weekends can be crowded.
Yen Tu Mountain
Quang Ninh’s most famous mountain is Yen Tu. Located 50 km (32 mi) from Ha Long City, the mountain has been a spiritual center for Buddhist teachings since the 13th century. Visitors can either summit the mountain on foot, which takes up to 4 hours, or they can take the various cable cars to the top. At the summit, there is a small pagoda and scenic panoramic views.
Of the various festivals that are unique to the Quang Ninh Province, the two most famous are the Yen Tu and Cua Ong Temple Festivals. Open to visitors, both attractions celebrate the preservation of the local Vietnamese culture and spirituality.
The Yên Tu Festival is held at the pagodas on Yên Tu Mountain, with celebrations beginning on the 10th day of the first lunar month and until the end of the third lunar month. Yên Tu celebrates King Tran Nhan Tong, who created Truc Lam Zen Buddhism. During the festival, visitors can partake in ceremonies at the pagodas.
In Câm Pha, the Cua Ông Temple Festival begins in the early days of the 2nd lunar month. The festival allows worshipers time to ask for happiness and peace in the New Year.
A dancing dragon performance kicks off the festival and opening celebrations include an incense ceremony and singing. Throughout the festival, morale is high as people play games, dance, and sing. Smaller in scale, the festival is expanded every year in hopes of bringing in more tourists.
There are two seasons in the Quang Ninh Province – wet and dry. As a province that features a lot of water, the wet season, which is at its peak during the summer months, is the least popular time for tourists as the fog and rain often block out the amazing views. Instead, the peak tourist time in the Quang Ninh Province falls at the end of the year, during the dry season.
October through January are the most popular months to visit Quang Ninh because there is less rain. However, the northern location of the province means that tourists who are visiting during the winter months will need to pack some warm layers as the temperatures can dramatically drop.
Drawing in most of Vietnam’s tourists, Quang Ninh is certainly the country’s top “must-see” and “can’t miss” provincial destination. With mountains, caves, islands, and coastal destinations, adventurous tourists won’t run out of activities while visiting.
Activities near Quang Ninh Province