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New Seven Wonders of Nature: Vietnam's Halong Bay

by Jessica Whyte

The Gap 360 countdown of the New Seven Wonders of Nature continues with a look at the amazing Asian hotspot of Vietnam’s Halong Bay. This stunning natural wonder of the world rightly deserves a place among the seven most incredible wonders of nature. Made up of thousands of islands nestling in the shimmering waters of Vietnam, these moss-covered sculptural rock formations rise out of the mist and make for a magical, mystical sight beloved of gap travellers from across the globe. With tiny islands, grottoes, beaches and caves carved from the wind and the waves, Halong Bay offers so much to explore for any gap year adventurer.

The Bay is home to some unique features, such as fantastic floating fishing villages, unspoilt sandy strips of beach, the Cat Ba National Park full of brilliant birds and animals, misty mangrove forests and unbelievable offshore reefs. Take in spectacular sights such as the Wooden Stakes Cave, a large grotto full of strange stalagmites and stalactites and just one of the awesome underground caverns you can discover in Halong Bay. Many of the caves are illuminated adding to the fantastical feel of Vietnam’s natural wonder of the world.

A visit to Halong Bay wouldn’t be complete without taking a trip on one of the famous Vietnamese junk boats, where you can even stay overnight and listen to the lapping of the waves. Then see the sights of Halong Bay at your leisure as you cruise between islands and listen to the birdsong on the forested slopes in this far-away spot.

Halong Bay is a place made for myths and legends, and the most famous of these involve that most iconic Asian monster, the dragon. ‘Halong’ means ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’ and legend has it that a mighty dragon created the Bay by flailing his tail and gouging out valleys and crevasses. In another variation on the dragon myth, the islands are said to be created by the dragon spitting jewels, precious stones and jade into the sea to create a natural fortress against invaders…Some say the islands are the humped backs of a family of dragons who live submerged beneath the seas… but one thing you can be sure of, wherever you go in Halong Bay, the dragon legend is never far behind…

The dragon is not the only creature that has made its name in Halong Bay. Many of the unusual islands are named after animals they are said to resemble, and in one day you could go from having fun on the Frog-Like Isle, exploring Golden Turtle Cave, finding Fighting Cock Island or relaxing near Lion Stretching Rock. It’s not hard to see why the mysteries of Halong Bay have captured the imagination of the world and made it onto the list for the provisional New Seven Wonders of Nature. No traveller through Asia should miss out on the wonders of Halong – see the best of Vietnam on your gap year – the Bay will blow you away!

Coming soon: Next on the Gap 360 list for the provisional New Seven Wonders of Nature…Argentina’s incredible Iguazu Falls…

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