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5 Things to Do in Sapa, Vietnam

Sapa rice terraces

5 Things to Do in Sapa, Vietnam

Sapa is a laid back, mountainous town in Northwestern Vietnam, blessed with a cool climate throughout the year. The Hoàng Liên mountain range dominates the area, setting a dramatic backdrop for many scenic treks.

Just venture out a little to nearby indigenous villages and you’ll be rewarded with views of stepped paddy fields – emerald ripples that flow across entire stretches of valleys. Here’re 5 things you got to do when in Sapa:

1.    Climb Fansipan, ‘Roof of IndoChina’

Besides being the highest peak in Indochina (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia), Fansipan is also the last major peak of the Himalayan range. So even if the 3,140m summit is less than half of Mount Everest’s, you can take pride in having conquered a mountain at the tail end of Himalayas.

That said, it’s not an easy hike. The fittest may do it in a strenuous day hike, although most do it over 2D1N, or 3D2N if you want to take it slow. The climb promises majestic views of the Hoang Lien mountain range.

Fansipan ranges

Overlooking the vast Hoang Lien mountain range

More about my Fansipan hike here.

2.    Ride a bike through Muong Hoa Valley

Paddy fields of Muong Hoa Valley

Muong Hoa Valley is a stunning stretch of land that lies at the bottom of Fansipan’s northern flank. It is the largest strip of rice fields in the Sapa region, dotted with villages of different minority groups.

There are many trekking tours that bring visitors from Sapa into the valley on foot. It’s about 3-5 hours hike downhill, from initial panoramic views of the rice terraces to close-ups of the Muong Hoa river, flowing right next to the paddy fields.

Sapa-pig

Gotta watch out for furry pedestrians in your path

Worn out from our Fansipan hike yet wanting to explore the place on our own, renting a motorbike was our best option. It’s cheap (USD4/day), efficient and an experience in itself – riding between two high mountain ranges, cool air against our cheeks with the occasional roaming farm pigs to avoid.

3.    Spend a night at a local village homestay

Sapa-homestay

Our home stay by the Muong Hoa river

There are many villages around Sapa town that offer visitors a glimpse of how each ethnic minority group go about their everyday life.

The nearest is Cat Cat Village – a short 30min walk from Sapa. Due to its close proximity, it is also the most touristy. But for me, its multiple descriptive boards gave a good introduction to the culture and lifestyle that take place in a typical H’mong village.

Sapa-village

Substituting prams for a wheelbarrow

With our motorbike, we could venture further southeast to explore the villages of Lao Chai and Ta Van. We ended up having dinner and spending a night at a cozy homestay by the river, which we chanced upon in Ta Van Village.

Sapa-homestay-dinner

Homecooked dinner

Sapa-homestay-ta-van

Our beds for the night

4.    Stop by the waterfalls

If you’re a fan of waterfalls, here are a few around Sapa town to check out:

Cat Cat Waterfall

Thac Bac Waterfall (Silver Falls)

Silver-Waterfall Sapa

Silver-Waterfall

Thac Tinh Yeu (Love Waterfall)

Love-Waterfall

My favourite of the three, the Love Waterfall is 14km from Sapa town, accessible via an enjoyable 1km hike through a forest trail from its entrance.

5.    Chill out at Sapa town


For a small town tucked away in northern Vietnam’s mountains, Sapa is surprisingly modern. It offers a wide variety of gastronomic options – from local street food and vietnamese eateries to high quality Italian restaurants and wine bars. Not to mention local cafes that serve super robust vietnamese drip coffee.

Sapa-street-food

Street food

It is also a haven for adventurous souls on a budget. We happened to be a perfect match of their street shops’ target segment. And went a little crazy.

Gortex jackets, track pants, hiking boots, waterproof backpacks – there’s a replica for every type of hiking equipment. Don’t be fooled though – it may be a good deal, but it’s not the real deal.

Sapa-trekking-shop

One of the many shops selling trekking equipment in Sapa

All set for a trip to Sapa? Here’s where I stayed (highly recommended!):

Sapa Unique Hotel

Sapa Unique Hotel

View from my room at Sapa Unique Hotel

Read:  How to get to Sapa from Hanoi.

Ladyexplorer
14 Comments
  • Bumped into your blog when researching for Fansipan hiking. Cool blog! Keep on writing.

    Cheers,
    Farah

    January 4, 2016 at 6:21 am
  • I love your blog so straightforward did you take a bus from hanoi to sapa for how long? i’d love to visit sapa someday – ryancarlo.pw

    April 2, 2016 at 11:44 am
  • Timothy
    Reply

    Hi there! Interesting blog post there! Enjoyed reading it 🙂 Is it possible for you to post your itinerary for this trip?

    May 18, 2016 at 2:58 am
  • Linda
    Reply

    Hi Pei Xun,
    I am intending to go Sapa next few weeks. Got a few quick queries. Why didn’t you book the private trains, e.g victoria train at http://www.hanoisapatrain.com? Where do you stay at Sapa? Did you book hotel when you reach there?

    June 4, 2016 at 12:28 am
  • This is the ultimate cultural experience

    June 22, 2016 at 2:35 am
  • Stephen
    Reply

    Hi, thanks for your effort to detail your trip! I am keen to do a 2D1N Fansipan hike. I am currently comparing quotes online, but they seem quite expensive. Would you advise me to check out the rates while I’m at Sapa (reaching Lao Cai on 21 Dec 0530hrs)? How much is a reasonable rate for an open group? Do yo uhave any agency or local guide there to recommend?

    December 6, 2016 at 3:37 am
  • Kim
    Reply

    Hi. Very glad I found this blog. I’m trying to plan out a trip with my husband in late Oct/early Nov. We only have about 6 days total in N. Vietnam so hoping to hit both Sapa and Ha Long Bay. What did you have to do to set up the homestay? Sounds like a great experience!

    March 29, 2017 at 10:01 pm
  • Hello there! Sapa looks amazing and your experience sounds like an incredible one. I’d love to travel there. How many days would you recommend visiting for? and how much would I roughly spend each day? Thank you so much!

    July 12, 2017 at 10:16 am

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