An Overview of Sapa
Sapa is a highland region of Lao Cai (Lào Cai) province, a quiet, humble place but is very famous for its potential natural lanscape. The scenery in Sapa, combined with human’s structures and special terrain of mountains and hills, the green of forest, make Sapa look like a wonderful, harmonious lay-out painting. And those things create an attractive, poetic landscape. From the center of the city, you could have a picturesque panoramic view of endless mountains.
Travelling to Sapa, tourists have an opportunity to conquer the famous Fansipan peak or visit beautiful mountain villages looming in mysterious fog. The stunning scenery of mountains and forests with thousands of flowers would appeal every tourists coming here.
WEATHER IN SAPA
Cool and diversified weather is the priceless resource of Sapa. Located at the average height of 1,500m – 1,800m, the climate of Sapa is quite similar to temperate climate with the average temperature 15 – 18oC. From May to August, Sapa is in rainy season. In winter, the temperature could drop below 0oC and snow falling sometimes
When to visit Sapa?
– The ideal time to visit Sapa is from September to November or during the March to May period. At this time, the weather in Sapa is quite comfortable with sunny days and cool nights.
– From April to May, people from ethnic groups farm in terrace paddy fields. This time is also the blooming season of many beautiful flowers, that’s why the photographers love to come here in this season as well as harvest season.
– September-October is the harvest season when all the green field turns to vibrant yellow. All the hills are covered by the beautiful yellow expanse of rice fields. You should come in mid or late September, because in October some fields are already harvested.
From December to February, the weather can become extremely cold, even leading to snow falling sometimes. This is also the blooming season of cherry blossoms.
Transportation in Sapa
Sapa town is around 38km far from Lao Cai city and 376km far from Ha Noi – capital city. To travel to Sapa, you could choose to go by train or by car.
Departing from Ha Noi:
Vietbus coaches: 10 USD/ticket
Contact address in Lao Cai: 339 Quảng Trường Ga, Lào Cai city. Tel:0203 828 626.
Contact address in Sapa: 1 Ngũ Chỉ Sơn, Sapa. Tel:0203 887 733.
Contact address in Ha Noi: 284 Giải Phóng, Thanh Xuân district, Ha Noi city Tel:043 627 2727.
Sao Viet coaches: 10 USD/ticket
Contact address in Lao Cai:333B Pho Moi Ward, Lao Cai city, Lao Cai province. Tel:020.3689 689 Hotline:0983 63 38 38.
Contact address in Ha Noi:
- Southern: 789 Giai Phong street – Ha Noi. Tel: (04)37.638.638 – 04.36.686.358 / 04. 36.686.358
- Northern: 7 Pham Van Dong street. Tel: 0437.687.687 – 04.37.921.266
My Dinh Bus station: 04.39 958 627 – 04.39 958 127
Giap Bat bus station: 04. 85 867 815
Ha Son (Hà Sơn) Coaches
Ha Noi – Sapa route
– Departure station:
+ Yen Nghia bus station – Sapa bus station. Departing time: 14:00
+ Nuoc Ngam bus station – Sapa bus station. Departing time: 6:00
– Ticket: 250.000 VND
- Sapa – Ha Noi route:
– Sapa bus station – Yen Nghia bus station. Departing time: 6:00
– Sapa bus station – Nuoc Ngam bus station. Departing time: 13:30
– Ticket: 11 USD đồng
– Office in Ha Noi: Booking tel.: 0984. 62 62 62 or 04 66 62 62 62.
– Office in Lao Cai: Booking tel: 0203 833 567 or 0203 65 65 65.
- By Train
There are many different types of seat: soft seats, air-conditioned soft sleepers…The train leaves at 9-10pm and arrives in the next morning.
- Sapa is an attractive destination so many good seats might have been selected by some agencies, especially those seats on the train which leaves on weekend or in rush hour, if customers buy ticket themselves at the train station they usually get the hard seats. Therefore, to have a good seat, please contact with a ticket or a train agency with the usual fee is 8-10%.
- It is easy to buy a ticket from Ha Noi to Lao Cai, but it is hard to buy ticket from Lao Cai back to Ha Noi, so you should prepare the return ticket as soon as possible.
