Lao Cai Location MapGeneral Information

Lao Cai is a mountainous province near the international border gate with an area of 6383.89 square kilometers, shares the borders with Ha Giang in the East, Son La and Lai Chau provinces in the West, Yen Bai province in the South and Yunnan Province (China) in the North. Lao Cai has the population of 613.1 thousand inhabitants and is also the homeland of major ethnic groups of the country such as Viet (Kinh), H’Mong, Tay, Dao, Thai, etc.

The province is a true mountainous complex terrain, constituted by some valleys lying between hills and mountain. There located Fansipan, which is the highest peak on Hoang Lien Son range which is 3.43m above the sea level. This peak is also the most famous mountain peak in Vietnam, attracting thousands of arrivals each year in Vietnam. There are approximately 107 rivers flowing pass Lao Cai, including Red River, Chay River, and Nam Mu River. Besides, this land is granted by the creator an admirable variety of biological treasures: 2000 types of flower, 442 types of bird and animal. Many of them can only found in Lao Cai and nowhere else in Vietnam, or in the world to be exact.

Lao Cai owns precious characteristics for tourism. The number of 25 ethnic groups has created the unique identity of Lao Cao, making it an abundant land in the cultural identity, the historical tradition, and cultural heritage. Moreover, with the stunning beauty from famous scenic spots as Sapa, Bac Ha, Bat Xat, Muong Khuong and the clean environmental landscape, Lao Cai province hopes to be an ideal tourist destination for domestic and international tourists.

Lao Cai Weather

Lao Cai has a tropical monsoon climate and is diverse in different time and space. There are 2 single seasons: the rainy season from April to October and the dry season from October to March. Despite being called ‘rainy season’, the rain is mild and a little romance that is worth looking for. The average temperature is around 23oC. There might be snow fallen down in some winter, but just a tropical type of snow.

Lao Cai weather - Lao Cai Travel Guide
Weather in Lao Cai

Getting to Lao Cai

Lao Cai is about 296km away from Hanoi under the railway and 345km by road.


You can buy tickets from Hanoi station or from one of the private operators, such as Livitrains on Phan Dinh Phuong. It can be highly recommended that you should get a return ticket sorted in Hanoi because trains get busy and you might find yourself stranded or paying big money for a private carriage. The working times at Lao Cai train station are 8:00 to 10:00 and 14:00 to 16:00. Prices for a one-way ticket for soft sleepers swing from VND 600,000 dong to VND 1,100,000 dong (depending upon the number of bed cabin). Hard sleepers are from VND 380,000 to 500,000 dong and Soft seats are from VND 250,000 to 265,000 dong.


Another choice for tourists is to get a bus from Hanoi to Lao Cai. The buses are provided by Sao Viet and Hai Van companies. It will take your 8.5 hours en route and cost around 17 dollars.

What to See in Lao Cai

Spending time in Lao Cai on a Northern Vietnam trip can bring you more than excitement. With abundant choices of amazing destinations, from nature sightseeing trip and shopping trip, travelers have a golden opportunity to let their hair down and enjoy their fantastic and meaningful trip.

Sapa Town

Sapa Travel Guide: Muong Hoa Valley
Muong Hoa Valley

Sapa is a beautiful town located in Vietnam’s remote Northwest Mountains. It is famous for both its incredibly picturesque scenery and its rich cultural diversity. There are a number of ethnic minorities inhabiting in this mountainous town, including H’mong, Dzao, Tay, Giay, Muong, Thai, Hoa and Xa Pho. With the distinct customs and habits and unique clothing styles, every group has been contributing to drawing a colorful vivid cultural picture of the town. Apart from it, the attraction of the town is coming from a plenty of stunning landscapes. Trekkers will feel excited about Mount Fansipan. In a Sapa tour, Ham Rong Mountain, Sapa church, Muong Hoa Valley are attractive places for authentic discovers and for passionate photographers. Culture lovers can be appealed by “Love Market” which is the beginning of many romantic loves until now.

Bac Ha

Bac Ha Market - Lao Cai Travel Guide
Bac Ha Market

At 700 meters above sea level, Bac Ha is an ideal location for off-the-beaten-track treks to visit colorful Sunday markets which is also the highlight of this district. You can reach to Bac Ha by booking a van or tour from Sapa, which will take you 3 hours to get there.

