National Geographic is an American magazine that is respected worldwide and it is currently published in 40 different languages around the world. Its dedicated television channels are equally popular so when the Company talks about destinations, everyone listens. Recently, the Magazine rated the mountain range in North Vietnam, Hoang Lien Son that includes the country’s highest mountain, Fanispan, as the best destination in the whole of South East Asia. That is some accolade if you think about the rich history and culture of Indochina.
Experienced travellers, explorers and travel editors selected 28 exciting destinations worldwide and placed Hoang Lien Son at 7th on the list of destinations.
The mountain range is up towards the Chinese border. It is over 300 kilometres north of Hanoi where many people begin their Vietnam holiday. A good Vietnam travel agent will prepare a Vietnam travel package itinerary to suit a client. Sa Pa north from Hanoi has commonly been included on such itineraries, especially during the warm and dry months of March to May. The snows that fall in Sa Pa, starting around December will certainly have gone by then.
There are overnight buses and trains to Sa Pa from Hanoi with those booking a Vietnam tour package having all their arrangements made for them.
Tourist numbers also head to Sa Pa in the autumn although it may be a little wet. The SaPa Terraces where the locals grow rice have always been popular. Those visiting in the autumn will enjoy seeing the rice that has changed to golden prior to being harvested. Ethnic tribes living in these highland regions retain many of the customs and traditions that their ancestors followed. Tourists can enjoy a homestay amongst these tribes who are benefitting from visitors without any sign of their traditions being abandoned. Their handicrafts and colourful textiles are extremely popular with tourists.
An increasing number of tourists are now asking to go even furtherto see Fanispan. Their opportunity to do so has increased and the new cable car that has been built has certainly helped. Fanispan stands at over 3,100 metres and is located in a region that is still retaining its natural beauty, a world away from city life.
The cable car starts in the Muong Hoa Valley over virgin forest, through the white clouds to the mountains. Only intrepid experienced hikers and climbers have been there before. Now it is open to the normal tourist wishing to see natural Vietnam at its best.
Those previously wishing to climb Fanispan, South East Asia’s highest peak,usually had to have a guide accompanying them and that makes perfect sense. It remains a climb for experienced people only and you can get a porter, take a tent, and feel a sense of achievement on reaching the summit. However, the cable car has made Fanispan accessible to many more people. You just need to hope there are not too many clouds around in order to get the best photographs.
Read our: Sapa travel guide