Sapa is a small, mountain town in Lao Cai Province. It is located about 350 km northwest of Hanoi, close to the Chinese border. Here's where you'll find the Hoang Lien Son range of mountains, which includes Fan Si Pan—the country's highest peak.
This quiet Vietnamese town is home to different ethnic tribal groups. There are five main ethnic groups in Sapa: the Hmong, Dao, Tay, Giay and Xa Pho. It is said that Sapa was first occupied by the first four groups, since the Vietnamese from the lowlands (better known as the Kinh) did not colonise the highest valleys.
These days, Sapa welcomes a diverse range of visitors, attracted by the highland tribes, iconic rice paddies and forest treks. The whole area is blessed with awe-inspiring natural beauty.
Talking about Sapa is talking about the spectacular sceneries of mountains, hill-tribes, wet-rice agriculture, and picturesque rice-terraces. By taking 380 kilometers from Hanoi, you will be stay in a small town which is called "the meeting place of the earth and the sky". It is the most north-west city of Vietnam, and also the frontier township, neighboring China. Truly, Sapa is an orientated destination that is the most breathtaking landscape with valleys and mountain covering on all side.
Being different with the other of Vietnam, Sapa belongs to the subtropical and temperate Zone. For this reason, there are four typical climates here in only one day. It is similar to the spring in early morning, more sun light and quite hot in the afternoon, cool and comfortable in the evening, and gets a little cold at night. Especially, depending on the season, Sapa puts on itself extremely different color and imagine. When the first days of spring come, cherry blossoms jubilantly all over mountain and forest. In the summer, the immense verdant rice-terraces among the giant Mt. Hoang Lien Son, or the sparkling water of pre-cultivating fields will attract anyone coming here. The winter is freeze and foggy with occasional snowfalls. Above all, it is naturally dyed by the yellow of harvest rice season in the autumn, so this is the most amazing time to explore ethnic villages in Sapa. Though whenever you discover this region, Sapa certainly greets you by an incredible party of dramatic views.
Sapa’s ethnic culture and customs are the most beguiling things to experience. Occupying a majority, H’mong people appears the most in both of the town and the tiny hill-tribe villages, especially in Cat Cat Village. They used to wave brocade as the best traditional craft industry that is descended from generation to generation. Going with the sophisticated textile techniques, the brocade products is arranged for selling in many places in Sapa. Another thing about Sapa’s minority is the Sapa love market (dating market, chợ tình), and it occurs around the Stone Church in every Saturday. Love market have neither love nor lover to trade. It is opened as a place that gives chances to dating for the couples.
Sauntering in Sapa, you will see the spectacular Mt. Hoang Lien Son, which dominated the district. It owns the roof of Indochina – Fansipan Mountain with the peak in 3,143 meters above sea level. Conquering this highest point is an activity that many backpackers want to try once time. With more than 25 kms slope of mountain track, Fansipan seems to be a real challenge for the courageous hearts. If you have not been ready your best, you better should try the other ways. Sapa is both famous as Vietnam’s premier trekking base and authentic home-stay. Either using your foot or a motorbike to go, proceed to the ethnic villages with the immense rice-terraces or corn plant hills, fresh stream, and memorable scenes of rural tribes.
Sapa town, which is likely the biggest market of Sapa District with shops selling tobacco, use-friendly cloths (for traveling) and souvenir crafts will help you take the best relaxing time after trekking mountains, forests and valleys. But frankly speaking that nothing can beats a good massage here. You will be served by the traditional medicine plant leaves of Red Dzao. Sapa town is enough small to be walkable around. Spend the most efficent time you stay here to relax and take the most of touching to the town of variety of Vietnam's minorities.
Sapa is home to stunning mountain landscapes, verdant rice terraces, unique stilt villages and Indochina peak, the Fansipan. The most prominent attraction in the town of Sapa is Fansipan, which is the highest mountain in Vietnam and it is only 19km from town. It may seem like a short distance, but the trek is not easy; the rough terrain and unpredictable weather present some difficulties. Tourists who are fit and have mountain climbing experience will enjoy this attraction the most, as the peak is accessible all year round. Technical climbing skills are not necessary, but endurance is a must.
Muong Hoa Valley – Sapa
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.
Fansipan Cable Car
The Guinness Book of World Records has awarded two Guinness certification for the Fansipan Sapa, including a three-wire cable car station and the difference between the world’s largest arrivals (1,410 m) cable cars and the world’s longest three-wire (6292.5 m).
