Sapa- A must-visit destination for travellers
Sapa, located in the Lào Cai Province in the northwest part of the country, is a unique and popular tourism destination in Vietnam. We traveled through the picturesque countryside of Vietnam on a 6 hours road journey from Hanoi to this beautiful hill town that lies at an altitude of approx. 1500 meters above mean sea level. The highway from Hanoi to Sapa is absolutely safe, well-laid, and trouble-free. There are restaurants, and food stores on the road where one can have refreshments and also take a rest for a while along the long drive. The washrooms and toilets in these highway restaurants are absolutely clean and hygienic, something that’s very tourist-friendly.
Sa Pa stands out for several reasons, making it a must-visit place for travelers.
- Stunning Landscape: Sapa is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty. The region is characterized by lush green terraced rice fields carved into the mountains, majestic valleys, and verdant forests. The landscape changes dramatically with the seasons, offering different charms throughout the year. There are many beautiful waterfalls in the region. While we visited just one of them physically, i.e. the Cat Cat Waterfall, there are many others that are simply stunning and mind-blowing.
- Ethnic Hill Tribes: Sapa is home to several ethnic minority groups, such as the Hmong, Dao, Tay, and Giay. Our tour guide Ms. Rua belonged to the Hmong community and was our great companion during the 3-days tour. She was well-informed, knowledgeable, and with a very good command of the English language. These communities have preserved their traditional customs, dress, and way of life. Visiting Sapa provides a unique opportunity to interact with these vibrant cultures and learn about their traditions.
- Trekking and Hiking: Sapa is a paradise for trekking and hiking enthusiasts. The region offers a wide range of trekking routes, from easy walks through rice terraces to more challenging hikes up to Phan-Xi-Pǎng (Fansipan) at an altitude of 3143 meters, the highest peak, called “the Roof of Indochina”. When we take the cable car from Sapa to Fansipan Peak, the terrain beneath the cable car sends a chill down our spine and when we realize that people trek up to Fansipan Peak, one can’t help but go speechless imagining the amount of thrill it would be!
- Fansipan Cable Car: At 3,143 meters, Fansipan Mountain near Sapa is the highest mountain in Vietnam and Indochina, located in the Hoang Lien Son mountain range. Before the cable car that started in February 2016, it was only visited by adventurous travelers who were physically and mentally fit enough to take the challenging and demanding trek all the way up the mountain which used to take up to 3 days. One can still climb and the trekking and hiking enthusiasts stay in a tent or cabin on the way to the top. This Fansipan Legend cable car is also an adventure because it spans 6,292.5 meters, making it the longest three-cable and non-stop cable car in the world. Not only that, it also has the record for the highest gain with 1,410 meters for a three-cable cable car. Fansipan Cable Car holds two Guinness World records for the same. It is a memorable experience on the cable car as it floats through clouds with views over the Muong Hoa Valley and through the beautiful peaks of the Hoang Lien Son Range.
- Funicular train to the peak: From the Fansipan station, one can climb 600 steps to the Fansipan peak, if in good health and/or in good weather. However, for the elderly or those scared of getting tired, or when visiting on a windy day, one can choose the Do Quyen mountain train to reach Fansipan. The train almost climbs vertically over the mountain track in less than 2 minutes ride.
- Homestay Experience: Travelers can immerse themselves in the local culture by staying in homestays with ethnic minority families. This provides a genuine and authentic insight into their daily lives and customs. We could get a sense and feel of it when we visited one of the households during the visit to the Cat Cat village the very afternoon we reached Sapa.
- Climate and Weather: Due to its high elevation, Sapa enjoys a cooler climate than much of Vietnam. This makes it a refreshing escape from the heat and humidity of other regions, particularly during the summer months. It was even better when it rained! We had to buy raincoats and wind-cheaters in Fansipan where it was raining when we reached the peak. The weather and the atmosphere at the site at 3143 meters was absolutely magical.
- Colourful Markets: The weekly markets in Sapa and nearby villages are vibrant and bustling affairs. Local hill tribes come to trade goods, produce, and handicrafts, creating a lively atmosphere with an array of colours and sounds. The streets in the evening wore such a colorful and lively look that one can’t help but admire the sheer natural beauty of the hill station. For a small sleepy hill town, Sapa boasts of a very lively and lovely market, especially for tourists.
- Photography Opportunities: Sapa offers incredible photo opportunities with its stunning landscapes, traditional villages, and colorful markets. Photographers will find themselves inspired by the picturesque scenery and the colorful attire of the ethnic minorities.
Our visit to the Rong May Glass Bridge was another thrilling and breathtaking experience. A site not much explored yet but is developing so promisingly that it would become a major tourist attraction in the very near future. The site is awesomely thrilling and magical with the stunning landscape surrounding the place as it sits on the lap of the high-rise mountains atop a beautiful waterfall. Adventure seekers can do Zipline, Swing, and rope bridge walking at such an altitude which would certainly test the best of daredevils.
- Food & local cuisines: There are plenty of restaurants and bars, and a few nightclubs as well. Off late, a few Indian restaurants have also been opened and they serve fresh and authentic Indian food. It would be a treat to try the local cuisine which is so delicious. Salmon fish, dried meat, soup, bamboo sticky rice, Pau Play Day Cake, and mushrooms are some of the most popular local foods.
- Responsible Tourism: Sapa has embraced responsible and sustainable tourism practices. Community-based tourism initiatives have been developed to ensure that tourism benefits local communities while preserving their culture and environment.
Overall, Sapa offers a unique blend of stunning natural scenery, diverse cultures, and adventurous activities that make it stand out as one of Vietnam’s most captivating and rewarding tourism destinations.