Sapa Vietnam: Attractions, See & Do, Stay... All You Need

All Things need to know before Travelling to Sapa Vietnam

For many years, Sapa has drawn a lot of international tourists as a desirable travel destination. Known as “cloud town” by the locals, Sapa is a precious gem in Northwest Vietnam. Given its majestic natural scenery, endless green mountains, and distinctive culture of indigenous ethnic minority, it is not surprising that Sapa has grown to be one of the nation’s most sought-after travel destinations and undoubtedly Sapa won’t let you down.

Where is Sapa located?

Sa Pa is a mountainous town in Lao Cai province in the Northwest region of Vietnam. Located between the Hoang Lien Son mountain range and the Con Voi range to the northwest, Sapa is perched 1,500–1,600 meters above sea level on a mountainside.

Sapa is about 30 kilometers southwest of Lao Cai city and about 310 kilometers northwest of Hanoi capital. With geographical location as follows:

  • The East borders Lao Cai city and Bao Thang district.
  • The West borders Tam Duong district and Tan Uyen district of Lai Chau province.
  • The South borders Van Ban district.
  • The north borders Bat Xat district.

The best time to visit Sapa

If you’re still unsure about when to visit Sapa, Hanoi Explore Travel suggests that you go whenever you’d like. The town of Sapa still experiences four different seasons, yet even in the summer, the average temperature seldom rises over 25 degrees Celsius. When visiting Sapa at any time of year, you may take in the distinctive scenery because each season has a certain allure that will “captivate” tourists.

Sapa in Spring

Throughout late December to early February, Sapa was blanketed in a bright pink hue as the spring peach flowers bloomed. From February to March, you may take in the white-blossomed woodlands of apricot and plum blossoms.

With the pleasant springtime weather, flowers of various kinds blossom in the time between March and April. There are many buckwheat and white Ban flowers blooming all throughout the town.

Sapa in Summer

Summer is also the rainy season in Sapa, but traveling in summertime is still possible. If you’ve always been enthralled by the beautiful terraced rice fields of Sapa, there are two excellent times for you to go there on your own: early summer and late summer.

Rice planting season, also known as pouring water season, occurs in April and May. At this time of year, Sapa is covered in the verdant hues of newly planted rice fields as locals begin the new farming season. However, the most beautiful moment of the day is the sunrise or sunset, when the orange-yellow sunlight spills over the fields, reflecting sparklingly on the water surface.

Late August and September is the season of ripe rice in Sapa. At this time, you will have the opportunity to see golden rice on winding terraced fields and enjoy the cool air of late summer and early autumn.

Sapa in Autumn

Since autumn marks the buckwheat flower season, it’s a popular time for self-guided trips to Sapa. From mid-October until the end of November, the whole Northwest mountainous region is covered in fields of pink buckwheat flowers.
In particular, the last two weeks of October is also the time to organize the Buckwheat Flower Festival with many fascinating cultural exploration activities.

Sapa in Winter

Sapa is one of the rare regions in Vietnam that gives you the opportunity to see snow fall. Come to Sapa in the wintertime if you want to feel the chill of the high mountains and take in the sight of this little town covered in a blanket of white snow. Besides, from the end of November to the beginning of the new year is when the rapeseed flower fields in Sapa bloom and welcome tourists.

While Sapa is attractive throughout the winter, it should be reminded that there might be severe weather when the temperature drops below zero and there is cloud cover in the sky. Therefore, when traveling to Sapa on your own during this time, make sure you have the essentials and warm clothing to keep yourself healthy.

How to get to Sapa Vietnam?

Located about 376 kilometers from Hanoi, there are many ways to get to Sapa. Travelers frequently fly to Hanoi and spend time in the city before taking their independent journey to Sapa to freely explore both locations.
Flights from Ho Chi Minh City or Da Nang range from 1,300,000 – 2,000,000 VND/way.

