Sapa has become a popular tourist destination for travelers around the world who come to trek trails between and around the highland villages of the Hmong, Zao, Ta Van, Lao Chai, and Y Linh Ho people.
The little mountain town sits in the North of Vietnam. Mist fills the sky and lush green rice fields spread for miles in all directions. You honestly won’t be surprised if a unicorn and rainbow appear in the distance. Below are the top things to do in Sapa for your best experience.
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If you’re interested in knowing a little bit about a more formal historical perspective as well as the culture of this hill town, Sapa Museum is the right place for you. This is simply the only place you can have a deeper insight into this unique town of the country.
The history that dates back to the French colonial period is shown here. You can also find galleries which are dedicated to the various ethnic minorities who are inhabitants here.
Sapa Museum is also near the church and is an option when the weather is bad and rainy. If you’re looking to buy some handicrafts, there is a shop on the ground floor.
You will see people sell local handicraft everywhere in Sapa, from big streets to tribal villages. Handicraft here is all self-made by the ethnic minorities people.
These handicrafts are unique in design and have a high quality. The colors and patterns on the items represent the different tribes of people, and it is interesting to figure out which is which.
There are tons of items you can buy, from bracelets, anklets, and headbands to scarves, jewelry, handbags, shoes, and carpets – each with embroidery intricately sown with love and care. Stop by some colorful stalls, and we are sure you will not come out empty handed.
Beautiful handicrafts from ethnic minority people
Trekking is arguably one of the most popular things to do in Sapa. There’re many options for trekking especially trekking through tribal villages. This is the best way you can do to explore the life and beauty of Sapa.
If you are a nature lover, then you should choose the trekking route to Lao Chai - Ta Van. On the way, you will witness the stunning beauty of terraced fields, uncapturable by photos. These villages belong to H’Mong ethnic.
If you are a culture enthusiast, then you should trek to Ma Tra- Ta Phin. Here, you will observe the locals making brocade or enjoy the famous bathe with herbal leaves of Red Dao ethnic people.
Sapa is known for its breathtaking natural scenery and what can be greater if you have a chance to enjoy a drink amidst the beautiful nature.
Sit in a mountain bar, sip a drink in front of a majestic view of the sky, the cloud and the emerald green valley is truly a relaxing experience. Go to “Cafe in the Clouds” and all will come true.
“Cafe in the Clouds” offers a range of drinks from basic local to international drink and this cafe also has Wi-Fi.
Another spot for having some coffee relaxing time is Cong Cafe. This fancy coffee shop has a unique design and friendly staff.
Cong Caphe is a famous coffee shop brands in Vietnam with many shops all over the country. Cong Caphe whirred up excellent reviews from many tourists. This is a go-to coffee shop and worth trying if you’re interested in Vietnamese coffee.
The H’mong ethnic has a large population in Sapa and is known for its sewing and weaving technique. If you’re curious enough to know how they make their product, come to Indigo Cat - one of the most famous craft stores in the town.
Here you can take a class where you can learn how to sew your own handicrafts and you will be taught by members of the local H’mong community.
Otherwise, you can visit here to shop for high-quality souvenirs.
Fansipan or also the “Roof of Indochina” is the highest peak of Indochina (including Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) and is the highlight of Sapa. Climbing to the top of Fansipan is among the favorite Sapa things to do for hikers. If you are up for a challenge, the climb is doable in a day, approximately within 10 to 12 hours.
However, for real conquerors, two or three-day climb promises majestic views of the Hoang Lien mountain range. It is advisable to hire a professional guide or porters if needed.
So even if the 3,140m summit is less than half of Mount Everest’s, you can take pride in having conquered a mountain at the tail end of Himalayas.
The top of Indochina - Legend Fansipan
Since you’re here, there’s no reason for refusing to enjoy local food. For the traditional H’Mong style cuisine, come to the Hill Station Signature Restaurant. We can name some of the dishes served at the restaurant are: spring rolls, tofu, traditional Hmong pork confit, smoked buffalo, salmon hotpot, black chicken, bamboo sticky rice.
