SaPa, Vietnam

The town of Sapa

Sitting at an elevation of 1,600m or 5,200ft Sapa is situated in the NW region of Vietnam, close to the Chinese Border.  It is surrounded by mountains that are part of the Hoang Lien Son range, with nearby Fansipan mountain being the highest peak in Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia).  The last major peak in the Himalayan chain, the summit of Fansipan reaches 3,147m or 10,326ft.  Known as the ‘Roof of Indochina’ Fansipan mountain offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, but its peak is usually shrouded in mist and clouds.

Sapa’s weather has four distinct seasons and our arrival during the month of May meant it was spring and our daytime temperatures hovered around the low 20’s Celsius.  It was also transitioning into rainy season, so we had mostly cloudy days with some rain, never lasting long enough to keep us indoors.  The cool weather was much appreciated after the high 30’s C we experienced in Hanoi and Da Nang recently!

Sapa’s main attraction is hiking and trekking through the mountains and rice terraces to the ethnic villages scattered around the area.  My long-distance walking is not yet back to normal, so we limited ourselves to walks around town, up to a viewpoint and a walk to Cat Cat Village.  Even staying close to town, we were rewarded with fantastic views everywhere we went!

The total population of Sapa is around 21,000 consisting mainly of five ethnic groups of H’mong; Dao, Tay, Giay and Xa Pho.  Most of the ethnic minority people work their land on sloping mountain terraces, their staple foods being rice and corn.  Just outside of Sapa is the Cat Cat Tourist Area, home to the H’mong ethnic minority group, one of the largest ethnic groups in Sapa who have lived here for generations.  The valley is known for its stunning natural beauty, including lush rice terraces and waterfalls.  Fortunately, Cat Cat Village is downhill from Sapa so walking there was the relatively easy part and we stopped along the way at various viewpoints.  Tickets to visit the Cat Cat tourist area cost 150,000 VND (USD $5.90) each.

  • Views on the way down


Cat Cat Village itself is dotted with traditional H’mong houses made of wood and stone and at the edge of town is the Cat Cat Waterfall.  Because it is a ‘tourist village’ there are many handicraft stalls lining the stone steps on the way down, and several cafes and restaurants in the village.

  • The village


As we were winding up our visit to Cat Cat Village it began to rain.  It was a 4km steep hike uphill to get back to Sapa so when we got to the road we hopped on a couple of scooters for a ride up to Sapa.  It was a wise decision, especially since it only cost 50,000 VND (USD $1.95) each.

Across the lake from our hotel was Ham Rong Mountain and the trail to a viewpoint overlooking Sapa.  Along the way there is a flower garden, rock garden, statues garden, orchid garden, and cloud yard before reaching the viewing platform.  We had read that directions were minimal and getting lost was an issue, and yep, we took a couple of wrong turns but eventually found the platform.  Sheesh, some better signage would be nice considering they charge you to go up here!  Oh well, the views of Sapa town and the surrounding mountains and rice fields were more than worth the hike. Tickets cost 70,000 VDN (USD $2.75) each.

  • The view from the top


SunWorld Fansipan Funicular and Cable car tickets cost 980,000 VND (USD $38.50) each for the ride to the top of Fansipan Mountain.  Fansipan was in the clouds almost all the time which did not inspire us to spend the big bucks to go up there.  Plus, having recently been to SunWorld BaNa Hills outside of DaNang we decided to just take the funicular up to the base of the cable car.  The cost for this was 180,000 VND (USD $7.07) each and we had an enjoyable couple of hours walking around the gardens, monastery, and ethnic minority village.  The funicular ride was fun, the views at the top were fantastic and I enjoyed watching one of the village ladies making incense sticks.  It’s a good option if you do not want to take the cable car to the top of Fansipan Mountain.

  • Arriving at the top of the funicular


One of the hotels we had considered staying, but was too far from the town center, was Pao’s Sapa Leisure Hotel.  It is nestled on the hillside below Sapa with spectacular views of the Muong Hoa valley.  We walked down there one day to check out the views from the hotel and look at their rooms.  It would be a wonderful place to stay if you did not mind taking the hotel shuttle every time you wanted to head into Sapa.  We had a cocktail on the terrace and enjoyed views that could have been 😁  (click on any photo to make it larger)


Our five days in Sapa went by quickly and before we knew it we were heading to Cat Ba Island and the beautiful surrounding bays of Ha Long and Lan Ha…..






Processing of Vietnam visas seems to range from 3 days to a couple of weeks for some people.  We gave ourselves 7 business days in Laos to apply for our second Vietnam visa.  After submitting our online application Wednesday evening, we received our new visas by email on Tuesday morning.  Visas can be applied for well in advance so once you know your Vietnam travel plans, get your visa application in to avoid any problems.  Also, be aware of any Vietnamese holidays that will cause delays in processing.  Vietnam visas can be applied for here and they cost USD $25 each for a single entry visa for a stay of  up to 90 days.

Rather than try to put together all the pieces of transportation from our Hanoi Airport hotel to Sapa we chose the easy way and hired a private driver.  Ken is a lovely young man, a very safe driver, speaks good English and his door-to-door service was great.  The ride cost 3,800,000 VND (USD $149) and for us, the no hassle day was worth it.  Ken can be reached on WhatsApp at +84 96 908 10 94  He drives a nice SUV and is also a tour guide if you require more than just getting from A to B.

If you want to see where we stay in our travels, head over to our accommodation page.



2 thoughts on “SaPa, Vietnam

  • June 11, 2024 at 6:39 pm

    What beautiful scenery!

    • June 12, 2024 at 1:10 am

      It sure is, and very different from anything we have seen previously in Vietnam.


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