From Hanoi, there are two options for you to go to Sapa: go straight to the town of Sapa, or stop by Lao Cai before moving to Sapa which is only 40 kilometers from Lao Cai city center.

Go straight from Hanoi to Sapa

By bus: This is the most affordable and straightforward way to travel to Sapa on your own. Some companies like Sao Viet, Sapa Express, and Inter Bus Line offer sleeping buses with the cost ranging between 200,000 and 400,000 VND each trip.

By train: Depending on the train type and seat class, direct trains from Hanoi to Sapa cost between 380,000 and 1,700,000 VND per way. Well-known lines like Sapaly, Chapa, King Express, and Victoria Express are among them.

Stop by Lao Cai before moving to Sapa

If you choose to go to Lao Cai, traveling by train is the most convenient means of transportation, with a ticket price of about 150,000 – 500,000 VND/way. Refer to train schedules and specific prices as follows:

The night train is the best option since it will get you to Lao Cai early in the morning. Proceed to take a bus, cab, or shuttle bus to Sapa, you will arrive in Sapa in around 45 minutes.

Travel to Sapa by motorbike

Adventuresome travelers may find that a self-sufficient trip to Sapa by motorbike is a compelling way to witness the splendor of the rugged yet fascinating roads in the Northwest.

However, you need to ensure your own safety when driving, because these roads are quite steep and dangerous. In addition, traveling by motorbike can help you reduce your Sapa trip’s expenses significantly.

Means of transportation in Sapa

Motorbike: The most convenient means of exploring Sapa is definitely a motorbike. You can easily rent a motorbike for about 100,000 – 150,000 VND/day.

However, it is noted that some tourist attractions in Sapa are not suitable for traveling by car due to terrain characteristics. You should carefully research the destination information to choose the most appropriate means of transport.

Tourist attractions in Sapa

Sapa is a well-liked travel destination because of its unique ethnic identity and stunning natural surroundings. So what tourist attractions are there in Sapa? Let’s explore it with Hanoi Explore Travel right below.

Tourist attractions near Sapa town center

Sapa Stone church

  • Address: Ham Rong Street, Sapa town center

The Stone Church, also known as the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, is one of the iconic symbols of Sapa located in the center of Sapa town. The church was built in the early 20th century and its French Gothic architecture has been preserved almost intact until today.

Sapa love market

  • Address: In front of Stone Church’s yard
  • Time: Every Saturday and Sunday night

This is the market of the Dao people, only opened once a week on Sundays, but the night before, a lot of couples gathered to express their love and confide in one another. The market is now a fascinating location for tourists to learn about the cultures of ethnic groups living in the mountains and enjoy delicious regional specialities.

Sapa Lake

Located in the center of Sapa town, Sapa Lake is also one of the most alluring and fascinating spots for many tourists. Coming here, visitors can admire the poetic and charming natural scenery as well as have the chance to participate in unique and meaningful festivals.

Sapa night market

Coming to Sapa, do not miss the bustling night market here. You can engage, meet, and converse with many interesting people at Sapa Night Market in addition to enjoying delicious food and various entertainment activities.

Ham Rong mountain

  • Address: 3 kilometers from Sapa town, right behind the Stone Church

At a height of around 2,000 meters above sea level, Ham Rong Mountain is located approximately 3 kilometers from Sapa town. From the summit of Ham Rong, you can enjoy a panoramic view of Sapa and the surrounding beautiful valleys. This area is also referred to as the Cloud Yard of the misty town because of the incredibly wonderful clouds that play around the mountain on foggy days.

Muong Hoa Valley – Ancient stone field

  • Address: Hau Thao commune, about 8 kilometers southeast of town

This beautiful valley, located about 8 kilometers from Sapa, is home to many ancient traces, most of which are ancient rocks that are unknown in time or origin.

