Sapa Location MapGeneral Information

Lying on the side of Hoang Lien Son Mountains, Sapa is a beautiful town which is 333 km to the northwest of Hanoi and close to the Chinese border. There are many things to see in this town, from spectacular sceneries, natural spots and ethnic tribe communities. Especially, if you desire to conquer the top of Fansipan Mountain, the highest mountain in Vietnam at 3,143 m, Sapa is your starting point.

Covered by mist, this area was originally a hill station built during the French colony in 1922 for summer escapes from Hanoi. The best way to admire the beauty of the town is walking. Adventurers can take part in many exotic activities here: trekking, climbing, cycling and motorbike trips. Visits to markets are also a highlight of Sapa Vietnam tours.

Sapa Weather

The best times to travel to Sapa are March – May and September – November. You can have unduplicated experiences and different photos to show off your friends when visiting this town in different seasons:

  • March – May: It is warm and dry in this town this time – perfect for trekkers and hikers. May is the ‘water pouring season’ in this area and the terraced rice fields look more majestic with the reflection of the sun and white clouds on the curving fields.
  • June – August: It is not a good time to travel here since it is the rainy season here, so the roads become muddy and slippery.
  • September – mid-December: It is cool and dry in this town in autumn. September is the harvesting time in Sapa and you can admire the magical golden rice terraces here.
  • Mid-December to February: This is the chilly winter, be prepared that the temperature may drop to 0 degree Celsius.
Weather in Sapa - Sapa Travel Guide
Weather in Sapa

Ethnic Minorities in Sapa

There are six ethnic groups here: H’Mong (52%), Dao (25%), Viet (15%), Tay (5%), Giay (2%), and a small number of Xa Pho. You can distinguish different groups based on their clothes:

Sapa Travel Guide: Ethnic Minorities in Sapa

  • H’Mong group: Their traditional costumes are in black with decor in green, red and purple colors on the sleeves. H’Mong people concentrate mostly in Cat Cat Village and scatters around Lao Chai, Seo Mi Ty, and Ta Giang Phinh villages.
  • Dao group: Similar to H’Mong ethnic group, Dao people’s traditional clothes are also black, but their hats are red. They live in Ta Phin, Nam Cang, Thanh Kim, Suoi Thau, and Trung Chai villages.
  • Tay group: Their traditional dress is relatively simple, usually color indigo or blue dark. Tay people live in Ban Ho, Thanh Phu, and Nam Sai villages.
  • Giay group: Giay people’ costumes are decorated for the part of their necks in very bright color such as blue and green. They can only be found in Ta Van Village.

Agriculture is the main livelihood of ethnic minorities and you can find them working on sloping fields when visiting this area. Ethnic women also sell brocade products such as clothes and blankets to tourists.

Tips: In Sapa, tours are ubiquitous and you will find ethnic vendors who keep following you and ask you to buy some handmade articles. Just show lack of interest if you are not interested.

Getting to Sapa

Getting to Sapa from Hanoi is easy now, it is very convenient to take a train to Lao Cai and then continue with a 45-minute drive to the highland town. Alternatively, adventurers can reach Sapa by road.

By motorbike

We do not recommend traveling to the town by motorbikes. But if you are an adventurer, we advise 2 ways you can drive a motorbike from Hanoi:

  • To Lao Cai: There are 2 routes for you to choose from:

– Route 1: Hanoi – Vinh Phuc – Viet Tri – Phong Chau – Doan Hung – Yen Bai – Lao Cai – Sapa (360km)

Route 2: Hanoi – Hoa Lac – Son Tay – Trung Ha Bridge – Phong Chau Bridge – Phong Chau – Doan Hung – No.7 Road – Lao Cai – Sapa (370km)

  • To Lai Chau: Hanoi – Hoa Lac – Son Tay – Thanh Son – No.32 Highway – Sapa (420km)