Besides that, you could also travel to Lao Cai by Victoria Express Train: Hanoi – Lao Cai
The train departs 6 times a week. It takes approximately 8.5 hours to transfer from Ha Noi to Lao Cai station. Victoria Express Train can accommodate up to 52 passengers, including 2 luxurious sleeping carriages, which are all handicraft productions, and those wood partition will bring you a quiet space and a clear view. Each sleeping carriage has 6 superior cabins (4 berths) and 2 deluxe cabins (2 berths), all are air-conditioned, wood panelled, with individual reading lights, baggage storage and oversized windows.
Victoria Express Train schedule:
The train departs from Ha Noi station at 10:00 pm and arrives at Lao Cai station at 6:30 am in the next morning.
The train departs from Lao Cai station at 9:05 pm and arrives at Ha Noi station at 5:30 am in the next morning.
The train doesn’t operate on Saturday weekly.
- Option 1: Hire a motorbike in Sapa which costs about 6 USD – 8 USD/per day for each, not including gasoline. Be aware that a day is defined to start at 6:00 am and end at 6:00 pm, thus, no matter if you hire one in the morning or in the evening, it will cost you the same price. Tourists can return the motorbike from 6:00 am – 8:00 pm.
- Option 2: Deal with a local motorbike taxi driver, ask him to take you to some famous destinations. This way will cost you about 5 USD – 7 USD to travel around 4-5 destinations.
MUST-TO-VISIT PLACES IN SAPA
Tourist attractions near SAPA TOWN
HAM RONG MOUNTAIN:
From the top of this mountain, you could admire the panoramic view of Sapa, Muong Hoa valley and villages looming in the illusory fog. Walking up the mountain is just like being lost in a fairy garden with plenty of flowers and clouds surrounding.
Location: center of Sapa town.
SAPA STONE CHURCH
Built in 1895, the stone church still fully remains the architectural style of French. The church has been restored and preseved, becoming an indispensible part of Sapa tourism.
Location: center of Sapa town.
CAT CAT (CÁT CÁT) VILLAGE:
This is an age-old village of Mong ethnic group, which holds many traditional handicrafts such astwisting flax and weaving fabric. Nowaday, this place has grown to become a tourist area.
Location: 2km from the center of Sapa town
TA PHIN (TẢ PHÌN) VILLAGE:
This place has a beatiful natural scenery, unique local culture of Dao Do ethnic people with their famous brocade. Tourists could also visit Ta Phin cave nearby. Inside the cave, there are many stalactities with interesting shapes such as dancing fairies, sitting fairies, sparkling jungles…
Following Highway 4D to the southeast, 8km from Sapa town. Visiting this village, tourists take a chance to explore daily life of Giay ethnic group. The road leading to Van village is a narrow dirt road but it has beautiful fertile terrace fields along two sides which will please tourists with the green of rice and corn plants.
SIN CHAI (SÍN CHẢI) VILLAGE:
The village belongs to San Sa Ho commune, 4km walking from the center of Sapa town. This is home of 1400 people of Mong ethnic minority and wasn’t exploited much for tourism purpose so it still remains fully its unspoiled beauty. Beside rice and corns, local people also plant fruits, which is one of the major sources of income for the area.
MUONG HOA VALLEY – SAPA ANCIENT ROCK AREA:
The impressive feature of this valley is the ancient stone rocks area. All stones were carved with diffrerent shapes, lying between the green grass and the terrace fields. Hundreds of rocks were engraved with bizzare images and symbols which its meanings are still a mystery. This area is a unique cultural heritage of ancient Vietnamese, which was listed as a national heritage. In this area, there is also a beatiful stream running 15km through Lao Chai, Ta Van, Hau Thao village and finish at Ho village.
Location: Hau Thao village, 8km distant from Sapa to southwest. From Sapa, following the road skirting round the mountain, you could reach Muong Hoa valley.
Further Tourists attractions:
HANG TIEN (FAIRY CAVE) LANDSCAPE:
Going upstream the Chay river for 6km from Bao Nhai commune (Bac Ha district), the ship will take you through the ancient citadel with many legends. The river narrows here and peacefully runs between the vertical cliffs. Hang Tien is a small version of Ha Long Bay, which is associated with the legend about Ba Co temple. Many tourists visit here to swim under the beautiful sunlight and pray for beauty, health and prosperity.
