Sapa Travel: Ultimate Guide to Sapa, Vietnam

Sapa is a highland town of Lao Cai province, located in the northwest part of Vietnam. Sapa is a destination that is extremely popular with both domestic and international tourists. When visiting Sapa - Lao Cai, you get a chance to admire the majestic nature of Hoang Lien Son mountain range.

Sapa

Sapa, also known as "Da Lat of the North", offers its visitors fresh and cool air all year round. Traveling to Sapa is great not only for sightseeing and the scenery of mountains and forests with hundreds of flowers blooming. It is also a journey to discover the unique cultures and people living here.

If you are planning a trip to the northern Vietnam, our complete and detailed Sapa travel guide is here to help you.

Places to visit in Sapa

In order not to miss the most scenic sights this beautiful town and its mountainous surroundings have to offer, let's go through the places you absolutely must visit in Sapa.

Sapa Old Church

Sapa Old Church, known as Stone Church, was built in 1895 in the European Gothic style. The church is considered to be the most complete example of an ancient architecture that was left by the French in Vietnam. Stone Church is a beautiful symbol of Sapa, located right in the center of the town. In front of the church, there is a square area, where the performance of art shows as well as a typical Love Market takes place on the weekends.

Sapa Old Church

Fansipan - Roof of Indochina

Fansipan is the highest mountain in Indochina, known as the Roof of Indochina, with an altitude of 3,143 meters. The mountain is located about 9 km southwest of Sapa town. The visitors can reach the top of the mountain by trekking independently or by organized tour with guides of Dao and Mong ethnic minorities.

Fansipan

Currently, conquering Fansipan peak is extremely easy as there is a cable car that brings tourists to the top of the mountain in 15 minutes with the scenic journey along the way up. The cable car ticket normally costs 750,000 VND per person. However, you can buy Fansipan cable car tickets online as it will be cheaper and you won't need to waste time at the ticket counter. 

Ham Rong Mountain

Ham Rong Mountain is located near the center of Sapa town. If you are a nature love, you should definitely visit Ham Rong Mountain at least once in your life to admire thousands of colorful flowers reaching out to the sunshine, explore many beautiful landscapes such as Heaven Gate and Orchid Garden. You can easily walk to the mountain from Sapa town as it takes only about 3 hours to go up and down the mountain. From the peak of Ham Rong Mountain peak, you can admire panoramic views of Sapa town and other famous tourist destinations in the area such as Muong Hoa valley and Ta Phin village.

The entrance fee is 70,000 VND per person.

Cat Cat Village

Cat Cat Village is an ideal eco-tourism destination for those who want to learn and explore the cultural life of people in the Northwest highlands of Vietnam. The village is located just 2 km from the center of Sapa town, next to the foothills of the Hoang Lien Son mountain range. Because of its convenient location, the village attracts many tourists. Cat Cat village is the oldest village of the H'Mong people, where many traditional crafts such as brocade weaving, cotton, linen are preserved. Cat Cat tourist area is the place where you can see the traditional houses, the giant water mill, the cooling streams, and Tien Sa waterfall.

Cat Cat village

The entrance fee to the village is 70,000 VND per person.

Muong Hoa Valley

Muong Hoa Valley, the valley with attractive green terraced fields and majestic mountains, is located about 8 km southeast of Sapa town. The ancient rocks with many different shapes stretching for over 4 km are a special thing you can find here. It has been classified as a national monument and also the unique heritage of ancient Vietnamese people. In Muong Hoa Valley, there is also a beautiful small stream stretching for about 15 km, passing through Lao Chai, Ta Van and Hau Thao and ending in Ban Ho village, which creates a peaceful but colorful natural landscape. Muong Hoa Valley not only has beautiful landscapes but also presents the culture of the Hmong, Dao, and many other ethnic groups that has been preserved through generations.

Gem Valley Coffee

If you are dreaming of enjoying the mountain space while sipping a cup of coffee, Gem Valley is the best destination for you. Gem Valley is a very famous café in Sapa, located only about 2 km from the center of the town, next to Cat Cat Village. As the café is located on a high hill, from its premises opens the view overlooking Cat Cat valley with tradition houses and green rice terraces. Gem Valley café is simply and cozy yet sophisticated decorated.

Gem Valley Coffee

There are plenty of other cafes in Sapa that offer not only delicious Vietnamese coffee but also scenic panoramic views of the surrounding area: 12 Amazing Cafes with the Best View in Sapa.

Lao Chai - Ta Van Village

Lao Chai - Ta Van Village is currently inhabited by a number of ethnic minorities such as Dao, Giay, H'Mong, and Tay. The village is located about 7 km from the center of Sapa town. For getting to this peaceful place, you have to go along Cau May Street and then turn to Muong Hoa Street to reach Lao Chai - Ta Van Village.

The entrance fee is 75,000 VND.