You can also try Thang Co, a favorite dish among the H’Mong tribe is hotpot made of horse meat, internal organs, and bones. Thang Co is a symbol of Sapa cuisine and if you’re not scared to try new things, order Thang Co.
Have some local beer and wine, then this will be the perfect dining for you.
Delicious local food at The Hill Station Sapa
The weather in Sapa is cold all year-round so the local here loves eating hot pot very much. The feeling of being warmed up by a hot pot in the middle of a cold evening is very satisfying and cozy.
Dine at Hot Pot Stalls as you can enjoy one of the best hot pot in town. The hotpot consists of meat stew which is then cooked with local vegetables such as cabbage and mushrooms which makes for simple yet hearty fare.
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If hot pot is not your favorite then you can head to barbecue restaurants to enjoy a delicious meal of fresh meat. This is also a great choice to warm up your stomach in the middle of the cold of Sapa.
If you want to find a high concentration of barbecue stalls in Sapa then you need to head to D Phan Si where you will find a number of simple joints set up along the road.
These stalls serve all kind of meat including pork, chicken, etc. You will eat by wrapping the meat with raw fresh vegetable and dip in a special sauce.
Variety of food for you to choose for midnight barbecue when everything is covered by the mist
Another thing to do in Sapa is drinking wine in Ban Pho Village. Ban Pho Village is the home of the Mongolian Bac Ha tribe. This village is known for its winemaking industry.
People here have been making corn wine for centuries. If you come to Ban Pho Village, high chance that you’ll taste
The village is also known for its winemaking industry and when you come here you can learn how the villagers have been making corn wine here for centuries and even sample some of this signature tipple yourself.
You can also easily visit Ban Pho as part of a day trip from Sapa and as with all the villages in the region it also has spectacular views over the rice fields.
Ban Pho Village is very popular for corn wine
Cat Cat Village is properly one of the most visited villages in Sapa. This old H’Mong hill tribe village attracts tourists from all over the world for its distinctive culture and unique practices which have been lost recently.
Cat Cat Village is impressed for its peacefully picturesque scenery of nature with a big waterfall and an old Hydroelectric Power Station built by the French. Traditional wood houses are also a unique feature of this village.
The village is also famous for its traditional industries such as flax and cotton production and there is a strong tradition of weaving here. Visit the place, you will catch the image of young women in colorful traditional costumes, sitting by looms and making pieces of brocade.
You can either walk or rent a motorbike to Cat Cat Village.
How about a morning in Cat Cat village with a cat?
Located little way upstream from the Chay River is Fairy Cave, which is said to be little Halong Bay in Sapa. To reach Fairy Cave, visitors will take a boat trip on Chay River.
Run along both sides of the river is pristine forests and high cliffs with diversified forms that create a majestic yet poetic scenery.
Visiting Fairy Cave, tourists can sightseeing, bath in the Tien stream and soak in the sunshine on the island of flowers.
Baguette and Chocolate are only 5 minutes from the town’s church. Baguette and Chocolate includes one mini hotel with four French-style decorated rooms, and a café serving both Vietnamese and Western favorites, French bakery and drinks.
The cafe is a project that is managed by an NGO to support disadvantaged and disabled tribal youth who are interested in tourism and hospitality training.
This is one of the best places you can have breakfast in town with a very reasonable price (around 50.000 VND/person). B&C has some of the most delicious Paris cakes and pastries with aromatic wild honey, including baguette and even vegetarian options.
Located in the center of Sapa town, Sapa Lake is a 5-minute walk away from the church. Coming to this place, besides admiring the scenic natural scenery, there are many exciting recreational activities.
One of the great highlights of the lake is that you can rent a pedal boat for an hour and enjoy the sights.
What to do in Sapa town that you can enjoy? Taking a stroll at Sapa lake is a choice for you.
Boating on Sapa lake can easily be done in the summer time but it’s very cold in winter to enjoy such a thing. If this is the case, you can choose to have a relaxing stroll around Sapa lake.
