Sapa Vietnam, it’s a Northwest travel destination that every visitor can not miss when traveling to Vietnam. Sapa is most beautiful in spring. Apricot, plum and cherry flowers are splendidly beautiful. Markets are crowded and merry, and are especially attractive to visitors. Minority groups come here to exchange and trade goods and products. Market sessions are also a chance for locals to promenade and young men and women in colorful costumes to meet, date or seek sweethearts.
Visitors to Sapa Vietnam will have opportunities to discover the unique customs of the local residents.
The best time to visit Sapa
Set in the mountains of northern Vietnam, Sapa’s climate is very seasonal with temperatures reaching 29°C (84°F) in summer down to freezing in winter. Humidity ranges from 75% to 90%, but summer months are the wettest, especially July and August. The best time to visit Sapa (Vietnam) is March and April for warm and dry weather or goes in October and November for cooler climes and clear days.
Places to visit and things to do in Sapa
There are lots of things for you to do in Sapa, some of the most favorite activities are trekking, cultural travelling, home stay, shopping at ethnic minority markets and street food.
Trekking: Of course as a mountainous picturesque district with numerous of wonderful attractions, Sapa is the ideal place for trekking lovers. There are many trekking routes available for travelers, from easy ones such as some walk around the town, visiting some tribal villages to the great achievement of climbing to the top of Fansipan at the height of 3,143 meters above sea level. On the trekking routes, the beautiful scenes of valley, terraced rice fields and numerous fantastic attractions won’t let you down.
Cultural travelling: When travelling to Sapa, the town in northwest part of Vietnam, the home of many ethnic groups, visitors can have the chance to combine some sort of cultural travel tours with their trekking. There are many cultural spots waiting for your exploration.
Home stay: This is really an excellent experience that you will always treasure. Travelers are offered to share the house with the local residents, who are a part of the ethnic minorities in Vietnam. You will have chance to know more about their authentic lives, cultures as well to try some traditional dishes and of course, enjoy the comfortable stay.
Shopping at ethnic minority markets & enjoying street food: If you are looking for some good food, Sapa won’t disappoint you. Many delicious dishes are served at hotels and restaurants around the town. Wandering along the streets, you will have chance to discover the great street food there. One very well known dish named “thang co” is something you should try once when you travel to Sapa. About ethnic minority markets, besides many shops around the town, there are some large markets in the region such as Bac Ha, Can Cau…where visitors can buy good souvenirs for their friends, family.
How to get to Sapa
By Train: Most tourists arrive in Lao Cai, the province to which Sapa belongs, by train and it is definitely an impressive ride. The train leaves Hanoi train station in the evening and arrives in Lao Cai train station in early morning. From Lao Cai train station to Sapa is another hour bus ride (about 40km), which gives your eyes a massage with the endless blue sky and colorful terraced paddy field.
By Bus: By Sapa express bus, Hanoi – Sapa – Hanoi departs daily at 7 AM via the newly built Hanoi – Lao Cai highway. It takes about 6 hours of driving from Hanoi to Sapa, depending on traffic and weather. You will enjoy the view of the Vietnamese countryside along the road and it is by far the quickest and easiest way to travel between Hanoi and Sapa.
By motobike: I wouldn’t recommend driving direct to Sapa from Hanoi by bike because of your safety. If you want to visit Sapa by motorbike, you can put your bike on the train, then driving to see amazing scenary around you. Visting Sapa at this time, from September to November, is a very beautiful time in Sapa with stunning yellow winding rice padderfields, the leaves trumpet and the love market. If you’re in Hanoi now, don’t miss your chance, let’s move from Hanoi to Sapa to visit the beautiful landscapes here.
Ethnic Minorities in Sapa
Many ethnic minorities live in and around Sapa. Excluding the Kinh people or ethnic Vietnamese, eight different ethnic minority groups are found in Sapa. They include H’mong (pronounced Mong), Dao (pronounced Yao), Tay, Giay (pronounced Zai), Muong, Thai, Hoa (ethnic Chinese) and Xa Pho (a denomination of the Phu La minority group). However, the last four groups comprise less than 500 people in total. The population of the district is estimated at 31,652 (1993) of which 52% are H’mong, 25% are Dao, 15% are Kinh, 5% are Tay and 2% are Giay. Around 3,300 people live in Sapa town, and the remainder are peasant farmers distributed unevenly throughout the district.
Many older women make items such as ethnic clothes and blankets to sell to tourists. Striking up a conversation with them can be very rewarding and their spoken English is impressive. Sadly, doing this in Sapa town will sometimes lead to a scrum as other vendors taste a potential sale.
Children from these ethnic minorities often begin to support their families financially through selling trinkets to tourists. Do not encourage this by buying from children – buy from adults. They peddle small metal or silver trinkets, embroidered pillow cases and friendship bands in the main town, and often walk for several hours from their surrounding villages to reach the town. At the end of the day, some take a motorbike ride back to their village, some walk home and some sleep in the market.
Children have poor or non-existent dental hygiene. As the signs around town say, do not give them candy or sweets – it will cause dental issues. If you want to give them something, safe toys from your home are highly regarded.
There are schools in Sapa’s villages. Most of them lack essential learning tools like books, pens or pencils. Give those to the teachers if you’d like.
Girls and boys get married young (around 15-18) and often have two children by the time they are 20 years old. Poverty has led to a great number of girls leaving their villages each day to go sell trinkets in Sapa Town.