Location: 6km distant from the center of Bao Nhai commune (Bac Ha district)
Conquering FANSIPAN PEAK – the roof of Indochina
Fansipan is the highest mountain of Indochina (3.143m), located in the center of Hoang Lien Son mountain range. You can go for a tour offered by travel agency or you can travel on your own with the help of local ethnic minority people such as Mong, Dao people. On the way to the mountain, tourists will have a chance to discover amazing local fauna and flora. There are lots of goldthreads – rare medicinal herbs, valuable wood, animals like francolins, bears, monkeys, chamoises, variety of birds,…
Another way to reach Fansipan peak is to travel by cable car. The cable car system is ready to use in February 2016, this has helped a lot of tourists to have a chance to discover, contemtplate, conquer Fansipan peak – the highest roof of Indochina. This system also receives 2 certificates of its record from Guiness World Record: one is the “longest non-stop three-roped cable car in the world” – 6292.5 m, the other is “the greatest elevation difference by a non-stop three-roped cable car” taking passengers up a breath-taking 1410 m into the mountain. It only takes 15 minutes going by cable car instead of 2 days travelling on foot.
BAC WATERFALL (SILVER WATERFALL) – LOVE WATERFALL
From Sapa town, on the way to Lai Chau, about 11 km to the west, you can hear the stunning nature sound of the Silver Fall, the sound of water falling from the height of 100 m and rush noisily into the river of O Quy Ho Valley. However, in dry season, you should consider whether to visit Silver Fall or not because of its lack of water.
Follow 3 more kilometers to reach the Heaven Gate. From there, you can have a panoramic view of Lai Chau valley below, and iposing Fansipan peak above. If you enjoy walking, follow Tram Ton Pass and then walk through Hoang Lien national park, about 1 km to reach Love Waterfall.
Location: From Sapa town, on the way to Lai Chau, about 12km to the west.
The road leading to the Heaven Gate is narrowly running between the majestic Hoang Lien Son mountain. This road is named Tram Ton and the heaven gate is at the end of this mountain pass. From here, you could admire the panoramic view of the green fields, roads and the Silver waterfall far away. You could also admire the majestic of Fansipan mountain with the abyss below.
Location: 18km from Sapa town to the north.
COC SAN (CỐC SAN)
Coc San is a system of waterfalls and caves in many sizes. From Highway 4D, following a dirt road for about 1km to reach Coc San. The road leading to Coc San is quite narrow and dark. The beauty of Coc San is purely natural and unspoiled. Interestingly, each waterfalls has a cave behind which all bear an aura of mystery and worth to explore.
Location: Coc San commune, Bat Xat (Bát Xát) district, 7km distant from Lao Cai city
HOANG A TUONG (HOÀNG A TƯỞNG) PALACE
Hoang A Tuong Palace was built in the style of Asia – Europe with closed rectangular layouts making it a harmonius building. This wonderful architechture has typical specific characteristics for higland region.
Location: center of Bac Ha commune, Lao Cai city
BAC HA (BẮC HÀ) MARKET:
Bac Ha is one of the biggest and most well-known markets in the highland. Bac Ha market takes place every Sunday, attracts many local people coming for business and entertainment. Different minority groups from around come to buy and sell a wide variety of goods and livestock, to exchange news and to renew friendships. Stalls in the market display all kind of needed accesories such as clothes, farmingequipments and furnitures.
Location: center of Bac Ha town, 60km distant from Lao Cai city.
FESTIVALS IN SAPA
Coming to Sapa at the end of the year, tourists would have a chance to take part in many interesting festival of local people. Each festival represents a unique cultural feature of each ethnic minority group.
ROONG POOC FESTIVAL OF GIAY ETHNIC GROUP
Every year, on the Dragon Day of the first lunar month, people of Giay ethnic group at Ta Van Commune (Sapa district) celebrate Roong Pooc festival to pray for abundant harvest, healthy people and animal as well as favorable weather. Although it is a traditional festival that belongs to people of Giay-Ta Van ethnic group, nowadays it has spread out and become a common festival in Muong Hoa valley. Besides those special rituals, Roong Pooc festival also has other activities such as traditional games, dancing, performing music with drums, gongs and Pi Le clarinets.