By bus

Sapa Travel Guide

Bus is a cheap way to travel to Sapa, usually around VND 250,000 dong for single tickets and VND 350,000 dong for return tickets. There are five bus companies for your consideration:

1. Hung Thanh Bus:

In Hanoi:

  • My Dinh Bus Station: +84 989 294 294
  • 287 Tran Khat Chan Street: 04 3633 7575
  • 39 Cau Giay Street: 04 3766 6199
  • 162B Tran Quang Khai Street: 04 3927 4285

In Sa Pa: +84 988 287 630

Departure time from Hanoi:

  • My Dinh Bus Station: 19h00
  • Gia Lam Bus Station: 20h00
  • Luong Yen Bus Station: 20h00

Departure time from Sapa: 21h00

2. Ha Son Bus:

Hanoi Office: N2A Building – Tran Binh – Tu Liem – Hanoi (near the entrance to My Dinh Bus Station)

Phone number: +84 984 62 62 62 or 0466 62 62 62

Departure time:

  • Hanoi – Sapa:

– My Dinh Bus Station – Pho Moi Bus Station. Departure time: 6h30, 8h30, 17h30, 18h45.

– Yen Nghia Bus Station – Sapa Bus Station. Departure time: 14h00

–  Nuoc Ngam Bus Station – Sapa Bus Station. Departure time: 6h00

  • Sapa – Hanoi:

– Sapa Bus Station – Yen Nghia Bus Station. Departure time: 6h00

– Sapa Bus Station – Nuoc Ngam Bus Station. Departure time: 13h30

3. Sao Viet Bus:

In Hanoi:

  • 789 Giai Phong Street: 0437.638.638
  • 7 Pham Van Dong Street: 0437.687.687
  • My Dinh Bus Station: 04.3995.8627
  • Giap Bat Bus Station: 04.8586.7815

In Sapa: 69 Xuan Vien Street, Sapa Town – 0203.509.689

Departure time from Hanoi: from 6 am to 11.30 pm

Departure time from Sapa:

  • Morning: 7, 8, 9 am
  • Evening: 5, 6, 7 pm
4. Vietbus:
  • In Hanoi: 284 Giai Phong Street – 043 6272727
  • In Sapa: 1 Ngu Chi Son Street – 0203 887 733
5. Camel Travel:
  • In Hanoi: 459 Tran Khat Chan – 043 625 0739 / 043 625 0659
  • In Sapa: 34 Ngu Chi Son Street – 0203 872 755 / +84 942 800 150

By train

Sapa Travel Guide: Train to Sapa

The safest way to travel to this town is purchasing Vietnam train tickets to Sapa. From Hanoi, it is an 8-hour journey to Lao Cai Railway Station, then you have to transfer to Sapa by bus. The train usually leaves in the afternoon and arrives in Lao Cai in the early morning.

  • Train name: SP1, SP3, SP5, SP7
  • Hard or soft seat: VND 150,000 – 300,000 dong
  • Soft bed: VND 350,000 – 500,000 dong
  • For private railways companies: VND 650,000 – 3,500,000 dong

The distance from Lao Cai Rail Station to Sapa Town is 35 kilometers. You can choose bus transfer service offered by Vietnam Railways to some destinations around the center of Sapa Town (within 2 kilometers around Sapa Church). Otherwise, there are many buses at Lao Cai Rail Station which cost VND 50,000 – 60,000 dong.

How much time to stay in Sapa?

Take at least 1 night in the town since you have to spend 2 nights on the train. A 2-day or 3-day Sapa day tour is enough for you to discover the town and some villages nearby. If you are eager to explore our mountainous area, combine your Sapa trip with other provinces of Northeastern and Northwestern Vietnam.

Getting around Sapa

You can find a hotel in the center of the town so that it will be easier to travel between destinations. There are four different ways to get around this town:

On foot/trekking: You can discover this town and some ethnic villages yourselves. Remember the roads become muddy and slippery during rainy seasons, so bring suitable boots.