Ta Phin Village

Ta Phin Village, located about 17 km from Sapa town, is hidden behind mountain slopes, beside green terraced rice fields. It is one of the places in Sapa that attracts travelers who want to stay away from the bustle of urban places. Ta Phin Village is home to the H'Mong and Dao ethnic groups. The village is famous for the peaceful natural landscape, unique culture of the Red Dao people and handicrafts. When coming here, you will get a chance to see the beautiful Red Dao girls in traditional costumes. For the best experience, you should try Dao bathe that is offered in Sapa hotels and some homestays in Ta Phin.

The entrance fee to the village is 40,000 VND.

As there are several villages in the surrounding area, you might not be able to visit them all during your visit. How to choose the best village in Sapa for your visit? Our tips can be found here: Best Villages in Sapa.

O Quy Ho Pass

O Quy Ho Pass or Hoang Lien Son Pass is known as the most majestic mountain pass in Vietnam. With a length of nearly 50 km across the two provinces of Lao Cai and Lai Chau, O Quy Ho Pass is considered to be the longest mountain pass in the Northern Vietnam. You can come here by a motorbike or taxi, but the best way is riding a motorbike as it lets you feel all the beauty of nature along the way that changes seasonally. The best time to go the pass is around 17:30 for watching the sunset over the mountains. At O Quy Ho Pass you will find food stalls, so you can sit there, watch the sunset, and enjoy delicious food.

Silver Waterfall

Silver Waterfall is one of the most famous sights and the highest waterfall in Sapa. The waterfall is located in San Sa Ho commune, about 15 km from the center of Sapa town. With a height of about 200 meters, the waterfall got its name because the water flowing down from above looked like silver. Contrary to the soft and peaceful Love Waterfall, Silver waterfall is more powerful and more intense. It is said that the best time to visit Silver Waterfall and other destinations nearby is during first months of the year.

Sapa Silver Waterfall

The entrance fee is 20,000 VND.

Love Waterfall

Love Waterfall is located just 12 km from the center of Sapa town, on the way to the top of O Quy Ho pass. The waterfall can be found just about 3 km away from Silver Waterfall so both of them can be easily visited on the same day. Love Waterfall is one of the starting points of the journey to conquer Fansipan by trekking. 100 meters high Love Waterfall is considered to be one of the most famous tourist attractions in Sapa because of its beautiful and romantic landscape as well as the legendary love story of the fairy and the little boy. Love Waterfall is not only the favorite place for couples but also a great attraction for tourists of all ages.

Entrance fee is 70,000 VND.

Getting to Sapa

Sapa town is located about 40 km from Lao Cai city and 376 km from Hanoi. There are many ways to travel to Sapa from Hanoi.

By Train

Traveling by train is the choice of the majority of tourists coming to Sapa from Hanoi due to its convenience and economy. The train ticket price starts at 250,000 VND and, depending on the type of seat you choose, fares vary.

There are also privately-run trains that are much more convenient for tourists. Detailed information about these trains can be found here: Train from Hanoi to Sapa: 9 Best Luxury Trains.

The journey by train takes about 8 hours. The train departs from the railway station in Hanoi and ends up at Lao Cai Station, so you need to take a local bus or taxi for about 40 km to reach the center of Sapa town. Detailed information about taking the local bus from Lao Cai to Sapa can be found here: Bus Lao Cai to Sapa.

By Bus

Taking a sleeper bus is another popular choice for travelers to reach Sapa. Buses depart from Hanoi’s My Dinh, Luong Yen and Gia Lam bus stations and the journey to Sapa can take up to 9 hours.

There are many tourist buses covering this route and they are more convenient than local buses. The bus fares normally range from 300,000 to 400,000 VND. For more detailed information about taking such a bus check: How to Travel from Hanoi to Sapa by Bus.

Sapa transportation

By Limousine

If you want more comfort and convenience, you should choose a limousine or luxury van to travel to Sapa as traveling by limousine can save time. The price of limousine tickets from Hanoi to Sapa starts from 300,000 VND per person.

By Private Transfer

If you are traveling with your family or as a group, the best option for getting from Hanoi to Sapa is by a private transfer as it’s the most convenient way. The price of private transfer is really reasonable and starts at 3,600,000 VND per car.

By Motorcycle

For people who are passionate about exploring the beauty of pass roads, the choice of riding a motorbike to Sapa will surely bring a very memorable experience. However, the road from Hanoi to Sapa is really long and challenging so you should take a good care of your safety.

Detailed Information

For more details about getting from Hanoi to Sapa check: How to travel from Hanoi to Sapa by Train, Bus, Car.

Getting around Sapa

You can choose the way for moving between places in Sapa according to your liking.

By Motorbike

You can rent a motorbike and drive around Sapa by yourself. The rental price of a motorbike is about 120,000 VND per day, excluding gas.

