Sapa is a colourful and charming town in northern Vietnam and continues to attract more tourists every year. Similar to Hoi An and Ha Long Bay, this mountainous town is able to attract its visitors based on its natural beauty. The tours in Sapa are a perfect destination for those that love to get involved in treks and include great panoramic views of the local surroundings that include the tiny hill tribe villages and cascading rice terraces.
Learn more about this Vietnamese town by reading our Sapa Travel Guide.
Sapa must see highlights
• Experience the perfect mountain views of the town, including the foggy scenes of Ham Rong Mountain
• Soak in the astonishing views of the Lao Chai & Ta Van village and its terrace fields and the Muong Hoa valley
• Learn more about the cultures of the local minority people as well as the customs of Zay, H’mong and Red Dao
When to go to Sapa
The preferred time to visit this mountainous region in North Vietnam is from March to May and September to November when it is possible to get a break from the intense heat that is very noticeable of the major cities. At an altitude of 1600 m, the climate in Sapa can vary and ranges from the highest of 29°C to the lowest of -1°C to give the temperature that is chilly and foggy in the winter and moderate and drizzly in the summer.
Note: Best time to take great photos of the rice terraces in Sapa is from July to September.
Getting to Sapa
Sapa is about 380 km from the capital city of Vietnam, Hanoi and there are a variety of transport methods to reach this town. One of the most popular trips to reach Sapa is via the overnight train ride which will take you to Lao Chai, which is about 38 km from the intended destination. From there, it is possible to complete the rest of the journey by minibus to Sapa. The ride on the tourism train can take in the region of nine hours, and the ongoing minibus journey will take approximately one hour to complete the journey. While en route to Sapa, there is magnificent scenery to enjoy, including the lush valleys and streams.
The preferred way to get to Sapa now is taking tourist bus from Hanoi as the new superighway takes only around 6 hours. A priate tour to Sapa from Hanoi is highly recommended as tourists will be escorted by our private tour guide and driver.
The town of Sapa has a variety of accommodation options, especially for the travellers in the low to mid-range price brackets. But there is also the option for travellers to stay in the boutique or luxury accommodation. Most of the hotels in the local area overlook the valleys with perfect views of the Hoang Lien Mountains and Mount Fansipan. Hotels can also assist with exploring the sites and can help with organizing market trips, visa arrangements, train tickets and local Sapa tour packages. This town can get very busy throughout the peak holiday periods so it is important to book well in advance to get the preferred type of accommodation organized. Also, it is worth noting that the prices on the weekends can be slightly higher than other times.
Note: To book the right hotels in Sapa which offer great view toward to mountains, valley and rice terraces, please contact Vivutravel.
Eating and drinking
If you visit Fansipan, Muong Hoa or Cau May you are certain to find plenty of traveller friendly places to stop and eat. Most of the places serving food have a very similar menu that consists of authentic local fare, including the subtropical vegetables such as chayote, red beet and white cauliflower. Some of the must try dishes for the tourist include boiled chayote with sesame. The cool climate makes it possible for the street stalls to survive barbecued fish and meat with vegetables and mushrooms. Other great choices include bamboo tube rice, dumpling, sweet potatoes and corn. In addition to the street stalls, there are also several Western-style restaurants including those that serve the French and Italian influenced dishes.
Sapa trekking tour
Sapa is one of the absolute best destinations in Vietnam for the trekking tour. The tours include the dominating Hoang Lien Son mountain range which consists of the Indochina peninsula and Mt. Fan Si Pan. This type of tour not only gives splendid mountainous views, but is also a very tough challenge for the most dedicated trekking enthusiasts. The geological location of Sapa means it is blessed with unique features, such as the diverse range of insects, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, birds and plants. Many of these features are only noticed in the North Western regions of Vietnam.
The actual mountain is within a relatively short distance (nearly 9 km) of Sapa and is located in the province of Lao Cai. It is part of the Hoang Lien Son mountain range in the south-west region of Vietnam and part of the border of the Lao Cai and Lai Chau provinces.
The trek up the mountain makes it possible to see a very diverse range of flora which can include over 1650 plant species with many of them rare and difficult to find. For the traveller that has an interest in botany, climbing this mountain is certain to offer plenty of great natural attractions to admire.
The types of plants found on the trekking tours in Sapa can differ with the altitude with cotton tree, pterocarya popular at the foot of the mountain. By moving further up the mountain to an altitude of 700m to 2000m it is possible to witness the seed-bearing plants such as the fokienia. And moving further up the mountain to the peak it is possible to find various species of chrysanthemums, genus rose and short phyllostachy. Other plant life when climbing up Mt. Fan Si Pan includes the wildflowers drodohendrons and stunning orchids, which are best when the weather starts to warm in the spring.
For a beautiful and relaxing spot to rest while making the long climb of Mount Fansipan is the beautiful waterfalls throughout the region. At the foot of the mountain are the Dragon Jaw Waterfall, Cold Waterfall, and Silver Waterfall, while for those climbing to the peak it is possible to also admire the Love Waterfall. In addition to being a great place to rest after a long trek, this is also perfect place to take photographs.