By motorbike: You can rent a motorbike at US $5 – 7 (fuels have not been included) to drive around the town yourselves.

By motorbike taxi (xe ôm): Local motorbike taxi can take you to 4 to 5 tourist destinations which are located close to each other. It costs about VND 100,000 dong/day.

Taxi: Some reputable taxi brand names in this town:

  • Xanh Sapa Taxi: 0203 63 63 63
  • Tay Bac Taxi: 0203 620 620
  • Fansipan Taxi: 0103 62 62 62

Where to Stay in Sapa

Sapa Travel Guide: Topas Ecolodge
Topas Ecolodge

There are many kinds of accommodations here, from hotels, hostels to ecolodges and homestays in ethnic villages. There are 3 areas in the town where you can find high-quality accommodations: near Sapa Lake, Cau May – Muong Hoa area and the center of the town. Among these three, hotels in Cau May – Muong Hoa area have the best view to the mountains, especially spectacular window views to Fansipan. You can bookmark these four places for your trip:

Muong Thanh Hotel (44 Ngu Chi Son Street): Just a 7-minutes walk to Sapa Church and Night Market, Muong Thanh Hotel offers modern room facilities and free wifi. The hotel also features a spa, restaurant and bar.

Sunny Mountain Sapa (10 Muong Hoa Street): Situated at the heart of Sapa, Sunny Mountain Sapa has modern suites which provide a stunning view of Fansipan Mountain. With a modern spa, swimming pool, Jacuzzi and an indoor restaurant, you can truly relax in this top-notch hotel.

H’Mong Sapa Hotel (27 Thac Bac Street): The highlight of this hotel is the system of well-trained staff which will satisfy you with excellent hospitality services. You can also rent a bicycle or car at H’Mong Sapa Hotel to go around the town.

Topas Ecolodge (Thanh Kim Village): Topas Ecolodge is recognized as a ‘Unique Lodge’ by National Geographic. Consisting of 33 stone bungalows, this place will help you to completely escape from busy life.

In ethnic villages which is at least 3 kilometer from the center of the town, you can find many lovely homestays:

  • Sali House

Address: Ta Van Village

Phone number: 086 846 50 85

  • Phori’s House

Address: Ta Van Village

Phone number: +84 90 623 10 47

  • The Haven Sapa Camp Site

Address: Cat Cat Village

Phone number: +84 936 951 725/ +84 961 460 566

  • Eco Palms House

Address: Lao Chai Village

Phone number: +84 985 672 888

  • Nam Cang Riverside Lodge

Address: Nam Cang Village

Phone number: 0203871331

  • VietTrekking Homestay 

Address: 33 Hoang Lien Street

Phone number: +84 902 121 234

  • Sapa Heavenly Homestay

Address: Ta Phin Village

Phone number: +84 975 565 308

  • Hmong Mountain Retreat

Address: Ban Ho Village

What to See in Sapa

Sapa Travel Guide: Sapa Attractions Map
Sapa Attractions Map

Visiting ethnic villages, spectacular mountains and unique French architecture are things you can do in this town. Try to interact with ethnic people as well, you will be surprised at the local children’s ability to speak English!

1. Ethnic Villages

Sapa Travel Guide: Ethnic Villages in Sapa

Exploring ethnic villages is a cannot-miss part of your trip here. It gives tourists a chance to have a glimpse into the daily life of local ethnic people, as well as take part in traditional activities such as weaving fabric. It is also a good opportunity to purchase some traditional souvenirs and handicrafts right from the craftsmen. People can also try some local food selling the way upcoming to the hill.

Some unspoiled ethnic villages you can visit are Cat Cat, Sin Chai, Ta Van, Ta Phin, Ban Ho, Y Linh Ho, and Giang Ta Chai. Cat Cat and Sin Chai are near the center of the town while it will take more time for trekkers to reach other villages.

