Sapa is a highland district of Lao Cai Province: modest, quiet, peaceful, but full of vitality. Sa Pa is famous for its breathtaking views: mountainous terrains, filled with the pure green of many forests and many villages of the locals here, all combined with each other to create a romantic and magical picture of life. 9Vietnam’s guide to Sapa contains all things you need to know in prior traveling to Sapa: foods, travel destinations, transportations, and tips.
Travel to Sapa, tourist will have a chance to conquer Fansipan, the highest mountain in Vietnam, or make a trip to many villages hidden in the fog. No matter what you do, mountain scenery, along with beautiful blooming flowers and the misty atmosphere of Sapa will definitely leave many unforgettable memories in your heart.
Sapa has a priceless treasure: its cool weather all year round comes with the pure air and misty atmosphere. Due to being located in the Highlands (1.500- 1.800 meters), Sapa has a great climate, with the temperature of about 15- 18 Celcius. From May to August, it rains a lot. At the end of the year, when winter comes, Sapa’s temperature can drop down below 0 Celsius ( sometimes there is snow).
Best time to visit Sapa
The ideal time to visit Sapa is from September to November, or from March to May to enjoy stable weather: a sunny day and cold night
From April to May is the rice growing season, also this is the blooming season of many flowers. During this period, the rice terraces is a beautiful sight to behold, thus attracts many people, especially photographers
From September to October is the harvest period. Within this time, Sapa is enveloped in a bright yellow color. If you stay from May to September, you will be amazed at this new “outfit” of Sapa.
From November to February: the weather is very cold, some places even have ice and snow. This is also the blooming season of peach blossom.
Sapa is 38 kilometers away from Lao Cai and 376 kilometers away from Ha Noi. You can travel by train or automobile
- Sapa is a tourist attraction, that is why most of the travel agencies have pre-order all the good seats, especially in the weekend or holidays. So please try to order through a travel agency (the cost is about 8- 10%).
- It is very easy to buy a ticket from Ha Noi to Lao Cai, but not so simple the other way around. So make sure you have a round-trip ticket
Once you’re in Sapa:
- You can rent a motorbike at the cost of 120.000 VND- !80.000 VND/day ( not including gasoline). The rental price is all the same at any time of the day. You must return the bike before 18:00 ( can be up to 20:00 )
- You can make a deal with a motorbike taxi to visit some famous tourist destinations with the cost of 100.000 – 150.000 VND/ 4-5 places ( should be near each other)
Near Sapa town
Ham Rong Mountain ( Dragon Mouth Moutain)
Standing on top of the mountain, you can see the whole Sapa, with Muong Hoa- Ta Phin valley, hidden within the mist. Ham Rong is a mountain comes from a fairy tale, with clouds and beautiful flowers.
Location: Right in the center of Sapa town.
Nha Tho Da Sapa (Stone Church of Sapa)
Built in 1895, Sapa Stone Church is a masterpiece of ancient architecture, left by the French. The Church is always kept under good condition, and then becoming a symbol of Sa Pa.
Location: Right in the center of Sapa town.
Cat Cat Village
An ancient village of Mong people (an ethnics group, quite popular in Vietnam), here saves many traditional crafts, such as: planting cotton, weaving,… The village now becomes the Cat Cat tourist site.
Location: 2 kilometers away from Sapa town.
Ta Phin Village
There is much beautiful natural scenery here, along with the unique culture of Dao Do people. When visiting Ta Phin, you must also check out the Ta Phin Cave nearby, which have many interesting stalactites, comes with different shapes.
Ta Van Village
Following Route 40 to the South- East, 8 kilometers away from Sapa town to reach Ta Van Village. In here, you will have a chance to know more about the life of Giay people. There are also many fresh green terraces filled with corn and rice along the road to the Village that you can enjoy.
Sin Chai Village
Sin Chai Village is located in San San Ho commune, 4 kilometers away from Sapa town. The village is still untouched by tourists, that why it still remains natural. The population here is about 1400, mostly Mong Den people. Aside from growing rice, the locals here also grow fruits, which you can enjoy while visiting the village.
Muong Hoa Valley- Sapa Ancient Rock Field
The special feature of this valley is the ancient rock field, come with many shapes, lies hidden within the terraces. Hundreds of sandstone carved with many figures, characters,… Until today, people still can’t identify the origin and meaning of these engravements, thus making it one of the national heritage, a priceless legacy from the Old Vietnamese people. Additionally, there is a beautiful river in the valley that you should check out.
