Sapa, In Lao Cai Province, is a former colonial hill station situated in a beautiful valley close to the Chinese border. Located 1650 meter above sea level, Sapa is a cool and breezy resort town first built by the French as a retreat from the sizzling heat of the lowlands.
Today, Sapa has been rediscovered as a tourist attraction by visitors who come to trek into the verdant valley and experience the colorful traditional cultures of various ethnic minorities groups. Destinations include remote villages, scenic vistas, and even the top of Southeast Asia's highest peak: Mt. Fansipan.
Sapa in brief
- Telephone Code: 020
- Area: 678,6 sq. km
- Population: 38,200 habitants
Townlet: Sapa- Communes: Ban Khoang, Ta Giang Phinh, Trung Chai, Ta Phin, Sa Pa, San Sa Ho, Ban Phung, Lao Chai, Hau Thao, Thanh Kim, Ta Van, Su Pan, Suoi Thau, Ban Ho, Thanh Phu, Nam Sai, Nam Cang.
Sapa, Located 38km from Lao Cai City, is a mountainous district of Lao Cai Province in the far north near the Chinese border.
When to go?
The best time to witness the scenic beauty of Sapa is in April and May. Before that period, the weather might be cold and foggy; after that period is the rainy season. In April and May, Sapa is blooming with flowers and green pastures. The clouds that settle in the valley in early morning quickly disappear into thin air.
By train: From Hanoi, you can reach Lao Cai by overnight train (costs about $25) which takes about 10 hours. Catch a minibus to Sapa from outside the station (VND25,000), or just jump a xe om (motorbike taxi). (Make sure to book your train ticket at least 10 days in advance to avoid hassle)
- Sapa has many natural sites such as Ham Rong Mountain, Silver Waterfall, Rattan Bridge, Bamboo Forest and Ta Phin Cave.
- Sapa is also the starting point for many climbers and scientists who want to reach the top of Fansipan Mountain, the highest mountain in Vietnam at 3,143m. Hoang Lien Mountain Range is also called the Alps of the North Sea area since Fansipan Mountain is not only the highest peak in Vietnam, but also in the Indochina Peninsula. The pyramid-shaped mountain is covered with clouds all year round and temperatures often drop below zero, especially at high elevations.
- The first thing you notice when approaching the resort town are some detached wooden mansions and villas perched on a hill top or hillside, behind thick pine forests and almost invisible on this foggy morning. Old and new villas with red roofs now appear and now disappear in the green rows of pomu trees, bringing the town the beauty of European towns.
- Fresh and cool air in Sapa is an idea climate condition for growing temperate vegetables such as cabbage, chayote, precious medicinal herbs, and fruit trees such as plum, pear...
- Sapa is home to various families of flowers of captivating colours, which can be found nowhere else in the country. When Tet, the Lunar New Year Festival, comes, the whole township of Sapa is filled with the pink colour of peach blossom brought from the vast forests of peach just outside the town. Sapa is regarded as the kingdom of orchids. Here, orchid lovers are even amazed by the choice, when trekking in the forest filled with several hundred kinds of orchids of brilliant colours and fantastic shapes, such as Orchid Princess, Orchid of My Fair Lady's Shoe. Some orchids are named after lovely singing birds such as the canary, salangane's nest, and more.
- 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 will have opportunities to discover the unique customs of the local residents.