“NAO CONG” FESTIVAL
Every year, on Dragon Day of the sixth lunar month, Mong, Dao, Giay Muong Hoa villagers all gather around the temple at Ta Van Commune to celebrate “Nao Cong” festival. Each family has a representative, irrespective of male or female, young or old. In “Nao Cong” festival, people pray God for helping them to have an abundant harvest, healthy people and animal. Besides that, the president of “Nao Cong” festival will anounce general convention and happily ending by having dinner together
“TET NHAY” FESTIVAL:
The festival takes place on 1st or 2nd day of Lunar New Year. The main purpose of this festival is to pray for peace, and remember ancestors. The activities of festival is interesting with dancing performances of 14 selective young men and women and other praying ceremonies.
“NHAN SONG” and “NAO SONG” FESTIVAL
It is the festival of the Red Yao of Giang Ta Chai village (Ta Van – Sapa) meaning higher education to the villagers in order to prevent deforestation. Currently, The Yao only celebrate “NHAN SONG” in the years when the forest is destroyed much, cattle is grazed out garden crops. During the ceremony, “CHAU CHIEU” – the head of the forest custodians elected by villagers, announce legislation to prevent deforestation, to punish those who violate. After villagers finish discussion, Chau Chieu will sum up the convention, each person will voluntarily comply.
The Hmong in Seo Mi Ty, in Den Thang Ta Van or Lao Chai, Hau Thao, previously held a similar festival called the “NAO SONG” festival, the day of worship is usually Dragon day of January. The contents of the convention of “Nao song” has the expansion of the scope of regulation than the Dao village. In addition to forest protection and control of animal grazing, convention also refers to the theft prevention issues, crop protection, support and help each other …
SWEEPING THE VILLAGE FESTIVAL OF THE XA PHO
Every year, The Xa Pho celebrate sweep village on horse day, goat day or human day on the lunar February, for the purpose in the new year everyone was peaceful, lush crops, cattle is not ill or dead. In sweeping the village fetival, each person contributes pigs, chickens, goats, dogs, rice … to worship the ghosts, the priest make a ceremony of worships, villagers paint on their face and dance to pray for peace. End of the ceremony, people eat happily together. The food must be eaten, do not brought into the village.
GAU TAO FESTIVAL OF THE HMONG
The purposes of the festival is happiness and longevity. A homeowner who does not have children, little children or only daughters or sons, will invite the priest to celebrate Gau Tao festival to pray for having children – it is happiness. Another homeowner is often sick, his children are weak, even dead, crops, cattle are weakening, and invite the priest to celebrate one – it is longevity. The festival is usually held the first months of the year.
XUONG DONG FESTIVAL SAPA – LAO CAI
Xuong Dong ( go to the field) festival of The Yao, The Tay of Ban Ho commune, Sapa is open since early morning of 8th lunar New Year. The worship part include carrying the ground, carrying the water then a ceremony of worships. The art part begins with dances and folk entertainment shows of the Tay, Dao.
But the most interest, the most fun, most people join is the flared display, when the trumpet sounds, Tay’s girls flared dance gracefully, skillful, invite people to join, flaced round is wider and wider. When the flared display ends people pour to the gaming area. The games here are mostly folk games such as throwing “con”, sticks pushing, tug, hitting “quay”, polishing, catching goats blindfolded, climbing oil columns …
10 experience you should try when traveling Sapa
Sapa tourism will bring you the new experience. Schedule to Sapa await you with exciting activities, contain many things such as:
- Climbing Fansipan
Conquer the roof of Indochina is the dream of many young people. If you like to challenge yourself and win yourself, let’s do it.
- Watching the best great terraced fields in the world.
Terraced fields in Sapa was honored as one of the great terraced fields in the world. Nature is not only given to people in this area great landscape and climate, but also gives them hands skillfully. For hundreds of years, they weave masterpieces – these are the stairs leading up to the sky. September, rice harvest, it’s time to replace the green field with golden colors. This is a fascinating time to get to Sapa.
- Climbing Ham Rong, watch Sapa town on the top:
Observe the town from Ham Rong peak with high 1800 meters is an exciting experience that anyone should try when in Sapa. Town in a different perspective, roads, hotels and resorts under your feet are suddenly small. Not only that, on the Ham Rong mountain you also enjoy the colorful flower gardens and interspersed with stone in Thach Lam stone garden.
