Sapa- A Must-Visit Place In Vietnam

By guide | GOOD TO KNOW

Mar 28

If you are considering traveling to Vietnam and still searching some places that are picturesque, yet affordable to go, then Sapa is the best deal on the table.

Sapa, a small mountainous village located in Lao Cai Province, 380 km far from Hanoi, is the darling of both domestic and international tourists thanks to its magnificent natural surroundings and multi-colored cultural diversity.  Since its rebirth as a tourist attraction, Sapa is never off the top list of the must-visit place in Vietnam travel guide book. A typical trip to Sapa often lasts from 3 to 4 days, including commuting time. You can go to Sapa from Hanoi either by yourself or by tours which are mostly affordable. From Hanoi, you can get to Sapa via road or rail. Overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, whose tickets and schedules are easily found on the Internet or travel agencies, used to be the safest transportation since the roads to Lao Cai were not in a good condition.HighWay-HN-LC-Zing.vn

Moreover, in order to get to Sapa from Lao Cai train station, you will have to catch a shuttle bus or a taxi. On September 2014, the brand new highway connecting Hanoi and Lao Cai finally opened, reducing traveling time to 4 hours by buses or cars.

Sapa was found and settled as a hill station by the French in 1922. From 1924 to 1940, there were about 100 villas built in Sapa. Today, the remnants of these villas still can be found in Sapa. In the late 1930s, Sapa reached its peak of development, becoming the prominent summer holiday destination of thousands of European expatriates in Vietnam. In 1952,

Cau-May-Sapa 1960sthe French army started bombing Sapa, destroying the entire town.  It was not until the 1960s that Sapa was reconstructed. After many vicissitudes, Sapa emerged as tourism highlight of northwest Vietnam as it started opening for international tourists to visit in 1993. Since then, Sapa has developed at a phenomenal rate and become one of the most attractive tourist sites in Vietnam.

 Lying at the altitude of 1600m above the sea and surrounded by the Hoang Lien Son mountain ranges, Sapa is granted a fairly cool climate year-round, with the temperature ranging from 15 to 18 Celsius degree. In the summer, from June to August, it is strikingly hot and rainy. Thus, it is not a favorable time for trekking or sightseeing. The best time to visit Sapa is either from March to May or from September to October, during which the weather is relatively dry and cool. From March to May, the town is engulfed in blooming flowers, luxuriant foliage, sunshine and fresh air, bestowing a winning combo upon tourists, especially trekkers. April is the best time to enjoy the picture-postcard scenery of blooming peach blossoms which can be spotted everywhere in Sapa. In addition, the harvest season of the rice paddies, from September to October, turns the entire town into a heavenly yellow color, creating a photogenic picture that can take your breath away. In the winter, Sapa is foggy and cold all the time.As the temperature sometimes drops below zero Celsius degree, the town can be covered in snow, which is a rare scene in a tropical country as Vietnam. Hence, despite the unfavorable weather condition, from December to February, the town is packed with a lot of Vietnamese tourists who come to see snowfall for the first time in their life.rice-terraces-Centremedicmatterhorn

What makes Sapa distinguish from other tourist attractions in Vietnam is that it is rich in not only natural habitats but also culture. Nowadays, Sapa is a district of 36,000 residents mostly from ethnic minority groups. The Kinh –Vietnamese ethnic majority group occupies 15 % of the total population while H’mong group accounts for 52% population, followed by Dao, Tay , Giay, Xa Pho and other smaller groups. H’mong -the biggest ethnic minority group currently residing in Sapa is called Black H’mong since their clothes are mainly in black and also is often called “H’mong Sapa” to distinguish the group from other H’mong groups in Vietnam. Years ago, they used to lead a nomadic life, cutting and burning trees to grow crops. Especially, the cultivation of opium was ubiquitous among the black H’mong until it was banned by the Vietnamese government in 1993.

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Thanks to the support and propagandas from the government, they no longer destroy forests and plant opium for a living. At the same time, the booming tourism in Sapa has given them opportunities to do various kinds of business such as providing homestay service, selling souvenirs or street-food or being a private tour guide. Beside H’mong people, you can easily come across local people from the other groups, who dress up in colorful clothes and sell souvenirs to foreign tourists in their broken English. Interestingly, although they may not speak Vietnamese -the official language in Vietnam fluently, they certainly can communicate in English without difficulty. It is explained that most people from the ethnic minorities in Sapa do not pursue any official and proper education provided by the government. They have their own languages and learn to speak English from foreign tourists through selling activities.

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Recent years have witnessed a boom in Sapa’s hospitality industry as the number of hotels, hostels and entertainment services has mushroomed. If you travel on your own, you can easily find information and book a room via websites before your trip starts.

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However, be consciously rigorous in checking information about the place you are going to stay for a couple of days because the service quality is not the same for every hotel or hostel in Sapa. If you go on a tour, then check with your travel agency to make sure that you are provided a nice accommodation that is worth your money. Furthermore, if you want to take a glimpse into the locals ‘lives, homestay is a perfect choice as you will have a chance to not only try some exotic local cuisines, but also learn more about the locals’ customs and lifestyles.

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It is not exaggerating to say that Sapa is a green masterpiece that Mother Earth created and then granted to Vietnam as it is surrounded by beautiful terraced rice fields and vast mountain ranges. It does not take you three seconds to be impressed by the incredibly specular sights there. The most famous attraction is Mountain Fansipan, which is 9 kilometers far from the town center. Mountain Fansipan, at 3143 meters above sea level, is the highest mountain in Vietnam as well as Indochina. It is also called ‘’the roof of Indochina”.  From 2016 on, the cable car tours are available to take tourists to the peak in 20 minutes whereas a trekking tour will take at least 3 days. However, trekking still has its charms among young people. While climbing alone to the summit of Mountain Fansipan is a fairly attainable challenge for professional trekkers, it is not always the case for others. Trekking tours to Fansipan are highly recommended for inexperienced trekkers since even though technical skills are not required to climb to the peak, but endurance and fitness are absolute musts, especially in the summer when trekkers can be drained of energy and motivation by the searing heat of the sun.  Sapa trekking tours are varying in prices and customized to the needs of trekkers. For example, you can choose either group or private tours, either climbing Fansipan or trekking through other attractions such as Cat Cat village, Silver Waterfall (Thac Bac) or Ham Rong Mountain to name a few. Be prepared for being dazzled during your trip by the pristine and scenic landscapes whose beauty is indescribable. From the town center, you can walk to see Ham Rong Mountain which abounds with blooming seasonal flowers and is a home of a variety of exotic vegetation. A short trekking to Cat Cat Village, only 2 kilometers far from the town center, is a good exercise to keep fit. Additionally, Cat Cat Village -the village of the black H’mong is an ideal place for you to truly immerse yourself in the vibrant daily activities of local ethnic people. Silver Waterfall, another must-see attraction in Sapa, is a heavenly garden that once you set foot in, you will be mesmerized by the incredibly unspoiled nature around you. You can get to Silver Waterfall, around 10 kilometers from the town center, either by private car or motorbike which you can easily rent out in the town center.

To have a well-prepared Sapa travel plan, there are a few things you should note down.

  • The mountain curvy road from Lao Cai to Sapa combining with the heedlessness of the bus drivers could make you feel dizzy and want to vomit if you have a weak stomach. So, bring with you some medicine or you are likely to spend a day lying in your hotel bed.
  • Sapa is a heaven of bizarre foods. Unless your stomach is strong, you should think carefully before trying tasting these foods.
  • Local people can be very aggressive when they try to sell souvenirs and other goods to you.

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