2. Mount Fansipan

Fansipan is the highest mountain in the region and is called the ‘Roof of Indochina’, rising to a height of 3,143m in the centre of the Hoang Lien Son Range. It is definitely not an easy trek to this pinnacle and trekking tours to this mountain can last 6 or 7 days. Trekkers have a chance to admire the unique flora and fauna system along the way and discover our scenic mountain passes.

3. Ham Rong Mountain

Situated in the center of the town, Ham Rong Mountain is one of the musts when visiting this wonderful town. Ham Rong is approximately 2000 meters high with diverse plant and flower system. Climbing up to the top of this mountain, you can get the whole view of Sapa town which is covered by mist and green scenery of forests and rice terraces.

4. Sapa Church

Constructed in 1895, Sapa Church still remains its gothic French architecture up to now. It is considered the iconic feature of this town. In front of the church, there is a square where local people gather to sing and dance at festivals and sell traditional brocade. You can find a hotel near the church so that it will be more convenient to visit the town.

5. Muong Hoa Valley

Sapa Travel Guide: Muong Hoa Valley
Muong Hoa Valley

The defining feature of Muong Hoa Valley is Hoa Stream which stretches through Ta Van, Lao Chai, and Hao Thao villages. This is the place where you can take stunning photos of magnificent lush rice terraces dotting with ethnic villages. This area has been listed as a national heritage in need of local preservation.

Read more: Top 10 Sapa Attractions

Things to Do in Sapa

  • Take a Sapa markets tour to our interesting ethnic market such as Coc Ly Market, Can Cau Market and Bac Ha market.
  • Trek and hike to Mount Fansipan and ethnic villages
  • Homestay with ethnic people
  • Enjoy a magnificent view of undulating rice terraces
  • Sample delicious Sapa roadside foods
  • Pause and ponder the valley at some rustic cafés such as Café in the Clouds or Viet Emotion Sa Pa

What to Eat in Sapa

1. Five-color sticky rice (xôi ngũ sắc)

Sapa Travel Guide: Five-color Sticky Rice
Five-color Sticky Rice

This is the traditional dish of Tay ethnic people. The name comes from the fact that it has five colors. These five colors represent the five elements of life in their belief: yellow is earth, green is plant, red is fire, white is metal, and purple is water.

No chemical is required to make this colorful sticky rice, only natural leaves are used. The leaves are boiled before being put into a large bowl with rice to create different colors.

2. Seven-color sticky rice (xôi bảy màu)

Sapa Travel Guide: Seven-color Sticky Rice
Seven-color Sticky Rice

One recommended food when visiting Sapa is seven-color sticky rice. With beautiful appearance and savory taste, this is a signature local specialty of the town that you can find in every restaurant, homestays and ethnic market.

Nung Din people cook seven-color sticky rice in their traditional festivals and other occasions such as weddings or death anniversaries (ngày giỗ). Sticky rice is made from sweet rice and natural and pure water from the upstream. Similar to five-color sticky rice, the colors are created by natural leaves.

3. Salmon hot pot

It sounds weird but seriously, you can try fresh and delicious salmon in Sapa. With cool climate around the year, Sapa has successfully raised salmon Nordic breeds. Salmon in Sapa is nutritionally rich, less fat and tastes juicy.

Salmon can be processed into many delicious dishes such as grilled salmon, salad, sashimi, fried salmon and curried salmon. However, salmon hot pot is a unique dish of Sapa that you cannot find anywhere else. This dish is tasty with thick broth, fresh vegetables and succulent salmon.

Where to try salmon dishes?
  • Hong Long Restaurant

Address: 69 Xuan Vien Road

Phone number: 020 3873 888

  • Hoa Dao Restaurant

Address: 48 Le Van Tam Street

Phone number: 020 3873 055

  • Quynh Anh Restaurant

Address: 05 Fansipan Road

  • Sapa Cuisine Restaurant

Address: Victoria Alley, Xuan Vien Road

4. Com lam

Sapa Travel Guide: Com lam
Com lam

Com lam is a popular food that you can find in almost every ethnic village of Vietnam’s northwestern mountainous region. This is the sticky rice that is cooked in young bamboo steam. Coconut water is added into the rice to enhance the fresh flavor.