Further from Sapa town
Hang Tien Scenic
Located 6 kilometers upstream of Chay River, from Bao Nhai commune ( Bac Ha province). Hang Tien Scenic can be considered a mini version of Ha Long Bay. Tourist can enjoy the lovely views here as well as immersed in the mystical Tien river, which is said to grant beauty, good health and wealth.
Location: 9 kilometers to the South- West of Sapa town
Bac Falls (Silver Falls)
From Sapa, travel to the West about 11 kilometers, following the way that leads to Lai Chau, you will see the 100 meters high- Bac Falls stands majestically within the O Quy Ho Valley. However, in the dry season, you should reconsider about visiting Bac Falls, since there will be much less water. Continue traveling for about 3 kilometers from Bac Falls to reach the Skygate. Here you can expand your view to the whole Lai Chau valley and the magnificent Fansipan mountain. If you prefer hiking, you can make a stop at Tram Ton station, then travel on foot for about 1 kilometer through Hoang Lien National Park to reach Bac Falls.
Location: 12 kilometers to the West of Sapa, following the way that leads to Lai Chau.
Cong Troi (The Skygate)
To reach the Skygate, you must pass through a winding road in The Hoang Lien Son Pass called Tram Ton. The destination lies at the end of the road. Standing in the middle of The Skygate to enjoy the breathtaking view of the whole valley below that lie before your very eyes, with many pure green fields, many busy streets, and even Bac Falls distance away. Especially, The Skygate is the best place to truly witness the grandeur of Fansipan.
Location: 18 kilometers to the North of Sapa.
Coc San is a system of many waterfalls and different caves. From Route 4D, there is a small, 1-kilometer long dirt road that leads to Coc San. Coc San is still a wilderness place, therefore its beautiful nature still remains intact. The special thing is almost behind every waterfall here lies a hidden cave, which further increases its harmonious and freedom. Any tourist that come here can enjoy the mystic feeling of the whole system.
Location: Coc San commune, Bat Xat province, 7 kilometers away from Lao Cai city.
Dinh Hoang A Tuong (Hoang A Tuong Palace)
The architecture of the Palace is Asian-European style combined, thus creating a harmonious feeling, with a unique layout. This is one of the wonders of Highlands.
Location: in the center of Bac Ha province, Lao Cai.
Cho Phien Bac Ha (Bac Ha Fair)
Bac Ha is the largest fair in the Highlands. Only appear on Sunday each week, the Fair still attracts many tourists, as well as other locals, to come for trading, or just for fun. Due to being the trading point of many ethnic minorities, you can find many essential items here such as foods, clothes, farming tools, or crafting.
Location: In the center of Bac Ha town, 60 kilometers away from Lao Cai.
If you visit Sapa at the end of the year, you will have a chance to take part in many unique festivals here. Each festival represents the cultural essence of each ethnic, which is strange but very interesting.
Roong Pooc Festival of Giay People
Every Lunar New Year, Giay people of Ta Van (Sapa) will open the Roong Pooc Festival to pray for bumper crops, a peaceful life, and good weather. Although the festival is organized by Giay People, its influence has spread to many other people over time, and become the festival of all Muong Hoa Valley. In the festival, aside from many unique rituals, there is gongs performance, as well as many exciting games.
Nao Cong Ceremony
Every June in Lunar Calendar is the time when Mong, Dao, and Giay people from all around the valley gather to the shrine in Ta Van Nam village to take part in Nao Cong Ceremony. Each family will send a representative, without distinction of old, young or male, female. The main purpose of the ceremony is to pray for peaceful life, abundant crops. Additionally, the leader of the ceremony will announce the general convention, then open a feast for everybody.
Tet Nhay Festival
Tet Nhay is a grand festival, carefully prepared by Dao Ta Van people, usually organized in the 1st or 2nd of The Lunar New Year. The purpose of the festival is wishing for a peaceful life, and express gratitude for the blessing of the past year. There are many interesting activities in the festival like 14 dances, unique rituals,…
“Nhan Song” and “Nao Song” Festival
A festival of Dao do people, organized in the Ta Chai Village (Ta Van- Sapa). The main purpose of the festival is to encourage people against deforestation. Therefore Nhan Song Festival is only opened when many forests are cut down. “Chau Chieu”- the forest watcher, will announce the restriction rules that help prevent deforestation and to severely punish poaching. The rules only compiled when the people have finished and concluded their discussion.
