Sapa Trekking – Test your limits

Nguyen Mai Huong - October 25, 2018

By providing knowledge about Sapa, this article will help you get the best Sapa Trekking in Vietnam without trouble.

Surrounded by mountains and valleys, Sapa is a popular trekking base in Vietnam with spectacular landscapes.

Sapa is one of the best destinations for avid trekkers

Sapa is one of the best destinations for avid trekkers

Best Time to Trek Sapa?

A golden rice field stretching to the horizon

A golden rice field stretching to the horizon

Weather is a very important factor when it comes to Sapa trekking. It is necessary to have nice weather when you embark upon your trek because it can make or break the experience. Clouds can impede your view and the mud makes it difficult and sometimes unpleasant to walk up a steep slope.

The 2 best times to visit Sapa are from March to May and from September to November.

It is dry and clean with sunshine during March to May, a very comfortable climate for traveling. But if you want to enjoy the terraces, September to November is the perfect time.

Trekking Tours

Sapa O’Chau

A dazzling smile of a H’mong woman

A dazzling smile of a H’mong woman

As the first company registered as a social enterprise in Lao Cai province, Sapa O’ Chau is a grassroots community development project helping Sapa’s children and young people gain fair access to education and employment.

Their tour guides are ex-students and other young people from the local communities. They have a rich knowledge of the surrounding mountains and valleys as well as the cultures that pervade this area where they grew up.

Sapa O’ Chau does not only offer different types of tours and homestays for travelers but they also provide training courses for the community, helping it grow.

With various trekking options, you can either do a one-day trek to a nearby area or a multiple-day trek to other villages or to the whole area. Let’s take a look at their trekking tours in and around Sapa:

Fixed itinerary tours

Fixed itinerary tours

Sapa Sister Tour Operator

Having their own business, H’mong women no longer depend solely on their marital status

Having their own business, H’mong women no longer depend solely on their marital status

Started in 2009 by six friends, two foreigners, and four Hmong, Sapa Sisters is one of the most popular tour operators in Sapa, especially when it comes to trekking activities.

With the aim of helping Hmong women improve their lives, Sapa Sisters has been doing a great job finding female Hmong guides with good English skills so they can connect with travelers.

Hmong women are very strong; they were born and grew up trekking up and down the hills every single day. The mountains are their home and you should feel confident under their guidance.

Many H’mong girls have taught themselves near-fluent English, besides other languages

Many H’mong girls have taught themselves near-fluent English, besides other languages

Trekking adventures run by Sapa Sisters are a bit different from common tours. They have a non-fixed itinerary, you can choose where to go and what to do.

By the time you finish your payment, you will receive a confirmation with your guide’s information. You and your tour guide will discuss and come up with a suitable itinerary, a unique one that suits you the best.

How cool is that? You won’t have to worry if the trek is too intense or if you want to explore a spot a bit longer. Right now, Sapa Sisters offers a maximum of 4 days and 3 nights trekking package. Check out their pricing below:

Prices for Sapa trekking

Prices for Sapa trekking

Sapa Trekking without a Guide

Things to Know

As long as you have a decent sense of direction and can find your starting position, trekking on your own in Sapa should be easy and fun

As long as you have a decent sense of direction and can find your starting position, trekking on your own in Sapa should be easy and fun

Is it easy to trek in Sapa on your own?

Yes, it is, but it’s pretty easy to get lost as well. There is no specific map or route but if you’re thinking about trekking without a guide in Sapa, you have finished step one. Isn’t getting lost the key to surprises and excitement?

Is it safe to trek in Sapa without a guide? Yes! No need to worry. Just keep in mind that you should return before it’s dark.

In the mountains of Vietnam, where electricity is a luxury, there won’t be lights guiding your way. You might come across women and children trying to sell you stuff. They are not dangerous at all. If you have any intention of buying anything, make sure you have enough money to buy from everyone. Or they will never let you go.