The preferred time to climb the mountains is from September to March, although late February is a great time if you really want to see the mountain blossom at their best.
Things to do in Sapa
A must see place in Sapa is Cat Cat village with its distinct practices and customs that have mostly been lost in other ethnic villages. Additionally the mushrooms and vegetables in this town are among the finest to see on the Vietnam tour packages. This gives a first-hand view of Ham Rong Mountain with its wonderful green fields, fountains and scenes. For the traveller looking to shop, the Bac Ha market is a wonderful place to explore with the option to trade for unique jewellery and clothes. And for the traveller that wants to experience the Sapa trekking tour, a climb of the 3143 m Fansipan peak is certain to be quite appealing.
Cat Cat Village
Within a short walking distance of the centre of town, Cat Cat village is one of the most popular attractions with tourists. The village dates back to the 19th century and was established by ethnic families, such as the Black H’mong in this mountainous region. A visit to this village gives a perfect opportunity to admire the quiet scenes of the local community going about their day-to-day life. Plus, this village is also known for its tradition of creating silver and gold jewelleries.
In addition to getting a glimpse of the local ethnic people going about their daily life, it is also possible to get involved with some of the traditional activities including fabric weaving. Plus, this is a great time to shop for traditional handicrafts and souvenirs from the local craftsmen.
A further benefit of visiting the Cat Cat Village is the ability to use the road as an interesting and easy path for trekking. This village is only about a 25 to 30 minute walk from the centre of Sapa, and the relaxed hike through the mountains will give the traveller an opportunity to gaze at the water buffaloes, waterfall and rice paddies.
Ma Tra Village
Just a few kilometres from Sapa town, Ma Tra is the village of the Black H'Mong minority where tourists can take a leisure walk to enjoy beautiful scenery of the mountains, rice terraces and meet friendly kids.
Ta Phin Village
The Ta Phin Village is approximately 17 kilometres to the west of the town of Sapa and home to the H’mong and Red Dao minorities that have been living in close proximity for hundreds of years while still being able to retain their unique cultures and traditions. By strolling around the village, it is possible to view the hill tribe houses, mountings and rice fields, as well as to understand the differences with the unique tribal communities. Additionally, in the Ta Phin Village, the tourist can shop for the locally made and distinctive brocades.
Note: It is too touristic now in Ta Phin and tourists are disturbed by Re Dao ladies who follow you whereever you go to sell their brocades. our advice is not to book the tour to this village.
Bac Ha market
Around 100km from Sapa, the biggest ethnic market in the north-western region of Vietnam is Bac Ha market, which is held Sunday on a weekly basis. This market is able to attract a lot of locals that visit from the nearby hill tribes. Many of the local people have to walk for hours to arrive at the market with the intention to sell or buy home-made goods or products. This is a great place for the locals to meet and demonstrate their traditional and colourful costumes. Bac Ha Market is not only for the locals, but also a very attractive destination for the tourists.
In addition to the Bac Ha market, there are plenty of other ethnic markets noted in the Sapa travel guide that are popular with locals and tourists alike.
Coc Ly market
The Coc Ly market is approximately 70 km from Bac Ha and takes place every Tuesday. It is appreciated by the brightly coloured and distinctive outfits of the Flower H’mong ethnicity.
Xin Cheng market
The Xin Cheng market is open every Wednesday and makes a great destination for locals to gather from minorities like the Giay,Tay, and Flower Hmong
Lung Khau Nhin market
The Lung Khau Nhin market is open to locals and travellers every Thursday, is rich in original characters, and is relatively hidden in the forests and mountains of the far North.
Can Cau market
The Can Cau market is one of the most interesting markets in the local area and open every Saturday. It is approximately 130 km from Sapa and is a quite busy market that has been able to retain its authentic outlook over the years.
Binh Lu & Tam Duong Market
The Binh Lu and Tam Duong Market is open to the public every Sunday and is not too far from the town of Sapa
Ham Rong Mountain
The Ham Rong Mountain peaks at an impressive 1850 meters makes it possible to a view stunning views of the local surroundings and sunset, as well as admiring the local valleys and towns in the background. With the clear sunny days it is also possible to catch a view of the outstanding Mt. Fansipan which is regarded as the Indochina rooftop. The Ham Rong Mountain range is a relatively short walk from Sapa and the preferred time to visit is throughout spring when it is possible to admire the flowers in full bloom which helps to boost their perfume and beauty.
Note: There is traditional music and dance show performed by the dancers from the hill-tribes. Please check with your tour guide for the exact time.
Climbing Fansipan Mountain, at a total height of 3143 meters, makes it possible to reach the highest peak in all of Vietnam. The actual trek to reach the summit can take in the region of 48 hours with at least one night spent in bamboo huts or tents at a height of 2200 meters. For those that are really fit it may be possible to complete this trek in a single day. But for those that want to reach the summit as quickly as possible, there is the cable car system that can get you to the top of the mountain within about 15 minutes. A visit to Fansipan Mountain is a top highlight in the Sapa travel guide for the adventurous travellers that wish to conquer this wonderful mountain range.