Sapa Travel Guide
Sapa is an extremely striking destination that is located in a mountainous region in the North West of Vietnam. This area of the country is well-known for its cool climate, unparalleled scenery, and pristine environment. Sapa is the location of Indochina’s highest peak, Mount Fansipan which stands at a total height of 3.143 m. A few of the most popular natural sights include Ta Phin Cave, Bamboo Forest, Rattan Bridge, Silver Waterfall and Ham Rong Mountain. Plus, the awesome scenery includes the amazing waterfalls, raging rivers, primitive mud-thatched villages, towering verdant ridgelines and steeply terraced rice fields.
A visit to Sapa on the Vietnam family vacation is certain to appeal to the most adventurous travellers or those that want to learn more about the old historical mountainous villages and local tribe people.
The Sapa scenery is a blend of scattered rice terraces and high green mountains with different ethnic minorities living in the local area.
Sapa is a region that is easily explored year-round (March-December). On average, the temperature is in the region of 15° C to 18° C. The preferred time for visiting this very scenic part of Vietnam is throughout the week because it can get very crowded on the weekends.
The best time to visit Sapa on the Vietnam adventure tour for the trekking is March-May and September-December. The weather in January-February gets quite cold with drizzly rain and even snow. With an altitude of nearly 1500 m about sea level, the traveller should expect the weather at night to be cold, so it is essential to pack accordingly.
How to get there
There is a regular train service from Hanoi to Lao Cai (Sapa) with a choice of hard seat or soft seat tickets. The preferred train ride is the overnight option which runs from 8 pm and takes about 9 hours to complete. Tickets are easily purchased at the local Hanoi Railway Station. On arrival at Lao Cai station, the onward journey (approx 38 km) into Sapa is best completed by shuttle bus which costs in the region of $1.50. The return ticket to Hanoi can be booked at both Honoi and Lao Cai Station.
Sapa by road is now convenient on superhighway which takes only 5 hours from Hanoi to Sapa. Private car transfer is highly recommended. But if you travel Vietnam on a tight budget, overnight bus trip is a good idea. The ticket can be booked via any travel agent in Hanoi.
Air flight isn’t possible into Sapa.
Where to stay
Sapa has plenty of guesthouses and hotels to match the needs of the tourists on the Vietnam private tours with several 3-4 star rated hotels.
A cost-effective place to stay for the backpackers is the Royal hotel which is located on Cau May Street. A lot of the low-cost places to stay are found close to the market entrance on Cau May Street.
For the travellers in search of a romantic getaway, a stay at the Victory Hotel is certain to appeal with is setting based in a traditional mountain chalet with a charming interior.
Also, most the activities in the local neighbourhood take place around Cau May Street, which is a further great reason to organize accommodation nearby.
Eat and drink
A great place to stop and eat in Sapa is the many grilling shops that are located on the Ham Rong Street. These shops stretch for nearly 100 m and serve a varied range of grilled dishes that include corn, cassava, sweet potato, and meat.
The best place to go shopping in Sapa on the Vietnam holiday packages is the local market that trades in all kinds of jewelery, handicrafts, and colourfully tribe fabrics.
Sapa has a few hill tribe villages that surround the local area, such as the Hmong and Red Dao, who are always ready to sell their ethnic style clothing and handicrafts at the market. Any of these unique items can make great gifts or souvenirs for family or friends at home.
This market is open daily – Saturdays are the busiest – with endless stalls set-up inside and outside and filled with fresh cut flowers, medicinal herbs, fresh produce, and tribal silverwork.
Plus, Sapa market is a great place to stop and eat with a few stalls waiting to serve a delicious breakfast or lunch.
Keep reading: Information travellers should know for a trip in Sapa
Things to see and do
Ban Pho Village
One of the finest villages to visit on a tour of Sapa is the Ban Pho Village, which stands out for its celebrated corn-based wine and ancient Mongolian Bac Ha population. This village has about 500 homes (mostly Mongolian) and located on a mountain cliff side. This area is quite stunning with the peaceful village backdrop helping to create a long-lasting impression.
A day-trip to the region is more than enough to fully appreciate Ban Pho village. It helps to start the trip in the early morning when it is livelier with a chance to look around the stalls and shops. Plus, the locals are very welcoming and likely to invite you for lunch and enjoy several cups of their corn wine.
Muong Hoa Valley
The Muong Hoa Valley is a very scenic place to explore on the Vietnam tour packages and includes the Hoa stream that stretches through Hao Thao, Lao Chai and Tan Van villages. By visiting this area, it is possible to see a wide range of mysterious graphics and carved stones that extend for a few kilometres.
Ta Van village has plenty of stones and carvings that depict a variety of scenes and date back nearly 3000 years. The sweeping valley and terraced fields in this region are the most stunning and picture-perfect in Sapa. While trekking through the villages it is possible to see the Hmong tribe perform their dying and weaving arts. In many of the villages the way of life hasn’t seen much of a change for hundreds of years. This valley scene and ripe farmland has the ability to provide the striking backdrop which makes a perfect destination for an unforgettable trekking tour.
Muong Khuong Bird Market
A more unique market experience for the tourist is the Muong Khuong Bird Market, which can make a fun outing and a lively social scene. Many of the local tribes arrive in traditional clothing that is clearly different between the various tribes and regions. Small birds like the nightingales are popular for hanging in the front of the home for spiritual reasons. The sounds and sights of this market are certain to be different than any other and is quite interesting to watch this traditional activity.
Thac Bac Waterfall (Silver Falls)
Sapa has plenty of fascinating terrain that is worth exploring with this region able to benefit from striking landscape that make it possible to enjoy a variety of activities. Thac Bac Waterfall (also referred to as Silver Falls) is approx 15 km from the town’s centre. The waterfall is a result of the Sui Tong mountain top which is the natural source of this fall. Thac Bac is easily reached by travelling on a motorbike for about 30 minutes. Bikes are easily hired in Sapa and mostly quite inexpensive. By making this trip it is possible to not only getting the picturesque views of the waterfall, but also the forests of Hoang Lien National Park.
One of the most effective ways to learn more about the lifestyle and culture in Sapa is to experience the homestay. Most of the Sapa homestays are easy to organize in advance or even waiting until arriving in one of the local villages. By staying in a homestay, it is possible to eat and live alongside a local family, which makes it possible to appreciate their way of life. If travelling with a guide, they can help to introduce everyone in your travel party. While this type of living isn’t for everyone it is very pleasant and enlightening.
It may not be quite right for the travellers that like the modern conditions such as a basic tidy home with mosquito-netted beds, flush toilets and private rooms. Even though the homestay is staying in a family’s home, it is still subject to government testing in relation to providing the safe, hygienic and comfortable lodgings. Any of the Vietnamese families offering the homestay experience are really friendly and will do anything to make sure their guests are comfortable.
Sapa is surrounded by the Hoang Lien Mountains, which includes the Fansipan Mountains and helps to create the highest pinnacle in the entire country. There are plenty of great activities to enjoy in the local area. A great trip to organize is the alpine treks that can be quite physically challenging in certain regions. A great time to visit this region of Vietnam is October to March. To really appreciate the area, it can help to travel with a guide that can provide a complete excursion through the scenic mountain passes, dense forest trails, and through small hill tribe hamlets. While trekking through this region, it is possible to see plenty of wildlife, such as mountain goats, primates, and plenty of bird species. For the multi-day tours there are a few rustic shelters that can be used for rest and to refuel.
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