A comprehensive Sapa Vietnam travel guide by a local !


Sapa is known as one of the most famous trekking destination in Vietnam. Sapa Vietnam is indeed an ideal place to escape from bustling city for a peaceful and fabulous nature. My comprehensive Sapa travel guide filled with things to do, transportation, local guide …will help you fully explore this charming highland.

1. Sapa Vietnam Travel guide introduction

  • Sapa is a small town in Lao Cai Province located about 350 km northwest of Hanoi. Sapa is well-known for Hoang Lien Son mountain range and Fan Si Pan—Vietnam’s highest peak and the roof of Indochina (3143m).
  • Sa Pa Vietnam has a great diversity of ethnic minority peoples . However there are five main ethnic groups living there: the Hmong, Dao, Tay, Giay and Xa Pho.

2. Sapa Vietnam weather

Sapa travel guide in weather:

There are two season in Sapa Vietnam : dry and rain season. January and February are the coldest and foggiest months of the year and it will be hard for visitor to explore Sapa in thick foggy weather.

The best time to visit Sa pa Vietnam is from September to November or from March to May. At this time Sapa weather is quite stable. It is often cool during the day, chilly at night and misty in the early morning.

Cherry blossoms in Sapa

From March to May, Sapa is full of blooming flowers and green fields. The town is covered with various colourful flowers such as Cherry blossoms, plum blossoms, orchids …together with a new bright and radiant green colour of terrace rice fields.

From September to November, Sapa weather is quite pleasant. This is also the season of ripe rice fields in Sapa. During that time, the terraced rice fields look like golden silk scarves flying in the wind above green mountain slopes, making the mountainous landscape astonishingly beautiful. The best time to enjoy this amazing view is from middle September to the end of September.

3. Is it worth visiting Sapa Vietnam ?

Around 15 years ago, Sapa was as off the beaten track as you might want to go in Vietnam. However nowadays Sapa is considered so too touristy by many people. As a Vietnamese, I think that Sapa is still worth visiting as it still less crowded than many other tourists places in Vietnam like Ha long Bay, Hoi an… It is one of Vietnam’s top tourist destinations for a trek lover. A good alternative option might be Ha giang if you dont want to visit Sapa . This mountainous province is still a hidden gem in Vietnam and I am sure it will become like Sapa 10 years later.

See more: A detailed Ha giang travel guide in 4D3N !

4. How to get to Sapa vietnam

Sapa travel guide in transportation:

From Hanoi, you have two ways to move to Sapa (370km). You can take the train from Hanoi to Lao Cai and then take a mini bus to Sapa. The other option is taking a bus directly from Hanoi to Sapa . Vietnamese often take the sleeper bus to go directly to Sapa cause this way is much less tired than train trip from Ha noi to Sapa plus mini bus.

4.1 Train trips from Ha noi to Sapa:

  • Vietnam Railways operates 3 services everyday: 2 express trains SP1/SP2, SP2/SP3 and 1 local train LC1/LC2. The train will depart from Tran Quy Cap station in Ha noi and its destination is Lao cai ( 25km from Sapa). It will take around 7-8 hours from Ha noi to Lao cai and i would prefer you to come to the train station 1 hour earlier. Normally the train will depart at night around 9-10pm and arrive in Lao cai 5 AM.
  • Ticket price is from 7$ to 16 $ ( hard seat, soft seat, bed in cabin…).
  • Local minibuses leave from in front of the Lao Cai train station (there’s a big blue sign saying Bus Station Lao Cai – Sa Pa) at 5:40, 6:00, 7:00, and every 30/60 minutes until 18:00. The bus from Lao cai to Sapa is around 1.5$ or taxi costs 15$. This is just a short distance however the road is really winding and you may get car sickness.
  • Train trips from Ha noi to Sapa will takes around 9-10 hours in total. The best way is making reservation via your hotel in Ha noi. They can help you to book the ticket. As i have mentioned before in Sapa travel guide, i will not recommend going to Sapa by trains because this way is much more expensive and inconvenient than sleeper bus.

