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Sapa Travel Guide

Vietnam is a beautiful landscape with many gorgeous destinations stretching from the North to the South. When talking about the best destination in the North of Vietnam, we could not miss Sapa because of its unique cultures and the stunning beauty of rice terraces. If you are planning your holiday in Sapa the next time, don’t miss our useful travel tips about Sapa below:

Sapa travel information

I. GENERAL INFORMATION OF SAPA

Sapa is actually a district of Lao Cai - a mountainous province located in the North of Vietnam. At the height of 1,600m above sea level, the average temperature of Sapa is always lower than other places of Vietnam, just about 15 degree. It can be said that the rice terraces, ethnic minorities and Fansipan Mountain are the most famous things that everyone cannot forget when thinking about Sapa.

Sapa is a land of many Vietnam ethnic groups including King, Mong or H’mong, Dao or Yao, Tay, Giay, Muong, Thai, Hoa or Chinese and Xa Pho people. Most ethnic people in Sapa have to work as farmers on their land (terrace fields) to earn their life. Their main foods are rice and corn. Some other women make small items such as ethnic clothes and blankets by themselves, then sell to the tourists in Sapa town. Childen in Sapa have a difficult life because they have to support their family since they were a little kid. Some children are not attended school because their parents don’t have enough money, because their home is too far from school, because they have to work to help their family, etc. Schools in Sapa also lack many essential learning tools like books, pens, pencils, even teachers.

Sapa is also famous for Fansipan Peak of Hoang Lien Son Mountains – the highest peak of Indochina area. Trekking to Fansipan (3143 meters) has longer known as the most interesting adventure tour of Vietnam. It is a hard trekking and takes about 3 or 4 days for one expedition so there are not many tourists can step their foot to this peak. Fortunately, we can get Fansipan in 1 hour now because of the cable car that has been used since February, 2016.

One of the other special things of Sapa is that many local people can speak English without any English language course. The main reason might be that English helps them earn more money. They can use English to be a tour guide or simply a better seller.

The best time to visit Sapa

II. THE BEST TIME TO VISIT SAPA

When is the best time to visit Sapa or Which months are the best for traveling Sapa is one of the most popular questions before anyone plans a trip to Sapa. To answer this question, Holidaytoindochina will give you some specific and useful information about the weather of Sapa below:

As stated above, Sapa is often colder than other places of Vietnam. The temperature remains stably cool throughout the year even in summer. Sapa has fully the characteristic of tropical climate with 4 seasons: spring (Feb – Apr), Summer (May – July), Autumn (Aug - Oct), and Winter (November – Jan).

February – April: Spring is wet, humid and cool. However, Spring is also a season of flowers and festivals in Sapa. Come to Sapa this time, you will see a lot of brilliant colors of flowers, ethnic clothes, ethnic festivals, etc. If you love the chilly weather, taking photos and want to explore the unique culture of Vietnam ethnic groups, you can visit Sapa this time.

May – July: Summer in Sapa is the hottest time in Sapa but not too hot as summer in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh, Hue, Hoi An, etc. The average temperature is 13-15 degree at night and 20-25 degree at noon. Someone feels that, in summer, one day in Sapa has 4 seasons: spring at the morning, summer at noon, autumn at the late afternoon and winter at night. Summer is also a season of rice planting season when you can see the beautiful green terrace fields. It’s also a season of many sweet fruits and a good time for trekking and hiking. If you don’t care about the heat, Summer is a good time to visit Sapa.

August – October: Autumn is considered as the best time to visit Sapa because it’s time for rice harvest in terrace fields. The harvest in Sapa begins exactly at the last September and early October. At this time, the weather is relatively stable with blue and clear sky, cool wind and dry trekking roads. If you are lucky to get Sapa this time, you will have an opportunity to watch the change color of rice terraces from green to yellow color. You can sometimes see the smoke of burned straw by the local people at the late afternoon – a sad but romantic and beautiful view.

November – January: Sapa is not only a place that is famous for beautiful terraces but also one of the rare places having snow in Vietnam. In winter, Sapa is very cold, especially at night with the temperature of 10 degree, sometimes dropped off 0 degree. This is also one of the main reasons attracting tourists to Sapa more and more in winter. Winter is also a season of night street food in Sapa. If you will have a chance to enjoy top street food in Sapa such as Cap Nach pork, Thang Co, salmon hot pot, grilled corn and sweet potato, seven colors sticky rice. There is nothing more wonderful than that you are walking around Sapa night market in a cold weather with a hot grilled corn.