Ta Phin village

  • Address: 12 kilometers north of the town
  • Ticket price: 40,000 VND/person

Ta Phin village is primarily home to Red Dao people, with a small H’Mong population. Coming to Ta Phin, you may witness firsthand the ethnic girls creating brocade on wooden looms. Near Ta Phin village is Ta Phin cave – a wonder of nature with a massive stalactite system.

Fansipan Mountain Sapa

Fansipan is the highest peak in the Hoang Lien mountain range, also known as the roof of Indochina. There is a diverse flora and fauna with many types of precious trees and rich species of chickens, bears, monkeys, birds, etc. Visitors can take the cable car or tram to the summit of Fansipan, or if you want to fully explore the mountain, you can take a 2-or-3-day trekking to conquer the central mountain of Hoang Lien Son range.

  • Cable car station: no.80B Nguyen Chi Thanh
  • Ticket price: 700,000 VND/adult, 500,000 VND/child
  • Mountain climbing train ticket: 70,000 VND/way up, 80,000 VND/way down
  • Operating hours: 7:30 – 17:30

Cat Cat village

  • Address: San Sa Ho commune, about 2 kilometers from the town center
  • Ticket price: 50,000 VND/person

Located at the foot of Hoang Lien Son mountain, Cat Cat Village is where the H’Mong community lives and continues their life mostly depending on farming, weaving, and silver carving – traditional jewelry design.

Sun Plaza Sapa

The Sun Plaza, a well-known check-in spot for young people in recent years, is only a few dozen steps from Stone Church. Sun Plaza exudes nostalgia and a sense of dreaminess with its yellow walls and arched gate structure. Whether it’s on a cloudy or sunny day, Sun Plaza still embodies the European-trait beauty.

Muong Hoa mountain climbing train station

Muong Hoa mountain climbing train station is not only a place for you to visit if you do not want to strenuously climb the peak of Fansipan, this is also a popular place for young people because of its excellent checkin space.

The train station features a nostalgic style of the last century, dark brown tones along with a very opulent dome and high ceiling design. Therefore, this place becomes extremely suitable as a background for virtual live photos, especially when you travel to Sapa with your lover.

Swing Sapa

  • Address: No.87, Nguyen Chi Thanh street, Sapa Town.
  • Ticket price: 80,000 VND/person.

With two extremely unique tree statues and an infinity swing, Swing Sapa is a popular spot to check in nowadays and take images that rival those of Swing in Bali. This location is only about 2 kilometers walk from Sapa Stone Church.

Sin Chai village

Sin Chai village is in San Sa Ho commune, more than 4 kilometers from Sapa town center. This is a village of the Black H’mong community with a population of only about 1,400 people, mainly living on growing rice, corn and cardamom on gentle terraced fields. As the village has not been exploited for tourism, it still retains its original beauty.

Lao Chai village – Ta Van

About 7 kilometers from the Sapa town center, Lao Chai Village is home to ethnic minorities like H’mong, Dao, Giay, Tay… This is one of the villages that has full amenities but still retains its traditional living culture, which creates a very unique beauty and attracts both domestic and foreign tourists.

Tourist attractions far from Sapa town center

O Quy Ho Pass

  • Address: On National Highway 4D, connecting Lao Cai and Lai Chau provinces

Dubbed as one of the “four great passes” in Vietnam, O Quy Ho Pass is one of the most treacherous routes, testing the resolve of several backpackers to conquer it. O Quy Ho Pass is also known by other names such as Tram Ton Pass, Hoang Lien Son Pass.

Sapa Tram Ton Heaven Gate

  • Address: 18 kilometers north of Sapa town (towards to Lai Chau province)

Tram Ton Pass, also known as Sapa Heaven Gate, is a spectacular pass located in the Hoang Lien Son mountain range in Northern Vietnam. This is the highest pass in Vietnam with an altitude of 1,900m above sea level. The pass is located on the road connecting Sapa and Lai Chau, offering beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

Heaven Gate got its name because of the amazing view of the sky and clouds that one can get from the pass, particularly at dawn and dusk.  Tram Ton Pass is a popular spot if you’re looking for a scenic trip in Sapa, Vietnam.

