Trekking in Sapa
Outside of Sapa town, discover layers of luscious green and yellow rice fields. The wavy pattern of the terraces creates a rippling effect across the beautiful countryside. Trekking in the Sapa rice fields is certainly something to check off your bucket list!
The colors change throughout the year, depending on the rice season and the weather. Because of this, it’s best to check the time you are visiting. Summer provides the most luscious greenery. Whereas in Autumn, you can see the rice fields blossom into a beautiful gold color.
It’s super easy to arrange trekking in Sapa town because there are so many guides on the streets. The guides with the traditional clothes are the Hmong, a local tribe in the Sapa area. Some of these guides don’t have a license to take tourists trekking. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the trekking isn’t good.
If you’re looking for an easy package tour, you can book an all-in-one tour to Sapa from Hanoi. This usually includes several other places too.
Fansipan Mountain and Cable Car
Soar through the clouds to the peak of Fansipan Mountain! This is the highest peak in Indochina and can be reached in just 15 minutes by cable car. Once at the top, there are fantastic views down to Sapa and the surrounding rice fields below. The cooler, wetter climate of Sapa means that the peak can often be cloaked in a thick mist of clouds. However, this is still a beautiful experience! Enjoy looking down onto the clouds below and at the giant Buddha looming above while you’re trekking through the Sapa rice fields.
The cable car station is located in Sapa town, about a 30-minute walk from Notre Dame. Try to go as early as possible to beat the crowds. Note that once you arrive at the top cable car station, it’s another 30-minute walk to the top.
Tip: Before the arrival of the cable car, you could only reach the mountain by hiking. This is still an option for those that have good fitness, as it’s an intermediate hike. It can be done in a 2-day trek or a 1-day trek, returning by cable car.
Love Waterfall & Silver Waterfall
These beautiful waterfalls sit at the foot of the mountain. They are also the place where the hiking trail starts at Fansipan Peak. Legend has it that the waterfall used to be visited by fairies. One day, one of the fairies fell in love with a flute player who was sitting by the waterfall. This is why it was named ‘Love Waterfall’.
Travelers can take a taxi or hire a scooter and drive up to the nearby car park. From here, it’s an enjoyable 30-minute hike on a mountain path to discover these waterfalls. Note that Silver Waterfall is on the way to Love Waterfall.
Notre Dame Cathedral
The town of Sapa is centered around the wonderful, small stone cathedral: Notre Dame. It is nicknamed the Notre Dame Cathedral, as it was built here during French Colonial times. It’s worth pausing and taking a photo or two while wandering around the town.
The heart of the town is the beautiful lake that sits in the middle, surrounded by stunning mountains. Approaching Sapa and seeing a view of the town reflected in the crystal clear water is absolutely breathtaking. Wander along the outskirts of the lake and take in the fresh air as you continue trekking in Sapa. Walk here at night, and make a stop for some food or drink in one of the lakeside cafes.
Close to the lake is the renowned Sapa market. This is the main market in the area, although there are several others. Here you can find typical handicrafts of the local Hmong Tribe in traditional colors. Not only this, but you can buy spices, fresh fruit, and vegetables. This is an excellent way to see local life in action and pick up a few souvenirs from your trip.
How to Get from Hanoi to Sapa?
From Hanoi, the buzzing capital of Vietnam, there are several options to get to Sapa.
The Train from Hanoi to Sapa
The sleeper train will bring you to Lao Cai, 40 kilometers from the Chinese border. The journey takes about 8 hours, and the price of a ticket starts at 20 USD onwards.
The cost depends on if you choose a hard or soft sleeper. From Lao Cai, it’s a one-hour drive with the minivan along a route full of twists and turns through beautiful Vietnamese scenery. You can buy a combi ticket for the train + minivan at the main train station in Hanoi. Get your bus or train tickets here.
The Bus from Hanoi to Sapa
The sleeper bus to Sapa has become more popular in the last few years. This is because of the new highway which opened in 2014. It makes the journey a lot more comfortable because it goes from Hanoi to the center of Sapa town in approximately 6 hours.
The cost is around ± 10-20 USD, which is cheaper than the train. Bus tickets are sold in many agencies in Hanoi, or you can book the Sapa Express online.
Homestays and Hotels in Sapa
Where you’re staying overnight totally depends on you and your choice of trekking. If choosing a day trek, then it will be fine to stay in a hotel in Sapa town.
If you decide to do a multi-day trek, it’s a great idea to spend the night in a homestay in the Sapa Valley. This is also a wonderful way of meeting a local family and getting to understand the life and culture of people that live here.
There are very basic homestays on offer and some with more facilities like Luckydaisy Buffalo House. Eddie runs this homestay with his Vietnamese wife in the small village of Ta Van.
Best Time to Travel to Sapa
Visit Sapa from March to May and September to November for the best temperatures. To be sure of stunning green rice fields, visit between May and September. Be aware that it does rain a lot more during these months.
Always check the rice growth if visiting in the winter months, as sometimes there may be no rice at all. Temperatures can also get very cold. Even so, Sapa is beautiful during this time, with the possibility of snow scattered across the rice terraces and mountains.