In conclusion, you can visit Sapa anytime you want because Sapa has its own beauty in each season. However, you should not visit Sapa in rain months because the trekking road will be very dirty and hard to go, and the scenery is worse than normal. Therefore, April, May, September and October are the best months to visit Sapa.

Fansipan Mountain

III. THE BEST WAY TO VISIT SAPA

Sapa does not have the airport and beach, so it is accessible by road only. From Hanoi, you can get Sapa easily by train, bus, private car and motorbike.

1. By train:

Traveling Sapa by train takes about 8 - 9 hours but the train stops at Lao Cai station only, far about 40km from Sapa town. So you have to take a taxi or motorcycle taxi to get the town. If you booked hotel in Sapa already, you can asked your hotels about their transportation.

The trains to Sapa have many types: hard seats, soft seats, sleepers with AC; fast trains, slow trains and additional trains for holidays. It starts normally at 9 or 10 pm and accesses Sapa at 5 or 6 am the next day.

  • Fast trains: SP1, SP2, SP3, SP4, SP5, SP6, SP7, SP8.
  • Slow trains: C1, LC2, LC3, LC4.
  • Additional trains for holidays: LC5, LC6, LC7, LC8, LC9, LC10

(Note: The odd number trains depart from Hanoi to Lao Cai while The even number trains depart from Lao Cai to Hanoi)

Reference train tickets:

  • Hard seat: 150,000 VND/way/person
  • Soft seat: 280,000 VND/way/person

Sleepers with AC:

  • Cabin for 6 people: 480,000 VND/way/person
  • Cabin for 4 people: 560,000 VND/way/person
  • Luxury cabin (2 people): 3,200,000 VND/way/cabin                   

Price for children:

  • 0-5 years old: free
  • 5-9 years old: 50% Adult ticket (for seat ticket only); 100% ticket price if using a private sleeper.
  • >9 years old: 100% ticket price

Hanoi Railway Station: 120 Le Duan Street, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi. Tel: (84).43.9423697.

Lao Cai Railway Station: Yen  Khanh Street, Pho Moi Ward, Lao Cai town, Tel: (84)20 3830093

Warning: Tourists sometimes meet some trouble when buying train tickets so we would like to give you some travel tips below:

Sapa is a hot tourist attraction that is much crowed in high season as well as in the weekend. It’s hard to buy a comfortable seat on train because tour companies and travel agencies often keep the better seats to sell to their own customers. If you visit Sapa in the high season, especially at the weekend or on Vietnam’s holiday, you should book the train tickets as soon as possible (before 6 months). If not, you should book tickets with travel agents to get the better seats although the price is often more expensive than you book directly by yourselves about 5-10%.

Best trains to Sapa: All trains offer soft sleepers with air-conditioner: Fansipan www.fanxipantrain.com/ , Sapaly www.sapalytrain.com/ , Livitran www.livitrans.com/ , King express www.kingexpresstrain.vn/en/ , Tulico, Chapa Express www.chapaexpresstrain.com.vn/ , Victoria express www.victoriahotels.asia/vi/victoria-express-train

2. By sleeper bus or express bus:

If you want to avoid the noise and don’t want to be transferred too much, bus is a perfect way to get Sapa. Most buses transfer from Hanoi – Sapa via the new Hanoi – Lao Cai highway opened in the late of 2014 – a large and beautiful highway. This way saves a lot of time for transferring and reduces the jerkiness compared to the past.

Sleeper buses pick you in Hanoi Old Quarter area (Opera House) with the price of 250,000 – 350,000 VND/ticket (12 -17 USD). They will bring you directly to Sapa town in 6 – 7 hours. The buses often start at 7.00 am from Hanoi and 4:00 pm from Sapa.

Hanoi - Sapa Express Bus also departs daily at 7:00am from Hanoi and 4:00 – 6:00 pm from Sapa via the Hanoi - Lao Cai highway. It takes about 6 hours depending on traffic and weather situation. The price of a ticket is 250,000 VND.

How to get Sapa?