Ta Phin Village – Sapa
Though Sapa has long been familiar with tourists, Ta Phin Village is still a new name to almost everybody. Located about 17km in the west of Sapa, Ta Phin is a village of Red Dao’s people possessing a rich culture that has not been damaged by the modern life.
Ham Rong Mountain – Sapa
The name of Ham Rong was derived from the legend that, in primitive age there were a couple of dragons which became attached to each other while the deluge was rising high. Walking up, they hurrily separated from each other but failed. They were drifted to different places.
Fansipan Mountain – Sapa
Fansipan is branded “the Roof of Indochina” at the height of 3, 143m; Fansipan is to be approved as one of the very few eco-tourist spots of Vietnam, with about 2, 024 floral varieties and 327 faunal species.
The topography of Fansipan is varied. Muong Hoa Valley, at the lowest altitude (950-1, 000m), is created by a narrow strip of land at the base on the east side of the mountain.
Bac Ha Market – Sapa
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. 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.
Lao Chai Village – Sapa
Lao Chai village is 6 km far from the centre town, you will see Lao Chai village where the black H’mong people are living, it is also the beginning of a valley which is called Muong Hoa valley. From a high point of the main road 8 Km from Sapa town, great view of the whole village open wide to offer the marvelous panorama of the village, backed by high mountains and facing the river.
Ta Van Village – Sapa
Ta Van located far from Sapa less than 10 kilometers, Ta Van – a village of Lao Cai province is lying peacefully in the valley of Muong Hoa. Residents are mainly the H’Mong ethnic, Giay, and Red Dao… with approximately 1000 people. The road leads to Ta Van village that is small and narrow. Along two sides has a fertile terraced field which adorns by the green of corn and rice.
Ta Phin Cave – Sapa
Ta Phin Cave is home to many valuable studies, archeology, and travel and sightseeing. Ta Phin 12km from Sapa town, angling to the north, where there are two Dao and H’Mong residents. Ta Phin Cave – The Ta Phin Commune People’s Committee headquarters near 1km north of the limestone mountain range, is a branch of the Hoang Lien Son range.
Tram Ton Pass – Sapa
When reaching the end of Tram Ton Pass, you will be finally at the peak of Hoang Lien Son Mountain, which is called Heaven Gate. It is where you come to understand why Sapa is a must visit place in Vietnam after seeing the massive landscapes covered by the lush foliage and terraced rice paddy fields.
Cat Cat Village – Sapa
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 2 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. Visiting Cat Cat village, we can have a chance to visit a big waterfall on the stream and the old Hydro Electric Power Station built by the French here. That is the image of young women sitting by looms with colorful pieces of brocade decorated with designs of flowers and birds.
Lung Khau Nhin Market – Sapa
The famous antique market in the Northwest of Vietnam is Lung Khau Nhin Market, it takes you more than two hours from Lao Cai by car. The market is opened on every Thursday. Lung Khau Nhin Market is filled with brilliant colors of the dresses, blankets, vegetables and local’s products, they are all minority people such as: H’Mong, Nung, Man, Kinh…
Cao Son Market – Sapa
It is the Ethnic market of H’Mong, Phu La, Dzao and Black Han living in four largest villages of Muong Khuong district. The market is opened in the early morning and set among beautiful mountain. The colourful market is come from the local’s products, handicrafts and the dress of all ethnic girls.
Terraced rice fields in Sapa
Rice terraces in Sapa are slopes claimed from nature for cultivation in hilly or mountainous areas. Due to the steep feature, fertile soil thanks to it was created by weathered granite rock and mountain cliffs often stock water, local ethnic minority people can grow rice and establish terraced rice fields, one after another, from the foot to nearly top of mountains.
Ban Pho Village – Bac Ha
Ban Pho is a village of Bac Ha district, Lao Cai province. It’s takes you about 15 minutes from Bac Ha town and 2 hours from Lao Cai station. This is the village of Black H’Mong and Flower H’Mong. It’s beautiful scenery on spring (February and March) as the plum flower bloom everywhere.
Muong Khuong Market – Sapa
Muong Khuong Market is a district of Lao Cai province, it’s far from Lao cai 50km and 90 km from Sapa. In here, there is special market on every Sunday, it’s Muong Khuong market. This is the biggest of the minority here, gathered many products to sell and trade such as: handicraft, cattle, vegetable, traditional incense and local products…
Can Cau Market – Sapa
Can Cau Market hold on every Saturday from 6hours until midday. Though small but it is the place where you can encounter Flower H’mong, Phu La, Black Dao, Tay and Nung minorities in colorful costumes. By 9 am, the market is crammed to capacity. It’s lively and surprisingly fun. The locals are mostly of the Flower Hmong minority group. You can’t miss them -their traditional costume of green checked headdress and multi-colored, meticiculosly stitched and layered garments are simply stunning.