- Watching sunrise, sunset in SAPA
The cold morning wind will make you shivered. Holding the warm cup of coffee in hand, next fried egg, looking out throught a window at a hotel which has a nice view. You will see a lightly Sapa in the morning dew. Wait until sunset, the sun is disappearing behind the Hoang Lien Son Mountains, Sapa is dyed by a purple, there’s something romantic and vague sadness.
- Walking, slow living in Sapa
Walking tour in Sapa will bring you unforgettable experiences. Sapa is one of the longest walk tourist destinations in the world. In Sapa, you may walk a dozen kilometers, walking from morning to afternoon, passing through the town, the village, past paddy fields, small streams, bridges … walking to slow down, observe and learn more about the life and culture of the indigenous people here. The tourist destination attractive walk can mention: the ancient town of Sapa, Cat Cat Village, Muong Hoa valley, Ta Van, Ta Phin …
- Homestay at an ethnic minorities ‘s house:
In Sapa, you should homestay in the home of a minority, eat these dishes typically, folkly, noveltly. Wake up in the remote villages of the town center will be a great experience that you can not forget that when come to this land. Sapa homestay services are developed, you absolutely can rest assured about the hygiene issues and food houses.
- Visiting Silver waterfall and Love waterfall:
Silver waterfall and Love waterfall are about 12km from the town center, located on the way to Lai Chau. Visiting two waterfalls you will not only feel refreshing while enjoying the cool steam, but also hear stories about legendaryl of Love waterfall, where the seventh fairy met the woodcutter man. Because she was captivate by his flute, but God forbade so she turned into a bird with gold feathers and flew around the mountain and kept calling “O Quy Ho” bitterly.
- Watching great scenic on O Quy Ho top:
Located on the road along Lai Chau, through Silver waterfall and Love waterfall you will be visiting the top of O Quy Ho Pass. One of the four passes of the mountains to the north. Standing on top of the pass you can see the winding roads which connects Lao Cai province and Lai Chau province. Besides it is the spectacular Hoang Lien Son range.
- Sapa specialties:
It would be a pity if you miss the fascinating specialties such as “mam da”, salmons – stream fish, pigs … with the fragrant barbeque restaurants at night in the town center. Sapa weather is very appropriate to jointly enjoy hot pot or barbeque with a cup of corn wine.
- Exploring a Sapa no tourist:
If climbing Fansipan, walking around the town center and tourist villages is not giving you new feeling when coming to Sapa, there is a place in Sapa no tourists, no noise, no dust, no trading … it’s the village in Thanh Kim, Nam Sai, Nam Cang … There will be only you, the sound of forest stream, leaves ring, the terraced fields and spectacular Hoang Lien Son mountain range. A peaceful Sapa, is only a 2 – 30km to the town cenerter, along the ancient stone path, Muong Hoa valley.
What to eat when traveling to Sapa?
Sapa tourists to see firsthand the beautiful dreamlike scene of clouds, mountains, forests, terraces, but also do not miss the opportunity to taste the culinary specialties of the wonderful mountain town.
COLD FRESH VEGETABLE
With chilly climate, Sapa is the country of vegetables which are typical temperate regions such as cauliflower, broccoli, beets, chayote, “ngong toi”, “ ngong cai”. It is tasty, especially sweet when you eat Sapa vegetables. The most popular vegetables in Sapa including boiled chayote dot sesame salt, “ngong cai” fried with garlic, chicken soup served with vegetables …
Fresh salmon, sturgeon
Unlike imported salmon, sturgeon are usually slightly fat, cold-water fishes farming in Sapa have toned meat, no fat. In the cold of Sapa, a pot of salmon / sturgeon eaten hot with fresh vegetables, diners will be unforgetable. Salmon or sturgeon can also sliced very thin to mix salad, grilled …
“Cap nach” pigs (griping- in the armpit pigs)
This is breed of pig of Hmong indigenous free-roaming livestock, occasionally grab one and grip in the armpit, go to market and sell, so it is called “cap nach” pig. An aldult “cap nach” pig also weighs 4-5 kg. Pigs are cleaned, marinated then grilled or roasted the whole. A pieces of meat is very thin, from the outside into the dermis it has only a dermal layer, then a soft, sweet layer of lean meat, not to 2 cm thick; and in the same is bones, usually very small and soft, edible if not the pipe bones. Meat of “cap nach” and Sapa “tao meo” wine, drink through the night.