Sapa scenery

Sapa scenery

Can you do a multiple-day trek in Sapa without a guide? Yes, you can but it will be more complicated.

Normally your guide will take care of food, drinks, and places to stay during the night. Now you must plan these details out yourself. Food and drinks can easily be packed in your bags. Homestays should not be too difficult to find; Hmong ladies will ask you to stay with their families, and if you are good at using a map, you can locate a homestay beforehand.

What should you expect while trekking in Sapa on your own? Fun and a few challenges. You will be able to explore smaller villages downhill, play with kids, walk through the green rice fields and stroll on the path less traveled, where no tourist has gone before.

Adorable kids in Ban Pho village

Adorable kids in Ban Pho village

If you become lost, you will encounter a few challenges. Don’t be afraid. Normally there are people passing by on a trek and they can help you find the way out.

Tips to avoid getting lost:

Before you embark on your trek, get a local to write a note of your homestay or hostel’s address in Vietnamese and probably in a local ethnic language. You then can show local people you meet on the path to help out if you do get lost.

For those of you who are good with directions, it shouldn’t be a big deal. It will be less difficult if you are trekking to a well-known place from Sapa such as Bac Ha market or Ta Phin village.

3 Levels of do-it-yourself trekking tours in Sapa

Level 1: Easy Sapa trekking

This also means play it by ear. Walk around and pick the path you feel is best and experience the plan-less adventure. Normally these paths will lead you to small ethnic villages which will give you a brief understanding of Sapa.

Opposite to Muong Hoa stream, Giang Ta Chai lies silently by a majestic waterfall and was hidden by old trees and bamboo groves.

Opposite to Muong Hoa stream, Giang Ta Chai lies silently by a majestic waterfall and was hidden by old trees and bamboo groves.

Here is a common route for an easy trek:

  • From Sapa town, tourists will depart for a walk to Muong Hoa Valley by following the main road for about an hour before turning right to a path downhill.
  • Next, a half of hour hike will lead to Giang Ta Chai– Red Dao people’s village which is on the top of the hill looking down Muong Hoa River, and if you pass through another suspension bridge and walk uphill, you will reach Hau Thao Village.

A suspension bridge will lead you uphill to Y Linh Ho village, where you can visit H’mong people’s house and know a closer view on their daily activities. After two hours of climbing up and down the hills, you will approach to Lao Chai which is one large village of H’mong people, and then Ta Van village is the area where Zay communities gather.

Ta Van village

Ta Van village

Level 2: Medium Sapa trekking

The medium level Sapa trekking is quite similar to the easy level but lasts longer as before heading to Muong Hoa valley, you will need two hours to walk through Cat Cat Villagelocating near the bottom of the deep valley right at the foot of Fansipan Peak.

Cat Cat is a village of Black H’mong people where you can discover many interesting facts about their daily life as well as culture and architecture.

In fact, it is also a good opportunity to purchase some traditional souvenirs and handicrafts right from the craftsmen such as twisting flax and weaving fabric.Their prices are not cheap for your demand.

Through times, Cat Cat Village has transferred to an appealing feature of Sapa’s tourism.

Through times, Cat Cat Village has transferred to an appealing feature of Sapa’s tourism.

Level 3: Hard Sapa trekking

Trekking to the top of Fansipan Peak called the Roof of Indochina is the most challenging level for tourists. Thus, you will need to spend two days and one night finishing the hike.

You should not trek by yourself so you need a local experienced guide and porter who brings your luggage as well as understand the route deeply.

To reach the first campsite at a height of 2300 meters, you will follow the itinerary of passingCat Cat Village, crossing Muong Hoa River and trekking upward for nearly 7 hours.

 

Fansipan Mountain Peak

From the peak, you can grace the best panoramic of Vietnam.