4.2 Direct bus from Ha noi to Sapa

  • Direct sleeper bus from Ha noi to Sapa Vietnam is around 5-6 hours.
  • Ticket price is from 10$ to 16$.
  • you can book online bus ticket from ha noi to Sapa here. with price of 10USD or make a reservation via your hotel in Ha noi.
  • If you travel to Sapa on peak season, dont forget to reserve the ticket as soon as possible. Last time, i also go by direct bus to Sapa, just take a sleeper bus at night and sleep until morning when it arrives Sapa. Very cost saving and comfortable.

5. Transportation in Sapa- Sapa travel guide

The best way to explore Sapa Vietnam is hiring a motorbike here. It will cost around 5- 10$ for one day.

  • If you rent a motorbike in Sapa in peak season like weekends and holidays, you should contact a few days before traveling to avoid the situation of running out of motorbike.
  • Ask the rental service if you can use a motorbike to outside Sapa or just only in Sapa Vietnam . Normally, the rental time for one day in Sapa is only from 8:00 – 17:00. So do not forget to ask their rental time policy and how is the price for overnight.
  • Note to check the motorbike carefully before taking it.
  • After renting a motorbike, ask the nearest gas station to refuel, since the gas station in Sapa usually opens late after 7am and quite far away.

Address: Sapa tourist information center- 2 Fansipan , Sapa district, Lao Cai province.

6. Local guides Sapa Vietnam

If you do not have good driving experience and want to explore Sapa with local guides, you should contact and book service in Sapa trekking. Honestly i havent use their service due to the fact that i always rent a motorbike when travelling to Sapa Vietnam. However I have recommend this service to many of my foreign friends and all say that they are very satisfied with Sapa trekking. They are very hospitable and professional. The price is around 60€ for Sapa 1 day, 85€ for Sapa 2 days tour and 130€ for Sapa 3 days tour.

If you want to find a comfortable tour depart from Ha noi, then this tour may be suitable for you. Some of my foreigner friends also take this tour as an easy way to explore Sapa Vietnam without any difficulty. The 2D1N tour already includes various things such as:

  • Round trip by bus from Hanoi to Sapa
  • An experienced English speaking guide
  • Meals indicated on the sample menu
  • Homestay accommodation (Double Bed Room with shared bathroom)
  • One mineral water per day
  • Entrance fees and sightseeing tickets (VND145,000/pax)
  • Free hotel pick up and drop off in Hanoi Old Quarter
  • Insurance provided by the operator

Price: 65 USD. Book Sapa tour online here.

7. How many days in Sapa is enough ?

For travellers departing from Hanoi , the best time to travel to Sapa is 3 days 2 nights. For those who depart from Ho Chi Minh City, they can choose to travel to Sapa 4 days 3 nights.

8. Sapa viet nam hotels

I have booked a room with mountain view( 17€/night/2 people) in Liitle view Homestay Sapa for my trip and I am totally satisfied with the service there. The hosts are very friendly and helpful. Staff can assist us with luggage storage, valet parking. Highly recommend !

9. Things to do in Sapa Vietnam – sapa vietnam sightseeing

9.1 Cat Cat village- Sapa travel guide

Cat Cat village- sapa travel guide
Cat Cat village

Cat Cat village is located in Muong Hoa Valley, Sapa Vietnam which is the home of the H’Mong hill tribe . Cat Cat village is quite beautiful with peacefully picturesque scenery of terraced fields, waterfall and small houses in the mountains. The village is on the slope of the hill and easy walking. The entrance fee is 70.000 VND and I feel like this village is so touristy. There is a lot of small stalls through the valley selling souvenir and handicraft. This place is only within 20-30 minutes walking from Sapa center.

9.2 Sapa stone church

Sapa stone church

Sapa stone church is located in the center Sa pa Vietnam built during the French colonial period in 1935. Nowadays, It is considered as the only remaining mark of the French in Sapa. Every Saturday evening, in the courtyard of the church, some unique cultural activities of the ethnic minorities take place. The atmosphere is very joyful and exciting.

