Hạ Long Bay (Vietnamese: Vịnh Hạ Long, literally: “descending dragon bay”) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and popular travel destination in Quảng Ninh Province, Vietnam. Administratively, the bay belongs to Hạ Long City, Cẩm Phả town, and is a part of Vân Đồn District. The bay features thousands of limestone karstsand isles in various shapes and sizes. Hạ Long Bay is a center of a larger zone which includes Bái Tử Long Bayto the northeast, and Cát Bà Island to the southwest. These larger zones share a similar geological, geographical, geomorphological, climate and cultural characters.
Hạ Long Bay has an area of around 1,553 km2, including 1,960–2,000 islets, most of which are limestone. The core of the bay has an area of 334 km2 with a high density of 775 islets. The limestone in this bay has gone through 500 million years of formation in different conditions and environments. The evolution of the karst in this bay has taken 20 million years under the impact of the tropical wet climate. The geo-diversity of the environment in the area has created biodiversity, including a tropical evergreen biosystem, oceanic and sea shore biosystem.Hạ Long Bay is home to 14 endemic floral species and 60 endemic faunal species.
Historical research surveys have shown the presence of prehistorical human beings in this area tens of thousands years ago. The successive ancient cultures are the Soi Nhụ culture around 18,000–7000 BC, the Cái Bèo culture 7000–5000 BC and the Hạ Long culture 5,000–3,500 years ago. Hạ Long Bay also marked important events in the history of Vietnam with many artifacts found in Bài Thơ Mount, Đầu Gỗ Cave, Bãi Cháy.
500 years ago, Nguyễn Trãi praised the beauty of Hạ Long Bay in his verse Lộ nhập Vân Đồn, in which he called it “rock wonder in the sky”. In 1962, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of North Vietnam listed Hạ Long Bay in the National Relics and Landscapes publication. In 1994, the core zone of Hạ Long Bay was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site according to criterion vii, and listed for a second time according to criterion viii.
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