Pros of Going Without a Guide in Sapa

Trekking in Sapa with a group of friends is ideal when you visit Vietnam

Trekking in Sapa with a group of friends is ideal when you visit Vietnam

  • It’s cheaper. It’s clear and obvious that it is way cheaper than joining a tour. You pay for your own tickets and food and will mostly spend nothing all day.
  • You can go wherever you want. The road is now yours and you are free to explore. You could be the first person who finds the second most beautiful valley in Sapa.
  • You can find a unique place. Even if your guide is great, he will keep bringing you to the same spots, the same way as he brought other guests the day before. If you do it on your own, you can follow your own path.

Cons of Going Without a Guide in Sapa

Trekking in Sapa without a guide is fun but you can possibly miss some interesting things

Trekking in Sapa without a guide is fun but you can possibly miss some interesting things

  • You can get lost. Although it’s not that hard to find your way back, it’s a possibility. You should be aware of this.
  • You might miss all the good stuff. A guide knows where the good spots are. You might not be able to find these places because sometimes they are kept secret and you cannot access these spots on the internet.
  • Without a guide, you might miss out on cultural information. Guides are locals, they can teach you a lot more about the history, culture and local stories.
  • You must arrange your own permits, homestays, food, and carry your things.

Sapa Trekking Map

Instead of the most frequented village, Cat Cat, you can consider trekking between these less visited ethnic villages in the Sapa area:

  • Ta Van village – 10 km from the town of Sapa
  • Lao Chai village – 5 km from the town of Sapa
  • Sin Chai village – 6 km from the town of Sapa
  • Hau Thao village – 10 km from the town of Sapa
  • Ta Phin village – 12 km from the town of Sapa
  • Ban Ho village – 20 km from the town of Sapa

Here is the map for these more common treks:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1mLtoV221BKpV23RJnVP1fvdkuyblc0HQ&usp=sharing

Tips for Sapa Trekking by Yourself

You shoud know some tricks when local people approach you to sell things

You shoud know some tricks when local people approach you to sell things

  • The farther the better. The town of Sapa is frequently visited by tourists. If you want to find something less touristy, trek far away from the town of Sapa.
  • Regarding what to do about buying things from local women and children, this is a really tough situation. They are friendly and nice people. You don’t want to let them down, but if you decide to buy from them, you will have to buy from all of them. There is this one trick that sometimes works. Try to sell something of yours to them. That usually gets a good laugh out of it.

Rules to follow in a village with ethnic inhabitants

Red Dao women

Red Dao women

  • No drugs.
  • Do not touch sacred objects.
  • No noise making and alcohol drinking (rice wine in their presence is doable).
  • No kissing in public.
  • Ask for permission when taking photos, especially of older people and children
  • Only walk into a house if you are invited. Gifts for kids are welcome but avoid money and sweets.
  • Pay for your meal if you are invited for lunch or for homestay accommodation.
  • I recommend buying a handmade object to show appreciation of hospitality.

What to Pack

Waterproof coats are necessary as the weather in Sapa can suddenly change

Waterproof coats are necessary as the weather in Sapa can suddenly change

  • Food and water. There won’t be many stores in your path. Make sure you have enough food and water because you should only rely on yourself.
  • Those stunning scenes need to be captured and saved.
  • In case you want to see a certain village or stay in a specific homestay, a map will be very helpful. If you have data from the Vietel provider; there is a possibility you can access the internet here. Other than that, you should be prepared for no signal. Make sure to load the map on your phone beforehand when you still have internet.
  • Sunscreen/ hat/ sunglasses. This depends on when you are trekking. If it is summer, it is necessary.
  • Warm clothes. In the winter, it can get really cold in Sapa. Stay warm. Sometimes homestays have limited to no heating.
  • Lightweight rain jacket.
  • Bug spray.
  • Good hiking shoes.

 

I hope this article will help you decide what you want to conquer in Sapa. Sapa is definitely a place to remember and a place to return to as well!

For further exploration check out other articles of AZ Local Trip!