Sapa travel guide in stone church: Do not forget to eat hotpot and grilled food at night market near stone church.

9.3 Fansipan peak

Fansipan peak
Fansipan peak

As the highest peak in the Hoang Lien Son mountain range, Fansipan peak is known as the roof of Indochina and it has one of the most beautiful view in Sa pa Vietnam. Fansipan can be climbed in a steep and fairly strenuous hike. Nowadays, in order to reach Fansipan peak without funicular and cable car, you will need at least 1-2 days to complete it. Conquering Fansipan peak is definitely the must things to do in Sapa vietnam nowadays.

It usually takes one or three days of trekking to Fansipan peak, thanks to the Fansipan cable car system, it is easier to reach Fansipan’s highest mountain within 15-20 minutes. This article will guide you how to ride the cable car, what to play at Fansipan Legend, which is extremely detailed.

9.3.1 How to get to Fansipan peak from Sapa ?

In order to reach Fansipan peak, you will need to go by cable car first and then walk or go funicular to Fansipan peak. At first, you will need to find a way to Fansipan cable car station. There are 3 ways to reach there.

From Sapa to Fansipan cable car station:

Located in Fansipan Legend tourist area, Fansipan cable car station is 3 km from Stone church – Sapa town center. There are many options to go to the cable car station such as a taxi, a trekking train or a walk.

  • By taxi
    With only 10 minutes by taxi and about 40,000 VND, this is the fastest way to go there.
  • Walking
    If you want to walk , you can start from Stone Church to Thac Bac crossroad, turn left onto Nguyen Chi Thanh street and go straight to Fansipan Legend (about 1 ,7 km). There are many signs along the road so that you can easily find the way to reach the cable car station.
  • By train climbing Muong Hoa
    Since March 2018, the train route of Muong Hoa mountain linking Sapa town center to Fansipan cable car station has come into cooperation . With a total length of about 2 km, this is the longest and most impressive mountain railway in Vietnam. The train departs from the MGallery Hotel in Sapa and ends the journey on the Fansipan cable car station. It passes through several tunnels, crosses the viaduct and you will have chance to gaze in majestic natural beauty of Muong Hoa valley and various peaceful villages.

Fansipan cable car

Tickets are sold at the station, adult fare is VND 700,000 and the fare for children is VND 400,000. Children under 1 meter tall are free tickets. The journey is about 15 minutes and you still have to pass another 600 steps to reach the highest mountain. If you are worried about how to buy directly or wait for a long queue , just click on the link below to buy online :

Funicular in Do Quyen Mountain

For those have good health condition, climbing 600 steps from the Fansipan cable car station to Fansipan peak will not be a problem. However if you go with elder or kids, you should choose funicular in Do Quyen mountain to continue to Fansipan peak.

9.3.2 What to do in Fansipan peak

Located at an altitude of 3,000 meters, The spiritual and cultural complex was inaugurated just before Mau Tuat New Year on January 30, 2018. The Fansipan Legend spiritual cultural complex includes clusters of buildings stretching from an altitude of over 1,600 m to the tip of 3,143 m tower known as the “roof of Indochina” . Spiritual culture was built in the style of ancient Vietnamese pagoda architecture including :

  • Bao An Thien Tu pagoda
  • Bich Van Thien Tu
  • Kim Son Bao Thang Tu.
  • Thanh Van Dac Lo
  • Dai Hong Chung
  • Amitabha Buddha statue.

Kim Son Bao Thang Tu is located near Fansipan peak, built from the end of 2015 and officially completed after two years of construction.

Amitabha Buddha statue.

Great Amitabha Buddha statue is the highest bronze Buddha statue in Vietnam until now.