The road winds through the mountains, offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Visitors can also stop at various viewpoints along the way to take photos and admire the scenery.

Sapa Glass Bridge

The Sapa Glass Bridge is a relatively new tourist attraction that takes a lot of bravery to experience. At an altitude of more than 2,200 meters above sea level, the Sapa Glass Bridge is situated atop O Quy Ho Pass, directly across from the old Sapa Heaven Gate. You will thus experience a sense of floating as you walk across this glass bridge and gaze down to O Quy Ho Pass through the transparent glass.

Love waterfall in Sapa

  • Location: San Sa Ho commune, 4 kilometers southwest of Sapa town
  • Ticket price: 45,000 VND/person

Love Waterfall, which also rises from Fansipan Mountain, is around 100 meters high and cascades magnificently day and night. The waterfall belongs to Hoang Lien National Park, surrounded by green forests and diverse vegetation.

Sapa Silver Waterfall – Thac Bac Waterfall

  • Address: San Sa Ho commune, 12 kilometers west of Sapa town

Near Love Waterfall is Silver Waterfall. The Thac Bac Waterfall Sapa is more than 200 meters high and is upstream of the Muong Hoa stream. Standing at Ham Rong peak, you will be able to see this majestic waterfall with white, strong torrents of water.

A comprehensive guide for your upcoming Sapa trip

What to eat in Sapa, Vietnam

The Northwestern mountainous provinces, and Sapa in particular, have very unique specialties. Let’s take a look at the list of dishes you should not miss when coming to Sapa.

Sapa salmon

It would be a big mistake to discuss Sapa specialties without bringing up salmon. Sapa salmon is solid and delicious, without being greasy at all. It can be prepared into grilled fish or eaten raw as sashimi. In Sapa’s chilly weather, there is nothing better than sitting and enjoying a delicious salmon hot pot, is there?

Suggested restaurants for Sapa salmon:

  • Red Dao Restaurant: 4B Thac Bac
  • Kham Pha Viet Restaurant: No.15 Thach Son
  • Thac Bac Restaurant: Km12 Thac Bac Tourist Area
  • Lotus Sapa Restaurant: No.34 Cau May
  • Hoa Dao Restaurant: No.48 Le Van Tam

Thang Co

When visiting Sapa, visitors should not miss the opportunity to sample “thang co,” the most well-known meal in the Northwest. “Thang co” is prepared by simmering a variety of meats and animal organs in a big pan over a charcoal fire for several hours, until the meats are soft and the spices are equally absorbed.

Suggested places to try “Thang co”:

  • Thang Co A Phu Sapa – Address: No.15 Fansipan, Sapa town, Lao Cai province
  • Cau May Sapa Restaurant – Address: No.92 Ngu Chi Son
  • A Quynh Thang Co Restaurant: No.015 Thach Son, Sapa.
  • Markets in Sapa

Ga ac – Black chicken

Black chicken is well-known for its medicinal and nutritious values. Nothing goes better than grilled chicken with hot honey or a bowl of black chicken with herbs in Sapa’s cold weather.

  • Where to try: Sapa grilling area

Lon cap nach – Pig carried under armpit

A small kind of pig known as an armpit pig is one that may be “held under the armpit” or placed in a basket for easy transportation. Armpit pork is firmer than pork from pigs raised traditionally, therefore it is usually prepared for tasty roasted, grilled, and boiling meals.

Best area to try:

  • Thac Bac Restaurant: Km12 Thac Bac Tourist Area, Sapa Town
  • Gerbera Restaurant: No.31 Cau May, Sapa

Grilled food

In Sapa, grilled skewers make a perfect cold-weather snack. Grilled skewers come in a variety of types, including meat, sausages, chicken feet, and veggies. Most especially, eating grilled food is indispensable with a tube of fragrant sticky rice and some sesame salt.