3. By private car:

Although traveling Sapa by a private car is more expensive, you will be much more comfortable than traveling by buses. Your time is very flexible as you can start to go and stop whenever and wherever you want. Because all best attractions of Sapa are often far from each other, you cannot visit these places by walking only. After getting Sapa, you have to rent a motorbike or car to visit each destination. If you rented a private car from Hanoi already, you can easily use this car to visit each attraction. You can save a little bit money by this way. Especially, if you travel Sapa with kids or if you cannot use motorbike, traveling Sapa by private cars is a perfect choice. Contact us at info@holidaytoindochina.com if you need a private car to get Sapa.

4. By motorbike:

Travel Sapa by motorbikes is chosen by those who are young and love adventure travel only because this way actually has more risks while the distance from Hanoi – Sapa is very far (350km). If you want to visit Sapa by motorcycle, you should have a local guide and prepare carefully. It takes a long time to get Sapa by motorbikes, about 10 hours, so please sure that you have enough heath, skills, and experiences to transfer by this way. Don’t forget to wear a helmet.

IV. TRANSPORTATION AROUND SAPA

Sapa is well-known for trekking around the ethnic villages and rice terraces so anywhere in the main villages of sapa you can reach by your foot. However, you cannot walk to access these villages from Sapa town (except Cat cat village – very near Sapa town). You have to rent a car or motorbike to get Sapa attractions like Lao Chai village, Ta Van village, Ban Ho village, Silver Watefall, Bac Ha market, Muong Hum market, etc. If you booked a private car with a tour guide already from Hanoi, it’s very easy to explore the best attractions in Sapa.

To rent a motorbike, you will be held your passport as the guarantee or $250 deposit. The price for one motorbike/day is about 6-10 USD, included petrol. Because Sapa is a mountainous area, please drive slowly, always wear your helmet, prepare a Sapa map, cheak the weather carefully before you go and avoid rainy days as the roads are very muddy and slippery.

V. TOP SAPA ATTRACTIONS

Famous for gorgeous mountain landscapes, stunning rice terraces and diverse ethnic cultures, Sapa attracts tourists to come and experience more and more today. Coming to Sapa, you will have an opportunity to visit many beautiful rice terrace fields, see many colorful ethnic markets, trek to visit picturesque ethnic villages, and set your foot on the highest Indochina peak – Fansipan. In order to help you not miss any attraction in Sapa, Holidaytoindochina would like to share a list of top Sapa attractions below:

Sapa Ethnic Kids

1. Sapa town

Sapa town is the best place for overnight if yout don’t want to stay at homestays. The town concentrates most delicious restaurants, beautiful hotels, and souvenir shops in the mountainous area. You can visit other attractions of Sapa by day, then rest at hotels in the town at night. You should choose the hotels that are near Sapa night market – opens all nights, so you can walk easily to visit the night market and enjoy some Sapa street food by night. The town also concentrates many ethnic children from remote villages. They have to sell some thing or be a local tour guide to earn money to help their parent. Their English speaking skills will make you surprise so much. Beside, you can visit the old stone church located in the center of Sapa town built by the French.

2. Fansipan Mountain:

Fansipan is well-known as Indochina Peak with the height of 3,143m. In the past, if you want to conquer this peak, you have to climb by yourselves in 3 or 4 days. It’s very dangerous and waste lots of your time. Nowadays, tourists can get Fansipan easier by the cable car built in 2016 (in one hour only). This makes your journey to Fansipan easier and more convenient because not everyone has enough health and time to trek to Fansipan.

3. Sapa ethnic villages:

Your Sapa trip cannot be perfect if you come to Sapa without visiting Sapa ethnic villages. Sapa is a district of Lao Cai Province, includes 17 communes with a lot of ethnic villages. However, we only show you the best ethnic villages that have beautiful roads to trek and beautiful terraces to take photos below:

  • Cat Cat village: This is the village of the H’Mong people, very near from Sapa town – 2km – so you can walk to get the village in 40 – 45 minutes from the town. The village is on the slope of the hill where you can visit a beautiful waterfall and the old Hydro Electric Power Station built by the French.  
  • Ta Phin Village: Ta Phin is one of the best villages for homestay in Sapa. The village is far 17km from Sapa town and is home of Red Dao People lived. Ta Phin village is still a new village for tourists, which still remain its rich culture that has not been damaged by the modern life.
  • Ma Tra village: The village is home of H’mong people, far about 5 km from Sapa town. They survive by using their craft to weave brocade, silk, forge farming tools and carve silver. If you want to avoid too much tourists, Ma Tra is a good place to see.
  • Y Linh Ho Village: This village is a quiet valley lying among mountains and is home of Black Mong people. Coming to Y Linh Ho, you will have a chance to enjoy fresh air, quiet environment and take a lot of beautiful photos of the valley with terraces. Note that, the village is very hot in summer.
  • Lao Chai Village: Far about 6 km from Sapa town, Lao Chai village is home of Black Mong people like Y Linh Ho. Be a part of Muong Hoa valley, Lao Chai is a great place to visit and take terrace photos. However, the village always has many tourists including both domestic and foreign tourists.
  • Ta Van Village: Ta Van is next to Lao Chai village. Most tourists want to visit all beauty of Muong Hoa Valley so they often visit both Lao Chai and Ta Van in a day. Ta Van is home of the H’Mong ethnic, Giay, and Red Dao people. The trekking roads in Ta van are small but beautiful with rice terraces around. It is also a nice village for homestay with local.
  • Giang Ta Chai: From Ta Van, tourists will trek through a beautiful bamboo forest to gorgeous waterfall in Giang Ta Chai village. The village is home of Red Zao, Hmong and Dzay ethnic people. The local people here are very friendly and hospitable. The village also offers you a good chance to trek among the rice terraces, to experience with an old timber and rope suspension footbridge and watch the ethnic children swimming on the stream along the terraces.
  • Ban Ho Village: The village is a home of Tay, Mong and Dao ethnic people. It’s quite far from Sapa town – 25 km – but is a good place to experience. The village is a large and flat valley between mountains and hills. It is divided into three areas: Ta Trung Ho, Xeo Trung Ho and Hoang Lien.
  • Sa Sieng village: This village is home of Black Mong people. The road for trekking is harder than trekking in Ta Van and Lao Chai with fewer tourists. Most tourists visit both Sa Seng and Hau Thao in one day because both villages lay on the same road.

Sapa ethnic market

4. Sapa ethnic markets

Sapa ethnic markets are always colorful and crowded. These are places where the ethnic people come down from the mountains to sell their goods and products, or just to catch up on the latest news, or to seek a sweetheart. Most Sapa ethnic markets are far from Sapa town, from 50 – 120km, and not open all days but a fixed day in each week. These are top best ethnic markets in Sapa:

  • Muong Khuong Market: The market locates in Muong Khuong district, far about 50 km from Lao Cai and 90km from Sapa town. The market is opened every Sunday. Main products: handicraft, cattle, vegetable, traditional incense, etc.
  • Lung Khau Nhin Market: It takes more than two hours from Lao Cai (by car) to get this market which is opened on Thursdays. Main products: colorful dresses, blankets, vegetables and local’s products. Minority groups:  H’Mong, Nung, Man, Kinh.
  • Cao Son market: Distance: 80km from Lao Cai and 115 km from Sapa town. Open: early morning every Wednesday. Products: local’s products, handicrafts and traditional dresses. Minority Groups: H’Mong, Phu La, Dzao and Black Han.
  • Can Cau Market: Location: locates in Can Cau Commune, Si Ma Cai district, Lao Cai province, far about 115 km from Lao Cai. Open: every Saturday from 6hours until midday. Main Products: vegetables, herbs, spices, livestock and poultry, and traditional food, etc. Minority groups: Flower H’mong, Phu La, Black Dao, Tay and Nung people.
  • Bac Ha Market: Bac Ha is the biggest market in Sapa, far about 80 km from Sapa town. Opens: early morning Every Sunday. Main products: pigs, cows, chickens, and ducks, dogs, food, traditional clothes, etc. Minority groups: Flower H’mong, Phu La, Black Dao, Tay and Nung.
  • Coc Ly Market: Location: Coc Ly commune, Bac Ha district, Lao Cai, far about 35 km from Bac Ha and 80km from Lao Cai. This Tuesday market can be accessed via a good road, or by road and Chay river. Main products: vegetables, herbs, livestock and poultry, and food. Minority groups: Mong, Dao, Tay and Nung.
  • Muong Hum Market: Location: Bat Xat district, far about 44 km from Lao Cai. The market locates in a small valley surrounded mountains and hills. Open: every Sunday. Main Products: traditional dresses, local products such as vegetables, herbs, livestock and poultry, and food. Minority groups:  Ha Nhi ethnic, Hmong, Chinese, Giay, Red Dao, Dao Tuyen, Han.
  • Pha Long Market: Distance: 70km from Lao Cai town and 95 km from Sapa town. Open: every Saturday. Main products: animals, agriculture products and especially textile products. Minority groups: Mong, Lo Lo, Tay, Nung, Day.

