It’s no secret that Vietnam is fast becoming a major travel destination within Southeast Asia. Although it’s nowhere near the popularity of Thailand, Vietnam is becoming the alternative destination to visit. With fluttering cities, sensational emerald bays, captivating beach towns and winding mountainous roads, there’s plenty of things to choose from in ‘Nam.
Filled with peaks, valleys and most known of all, verdant green rice terraces, there’s a place that stands out as much as any. Ha Long Bay maybe the postcard you see in all things promoting Vietnam but Sapa brings more serenity and more adventure to your soul. It’s no wonder Vietnam is shaped like an ‘S’ because ‘S’ is for Sapa.
Best Time To Go
From March to May the weather is sunny and dry. June to September it is wet season but from September to December it is cool and dry. If you want a cosy atmosphere that resembles the weather in the winter in Europe, visit Sapa in December. The crowds are low and it’s very brisk! The hiking during the day makes the dark, warm nights even better.
How To Get There
The best way to get to Sapa is by bus from the capital Hanoi. They go regularly, often have sleeper beds in them and the journey takes around six hours.
Alternatively you can take the train from Hanoi Railway Station but because Sapa has no train station you will need to travel to Lao Cai. This takes around seven hours. From in on there, take a taxi or bus into Sapa that takes less than an hour.
Where To Stay
For budget backpackers, Sapa only has a handful of hostel types however Sapa Odyssey Hostel is a top pick.
After trekking for days, your limbs will be tired and you’ll be itching for a great night sleep. Fansipan View Hotel is a fantastic choice and highly recommended. The rooms are comfy, the staffs are welcoming and the backdrop mountainous views really top it off.
What To Wear
Hiking shoes are imperative when you’re trekking in Sapa because of the unpredictable and varied terrain. You might be a keen adventurer but some of them narrow slopes are incredibly slippery. Then you have to consider the steep uphill and downhills that form the regular tracks within Sapa. Get appropriate footwear, at least with a grip, to prevent you falling over and becoming all red brown faced!
A waterproof jacket is recommended, no matter what time of the year you visit. Downpours are common in these northern parts. A light jacket won’t take up much space in your bag, will be light enough to wear and put away incase the sun makes an appearance
Where to Hike
The name of the game in Sapa is to go trekking, that’s why people visit. The highest mountain in Vietnam, Fansipan, is over 3,000m above sea level. It is known as the ‘Roof of Indochina’ and you can trek to the peak of it from Sapa. This can be done over a three-day/two-night tour staying in Homestays or can be quickly done during a day trip and you need a guide for both.
Alternative hikes for easier and medium difficulties can take you to Muong Hoa Valley, Cat Cat Village, Seo Trung Ho and Ban Ho. Everything depends on the time you have, how good a trekker you are and what you want to see.
To really experience Sapa, it’s best to stay for 5-7 days and to choose a three-day excursion.
What To Expect
Curling green rice terraces, lush hills, epic ridge views and the open mountain wilderness are what are on offer in Sapa. Also, fascinatingly the cultural society is very much preserved with ethnic minorities such as the Hmong, Dao and Tay groups living here.
Staying in a homestay is part of the Sapa experience. Expect friendly welcoming’s, plates of fresh food and nowadays, even free WIFI! Beds are basic but homely. This part of trekking really gives you an insight of hillside life and what comes with it. Put down your phone and just embrace a less hectic, modern world.
What To Do After Trekking in Sapa
First things first, go for a leg massage! The town of Sapa has plenty of massage places to cater to the weary legs of travellers. After three days in the hills, you’ll probably be feeling it.
After you’ve rested and recuperated, either head down to Hanoi or continue your Vietnam journey!