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 of 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 centre of SaPa, you will find a large offering of (fake) North Face winter clothing.
For most travellers, Sapa is one of the highlights of travelling in Vietnam and is definitely worth the 5-9 hour journey from Hanoi. Thanks to the convenient sleeper train, you can travel to Sapa at night so you won’t lose a day on travelling.
Since SaPa became very popular with tourists in the last decades, they have built hotels everywhere in this small town. Luckily, you can still find less touristy 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 (3.1 km high)!
When to visit and where to stay in SaPa?
September is the best month to visit SaPa. This is the season for gold-coloured 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 centre of SaPa because many accommodations are within a 5 to 10-minute walk from the main street. Want a more unique experience? Book a place outside the centre and wake up in a guesthouse or bungalow in the middle of the rice fields of Lao Chai.
You can book tours from travel agencies or your hotel in SaPa, but you can also take a tour with a local or even trek independently.
A great example itinerary is to trek from Sapa to Ta Can Village via Lao Chai on the first day. And then trek 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 trying out the food at Good Morning Vietnam.
How to get to SaPa
You can find SaPa in North Vietnam, close to the Chinese border. Because there is no airport in this region, it’s only possible to reach SaPa by bus or by a combination of train and van.
The most popular destinations to reach SaPa from are 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 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. The next morning you will wake up in Lao Cai, where you can transfer to a van or bus that brings you in about 45 minutes to SaPa.
There's no better way to wake up than opening your curtains to a stunning view over lush rice fields. Add a delicious breakfast to that, and you'll certainly be starting the day right. A stay at D&D Eco Lodge is an experience in itself. It might even turn out to be one of your best in Vietnam? And if you're travelling as a couple, this is likely to be one of the best value deals you can find.
Eco Palm House offers luxury bungalows with the most incredible views. You'll never want to leave your private balcony overlooking rolling hills and endless rice fields. Maybe their infinity pool with an equally spectacular view can convince you? You're guaranteed to leave this place feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
If you'd like to be near the centre of Sapa, Little View Homestay is a great choice. The private rooms boast a really unique design - they're covered top to bottom in pine wood. To add to the uniqueness of the place, instead of a traditional heating system, you'll have a heated blanket to keep you warm at night. The friendly owners and creative sapa style decorations will make this an extraordinary stay!