In addition to Kim Son Bao Thang and the Great Amitabha Buddha statue, the spiritual and cultural complex in Fansipan also has many typical Buddhist works such as Bich Van Thien Tu , Quan Am Bodhisattva statue. , bell tower – Vong Linh Cao Dai, Son Than temple…

9.3.4 Things to know before visiting Fansipan peak

  • Tourists with a history of cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases are not recommended to visit Fansipan peak.
  • Bring snacks, drinks when you go to Fansipan peak because the food service here is quite expensive.
  • Dont bring bulky and unnecessary items.
  • Dress neatly, warm enough to climb. Whether you take the cable car in the morning or in the afternoon, remember to bring gloves, scarves and wool hats because the temperature on the top of the mountain is quite cold.
  • Climb slowly to avoid low blood pressure and shortness of breath.
  • Do not smoke or litter on the way.

9.4 Ta Phin village

Ta Phin village in Ha giang Vietnam
Ta Phin village in Ha giang Vietnam

Ta Phin is a highland village of two ethnic tribe: Red Dao and black H ’Mong. The village has 13 hamlets and many small communes scattered throughout these hamlets. The road to Ta Phin village follows the winding mountain with picturesque landscape of spectacular rice fields, mountains, and streams. This village attracts tourists not only by its peaceful scenery but also by the unique cultural features of the local there.

Sapa travel guide in Ta phin village: Do not forget to take Massage and Red Dao Herbal Bath. A must things to do in Sapa Vietnam !

9.5 O Quy Ho Pass

O Quy Ho Pass
O Quy Ho Pass

O Quy Ho mountain pass is located on Highway 4D cross Hoang Lien Son mountain range. It is considered as one of the four greatest peaks of Vietnam’s Northwest. O Quy Ho is a destination that any backpacker wants to conquer when travelling to Sapa Vietnam. Viewed from above down, the mountain pass is winding like the silk. Very majestic and fabulous !

9.6 Ta Van village

Follow Highway 4D , Ta van village is about 8 km from Sapa town. The narrow road leads to the village is a great trek amongst beautiful rice fields and corn terrace fields. The complete Ta Van trek is about 3.5 hours but it is an enjoyable trek that definitely worths your time.

Unlike Cat Cat village, Ta Van still is untouched and not touristy. The fresh air, quietness, and peaceful scenery make any visitors who come to Ta Van Village would treasure the time being here.

Sapa travel guide in Ta van village: If you go there in rainy season, It’s almost impossible to go there with a motorbike if you do not have excellent driving skills. Riding a scooter on the slippery muddy narrow road is very dangerous to a certain extent. So i would recommend you to hire a local guide to go to Ta van village if you travel in rainy season !

Ta Van village
Ta Van village

9.7 Muong hoa valley

Muong Hoa valley is located about 8km southeast of Sapa town. This is one of the most famous tourist destination in Sapa vietnam for breathtaking scenery . The valley has various beautiful terraced fields, poetic driver together with diversified cultural activities of ethnic group.

10. Sapa trekking routes (trekking in sapa without a guides)

Hiking is one of the most popular activities in Sapa Vietnam for tourists. The most prominent attraction in the area is Fan Si Pan peak. It’s only 19km from town. This may seem like a short distance, but the trek is not easy at all. Technical climbing skills are not necessary, but endurance is a must. Other Sapa trekking routes are Cat Cat Village and the Ta Phin Village.

Four popular Sapa trekking routes:

  • Cat Cat – Y linh Ho
  • Lao Chai – Ta Van
  • Ta Phin – Ma Tra
  • Fansipan peak

12. Sapa itinerary – Sapa travel guide

Sapa 3 days itinerary

Day 1: Sapa – Cat cat- Muong Hoa- Ham Rong moutain

Sapa 3 days itinerary day 1- sapa travel guide
Sapa 3 days itinerary day 1

Morning: After arriving in Sapa (around 6-7am), you leave your luggage at the accommodation and start exploring Sapa. From there, go to Cat cat village by taxi or by foot.

Noon: Come back to Sapa to check in hotel, take a bath and rest. Then go for lunch.

Afternoon & evening: Go to Muong Hoa valley and Ham Rong mountain ( tciket 70.000VND). Buy the ticket first and then start climbing to the mountain.

Things to do in Sapa- Ham Rong mountain: Walk around flower gardens and climb to the top of the mountain to enjoy Cloudy yard and the panoramic view of Sapa city. For dinner, go around the center and try some Sapa specialties.