Com lam is a favorite dish to the locals and foreign tourists when visiting Sapa, thanks to its tender sticky rice, fragrant smell of bamboo and sweet taste of coconut water. Com lam is the best to taste with sesame salt, or other dishes such as grilled pork and chicken.

Where to try Com lam?
  • A Quynh Restaurant
    Address: 15 Thach Son Street
    Phone number: (+84) 214 3871 555
  • Sapa Grilling Area
    Address: Cau May Street
  • Bon Mua Restaurant
    Address: 9 Thac Bac Street
    Phone number: (+84) 214 3771 125

5. ‘Carried-under-arm’ pork (lợn cắp nách)

The reason why the pig is called ‘carried-under-arm’ is that it is relatively small (less than 10 kilograms). ‘Carried-under-arm’ pigs are raised in the hill or forest, that’s why their meat is tender and contains less fat.

After being marinated with special spices, ‘carried-under-arm’ pork is usually grilled or roasted. The dish is served with local vegetables and herbs. You will never forget this dish when enjoying it with some wild cat apple wine (rượu táo mèo).

6. Barbecue

Sapa Travel Guide: Grilled foods
Grilled foods

This is the most delicacy of Sapa and tourists really enjoy hot and mouth-watering barbecue in this town’s typical chilly weather. Grilled foods are relatively cheap in our mountainous region and they are the top choice for budget-conscious travelers when traveling to Northern Vietnam.

Many foods can be grilled in Sapa: pork, chicken, fish and eggs. Vegetarians can also find grilled potatoes, carrots, eggplants and mushroom. With some grilling equipments and chairs for customers, food vendors here are considered unique roadside BBQ restaurants.

Where to try Barbecue?
  • Around Sapa Lake
  • Cau May Street – along the way to Sapa market
  • Sapa market
  • Sapa food court
  • At the Love Market, which is organized on Saturday and Sunday in the evening

Other delicious and bizarre foods and drinks to try in Sapa:

Sapa Travel Guide: Cai meo
Cai meo
  • Thang Co (stewed pork or beef with vegetables)
  • Black-bone chicken soup
  • Cải mèo (a kind of local vegetables)
  • Tay porridge
  • Dried buffalo
  • ‘Mam da’ vegetables
  • Men men (rice made of corn)
  • Wild cat apple wine (rượu táo mèo)

Some famous restaurants in Sapa

  • Cau May Restaurant

Address: 92 Ngu Chi Son Street

Phone number: +84 90 309 75 43

  • Rendezvous Restaurant

Address: 6 Muong Hoa

  • Lotus Sapa Restaurant

Address: 7 Thach Son Street

Phone number: +84 91 335 15 55

  • Red Dao Restaurant

Address: 4B Thac Bac

Phone number: 020.3872927

Some cafés with best views in Sapa

Sapa Travel Guide: Gem Valley Cafe
Gem Valley Cafe

Don’t forget to visit some beautiful cafés in this town where you can socialize with tourists from many countries around the world.

  • Café in the Clouds

Address: 6 Fansipan Street

Opening hours: 6 am – 11 pm

  • Nature View

Address: 51 Fansipan Street

Opening hours: Full day

  • Gem Valley

Address: Cat Cat Village

Opening hours: 7 am – 9 pm

  • Viet Emotion Sapa

Address: 17 Xuan Vien Street

Opening hours: 7 am – 10 pm

  • The Hill Station

Address: 7 Muong Hoa

Opening hours: 7 am – 11pm

  • La Dao Spa

Address: Ta Van Day, Ta Van

Opening hours: Full day

  • The Haven Sapa Camp Site

Address: San Sa Ho Commune Lao Kay

Opening hours: Full day