Sapa Off the beaten track: Insider’s Travel Guide and Things to do

Sapa is one of the popular vacation spots for Vietnam tours from Australia. This attracts both domestic and international tourists who come to explore and immerse in the amazing natural beauty of this region as well as to meet local ethnic minority peoples with their interesting culture, etc. Let’s have the most memorable vacation in this area with Indochina Voyages!

Charming Sapa in Rice Season
Sapa Vietnam – Favorite destination for Vietnam Holiday

Why Sapa – Vietnam must be on your travel list?

Situated in Lao Cai province, which is about 350km from Hanoi, with its stunning natural beauty, vibrant ethnic culture, and adventurous activities, Sapa has become a must-visit destination for travelers seeking an authentic Vietnam holiday experience. Here are reasons why you should come to:

  • Breathtaking scenery with rolling hills, terraced rice fields, and mist-covered mountains.
  • Rich ethnic minority culture showcasing traditional clothing, customs, and crafts.
  • Excellent trekking opportunities through beautiful countryside.
  • Fansipan, the highest peak in Indochina, offers stunning views.
  • Vibrant local markets with a variety of handicrafts and traditional food.
  • Tranquil and peaceful mountain atmosphere for relaxation and rejuvenation.

Sapa Off the beaten track Things to do

Sapa offers a wide range of activities to suit every traveler’s interest. Some popular activities include:

Visit minorities villages

This is home to a great diversity of ethnic minority people in Vietnam, mostly Hmong and Yao groups. They live in small villages and hamlets scatting in valleys and mountains through the district, and only a small number of them live in Sapa town.

Some of the most popular villages to visit are:

Ta Phin Village

  • A village inhabited by both Red Dao and Black Hmong ethnic minority communities.
  • Ta Phin is famous for its traditional medicine practices. You can visit a local herbal bathhouse and learn about the healing remedies and therapies used by the villagers.

Ta Van Village

  • Ta Van is nestled in a picturesque valley and is known for its breathtaking natural scenery
  • This is an ideal place to experience a homestay with local families. You can immerse yourself in the daily lives of the villagers, participate in their activities, and savor traditional meals.

Lao Chai Village

  • This is predominantly inhabited by the Black Hmong minority group.
  • Lao Chai Village is renowned for its trekking routes and stunning views. As you hike through the village and its terraced rice fields, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

While Sapa was once renowned for its charming Cat Cat Village, it has unfortunately lost its former allure. We advise against visiting this village if you’re seeking a non-touristy experience, as it has become overly commercialized and monotonous, with an abundance of souvenir shops. Regrettably, due to excessive and unregulated tourism, price gouging has become prevalent uncontrol in the area.

Each village here offers its own unique charm, cultural experiences, and natural beauty, making them worth exploring during your visit. You can learn about their culture, traditions, and crafts, as well as admire their colorful costumes and jewelry.

For more reference about Sapa’s Villages: Off the Beaten Path: Unveiling Sapa’s Authentic Village Trekking Trail

Come to Sapa Villages to immerse in the unique cultures
The unique, colorful daily life of Sapa People


Sapa is a paradise for trekking lovers, as it offers many trails with varying levels of difficulty and scenery.
You can trek through the stunning rice terraces, the lush valleys, the dense forests, and the misty mountains and enjoy the panoramic views of the Hoang Lien Son range, the highest mountain range in Vietnam.
Some of the most famous trekking routes are Fansipan Mountain, Muong Hoa Valley, and Y Ty Mountain.

Maybe you want to read more: December Invitation: Sapa Trekking – Are you interested?