Day 2 : Sapa – Fansipan peak- Siver waterfall- love waterfall- O quy ho pass

Sapa 3 days itinerary day 2
Sapa 3 days itinerary day 2

Morning: take a taxi or go by motorbike to Fansipan cable car station and start the journey.

Noon: Silver waterfall- Love waterfall- O quy ho pass.

  • Silver waterfall is 13km from Sapa town and ticket price is 20.000 VND.
  • The next destination is Suoi Vang eco-tourism site and love waterfall . The ticket price is 70.000 per person.
  • The final destination of this route is O Quy Ho pass. This is also an ideal place to watch the sunset . While waiting for sunset people can enjoy grilled foods such as corn, sweet potatoes, meat made by ethnic women. Finally return to Sapa town before it gets dark.

Evening: Try some hotpot and grilled food at night market. The must things to do in Sapa travel guide at night.

Day 3 : Sapa – Ta Phin– Lao chai- Ta van

Sapa 3 days itinerary day 3
Sapa 3 days itinerary day 3

Morning: After breakfast, depart to visit Ta Phin village – a Dao ethnic group.

Afternoon: Lao chai and Ta Van village

Night: depart to Hanoi.

The Sapa 3 days itinerary in this Sapa travel guide is often used by many Vietnamese for a short escape from bustling cities. We often take a sleeper bus on friday night to Sapa. Stay there until Monday and come back to working life on Tuesday. Just a way to recharge batteries !!

13. What to eat in Sapa Vietnam ?

What to eat in Sapa Vietnam ? Fortunately, the majority of the food in Sapa is produced by local agriculture and they are very fresh with unique local cuisine. Lets check the list below to fully explore Sapa cuisine without missing any delicious foods there. Thanks to my friend who had recommended those places so that I can have a wonderful experience in this charming town.

13.1 What to eat in Sapa on chilly nights ? Hotpot.

what to eat in sapa- hotpot
Hot pot in Sapa

Hot pot, also known as ‘steamboat’ in many asia countries originated over 1,000 years ago in Mongolia during the Jin Dynasty.

A simple metal pot of various ingredients is included such as seafood, thinly sliced beef, assorted leaves and vegetables, mushrooms, beef balls, fish balls, tofu. Everything is cooked at the table in the broth. The pot is always being heated by a small burner underneath it. Egg noodles or vermicelli are commonly served with the hot pot and, of course, a nice dipping sauce. Sapa is best known for Salmon hot pot. This is one of the must eat food that every travellers should try when visiting Sapa on chilly nights.

Restaurant A Phu : 15 Fansipan , Sapa district.

A Phu is one of the famous restaurants in Sapa. The restaurant mainly serves traditional dishes such as grilled pork, chicken grilled charcoal, Thang Co, silkworm hotpot, salmon salad … The price of dishes ranges from 40,000 – 800,000 VND. In addition to delicious food, the restaurant is also appreciated for the professional attitude of the staff.

13.2 Grilled food in Sapa

Grilled food in Sapa

Due to the cold climate, grilled foods are very popular in Sapa Vietnam. It is always a good idea for tourists to warm up with those delicious grilled food. The ingredients are very abundant including vegetable, mushroom, meat, seafoods. And all kinds of food are grilled over hot coals. Apart from cassava, mushroom, corn and sweet potato, visitors are recommended to eat with pork, beef, chicken or salmon, and especially, the grilled-heo cap nach, a kind of tender, lean and less fat meat from small local pigs.


  • 24 Cau May, Sapa district.
  • Night Market in Sapa ( Ham rong street )

13.3 What to eat in Sapa for breakfast? Pho noodle

 Pho is one of the most popular food in Vietnam nowadays. Pho is a soup consisting of broth of Beef or Chicken, Rice noodle , slice of Beef or chop chicken. If you are still wondering what to eat in Sapa for breakfast. Those restaurants will be a good choice.

