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.
More about my Fansipan hike here.
2. Ride a bike through 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.
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
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.
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.
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)
Thac Tinh Yeu (Love Waterfall)
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.
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.
All set for a trip to Sapa? Here’s where I stayed (highly recommended!):