Lonely Planet Writer

A new airport will bring travellers to Vietnam’s famous Halong Bay

A new airport has opened in Vietnam, bringing travellers close to the country’s famous Halong Bay.

Ships passing by limestone islands in Halong Bay. Image by ©Matt Munro/Lonely Planet

Van Don International Airport has opened up in Quang Ninh province, about 220 kilometres from Hanoi and just 50 kilometres from Halong Bay, a Unesco World Heritage site. The first private international airport in the country is designed to be a gateway for travellers heading to the bay. Sun Group, the company that built the airport, has predicted that it will receive an estimated two to 2.5 million passengers annually for the next two years, and five million per year by 2030.

The gorgeous bay has been a Unesco site since 1994 and its tiny islets and limestone pillars have made it the top tourism spot in northern Vietnam. The bay is usually explored by cruise tours, so travellers can see its beauty from the water. As the bay continues to grow in popularity, many travellers are also opting to explore the less-visited Lan Ha Bay.

Local guide sitting on carved dragon head on Chinese junk anchored in Halong Bay. Image by ©Matt Munro/Lonely Planet

But the airport may not be the only reason Halong Bay may be set for a surge in tourists. Sun Group also unveiled two more projects in Quang Ninh, the new Halong-Van Don Highway and Halong International Cruise Port. The highway is designed to reduce the travel time from Van Don Airport to Halong city to just under 50 minutes, according to the company. The port, located in Halong City, will be able to accommodate two cruise ships at a time, and a total of 8460 passengers, including crew.

Cruise ship passing by limestone islands in Halong Bay. Image by ©Matt Munro/Lonely Planet

As the new projects aim to develop the region’s tourism potential, it may also have some travellers seeking out some less popular spots. Find out where to explore the lesser-known highlights of northeast Vietnam here.