  • Bac Ha noodle restaurant : 53 Le Van Tam street, near Xuan Vien lake.
  • Pho Khuyen at Tue Tinh street, near the police station

13.4 Specialities in Sapa

dish in Hai lam restaurant.
Local food in Sapa- what to eat in sapa
Local food in Sapa ( Hai lam)

What to eat in Sapa as local food ? – Hai Lam or a Phu restaurant will be the best option. Those restaurant serves a variety of Sapa local food such as Lam rice, grilled chicken with green pepper… The price here is also very affordable. Highly recommend !

  • A Phu Restaurant: 15 Fansipan, Sapa district.
  • Hai Lam restaurant: 72 Luong Dinh Cua, Sapa district

Hai Lam restaurant serves many specialties such as salmon sturgeon, sturgeon, fried rice and especially indispensable grilled chicken with green pepper . Besides, the restaurant also has many other dishes such as grilled chicken with bamboo, buffalo meat, horse meat, seafood … On average, about 150k / person depending on the dish and the number of people come there. The more you go, the cheaper of the price is.

13.5. Cafe & bar/pub in Sapa Vietnam

View from Fansipan terrace cafe. sapa
View from Fansipan terrace cafe.
  • Fansipan terrace CAFE on fansipan street.
  • Cong cafe in 037 Xuan Vien street, Sapa district.
  • Ladybird cafe in 4 Thach Son, Sapa.
  • Bar/pub : Muong Hoa street has quite a lot of Pub.
  • The H’mong Sisters bar: 31 Muong Hoa, Sapa, Viet Nam
  • Wooden Pub: 3 Thac Bac,  Sa Pa, Lao Cai
  • Bamboo Bar: 18 Muong Hoa, Sapa.

14. Do and Dont in Sapa Vietnam

Sapa Vietnam travel guide– Things visitors should do:

  • Bring ID card/ passport or original birth certificate (for children) during the trip.
  • Prepare a few coats to avoid cold night and a good quality shoes if you have intention of trekking in Sapa or even rubber boots in rainy weather.
  • Bring some antemetics in case of motion sickness.
  • Should ask for prices of any goods or services in advance to avoid being ripped off.

Sapa Vietnam travel guide– Things visitors should not do:

  • Dont come to the village during their worship. They do not want strangers to attend. Normally, there will be a bunch of green leaves hanging on a high pillar so that everyone could see and avoid coming in.
  • Do not whistle when walking around the village. The local suppose that the catcall is to call the devil to the village.
  • Some of the minorities do not wish to have photos taken of them – ask permission beforehand.

Sapa Vietnam travel guide if you meet Children :

Children in Sapa
  • In Sapa, ethnic children often begin to support their families financially through selling trinkets to tourists. Do not encourage this by buying from children – buy from adults.
  • Children have poor or non-existent dental hygiene. do not give them candy or sweets – it will cause dental issues. If you want to give them something, safe toys, book, pencil are highly appreciated.
  • For small children, do not rub their heads. The compatriots think that rubbing their heads will made them panic and children easily get sick.
  • If you want to support the ethnic minorities, try to hire a local tour guide directly instead of doing it through your hotel. Normally hotel get 50% of what you pay for tour guide.

16. Travel expenses in Sapa Vietnam

Sapa Vietnam travel guide in expense for 3 days 2 nights trip:

  • Return bus ticket to Sapa: 500.000VND
  • Ticket to tourist places : around 1 million VND ( various villages, waterfalls, Fansipan peak)
  • Renting a motorbike: 400.000 for 3 days
  • fuel cost: 150.000/ 3 days
  • Food: 1 million VND
  • Homestay: 430.000
  • VND for 2 nights
  • Total: 3,5 million VND = 150$
  • Travel expenses in Sapa Vietnam can fluctuate around 100- 150$ depend on each other demand.

I have had a wonderful trip to Sapa Vietnam thanks to my friend who is a local there. He explained and told me everything about their rich cultural diversity, their motherland. I have learned a lot , experienced a lot and know more about this wonderful highland. Hope that this comprehensive Sapa Vietnam travel guide can help you fully explore Sapa in the most convenient way.

Sapa Vietnam travel guide clip by Drone snap:

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