You can walk along the lake or alternatively enjoy your food at the benches and immerse in the tranquil atmosphere of the lake. Your mind can be put in a very peaceful and mindful state.
For anyone wants to admire the stunning panoramic view, the advice is that get out of Sapa and head to the Tram Ton Pass. At 1900m, Tram Ton Pass is the highest pass in Vietnam and is often referred to as Heaven Gate.
From a vantage point, it offers an unobstructed view of the magnificent Fansipan on the other side of the valley with immense lush forest, especially on clear days.
Aside from magnificent views, visitors can also witness the bizarre climate change in Tram Ton Pass. On the Sapa side, it’s often cold and foggy, but drop a few hundred meters onto the Lai Chau side and it can be sunny and warm. Surprisingly, Sapa is the coldest place in Vietnam, but Lai Chau can be one of the warmest.
Local markets are where you can observe the most of local daily lives and how ethnic people do their business. Most of the area’s specialties are sold in the local market.
The sapa local market is conveniently located close to the local bus station and a 20-minute walk from the center. Here you will find a range of colorful local handicraft as well as a fresh meat section which is certainly not for the faint of heart.
Some haggling skills are essential and are sure to stay firm as vendors may get a bit pushy! If you’re hungry, have a bowl of Pho in the market.
Jungle herbs at Sapa local market
Muong Khuong, a district of Lao Cai Province, is quite far from Sapa which is 90km. However, Muong Khuong Sunday market is the biggest one of the area. Visiting Muong Khuong Sunday Market visitors have a chance to experience fully traditional culture and lifestyles of ethnic minorities.
The market opens up on Sunday of the week, in the early morning at 5 AM, ethnic people from anywhere of Muong Khuong Land coming here to get together for purchasing, selling, buying, drinking, talking, singing & eating.
Many products are found here such as handicraft, cattle, vegetable, traditional incense, and local products, embroidered brocade pieces. Your trip will be highlighted by new discoveries, and be full of colors and excitement of the new experience.
You can meet a lot of puppy at the market running around
If you happen to be in Sapa during the first few weeks of spring then you can travel to Ta Phin Village where you can watch the annual church singing.
This is actually a traditional wedding tradition and you will get to watch brides and grooms parading through the village while locals sing and dance around them.
The colorful outfits worn by the young lovers are worth the trip itself and visitors are welcome to watch the festivities as long as you are respectful of the proceedings at the same time.
Outside of natural scenery, Sapa doesn’t have a huge range of monuments. And one of the most recognizable and symbolic architecture in town is Sapa Church which dates back to the French colonial period.
Located right in the center of Sapa town, people can easily make it to Sapa Church. The church has a colonial architectural design of the French colonial period and this design can be found in many buildings in Hanoi French Quarter.
The church is closed throughout the week and only opens on Sundays. Although you cannot go inside, you can check out the exterior as well as observe the activities held in front of the church.
Muong Hoa Valley is a favorite trekking route in Sapa and many agencies offer trekking tours to Muong Hoa Valley. Muong Hoa Valley is a stunning stretch of land that lies at the bottom of Fansipan’s northern flank. It is the largest strip of rice fields in the Sapa region, dotted with villages of different minority groups.
It’s highly recommended that you trek with a tour guide since they know the route very well. You can only truly appreciate the beauty of Muong Hoa Valley if you take your time to trek it and spend a night or two at a local village homestay.
The trekking can be quite challenging yet interesting as you will take muddy trails through terraced fields, drink water out of streams, spend time hanging out with local families and drink rice wine in Aqua bottles.
With local ethnic children
Ham Rong Mountain is another famous tourist attraction in Sapa town which is located right behind Sapa church. Ham Rong Mountain is a part of Hoang Lien Son mountain range and is a few mountains in Vietnam that has clear and beautiful figurativeness.
Anyone who comes here is impressed with flowers that bloom everywhere on the mountain. Along the way up to Ham Rong Mountain are multiple species of flowers. Visitors will encounter an orchid garden located halfway up the mountain which is home to hundreds of orchid species, including the rarest ones.