Quet Lang Festival
Organized every February of Lunar Calendar, with the main purpose of wishing for a peaceful new year, abundant crops and healthy cattle. During the festival, each person will contribute pig, chicken, rice,… to make a large feast, along with many rituals and dancing. In the end, everybody gathers and enjoy the feast.
Gau Tao Festival of Mong people
The main purpose of the festival is divided into two part: “bless” and “fate”. “Bless” is all about people wishing for more children, while “Fate” is about wishing for more luck, especially to families who have many sick or even dead members, bad crops,… The festival usually held at new year’eve.
Xuong Dong Festival
Held by Tay people in Ban Ho commune, Sapa, in the 8th day of the Lunar New Year. Started with many interesting rituals to many exciting activities like dancing and art performing of Tay and Dao people.
7 Things You Must Do When Visiting Sapa
Climb the Fansipan
Conquering the roof of Indo-Chinese region is the dream of many young people. If you prefer a challenge, this is the best experience for you.
Admiring the terraces
The terraces in Sapa are considered the greatest ones of all the world. The people here are not just blessed with a beautiful land, but also skills and a big heart. Over the year, they have built many miracles- the stairs that lead to heaven. The harvest month is September, that is when the terraces shift into the bright yellow full of vitality, making it the best time to visit Sapa.
Climb Ham Rong Mountain, and enjoy the full view of Sapa
Enjoying the view of Sapa town from a 1.800 meters high mountain is an interesting and definitely breathtaking experience that you should always try when visiting Sapa. The roads, hotels, tourist sites,.. all become tiny under your view. Moreover, you can immerse yourself in many beautiful flower gardens of the mountain.
Contemplate the dawn and the sunset in Sapa
With a hot coffee and an omelet plate, along with the cold morning breeze, you are fully prepared to witness one of the most spectacular and amazing views: the dawn in Sapa, which still hasn’t woke up from its misty mood. When the evening came, the sun slowly hidden behind The Hoang Lien Son Pass, engulfing Sapa in a romantic purple.
Walking in Sapa
Just by walking in Sapa can be an unforgettable experience, as many roads in Sapa are very long. If you don’t mind slowing down a bit, you can actually enjoy the beauty of many towns, rice fields, rivers, bridges,… Walking to ease your mind, walking to study more about the life, the culture of the locals. Here are some places that you can enjoy while walking: Sapa town, Cat Cat Village, Muong Hoa Valley,…
Staying in a house of one of the locals here, eating, working, living with them to truly feel the life of Sapa. Homestay service is very popular in Sapa, and of course, you don’t have to worry about sanitary and food problem. Just “try” Sapa for yourself, you will not regret it.
Visiting Bac Falls and Love Falls
Come to Bac Falls to be refreshed by the pure clean water, or to Love Falls to listen to its many legends: a fairy from falls in love with a woodcutter, enchanted by his flute, but she was forbidden by her father. Desperate, she transformed into a golden bird, singing the name of her lover for eternity: O Quy Ho. That is where Love Falls located: O Quy Ho Pass.
Aside from its natural beauty, Sapa also famous for its diverse cuisine. Here we will only list the popular one, you can try anything else by yourself
Thanks to the cool atmosphere, Sapa is the kingdom of many special vegetables, such as white and green broccoli, radish, … The planted vegetable here has a unique taste, soft, sweet, and delicious. There are many vegetable dishes you should try: boiled chayote dip in sesame salt, broccoli fried with onion, chicken hotpot served with many vegetables,…
Fresh Salmon and Turgeon
Differ from import fish, which has a greasy taste. Sapa fish, due to the cold water, has fine meat, without too much fat. A Salmon/ Turgeon hotpot served with many kinds of vegetable can make your stomach hunger for more and never wanted to eat anything else. The Salmon can be cooked into many different types of food: salad, grilled,…
Cap Nach Pork
A native pig raised by Mong people. True to its name (Cap Nach – carried by armpit, that is how the pig is taken to the market), an adult one only weighs up to 4 – 5 kilograms. After being captured, the pig is cleaned, marinated, then grilled without chopping or cutting anything. The meat, even thin, taste wonderful, delicious and crispy, melting in your very mouth, and leave a tingling sweet sensation, even the bone is edible due to its softness. It is best to eat Cap Nach Pork with some Sapa wine.
Due to the coldness of Sapa, anything edible can be grilled. From eggs, pork wrapped in vegetables, rice, chicken leg to corn, potato and many more. In the evening, the grilled area near the Stone Church of Sapa attracts many tourists because of its cozy space, and delicious food that warms your heart.
Fish captured in the river has a wide range of taste but doesn’t have any rotten smell. Just grilled the fish and you can enjoy immediately.