5. Other Sapa attractions:

  • Silver Waterfall or Thac Bac Waterfall: Thac Bac lays on the road to Tram Ton Pass, far about 12km from Sapa Town. This is a beautiful waterfall where you can see stunning view of the surrounding mountains and forests.
  • Ancient Rock Field in Sapa: this field locates in Muong Hoa valley, on the mountain road, with a lot of small and large boulders alternating in trees, near the side of the road or in water rice paddies.
  • Ham Rong Mountain: if you have more time, you can visit Ham Rong Mountain to listen its legend and take beautiful pictures.

Trekking tour in Sapa

VI. BEST HOTELS AND HOMESTAYS IN SAPA

Sapa is one of the best destinations in Vietnam so you can easily choose accommodations to stay. There are mainly 2 options for tourists: stay at hotels in Sapa town or experience homestays with local people in ethnic villages.  

If you want to stay at homestays, you should stay at homestay of the following ethnic villages: Ta Van, Ta Phin, Y Linh Ho, Giang Ta Chai, Cat Cat villages. Homestays at these villages are clean and comfortable enough to stay while you can take beautiful photos.

On the other hand, if you want to stay at hotels, you should stay at Sapa town. You will have an opportunity to enjoy night street food, visit night market, go shopping, or simply chat with ethnic people to know more about their life.

Please note that, there is no 5 star hotel in Sapa. If you want to stay at luxury hotels, you can consider to Victoria Sapa Resort and Spa, Amazing Hotel Sapa, or Topas Ecolodge Resort (far about 30km from Sapa town), Muong Thanh Sapa Hotel.

There are many 3 star hotels in Sapa: U Sapa Hotel, Sapa Luxury Hotel, Chau Long Hotel, Sapa Paradise View, Sapa View, etc.

VII. BEST RESTAURANTS IN SAPA

1/ Anh Dung Restaurants. Address: No. 69 Xuan Vien Street, Sapa town - Tel: (84)20 3871024

2/ Bien May Restaurant. Address: No. 031 Xuan Vien Street, Sapa town - Tel: (84) 203 872 606

3/A Quynh Restaurant. Address: No. 015, Thach Son Street, Sapa town - Tel:  (84) 203 871 555

4/ Xuan Vien Restaurant. Address: 08 Xuan Vien, Sapa town - Tel: (84) 203 875 888

5/ Quynh Anh restaurant. Address: Xuan Vien Street, Sapa town - Tel: (84) 20 3872630

6/ Hoa Sua Restaurant (Baguette&Chocolate). Address: Thac Bac Street, Sapa town - Tel: (84) 203 871 766

7/ Hill Station Restaurant. Address: No. 7 Muong Hoa Street - Sapa town, Tel: (84) 20 3887 111

8/ Delta restaurant. Address: No. 99, Hop Thanh Street, Pho Moi Ward, Lao Cai City - Tel: (84) 203 835 288

9/ Nature Restaurant. Address: 24 Cau May Street, Sapa town - Tel:  (84) 203 871 438

VIII. SAPA TOUR PACKAGES:

Sapa Honeymoon tour - 3 days / 2 nights

Fanxipan Climbing Tour - 4 days / 3 nights

Sapa Tour By Road - 3 days / 2 nights

Sapa Tour By Road - 4 days / 3 nights

Hanoi - Sapa - Halong Bay Tour by road - 6 days / 5 nights

Sapa to Ha Giang & Ba Be Lake - 8 days / 7 nights

Sapa & Halong Tour - 6 days / 5 nights

Halong & Sapa Tour - 8 days / 7 nights

Sapa to Northeast - 9 days / 8 nights

Should you need any more information about Sapa, please don’t hesitate to contact with us at email info@holidaytoindochina.com .

 

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