SaPa, or also Sa Pa, is a small town surrounded by stunning rice fields in North Vietnam. This beautiful town is located about 25 km South from the Chinese border and was established by the French as a Hill Station in 1922. The local climate is colder than the rest of Vietnam due to its high elevation. In the winter period (around January) the temperature can reach close to 0 degrees Celsius! Don’t worry if you are not prepared for this. In the center of SaPa you will find a large offering of (fake) North Face winter clothing.
For most travellers, Sapa is one of the top highlights of Vietnam and is definitely worth the 6-8 hour journey from Hanoi. Thanks to the convenient sleeper train, you can travel to Sapa by night so you won’t lose a day on traveling.
Since SaPa became very popular with tourists in the last decades, they built hotels everywhere in this small town. Luckily, you can still find less touristic spots and tracks in the surroundings of SaPa.
The main reason to visit SaPa is to trek through the beautiful rice terraces and visit traditional towns. Along the way you will meet hill tribes dressed in beautiful traditional clothing. For the more adventurous travellers, do not miss out on climbing Mt. Fansipan (3.1km high)!
When to visit and where to stay in SaPa?
September is the best month to visit SaPa as it is the season for gold-colored rice fields and fairly good weather. In other months you won’t have the perfect view but it is still a great experience.
Most visitors stay in the center of SaPa as most accommodations are within a 5-10 min walk from the main street. Want a more unique experience? Book a guesthouse outside form the center and wake up in a guesthouse or bungalow in the middle of the rice fields of Lao Chai.
You can book several tours from travel agencies or your hotel in SaPa, but you can also take a tour with a local or even do a trekking independently. A great example itinerary is to do a trekking from Sapa to Ta Can Village via Lao Chai on the first day. And do a trekking in the other direction from Sapa to Tha Phin Village on the second day. At the end of this 15 km track to Tha Phin, you can enjoy a magical herbal bath.
For delicious food and a great atmosphere, we recommend to try out the food at Good Morning Vietnam.
How to get to SaPa
SaPa is located in North-Vietnam, close to the Chinese border. Because there is no airport in this region, it’s only possible to reach Sa Pa by bus or a combination of train and van.
The most popular destinations to reach SaPa are from Hanoi, Cat Ba and Ninh Binh. Note that most routes will pass Hanoi first. From Hanoi you will continue by bus to Sapa or by train from Hanoi to Lao Cai.
Our favourite option for this route is to take the night train to Lao Cai. It’s a great experience and quite a comfortable way of travelling as you will get a good night of sleep while the train brings you to the next destination. The next morning you will wake up in Lao Cai from where you only have to transfer to a van or bus that brings you in about 30-45min to SaPa.
See the table below for quick overview of your options to reach SaPa
|Leaving from||Duration||Prices from||See details|
|Hanoi||6-9 hrs||€10 - €16,50||Hanoi to Sapa|
|Ninh Binh||7,5-11,5 hrs||€11,50 - €76||Ninh Binh to Sapa|
|Cat Ba||12-13 hrs||€22 - €25||Cat Ba to Sapa|
My favourite places to stay in Sapa
When visiting Sapa, there is no better way than waking up with a stunning view over the rice-fields while enjoying an outstanding breakfast. An experience not to miss and probably one of the best during your trip in Vietnam! Private bungalows start from €85, but you can already stay in a dormitory for just €15 or book a double bed in an open area for €30.
Looking for a great value deal? Olympia Sapa Hotel offers clean and spacious rooms for a budget below €15,a night. After a long day of trekking, you will appreciate the big quen-sized beds and airco to warm up your room (it can get pretty cold in the winterdays). The hotel is located next to Sapa lake which is a short 10 minute walk to the center.
Want to stay around the center but prefer a homestay instead of a hotel? The rooms of Little Viet Homestay are all made from pine wood and instead of a heating system, you will get a heated blanked that keeps you warm at night. The friendly owners and creative sapa style decorations will make this an extraordinary stay!
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