Come to Ham Rong Mountain and you will be swarmed with bright-colored flowers in the dewy air and sweet fragrances up your nostrils.
Wanna know how the locals make their dishes and learn to make them by yourself? Take a cooking class is my recommendation.
Come and visit Hill Station Signature Restaurant, you will get the chance to learn from an H’mong chef who will take you out to the local market to buy the ingredients.
Cooking classes usually include learning how to cook five local dishes. At the end of the class, you will enjoy your self-made meal combined with local wines.
Cooking with real fire in a traditional way
Not just a market, Sapa love market has been a unique and valuable aspect in the culture of the Mong and Dao ethnic groups for a long time. This is where young boys and girls from different ethnic groups come and find their partners.
On a Saturday night, guys and girls from all villages here in colorful costumes. They stand in groups, sing and dance their traditional dances, play games until the night comes. Don’t worry about being the third wheel and immerse yourself in a long-standing tradition of the Mong and Dao ethnic groups!
Other than staying in a traditional hotel, staying with locals in a village homestay is worth considering things to do in Sapa if you want a real local experience. This will be an extensively different and unique experience as ethnic people carry a significantly special and distinctive culture.
Ethnic groups maintain their culture and live their own way in a modern world. Despite the difference, they are friendly and nice people to be around. You will receive warmly welcome from them.
If you stay in the center of Sapa town, you will see that this small town is surprisingly modern than other mountainous areas of Northern Vietnam.
For food and beverage, Sapa offers a wide variety of options, from local street food to high-quality Western food and wine. Coffee shops are also found in Sapa as they have delicious Vietnamese coffee.
If you plan to conquer the Fansipan, you can find hiking equipment such as Gortex jackets, track pants, hiking boots, waterproof backpacks. Sapa has pretty much everything you need.
For further discovery around the area, renting a motorbike is a good choice. Driving motorbike can be dangerous during rainy season so I don’t recommend you driving a motorbike if you’re here in rainy season.
A favorite route among travelers to drive through is Dinh Deo Pass that leads to Heaven Gate. While driving around, you will see the stunning views on both sides of valleys and mountains.
However, if you’ve never driven a motorbike before then this is not the place to learn because it’s dangerous. Instead, take a motorbike tour with local driver and let them take you around.
Can’t hike to the top of Fansipan but still want to conquer this rooftop? Don’t worry you can take a cable-car to the top. You can still bask in the picturesque Fansipan mountain with a ride up the Sunworld Fansipan Legend cable car.
From the cable-car, you will have a chance to admire the sceneries of Muong Hoa Valley and the Hoang Lien Son Mountain range. For a small fact, this cable car has been recognized by the Guinness World Records Organisation as the longest non-stop three-rope cable car.
Tickets for cable car are 700,000 VND (~S41) per ticket for adults, 500,000 VND (~S$30) per ticket for children.
Located in San Sa Ho Commune, the beauty of Love Waterfall will captivate your senses. Love Waterfall Sapa is also the starting point of climbing travel itinerary conquering Fansipan peak.
Before setting foot on here, tourists will have a chance to discover the beauty of the primitive forests surrounded by a taciturn mossy old canopy of bamboo. The lush immense bamboo forest is flickered with red, yellow and white of azalea flowers.
There is ancient folklore behind the name Love Waterfall. Come and figure it out!
Love Waterfall and now we have Silver Waterfall. The entrance fee for Thac Bac Waterfall (or the Silver Falls) is cheaper than Love Waterfall and worth considering for budget travelers. However, with a height of approximately 100m, the waterfall is relatively smaller and only requires a 20-minute climb.
Silver Waterfall’s silver shimmery streams on the wrinkled rocks definitely exude a romantic ambiance. However, this place should be avoided when it’s rainy and foggy.
Above are the top things to do in Sapa Vietnam that we have listed down. For more information and tours, please contact AZ Local trip.