People from different ethnicities consider this market to be an opportunity to meet their relatives, their friends after a long time missing. For the single youngsters, this is a good chance for them to wear their best handmade traditional costumes and look for their dates. Tourist can come here to buy the special distinct clothes, try traditional food, learn about the lives of ethnic groups and talked to them through the guide’s interpretation.

Y Ty – Clouds hunting tour

Hunting clouds in Y Ty - Lao Cai Travel Guide
Hunting clouds in Y Ty

Y Ty commune is located west of Bat Xat district, about 100km from Lao Cai town, and lies at the height of 1.600m above sea level. Y Ty is described as a “foggy land” because the village is cover by dense white clouds all year round. This is a new attractive place when tourists travel to Vietnam. You can have their heart stolen because of the gorgeous terraced fields and the most charming earth walled houses in Lao Cai. Even in winter, you can be lucky to contemplate the rare phenomenon of snow falling down all the roads, villages and mountain here.

Coming here, travelers can be overwhelmed by jungle, terraced rice fields and the deep mountains, surrounded by sheer mountains with a hat made of the white clouds, leaning against the Nhiu Co San peak of 2700m high rarely see the sunshine all day.

Visitors can also take a walk around Y Ty market where there is full of colors from bigwigs round Ha Nhi girls’ and women’s heads and from the traditional skirts of H’mong people, or the colorful peacock scarf on the head of Dzao women. On market days on Saturdays, there is a food named Thang Co, a soup made from horse, served for locals and curious tourists.

Suggested hotels and guesthouses in Y Ty:

  • Ms. My’s Homestay: 020 3501320
  • Mrs. Si’s Homestay (food can be arranged): 020 0127 456667
  • Minh Thuong Guesthouse (across Y Ty market): 0916 729534

Cao Son Market

Cao Son Market
Cao Son Market

Cao Son market is located on Cao Son commune, Muong Khuong district, and about 80km far away from Lao Cai city, 120km from Sapa.

The market is taken place every Wednesday, often in the early morning and sets among magnificent rolling mountains. On the way to Cao Son market, you will explore beautiful landscapes with pineapple and tea farm, rice terrace fields, etc. When coming to the market, you will see a plenty of colorful products and dresses which is made by ethnic girls’ skillful hands. In the bustling atmosphere and attraction, you can have a stop to try seductive flavors from some kind of food as buffalo meat, horse meat and beef of Mongolia and intriguing wine of Coc Dam and Coc Ngu.

Besides, a tour on the Chay river will give you an amazing chance to cruise on the river and soak up a romantic and poetic landscape, as well as enjoy the cultural interference of ethnic groups living in the villages along this river.

What to Eat in Lao Cai

1. Thang Co

Thang Co is widely known as the most traditional dish of H’mong ethnic group. This food is made from beef, buffalo, pork and horse meat. However, local residents often use horse organs such as heart, liver, bone, and meat to cook this dish. All these organs are put in a big pan of water and stew in a long time. Some particular seasoning and vegetables are often served with the dish to reduce the fat taste.

Where to try Thang Co:

  • Horse Thang Co: 100,000 VND/bowl
  • Buffalo Thang Co: 80,000VND/bowl

2. Lon cap nach (carried-under-arm pig)

This name is given to this type of pig because the pigs are very small, just round 10kg. It is ‘home pig” but it’s raised in the field or in the forest. After being cleaned and embalmed, the pig will be grilled or roasted as a whole. Its meat is very thin: the first layer is a crisp skin then a soft sweet layer of pulp, just 2 centimeters thick; and in the deepest layer is bones, usually small in appearance and soft so that we can eat all of them if not the skin bones.

Price: VND 100,000 – 120,000 dong per kg

3. Bac Ha sour noodle

Bac Ha sour noodles - Lao Cai Travel Guide
Bac Ha sour noodles

Despite being made from the same ingredients as Hanoi noodle, Bac Ha noodle taste is particular and special.

In order to process sour noodle, the chef uses indispensable raw materials: pickles, green vegetables (lettuce, basil) finely chopped; pounding roasted sesame and peanuts; a few seals to add special flavor; and of course noodles and broth. Before tasting this food, you should add some salt because this noodle will be slightly fainter for people from other places. Sour Noodle should be served cold, so it is the good choice for summer. If you visit Lao Cai in winter, there is a little chance for you to taste it.

Price: VND 20,000 dong/bowl