Enjoy trekking tour in Sapa
Trekking in Sapa

Stay overnight at a homestay

A homestay is a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and make some new friends. Here’s what you can expect from a homestay experience in Sapa:

  • Authentic cultural experience, immersing you in the daily life, traditions, and customs of the local ethnic minority communities.
  • Warm hospitality from the host family, making you feel welcomed and part of their family.
  • Enjoying traditional meals prepared by your hosts, allowing you to experience the local flavors and culinary traditions.
  • Cozy accommodation, often reflecting the local style, providing a rustic and authentic experience.
  • Meaningful cultural exchange fosters mutual respect and appreciation between different cultures.
  • Scenic surroundings, with many homestays located in picturesque settings surrounded by breathtaking landscapes and terraced rice fields.

Remember to make arrangements in advance through reputable tour operators or travel agencies for a smooth and enjoyable homestay experience in Sapa.

Cable Car and Fansipan

One of the most fantastic things you can’t ignore is taking a cable car ride to Mount Fansipan for panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Fansipan has a sacred meaning for many local people, who believe it is where the gods live.

You can reach the summit by taking a cable car from Sapa town, which is the longest non-stop three-rope cable car in the world. The cable car ride will take you about 20 minutes and offer you breathtaking views of the landscape below. Moreover, if you come in the late afternoon, you can also have a chance to admire the sunrise or sunset from the roof of Indochina.

View from Fansipan
View from Fansipan in Sapa tour packages

Sapa Cuisine

Cuisine is the best way for you to feel the sense of Vietnam’s Northern Moutain Local Culture. Don’t miss the opportunity to try the following dishes:

  • Thang Co: A traditional stew made from horse meat, organs, and spices.
  • Grilled Dishes: Indulge in mouthwatering grilled meats and vegetables, such as grilled pork skewers or grilled trout.
  • Bamboo Sticky Rice: Enjoy the unique flavor of sticky rice cooked inside bamboo tubes, creating a fragrant and flavorful dish.
  • Corn Wine: Sip on the local corn wine, a traditional alcoholic beverage popular among the ethnic communities in Sapa.

You can find them in restaurants or street vendors, but you should ask for the price before you order or buy anything to avoid being overcharged.

Waterfalls and Gardens

Sapa is home to several beautiful waterfalls and gardens that add to the natural charm of the region. Here are some notable waterfalls and gardens you can visit in Sapa:


  • Silver Waterfall (Thac Bac): Located about 12 kilometers from Sapa town, Silver Waterfall is a majestic waterfall cascading down from a height of approximately 200 meters. The surrounding scenery is stunning, offering picturesque views of the lush greenery and mountains.
  • Love Waterfall (Thac Tinh Yeu): Situated in the Hoang Lien National Park, Love Waterfall is known for its romantic and enchanting atmosphere. The cascading waterfall and surrounding forest create a serene and tranquil setting.


  • Ham Rong Mountain and Flower Garden: Ham Rong Mountain is a popular attraction in Sapa, offering not only panoramic views of the town but also a beautiful flower garden.
  • Orchid Garden: Located in the Muong Hoa Valley, the Orchid Garden is a haven for orchid enthusiasts. It features a wide range of orchid species, including rare and exotic varieties. The garden provides a serene ambiance for nature lovers.
  • Ta Phin Garden: In Ta Phin Village, you can explore traditional herbal gardens maintained by the local Red Dao community. The gardens are filled with medicinal plants and herbs used in traditional medicine.
Beautiful Waterfall in Sapa
Beautiful Waterfall in Sapa

Local Markets

One of the best ways to experience the culture and cuisine of Sapa is to visit its local markets. Visiting Sapa Market, you will have experience of ethnic minority’s trading and their hard life.

The most popular market around Sapa is the Bac Ha market (held every Sunday). Besides, Muong Hum Market (Mường Hum, Bát Xát District) Sunday Market is also a great substitute as it is only around an hour and a half from Sa Pa town, making for an excellent road trip and will give you the opportunity to see more remote areas of Sa Pa District.

Above are our recommended activities when visiting Sapa, for more detail and the best experience, let’s jump into our Best Things To Do in Sapa!