By Motorbike Taxi / Taxi

If you are not confident about your driving skills and cannot handle bumpy roads of Sapa, you can hire a Motorbike Taxi or Taxi to take you to the desired tourist destinations. With a budget of 100,000 VND, you can expect to go to 4-5 places that are located near each other.

By Tour

You can explore Sapa and its surroundings by joining a tour. It is advisable to book a tour of Sapa before going there to avoid any misunderstandings and disappointment.

On Foot

You can explore Sapa exclusively by trekking (or walking) to its famous tourist destinations. As the area is mountainous, this way is suitable for active people in good shape. When exploring Sapa on foot, your trip will be extremely meaningful.

Where to stay in Sapa

Sapa is a famous tourist destination so accommodations here are well developed. There are many types of accommodation for travelers visiting Sapa to choose from, such as hotels, hostels, resorts, and homestays.

Most of the hotels and hostels are located right in the center of Sapa town that is convenient for travelers on the go. While resorts are offering the most beautiful views and the homestays give more authentic experience suitable for visitors who are looking for the place where they could admire the beautiful scenery of the surrounding mountains.

Our detailed guide about choosing the best place to stay in Sapa can be found here: Where to stay in Sapa? Best Accommodations.

Best Hotels in Sapa

Some of the best hotels in Sapa with good review scores:

Other hotels with the best view in Sapa are listed here: 9 Hotels in Sapa with the Best View.

Best Homestays in Sapa

Some of the best rated homestays in Sapa are the following:

One of the hotels we were staying at while visiting Sapa was Hotel Scenery. Our review of the hotel can be found here: Sapa Scenery Hotel Review.

Best time to visit Sapa

Sapa is located at an altitude of 1500–1800 meters. The annual average temperature is from 15 to 18 degree Celsius. Due to its wonderful climate, Sapa is always beautiful and dreamy, so you can travel to Sapa at any time of the year. Each season in Sapa has its own unique characteristics, giving a different experience to its visitors.

November - February

During this time, Sapa is cold, cloudy and foggy. The temperature sometimes drops below 0 degrees and branches and grass get covered with ice. At this time of the year you shouldn’t have a high hope for clear skies and sunny weather. However, in recent years even the snow was covering Sapa, so this is the ideal time to visit the area for those who want to experience the beauty of white Sapa. In winter time, only few tourists are visiting the area so it’s more peaceful.

March - May

During this time of the year, the temperature in Sapa is getting higher. At the beginning of spring it is still cold but the sky gets brighter. The locals start planting rice on terraced fields. During these months you will get a chance to see the overlapping rice fields all the way to the horizon and thousands of blooming flowers such as peach blossoms, plum blossoms, chrysanthemums, and roses.

June - August

Summertime is the high season in Sapa so a lot of tourists can be expected there. During this time you will get a chance to experience the wonderful scenery of Sapa as the whole valley seems to be colored. The weather is usually quite hot and humid. At the end of this period, there may be a typhoon causing heavy rain.

September - October

This is another good time to come to Sapa as it brings stable weather. The weather is not as hot and humid as in the summer, with sunny days but cold nights. It is the ripe rice season so you get a chance to enjoy beautiful views of the rice terraces turning from green to golden across the hills. Many photographers love to go to Sapa during this season for the best photo journey.

Food in Sapa

When coming to Sapa, don't forget to try local specialties here!

Food in Sapa

1. Stolen Armpit Pig: The most famous dish in Sapa and it’s very delicious.

2. Roasted chestnuts: Chestnuts in Sapa are normally larger than forest chestnuts. They are yellow colored, sweet and fleshy. You can buy roasted chestnuts at Sapa markets and most shops on Cau May Street.

3. Buffalo meat hanging up in the kitchen: This is a delicious dish that many people love to choose because of its great taste.

4. Fruits: Depending on the season, there are many kinds of fruits that you can enjoy at Sapa such as peaches and plums.

5. Liquor: Sapa is famous for many special wines from each Ethnic minority and these wines have a very specific flavor.

6. Salmon: Salmon in Sapa have firm meat, low fat, and high nutritional value so it's popular for hot pot.

7. Grilled meat: A must try food in Sapa during winter time as the meat is grilled on the hot stove after being marinated in India pepper.

Tips for Sapa

If you are planning to take a tour around Sapa on weekend or during public holidays, you should book the tour in advance as they quickly fill up. Various activities in Sapa can be conveniently booked here: Activities in Sapa.

You should have good shoes for walking on mountainous roads.

Raincoat or umbrella can be very useful as the weather in Sapa is unpredictable and changes really fast during the day.

It can be very sunny in Sapa, so you should bring sunscreen. However, it gets colder in the evening, so you need to bring a thin jacket in the summer or a warm coat in the winter as well. 

Our Vietnam Blog

Other useful information for traveling around Sapa and other destinations in Vietnam can be found here: Vietnam Travel Blog.

 

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