Being one of the most attractive tourism destinations of the country, Sapa is a precious gift that Mother Nature dedicated to Vietnam.
Sa Pa Town is located in Lao Cai Province, north-west Vietnam, and 350 km north-west of Hanoi city, close to the border with China. The city of Sapa is a delightful old frontier town high in the mountainous region of the same name. It has, in recent years, become the center of trekking holidays in the country. Many of Vietnam’s ethnic hill tribes live here including the Hmong, Dao, Giáy, Pho Lu, and Tay. The population of the area is estimated to be around 32,000 of which only 5% are Viet (or Kinh). The area is famous for its terraced hillsides on which the locals cultivate rice. These terraces present a real picture postcard beauty.
Hills with rice terraces in Sapa - Source: Image from Flickr
Geography and weather
The whole Sapa District is dominated by the Hoang Lien Son mountain range which is at the Eastern extremity of the Himalayas, being famous with the Vietnam’s highest mountain of Fa si pan at a height of 3,142 m above sea level. The town of Sa Pa lies at an altitude of about 1,600 m, bringing in a cool and foggy site of Sa Pa Town. The nearby Fansipan Mountain is the highest peak in Vietnam tours 2017.
Sapa Town takes its pride in its unique climate in Vietnam. It is highly seasonal, with a subtropical climate in the summer and a temperate climate during the winter. Mean annual temperature for Sa Pa town is 15.4°C, with a maximum of 29.4°C and a minimum of 1°C. The warmest months are July and August, and the coldest months are December and January. Snow falls in some years on the highest peaks. In the morning and afternoon, it is as cool as in spring and autumn. Yet, at noon, it is as sunny and cloudless as in summer. In the evening, it drastically changes into coldness just as in winter. This is actually a unique advantage, making Sapa Town different from anywhere else in the nation.
The ethnic minority culture diversity
There is nowhere in Vietnam can tourists easily meet the local ethnic minorities like in Sapa. The district is the home of a great diversity of ethnic people, including five main groups of Hmong, Yao, Tay, Zay and Xa Pho. Town of Sapa is where ethnic minority people gather, trade or sell their farming products such as rice, corn, fruits, as well as handicrafts and souvenirs to tourists. There is one interesting fact about ethnic minority people in Sapa that besides their dialects, many of them, especially small children, can speak English pretty well with clear pronunciation.
Spending time visiting ethnic minorities’ villages, observing their daily’s activities or even living homestay, in order to understand more about their culture is now the top priority of visitors, especially international ones. A trip to Sapa would definitely more meaningful with participatory activities, such as learning to make handicrafts or helping the local with farm work!
Best time to travel Sapa
March – May: perfect weather – warm and dry – for trekking and outdoors activities
June – September: rainy weather and crowded with Vietnamese tourists
Late – September – mid- December: cool dry weather – perfect for photos and trekking
Mid-December – February: harsh winter but few tourists – perfect for people watching
Things to do in Sapa
Sapa is voted to be the best trekking spot in Vietnam, by both natives and foreigners. The whole district is dominated by The Hoang Lien Son mountain range, which also includes Mt. Fan Si Pan- the highest peak in Vietnam and the entire Indochina peninsula with the height of 3143m. This mount is not only a tough challenge to trekking enthusiasts but also an opportunity to witness the splendid mountainous vista.
You can trekking through some spots like: Lao Chai Ta Van village, Cat Cat village, Muong Hoa valley, through Y Linh Ho village, Giang Ta Chai waterfall, vv.
2. Sapa attractions
The scenery of the Sapa region in large part reflects the relationship between the ethnic minority people and nature. This is seen especially in the paddy fields carpeting the rolling lower slopes of the Hoang Lien Mountains. The impressive physical landscape, which underlies this, has resulted from the work of the elements over thousands of years, wearing away the underlying rock.
Muong Hoa Valley
The northwest mountainous area is famous for its extraordinary and poetic beauty, which changes with every season of the year. For Sa Pa lovers, Muong Hoa Valley is one of the most famous destinations for breathtaking scenery and is the largest farmland for rice growing in SaPa. It is far from Sapa town about 14 kilometers. Muong Hoa Valley is especially delightful. It is beautiful during both the new rice and harvest seasons thanks to the unique terraced fields.
Image source: Google
Cat Cat Village
Cat Cat Village is located on the Muong Hoa Valley, this is the village of the H’Mong hill tribe. It’s far from Sapa Town about 3 km and takes you 45 minutes to walk here. The village is on the slope of the hill and easy walking, rice field and corn are grown here. Cat Cat village is within easy walking distance from any hotel in downtown Sapa.
Image source: Flickr
Nestled in a beautiful valley about three kilometers from Sapa Town, Cat Cat- the old village of ethnic groups- attracts tourists from all over the world for its distinctive customs and practices which have been lost in almost ethnic villages. The village is within easy walking distance from any hotel in downtown Sapa.
Visiting Cat Cat, tourists will be impressed by the peacefully picturesque sceneries. People can easily catch sight of women sitting in front of the loom with colorful pieces of brocade, while children playing around with pets or even livestock.
Bac Ha Market
Being a minority ethnic people market, Bac Ha market is located in 80 km from Sapa, Bac Ha is famous for its Sunday market which is a trading centre and meeting place for couples, friends, and relatives.
Imgae sourse: Flickr
Every Sunday, Bac Ha hosts the biggest fair near the mountainous highlands and the Chinese border. It is the largest and most colourful market in the area and attracts throngs of villagers from the surrounding hill tribes. Some walk several hours for the weekly opportunity to trade and barter food, animals, clothes and household goods. 80km from Sapa, Bac Ha Market is not only the place for buying and selling, but also a place for cultural and sentiment exchanging. On the market days, right from the early morning, all paths and mountain roads are full of people and horses pouring to the market. People usually sit in groups around a soup pan (“thang co”) eating and chatting.
Fansipan (or Phan Xi Păng in Vietnamese) is the highest mountain in Indochina. At 3,143m (10,312ft) it’s a real mountain, but can be climbed without any specialist equipment or guides or porters. Located near the former French colonial hill station of Sapa, Fansipan is part of Vietnam’s Hoang Lien Son Range, which is essentially the southeastern-most extent of the same continental collision that formed the Himalayas.
Image sourse: Flickr
In the past, Fansipan normally takes climbers two days to cross hardly the challenging route to reach the top of Fansipan, but everyone can now touch what is also known as “Indochina’s Roof” within 15 minutes thanks to the Fansipan modern cable car.
Image source: Flickr
With all the information we gave, we hope you will have amazing experience while traveling to Vietnam in general and in Sapa in particular