Coc Ly Market (Tuesday Only) – Sapa
Coc Ly Market is the colorful market in a mountainous area where the Flower H’mong mainly gathers to exchange their homemade products. This Tuesday market is about 35km from Bac Ha. You can get here via a good road, or by road and river; hotels in Sapa and Bac Ha can organize trips.
Muong Hum Market – Sapa
The Muong Hum market is about 45 km from north-western Lao Cai Town, passing over the complex of Muong Vi caves and grottoes and Xeo village. This market has preserved nearly intact its life – style, imbued with culture tradition. Muong Hum market convenes on every Sunday is a place where local people meet and communicate. Travelers will be warmed welcomed and invited to have a familiar meal and a cup of heart- warming wine. On Tet holidays, Roong Pooc
Y Linh Ho Village – Sapa
Coming to the tranquil village called Y Linh Ho, you will have a chance of going along such a beautiful valley lying between mountains. The fresh air in the highland of Vietnam is really great for taking a walk. Y Linh Ho is a small commune composed by a dozen of small hamlets scattering on the very tough mountain terrain with high and steep mountains. This village is home to the Black Mong who wears very dark clothing in blacks
Steamed glutinous rice with seven colors of Nung Din people
Kinh people are always proud of steamed momordica glutinous rice which attached with the color of Vietnamese nation and especially with Nung people, steamed glutinous rice with seven colors is special food here. This dish is splendid with seven colors without using any artificial coloring. Steamed glutinous rice with seven colors is called “xoi bay mau” in Vietnam; it is a traditional dish in festivals of Nung Din ethnic in Muong Khuong province (Lao Cai).
Ban Ho Village – Sapa
At the end of the motor way about 25 Km from Sapa town lies a vast and flat valley, circled by mountains and hills. It is Ban Ho valley home to the Tay ethnic. It is divided into three areas: Ta Trung Ho, Xeo Trung Ho and Hoang Lien, which is place of the Mong, Dao, Tay. The Muong Hoa River winds its way around the village provide fresh water for 2 crops of rice and bean every year and it make the scenery of the valley more romantic. The Tay people possess high rice farming technique and live sedentary lifestyle. Their villages are often very large with hundred households. Their houses are impressively built on stilts in unique structure to form superb dwellings. It is also a very good village for experiencing home stay.
Pha Long Market – Sapa
It takes 2 hours by road from Lao Cai town (68km) and 3 hours from Sapa 95km Located in the northwest, Pha Long market sees minority groups from distant villages coming to sell or exchange animals, agriculture products and especially textile products. Pha Long is famous for Gau Tao festival in spring. “Gau Tao” means climbing mountains, and it starts from 3th to 6th in lunar calendar.
Silver Waterfall – Sapa
Thac Bac lies beside National Highway No 4D, about 12km from Sapa Town’s centre. Silver Waterfall is formed by sources of water from the Lo Sui Tong mountain peak. From the distance, the waterfall looks like a white dragon looking down from the sky. You can reach the Silver Waterfall by motor bike or by car in half an hour.
Ancient Rock Field in Sapa
Sapa ancient carved rock spreads out on the territory of three communes of Ta Van, Hau Thao and Su Pan. It is located in Muong Hoa valley with an area of about 8 km2. Located on the steep winding mountain road, ancient rock carving ground is consisted of 159 small and large boulders alternating in trees, near the side of the road or in water rice paddies.
Lon Muong Cap Nach – Sapa
Not only famous for its natural beauty and landscapes, cool and fresh air, Sapa is best known for specialities that have attracted more and more tourists. “Pork cắp nách” or the pig carried under armpit is good. It’s called “cắp nách” because it might just round 10kg. It is “home pig” but it’s raised in the field or in the forest. So its meat is very delicious and fatless.
Being favored by nature, Sapa is known as the paradise for tourists to relax. People those who come here will be enchanted by its fresh air, cool climate, range after range of mountains, outstanding scenery and especially the amazing culinary scene. If you have a chance to visit Sapa, plan ahead to fullfil your belly with these 10 local foods in Sapa.