You can get mushroom in any market in Sapa, especially dried mushroom, with the cost of 50.000 VND/ 0,5 kilogram. Dried mushroom, soaked in water, can still maintain its freshness. If you are gourmet, you can visit some restaurants for a fried duck with mushroom or some other delicious dishes made from mushroom
To the locals, Thang Co is best served with beef, pork,… A fine Thang Co required 27 different spices like cinnamon, anise, cardamom, herbs,… Wild vegetables are the second essential part of Thang Co. It is difficult to describe the taste: unique, greasy, sweet, bold,… that will definitely warm your stomach in many cold days in Sapa. Many famous restaurants that serve Thang Co: Ma Le, A Quynh: at 015 Thach Son.
Sapa Silkie Chicken
Small silkie chicken is about 1,2 kilogram/ chicken, has a black skin, which is a little disgusting at first sight. The chicken can be cooked into many different foods but the best is to grill with honey, dip in lemon salt. To make your trip to Sapa become whole, you must try this special dishes.
Khang Gai Dried Meat
Many types of meat such as beef, pork, horse,.. are dried by Mong people for storage. The dried meat can still edible after many years. Just remember to wash the meat carefully before cooking with tomato or bamboo shoot.
Best Places To Take Pictures In Sapa
Without a doubt, the magnificent and a beautiful terrace is one of the best choice for a good photo. The terraces are especially more brilliant in Spring when the harvest season came. You will have many romantic pictures with the terraces as a background.
The Stone Church of Sapa
Near the Church is the Sapa Square and Cau May Town, filled with many romantic cafes, perfect for a photo with many beautiful angles
Villages of ethnic minorities
The beautiful nature, along with the distinct culture sight of many villages can help spices up your trip to Sapa. In here, you can both take many good pictures, and have a chance to commune with the locals to understand more about their lives and their differences in media culture.
Muong Hoa Valley- The Ancient Rock Fields of Sapa
Muong Hoa Valley in Hau Thao commune, 6 kilometers to the South- East of Sapa town. The valley itself is magnificent and beautiful but must mention the rock fields here, which can make your camera or phone broken just to take all the beautiful photos here.
Ham Rong Mountain
Most of the photos taken in Sapa are always include Ham Rong Mountain, which located right next to Sapa town, only 3 kilometers away, you can even walk there. Stand on top of the mountain, using the whole valley as a background of your picture is a perfect idea.
Sapa has a romantic bridge across the Muong Hoa River. From the main road, you can follow the winding way to read the May Bridge, which is built only for tourism purpose.
It is best to dress up as an ethnic minority for your photo here.
The Skygate attracts many photographers to come here, both pro or amateur, due to its magnificent views. Tourists here can almost become one with the mountains and the sky.
On The Way To Bac Falls
Many beautiful sights await you on the way to Bac Falls, a perfect opportunity for a picture: near the vast tea farms, or a romantic lake, or even within a persimmon garden.
Vong Canh Cafe
Located 2 kilometers away from Sapa town, on the way to Cat Cat Village. Vong Canh Cafe lies on top of a hill separate between Sapa town and Cat Cat Village, making it the ideal place for a full view of Sapa, therefore extremely suitable for a photo.
Some helpful tips for you
- You should avoid buying medicine, Ganoderma, or ginseng along the road to Ham Rong Mountain because most of them are low in quality but very expensive.
- Negotiate carefully when buying souvenirs in the night market near the Stone Church.
- Most of the colorful brocade crafts are from Chinese.
- You should have a map if you travel in Sapa by yourself (Map can be found at travels agencies or the ticket booth in Ham Rong Moutain). Most of the roads in Sapa are very winding, tread with care.
- To know more about Sapa tours, ask the receptionist of your hotel.
- Avoid wearing high heels and tight pants, you should wear sports shoes, wide pants, and a hat.
- You don’t have to wear warm clothes in the morning ( not recommended in Winter). Just remember to keep warm when the night came.
- Better hide a tour guy with you. They are experienced, which can show you many interesting roads and shortcuts.
- You should hire a motorbike taxi or a cab to return after enjoying a day at Sapa to save energy.
- The road from Lao Cai to Sapa is very steep, you should use earmuff to avoid Tinnitus.
- You don’t have to go to expensive restaurants to enjoy Sapa specialties such as grilled foods, salmon, chicken, bamboo rice, Thang Co, Tao Meo wine,… Just go further into the local’s area to find those being sold in a much cheaper price.