SAPA TRAVEL GUIDE: EXPLORE VIETNAM’S NORTHERN HILLS
Located 350km away from Ha Noi, Sapa is a mountainous town in Lao Cai province, a land of modest, quiet but hidden wonders of the natural landscape. Sapa’s terraced mountain and forest are combined with rich cultural diversity, creating a great harmony between nature and human. At a high altitude, the town is covered with fog and floating cloud all year round. This top position also makes Sapa’s weather mild and cool in the summer. During the early decades of the 20th century, Sapa used to be the Summer Capital, where the noble French spend their vacation.
Discovered by the French in the colonial time, Sapa is known as “the fanciful town in the fog” which attracts thousands of visitors for its spectacular landscape and colorful culture.
How to get to Sapa
There is no direct train to go to Sapa. You have to take the train from Ha Noi to Lao Cai station, then book a van, bus or taxi to go to Sapa, which will take about 30 minutes.
It is recommended that you take the night train (departing at around 22h) to save time for travel time. However, you might not have a proper sleep because of the noisy engine and grumpy railroad. The price differs depending on the cabin class, ranging from 25$ to 50$ for two ways. Despite a little inconvenience, traveling by train is still an exotic experience worth trying in Vietnam.
By private car
The fastest way to go directly from Ha Noi to Sapa is by car, which only takes about 4 hours. This means of transport is the perfect choice for families whose itinerary is customized and more flexible. The highway is in an excellent condition enabling a smooth drive. You can stop over to enjoy the breath-taking scenery along the journey.
Discover Sapa beauty with AA Vietnam Travel
Sapa has cold weather all year round because of its high altitude. You can experience four seasons in one day in Sapa, which is quite fascinating. It is the fresh vibe of spring in the morning, hot summer at noon, cool breeze of fall in the evening and cold winter night.
The best time to visit Sapa is from March to May and from August to October. From March to May is when flowers start to bloom and many spring festivals are taken place. The peak season lasts during the autumn when the harvest is due, and you can grasp an impressive view of yellow terraced field carpeting the slope of Hoang Lien Son mountain.
Reach Fanxipan Mount – the rooftop of Indochina
Considered as “the rooftop of Indochina,” Fanxipan Mount is the most famous checkpoint in Sapa. This peak lies on Hoang Lien Son Mountain range, also called as “the Alps of South East Sea” with the height of 3,124m above sea level. From Fanxipan Mount, you will be overwhelmed by the picturesque view of rugged mountains, terraced hills, floating clouds, and peaceful town downhill.
There are two ways to reach Fanxipan Mount. If you are an adventurous traveler with plenty of time to explore, you can sign up for a hiking trip to conquer Fanxipan organized by a reliable tour agency. This trip, starting from Ta Phin, usually lasts 2-3 day and be accompanied by an enthusiastic local guide.
The other way to explore Sapa is taking a cable car that reaches Fanxipan in only a few minutes. After you reach the last station, you need to take 600 stairs to reach the top. The price for cable car ticket is 700,000VND/adult and 500,000VND/children.
Go trekking to local ethnic villages
The best way to indulge in both nature and culture is to go trekking to local communities and stay at a local homestay. Regardless of living in a remote mountainous area, local people in Sapa have great linguistic ability as a result of tourism prosperity and daily foreign interaction. You can easily find an ethnic guide (through tour agencies or your hotel) offering you a trekking tour on the way to stay at their home, price starting from 20$ per day.
Sapa is the place where nature and people harmonize with each other. Only on trekking trail can you sufficiently admire the stunning landscape and explore the unique customs of residents. Ta Van, Ta Phin, and Cat Cat are the villages you should consider trekking to.
Another option is to groove through hills and mountain by motorbike to reach O Quy Ho Mountain Pass. It is well-known as one of the most spectacular and dangerous driving track in the north. The journey will take you to the location where you can have a breathtaking panoramic view of O Quy Ho Mountain pass. This experience fascinates any a wanderlust soul.
Explore Muong Hoa Valley and Sapa Ancient Rock
Your trip to Sapa will not be complete without treading on the rice field terrace in Muong Hoa Valley, which is about 5km away from Sapa town. Terraced rice fields are not only stunning but also holds a crucial part in Sapa where the livelihood of people here depends on rice cultivation. Include your trip in Muong Hoa Valley to discover Sapa Ancient Rock Field. There’s hundreds of rock with strange sign sculpted on them – a proof of early Vietnamese civilization.
Shop for handicrafts
Don’t forget to stop by the vibrant market of Sapa before you leave the town. The market is just 20 minutes walk from the Town Square, suitable for a morning stroll to get a glimpse of local life or do some shopping. Plenty of H’Mong clothing, handmade accessories, utensils, handicrafts, etc. are displayed by ethnic group people. Make sure to bargain the price down before buying anything, stay firm even when the vendors may get pushy. The best time to visit the market is in the early morning when you can buy fresh local ingredients, stop by local eateries to have breakfast, and then go shopping.
What to eat in Sapa
It’s time to savor the best H’Mong style cuisine when you are in Sapa. Mostly, the dishes might look exotic to you, but it’s certainly worth a try, especially when you want to indulge in the culture. Thang Co (Horse Meat hotpot) is the most famous H’Mong dishes – a hotpot made with the organ of horse, cow, vegetables and a mix of local seasonings.
Other specialties that you can enjoy are Salmon Hotpot; Rice cooked in Bamboo, Dried buffalo meat. All dishes are cooked to adapt with the taste of foreigners, therefore don’t be so resilient to give a try!
There are plenty of restaurants in Sapa that offers these local dishes. You can also enjoy some delicious grilled BBQ food on the night market with a very reasonable price.
Here are the recommendation for some outstanding restaurants that offer H’Mong cuisine as well as other cuisine upon your taste:
The Hillstation Signature Restaurant
- Open: 7am – 10pm
- Add: 037 , Fansipan, , Lào Cai, Vietnam
Nature View Restaurant
- Open: 7am – 10pm
- Add: 061 , Fansipan, , Lào Cai, Vietnam
Viet Emotion Restaurant
- Open: 7am – 10pm
- Add: 027 , Cầu Mây, , Lào Cai, Vietnam