Thang Co (Thắng cổ)
Thang Co is the traditional food of Hmoong people and it has been cooked for hundreds years. Thang Co is a type of soup which is made of horsemeat, horse’s viscera and horse’s bone. You might feel a little bit panic-stricken when hearing about the ingredients but that feeling will be blown away once you taste it. Cooking this dish not only requires time but also the skill of cooks. The seasonings comprises of 12 spices from cardamon, ginger, citronella, anise to cinnamon twig.
The locals stew horsemeat with these 12 spices in a big pot within a couple of hours. To elevate the flavor of Thang Co soup, they serve it with fresh vegetable and a special red hot pepper name Muong Khuong.
Sapa Cap Nach Pork (Thịt heo cặp nách Sapa)
Cap Nach pork is a specialty of this mountainous region. The ways to make this dish is diverse. The locals usually roast a whole pig directly on charcoal so that the skin covering the pork is very brittle while the pork inside is very delicious and fleshy. Others stir-fry thie pork with little or no water and herbs. No matter how does you cook it, make sure the pork is soft with a hint of spicy.
Pau Play Day Cake
Pau play day cake has been in Viet Nam for a long time since the Hung King. Time flies, the cooking manner has been changed but the original taste of Pau Play Day cake still remains.
This cake is made of glutinous rice and green peas. This white round cake is not easy to make as it looks. Choosing the best glutinous rice is the most important part of all. The rice need to be dried out carefully. Then, it is soaked in water for 2 hours and steamed till the rice well done. Afterwards, soaked rice is poured into a big wooden rice polisher and grind until well-kneaded, viscid and sticky. Filling is made from green peas which softly and smoothly isgrinded. When you break into the cake, you could see a beautiful green mixture inside.
Salmon Sour Hotpot
Fish, more importantly salman fish in a mountainous region as Sapa? It's like a joke, right?
But it's not!
Sapa has an extremely cool weather all year round and the water here is pretty cold that is suitable for salmon to exist. It's explained why salmon sour hot pot is a familiar food to local people. The food has a timeless quality. No matter when you enjoy this hot pot, your eyes will littery light up talking about the dish.
The real star of the hot bot is its broth. It's a combination of several vegetable types and freshly caught salmon. Unlike other fish, salmon brings to diners an elegant and delicate flavor. Nestle up to a restaurant on Sapa hillroad and make an order of salmon sour hot pot, your heat beat is just a little bit faster.
Bamboo sticky rice (Cơm lam)
Vietnameses have more than an obsession with rice. You can tase several kinds of rice along the way.
Bamboo sticky rice in Sapa is an abnormal version of rice. Different from others, it is absolutely cooked in bamboo sections. Local people spend spend hours on collecting the bamboo then cleaning and chopping them into small sections at about 30 centimeters in length. The locals mix rice with a little bit of salt then they stuff up bamboo with salty rice. Don't forget the water used to cook this dish. It's brought from the streams which is fresh and a little bit sweet. A biggest secret here is that you need to resolve the bamboo sections while grilling.
Apart from salmon, brook fish is also a popular and favorite dish of both local people and tourists. Normally the locals just grill brook fish directly on charcoal. Step by step, the fishy smell will not be anymore. Instead, it's now crunchy, greasy, and packed full of tastiness.
Tao Meo wine - a local whiskey of H’moong
Tao Meo wine is a popular and original wine of H’moong people. It is made from fruits of Tao Meo tree - a kind of tree grows naturally on Hoang Lien Son Mountain. It blooms at the end of spring in autumn so you can buy the fresh Tao Meo fruit from August to October. It serves up an amazing natural wine flavor for those who are seeking something unique in the mountainous region. Tao Meo wine comes perfect with unbelivebly good brook fish.
Khang Gai Dried Meat
Sapa is famous for dried meat especially dried buffalo meat. As the name refers, meat is well dried with an addition of seasoning. Each dried part of meat weighs about 2 kilos and can be stored for years. Khang Gai dried meat hosts a unique taste that can't be seen in anywhere of Vietnam. If you are a finger food lover, this food is created for you.
Be favored by nature, Sapa has a wonderful climate that many kinds of temperate plants grow and black forest mushroom is a typical one. Local cooking scientists always know how to take advantage of their natural plants to make outstanding foods. Peopel stir fry mushroom with pork while others use it as a main component for hot-pot. On any cool day of a year, a plate of stir-fried black mushroom will melt your heart.
Black chicken is a kind of small chicken with a dark skin. The locals here usually graze these black chickens naturally so chicken is quite tough and tasty. You can enjoy black chickens processed in many different ways but the best recommendation is the chicken soaked in honey then grilled directly on charcoal. It's more flavorful if you eat the chicken with a mixture of salt, pepper and lime juice.