Where to try:

  • Grilling area near Stone Church
  • Grilling area on Cau May street

“Com Lam” – Sticky rice cooked in bamboo tube

“Com Lam” is a typical rice dish of ethnic people in the Northwest with sticky rice cooked in a bamboo tube and grilled, creating the fragrant flavor of bamboo mixed in the rice. To enjoy this flavor to the fullest, pair “com lam” with sesame salt

Enjoy specialties at Bac Ha market

The Bac Ha market is one location where you may find a wide variety of Sapa specialties. Take a day to explore this well-known highland market and don’t forget to fill your stomach with all the delicious dishes.

Where to stay in Sapa

Being a well-known travel destination in the mountains of the Northwest, Sapa offers a wide variety of hotels and accommodations. Sapa has everything you could possibly want, whether you’re searching for an opulent resort hotel or a homestay where you can fully immerse yourself in local culture.

Hotels in Sapa

There are numerous categories to pick from when it comes to hotels in Sapa. Names like Sapa Hills Hotel, Golden Villa Hotel, Sapa Odyssey Hotel, KK Sapa Hotel, DeLaSol Phat Linh Sapa, Pao’s Sapa Leisure Hotel… focus on design, invest in space and quality of service, and have reasonable prices, making them an ideal option for travelers visiting Sapa on their own.

Resorts in Sapa

It’s difficult to pass up Sapa resort if you want to experience the ultimate vacation atmosphere with the chilly weather of the mountain town. Consider selecting one of the well-known lodging options as Topas Ecolodge, Sapa Jade Hill Resort and Spa, Aira Boutique Sapa Hotel & Spa, Golden Town Hotel, Nomad Trails Boutique Hotel, or Freesia Hotel to “reward” yourself with the warmest and most relaxing getaway.

Hostels and homestays in Sapa

If you prefer not to stay in hotels and resorts, think about well-known hostels and homestays in the self-sufficient Sapa travel community. Popular Sapa homestays for backpackers include Sapa Capsule Hotel, Phori’s House, Little Sapa, Po Homestay

What to prepare for a Sapa trip

  • When packing luggage to Sapa, keep in mind the following information for a seamless travel experience:
  • Identification papers, such as a passport, are required when visiting Sapa.
  • When renting a motorbike or checking into a hotel in Sapa, you must present identification.
  • You should prepare warm clothes because Sapa’s weather is cool all year round, especially at night it will be quite cold.
  • Prepare medicine for headaches, stomachaches, colds, etc. to avoid situations where you don’t like the food and are not used to the atmosphere and food here.
  • You will have to walk quite a lot during the tour because Sapa has a lot of slopes and the roads are not as flat as they are in the delta regions. To facilitate movement and prevent foot pain, you should therefore pack sports shoes, low-soled shoes, and soft-soled shoes.
  • Plan your sightseeing schedule before departing to ensure a suitable itinerary and prevent getting exhausted during the trip.
  • If you would like to travel to Sapa on a tour, you should book the tour at least one month in advance from the departure date to ensure availability and a variety of choices.

Tips for shopping in Sapa Vietnam

  • You may get a lot of clothing, brocade toys, silver jewelry, dried beads, and handicrafts like wallets, handbags, and keychains here at very affordable prices. These items can also be purchased as gifts or souvenirs.
  • If you want to help Sapa children who are selling souvenirs, buy something for them instead of giving them money since they will crowd around you and make you feel uncomfortable.
  • Be careful of personal property in any tourist area, there are good and bad people, cases of pickpockets, property robberies,…
  • If buying items such as carpets, brocade fabrics, etc., you can bargain a little with the seller.
  • It is improper to randomly snap pictures of Sapa people, particularly women and kids. Should they discover that you are taking pictures, they will demand payment or merchandise purchases.

The comprehensive guide that summarizes traveler experiences in Sapa is provided above; hopefully it will be useful for your next trip. What are you waiting for, plan your trip to Sapa now!