Sapa is located nearly 400km northwest of the capital city, Hanoi and is today a major tourist destination for its spectacular views, cultural touring, relaxing and trekking opportunities. Why not use our Sapa travel guide to learn more about this fascinating destination.
The cloud covered town is surrounded by magnificent mountains with a cool, fresh climate year-round and approx 1550 metres above sea level.
Rather than hanging out in town, Sapa is a premier trekking base in northern Vietnam that makes it really easy to start exploring the countryside with its tiny hill-tribe villages and cascading rice terraces. Sapa’s real charms are instantly respected on stepping into the lush fields.
This region is split between seven ethnic groups with different languages, lifestyles and cultures. They use the traditional practices to work on the evergreen terraces and are seen wearing their customary attires.
Similar to Hoi An and Halong Bay, Sapa tour packages have the ability to attract tourists solely on the quality of its striking beauty and surrounding attractions. On clear days, it is possible to enjoy the panoramic views of the mountains and paddy fields, while there are plenty of opportunities to experience the homestay for the truly authentic travel adventure.
Treks and tour of Sapa are easily pre-booked in Hanoi or even organized on arrival in Sapa. While it may cost more to organize the tour in the capital city, there is a greater chance of booking the best experience with more ease and security.
Most of the trekking expeditions are planned with tours to the local village areas and further beyond. A great half-day trek includes travelling to Cat Cat Village, which is in the region of 3 km from Sapa, while a full-day trek to the village of Lao Chai and Ta Vancan take the tourist 6-10 km from town. A trek can be extended to include an overnight stay in Giang Ta Chai or other minority village.
All treks that explore Sapa are sure to include the spectacular scenery, and this is certain to be the case with a tour that leads to the Tram Ton Pass that is about 15 km from Sapa. This route takes in the highest mountain pass in the country at 1900 m and connects Sapa with Lai Chau. Also, this trek includes other wonderful scenery, such as the Thac Bac waterfall that stands at a height of nearly 100 m.
For the more energetic or fit trekker, there is the opportunity to hike to the top of Vietnam's highest peak, Fansipan mountain that stands at a height of 3143 m. This type of trek is best prepared with a local guide and even the assistance of porters. It can take the seriously fit hiker 3-4 days to complete, but there is the risk of treacherous conditions in this mountainous region. For those able to complete the challenge, the reward is certain to be breathtaking.
Sapa tours are so intriguing and beautiful that it is well worth visiting this region of northern Vietnam for a relaxed break from the capital’s bustling city life.
The preferred time to visit Sapa for the trekking tour is throughout the summer months that last from August to December when the skies are clear and bright. While there is the likelihood of experiencing brief rain showers at this time of the year, the weather is still warm and more pleasant which makes it great for exploring the local scenery. In the winter the climate is quite rainy, foggy and cold. The coldest months of the year are usually January and February when the temperature is regularly close to 0º C.
How to get there
The most practical route into Sapa is via the overnight bus or train. The overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai takes in the region of 9-hours to complete. On arrival in Lao Cai, the onward travel into Sapa town is best completed by hiring a taxi or shuttle bus. Also, the night or sleeper buses are easily booked at a local hotel in Hanoi.
It is relatively easy to walk around most places on the Sapa tours. But, for those that want to get a break from walking there are plenty of xe om drivers waiting to pick up a ride. Plus, there is the option to hire a bicycle or motorbike for the day, which costs in the region of $4 to $7. Bike rentals can be found everywhere around town.
Where to stay
Sapa has a lot of low-cost to midrange places to stay with a few boutique and luxury options. Many of the hotels give great views of the Hoang Lien Mountains and of Mount Fansipan. With the cooler air temperature in the region, there aren’t many rooms with a fan or air-con, but heating is usually more of a concern, so go with a room that has a decent heart or a fireplace. Also, most of the hotels can help with market trips, visa arrangements, train tickets and tours.
It is worth booking early in the peak holiday periods or at weekends because Sapa can get awfully busy at this time. Plus, the hotel prices on the weekend are usually more expensive than what the weekday traveller is likely to experience.
Is a Sapa homestay for you?
In the process of organizing the trek on the Sapa tour packages one of the decisions to make relates to whether the experience should include staying in a homestay for the night. A homestay is basically staying in a local villager’s house which can give the authentic travel experience, but might not be for everyone. Most of the homestays in Sapa are operated by the Giay, Tay, Red Dao or Hmong families.
Eat and drink
A trip along Fansipan, Muong Hoa or Cau May streets makes it possible to find plenty of tourist-friendly eateries. Most of the menus are quite similar and offer something for everyone. For the travellers in search of the more authentic cuisine a stroll to the bus station may be appropriate where it is possible to find a variety of rice joints.
Sapa market is found along Phan Si Phang Road and a great destination for local produce, meats (fresh horse legs, chicken feet, etc.) and herbal remedies.
Reasons to Visit in Sapa
Trekking and Homestay Tours in Sapa
Top hotels in Sapa
Best places to visit in Sapa
Top things to do in Sapa
Nightlife in Sapa
Best spas and massage in Sapa
Best Restaurants in Sapa
Best Bars & Pubs in Sapa