Sapa has been widely well-known for its splendid scenery and special ethnic minority’s lifestyle, which bring out a totally different image from Hanoi – the capital city of Vietnam. However, you might be hesitating when it comes to Sapa’s nightlife activities. Don’t worry, this article will give you some suggestions of nightlife in Sapa!
Sapa is attracting tourists not only because of the poetic, beautiful but pristine beauty, delicious cuisine, green terraced fields, etc but also the impressive festivals. During the year, Sapa has many festivals including night festivals such as the Mid-Fall Night Festival. If you visit Sapa at the Mid-Fall Festival that starts on 2 September, you can take part in a variety of activities such as handicraft art and photo exhibitions, beverage and food events, theater and dance performances and sporting competitions, etc.
Visiting Sapa during this time, you can see the beautiful town’s décor with thousands of colorful and vivid lanterns with various sizes and shapes. Furthermore, it is also a great time for you to see the splendid parade with lanterns going around in all streets, which creates the exciting and memorable experiences and helps you know about the local culture and nightlife in Sapa, Vietnam here.
Sightseeing And Street Wandering
In the evening, Sapa has a mysterious and gorgeous beauty. Therefore, it will be a pity if you travel to Sapa without wandering along the romantic streets that are lit with colorful lights. Sometimes, you can catch the moments of some lovers hand in hands walking, cuddling, talking and kissing on the popular streets of Sapa. If you go to Sapa with your family, friends or even your lover, do not forget to create memorable moments at night.
Sapa streets have a lot of souvenir shops where you can buy some gifts for the ones you care and love. More interestingly, it is wonderful to enjoy Sapa street foods that are great and delicious.
Coming to Night Market in Sapa is ideal for tasting the grilled skewered food and other delicious dishes in Sapa. As a cuisine market in Sapa, this place has many small food stalls where sell the delicious skewers, especially in the winter. Visiting this market, you can sit in the plastic chairs by the tables at small food kiosks with the cloth roof and hundreds of small bulbs, which give you the heart warming experiences especially in the freezing cold night. Furthermore, you can also buy many Sapa items such as clothes, hat, handmade products, necklace, shoes, etc. The Night Market in Sapa often opens on weekdays from 4 pm to 10 pm.
Love Market In Sapa
Visiting the Love Market in Sapa which only takes place on Saturday evening weekly is one of the interesting activities for the best nightlife in Sapa. In this market, ethnic people used to find a partner for getting married.
Nowadays, it is the place where not only lovers date and show their affection and feeling to each other but also tourists and visitors come to learn about the local culture and real life of Red Dao and H’Mong ethnic minorities.
Travelling to this market, you will have a chance to take part in many fun activities such as playing leaf-horns, playing traditional games, dancing, and singing, etc. You can see the girls dress up impressively in colorful costumes with silver ornaments and guys dress in traditional clothes.
Café And Bars In Sapa
If you want to play all night long, nothing is better than going to Sapa pubs or bars at night. The majority of bars in Sapa open until 1 am on the following morning. Therefore, tourists and foreigner travelers can enjoy the wonderful night out and immerse in the unique atmosphere at any time in the evening and at night.
Bars in Sapa can meet all requirements of tourists even if they like luxurious, crowded bars or friendly and peaceful ones.
Here are some famous and good night bars in Sapa for you to choose from:
Bamboo Bar at 18 Muong Hoa (Mường Hoa) Street, Sapa, Lao Cai (Lào Cai): Opening from 8.30 pm to 11 pm every Friday and Saturday, it offers special music performances of ethnic minorities and an extensive menu of drinks.
Bebop Bar on Cau May (Cầu Mây), Spa, Lao Cai: Opening from 4 pm to 1 am, this bar is unbelievably quite with two floors, a special area for music performance and a good music system. In this bar, you can play music with any instrument.
The H’Mong Sisters at 31 Muong Hoa, Sapa, Lao Cai: Visitors come here for the cozy and nice atmosphere that is ideal for relaxation.
The Café In The Clouds at the lower end of Fansipan Street. Opening from 6 am to 11 pm daily, it combines a café, a restaurant and a bar in one.
Color Bar at 56 Fansipan, Spa, Lao Cai: what attracts tourists to enjoy the night here are the table football, Reggae music, and great cold beer.
Sapa Spider Bar on Thach Son (Thạch Sơn): As one of a few bars in Sapa opening for 24 hours a day, it offers great music, live sport and plenty of food choices.