Because of cold weather in Sapa, whatever dishes are brought out for barbecue. Chicken eggs, duck eggs, meat skewers, meat wrapped vegetables, “lam” rice, and chicken legs, chicken wings, corn, potatoes and many special dishes, by the Sapa people to think. In the evening, selling barbeque area near Sapa stone church is place attract the most tourists because the space bar is warm and delicious dishes are suitable for cool weather of mountain town.
Stream fish have many kinds and it is not fishy taste. Stream fish just cooked on charcoal, then eat hot immediately. Many people just grilled or fried with tomato sauce and spice such as curry powder, pepper powder then on a tray it had a delectable dish.
In any season in Sapa market, you are invited to buy dried mushrooms, specialties of the mountains of Sapa, the price of 2 USD / 0.5 kg. Dried mushrooms are soaked in water, swells but remain the land of the mountain scent, taste of forest. As a gourmet, you can ask the restaurant to serve meat sauteed mushrooms foot or some dishes from mushrooms attractively.
With the ethnic, “Thang Co” often cooked meat of cowes, buffaloes, pigs … The delicious “Thang Co” need 27 different spices such as cinnamon, anise, cardamom, chives … Vegetables are the second important part of “Thang Co”. It’s hard to describe how special flavor, medium sweet, fat, just tasty, fragrant of specialties this. What’s not fun than sitting boiling pan of “Thang Co”, eat and drink a cup of corn wine, feel warmer in cold, frostbitten mountain wind. The famous “Thang Co” restaurants in Sapa: “Thang Co” Ma Le, Specialize “Thang Co” Horse, “Thang Co” A Huynh, 015 Thach Son, Sapa.
Sapa black chicken
Black chicken are very small, range 1.2 kg / one with “skin” all black, people feel terrible when they first look ones. Chicken can be cooked into many dishes, but especially baked quiche honey. After finishing grilling chicken, it is still hot, blow and eat with salt and pepper, mint leaves, lemon. Any tourist visit Sapa who doesn’t eat this dishes, so it certainly will not be called perfect.
DRYING MEAT “KHANG GAI”
The meat of cattle, horses, pigs are usually hung upstairs kitchen for drying by The Hmong. Meats are sliced into pieces along the approximately 2 – 3 kg, string and hung upstairs kitchen for food storage. Meats hanging upstairs kitchen will dry slowly and reserve annual. When eaten, cleaned the smell of soot and dust and sauteed with tomatoes, asparagus …. It is fragrant and fleshy.
In addition to, in Sapa, Lao Cai there are other specialties such as Bac Ha plum with blue shells, Bac Ha bird- legs mushrooms, bushmeat of The Nung Din, Bac Ha alcohol, San Lung alcohol, “cuon sui”, steamed cornmeal , aromatic vegetables, “Pau Po Cu” corn cake, “Pau co” cake, “Pau Plau” cake, “Tau Lu” bean shoots sour “chua cau”, sausage bacon …
Some useful tips
- Do not buy drugs or Ganoderma, “cu tam that” along to Ham Rong as China’s mostly carryover – not as good as advertised and appreciated.
- You can buy souvenirs at the night market near The Stone Church but remember to bargain carefully.
- The kinds of eye-catching colors Brocade are usually made in China.
- If you intend to drive the car, remember to buy Sapa tourist maps for convenient, available at the tourist office or at the ticket counter to Ham Rong Mountain. Note that there are many steep road in Sapa, just fit the good driver.
- For information about the tour to discover Sapa, you can ask the reception at the hotel. If you buy at the overnight tour, ask the hotel if they can reduce the room rate that day?
- Sapa tourism, you avoid high heels, tights, and instead should go to sports shoes, wide pants and a hat …
- If it is not winter, daytime is not necessary to bring warm clothes too (because at that temperature is not too low and you walk a lot so it is too hot). You should dress warm in the evening.
- Whether bushwalking decision, you should hire a guide to go along. They have experience,they will guide tourists under the intereting streets.
- After the walking tour and visit places, to save energy, you should hire taxi or mortobike when get home.
- The road from Lao Cai to Sapa is a road which is large segment elevation difference, you should use headphones cotton to help buzzing.