Maybe you’ll interested in visiting Sapa in our Vietnam tour packages:

>> Exploring Sapa 3 Days By Land

>> Spirit Of Northeast Vietnam Adventure 7 Days

>> Adventure The Northeast Vietnam 6 Days

IV Travel Specialist Advice

For the best experience in Sapa, here is advice from our travel specialist gained after visiting Sapa:

  • Pack comfortable walking shoes and suitable clothing for trekking and outdoor activities.
  • Bring a raincoat or umbrella, as the weather in Sapa can be unpredictable.
  • Stay hydrated and carry a water bottle with you during treks.
  • Respect the local customs and traditions, especially when visiting ethnic villages.
  • Carry some cash, as credit cards may not be widely accepted in remote areas.
Off the beaten path wth Colorful Bac Ha Market every Sunday
Colorful Bac Ha Market every Sunday


Is it possible to do a day trip to Sapa from Hanoi?

Answer: While day trips to Sapa from Hanoi are possible, it is recommended to stay overnight to fully experience the beauty of the region and engage in trekking activities.

When should I visit Sapa to catch the rice season?

From September to mid-December the rice terraces are at their most splendid, or in March to May, when the weather is ideal and the skies are clear. These months are also the peak season for tourism in Sapa so you can expect higher prices and more crowds.

**Note: Harvest season in Sapa is from August 20th to September 5th

However, If you prefer a quieter and cheaper time, you can visit Sapa in the winter months from December to February, when the temperature drops below zero and sometimes snow falls.

How to get there?

The most convenient option is based in Hanoi then are a few transportation options to Lao Cai:

  • By Train: The most popular and scenic way to reach Sapa is by train. You can take an overnight sleeper train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, the nearest town to Sapa. The journey takes approximately 8-9 hours. Followed by a scenic 38-kilometer drive to Sapa town by bus or taxi.
  • By Bus: There are also buses that operate from Hanoi to Sapa. The bus journey takes around 5-6 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. This costs from $10 to $20 per person. Several bus companies offer this route, and you can book tickets in advance at travel agencies or online.
  • By Private Car: Another option is to hire a private car for a more comfortable and convenient journey. This option allows you to have more flexibility with your schedule and stops along the way.

Once you reach Sapa, you can explore the town on foot or arrange transportation with local guides or tour operators for further exploration of the surrounding areas.

How many days should I stay in Sapa?

To fully experience the wonders, it is recommended to stay for at least 3 to 4 days. This allows you to explore the breathtaking landscapes, engage in trekking adventures, and immerse yourself in the local culture and traditions.

Here is a suggested Sapa itinerary for 3 days that will help you make the most of your time.

Day 1: Explore the Town and Take the Cable Car to Fansipan

Day 2: Go on a Trekking Tour to Ethnic Villages

Day 3: Visit Some Waterfalls and Return to Hanoi

Are there English-speaking guides available in Sapa?

Answer: Yes, there are English-speaking guides available in Sapa who can accompany you on treks and provide valuable insights into the local culture.

Can I visit Sapa during the rainy season?

Answer: Yes, you can visit Sapa during the rainy season, but be prepared for occasional showers. The rainy season (May to September) brings lush greenery to the region, but trekking trails may be slippery, and some outdoor activities may be affected.

Can I hire a motorbike or bicycle in Sapa?

Answer: Yes, you can rent motorbikes or bicycles in Sapa to explore the surrounding areas at your own pace. However, keep in mind that the roads can be challenging, so it’s important to have experience and a valid driver’s license.

Is ATM available on Sapa?

Answer: Yes, ATMs are available in Sapa. As Sapa is a popular tourist destination, you can find ATM machines in the town center and some of the larger hotels or resorts. It is advisable to carry some cash with you, especially if you plan to visit remote areas or ethnic villages where ATM access may be limited.

Sapa is not only the ideal destination for Vietnam holidays but also for a lot of young couple’s honeymoon. Please contact us to be served at an extremely reasonable price, and you will have a Sapa tour that is meaningful and memorable.

From Indochina Voyages Team.

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