Among the many resort towns in Vietnam, Sapa stands out in several ways. It has no sea and no beach vacation. It is located at an altitude of 1,600 meters on the slopes of the mountains in the province of Laocai. The population is represented by several ethnic groups with their own culture, clothing traditions, holidays and lifestyles. The unique climatic conditions and landscape beauty attracts every year more and more tourists who are tired of the monotonous lying on the beaches and crave for unusual experiences.
Sapa – City in the Clouds
Sapa is called the kingdom of mountains, waterfalls, and rice terraces. Looking at the pictures of the mountain slopes, neatly marked with strips of plantations, one wonders if this is beyond human strength. Nevertheless, the city of Sapa in Vietnam is quite real and 100-200 years ago the profits came exclusively from the cultivation of rice fields.
The rapid development of tourism began after 1990. Among the guests of the resort the bulk of the Vietnamese, but the proportion of foreign tourists is steadily increasing.
Being close to the border with China, the city has preserved its identity. Nearby, the highest peak in Indochina, Mount Fanshipan, rises to the heavens. In addition, tourists are attracted by the colorful attractions, one part of which refers to the architecture and the other to the unique natural beauty.
The mild climate is quite different from the coastal areas. The average annual temperature does not exceed 15.6 °C. In summer, there are more rainy days than sunny, the warmest months are July and August, when the daytime temperature reaches 26-27 ° C. This is when there is maximum rainfall and the sun peeks out from behind the clouds only a few days a month.
In December and January, the thermometer reaches its lowest point at 17-18°C. The difference in daytime and nighttime temperatures is insignificant and varies between 7 and 8 degrees.
To enjoy the amazing scenery, you will have to choose the time of visit with the climatic conditions. In winter, the foothills are cold, the rice terraces stand dark and unsightly waiting for new crops, and a dense fog envelops the surroundings. It’s hard to find a sunny day in the height of summer, everything is drowning in torrents of water. It’s great for farming, but tourists don’t need to sprout and gain an ear, so it’s better to move your visit to September-November, when the rice harvest is underway.
Not a bad time for tourists is considered spring, when the plantings are already green and clear days are still not very rare.
Moving around the city
The resort is small, compactly built up, most of the attractions, hotels and cafes are located in the central part, so that most of the movement is on foot. For long trips rent a bike, bike, call a cab. The cost of renting a bicycle is one dollar, and in some hotels two-wheelers are given to guests free of charge.
A trip to the city is preferred by those who plan to experience a very different Vietnam, where the swoop of civilization has not drowned out the interesting features of different ethnic groups. There are about eight of them in the village, with a population of 9,000 inhabitants.
On the entertainment list:
- to learn about the culture and traditions of the local people;
- exciting trekking;
- hiking and biking trails in the area;
The main places of interest are in the city center and the immediate surroundings. The infrastructure is well developed, open gesthouses, small hotels, cafes and stores. Most often, guests stay in Sapa for 3-5 days, having time to enjoy the color, taste the folk cuisine and explore the most famous tourist sites.
It is located near the central square. The exhibition is composed of household items, documents illustrating the emergence and development of Sapa. The exhibition hall is on the second level. The first is given over to a souvenir shop. Admission is free, but visitors are invited to make a voluntary donation, the amount is not specified.
The temple was built recently, belongs to the Catholic faith and is one of the local architectural landmarks. Strict and concise, it is quite small, beautifully illuminated in the evening, the doors are open to all comers.
Ham Rong Mountain
The unassuming name hides a picturesque and landscaped park. Admission is paid, the amount is symbolic and is 70 thousand dong for an adult ticket and 20 thousand dong for children. There are comfortable stairs to the top, and physical fitness will come in handy, because the observation deck is excellent, but is at an altitude of 1.8 km from the foot and still need to be able to get to it.
There are gardens, several small waterfalls, and a children’s playground. For adults there is a comfortable seating area. A special place is allocated for colorful theatrical shows.
Sapa is famous for its unique handicrafts. You can also buy them in numerous souvenir shops, but in the market the choice is greater, and the prices are very flexible, most importantly, do not forget to haggle. The busiest trading point is near the church. The market is open until sundown.
The romantic name came from the past, when young people gathered on the heel in search of a date. The venue is now used for Saturday night colorful performances. You can see the show for free, but at the end of the artists are usually given coins for the songs and good humor.
Tours in Sapa
Tour groups leave the city in the morning, tours can be one-day or overnight.
- Small authentic villages are deservedly attracting increased attention. Excursion overview, takes 1 or 2 days, you can go to the village Ta Van and Ban Ho only in a group, single tourists risk getting lost on tangled trails. The average cost per day is VND40,000, for children the fee is reduced by half.
- Tha Bagh waterfall is beautiful only during the rainy season. Then it descends in several silvery streams. In the dry season, it is a few leisurely flowing streams. You have to drive about 10 km to it, the highest point is at a level of 1000 m. Nearby there is a market, paid parking lot. For the convenience of visitors to the top lead stairs, divided by small areas for recreation with cozy pavilions.
- Mount Fansipan beckons with magnificent views and challenges the brave, confident. But you don’t have to go to the top at the limit. Several routes have been developed. For forced conquest of the peak we offer a one-day hike. For those for whom the process is more important than the result, you should pay attention to the longer trips, designed for 2 and 3 days. All equipment is provided by the organizing travel company. Warm clothes, comfortable shoes and sweets for snacks must take care of the tourists themselves.
- Terraced rice fields. It is to visit them go to Sapa most tourists. Unforgettable impression is made by the giant steps, gradually rolling down in waves to the foot of the mountains. They have been created over the centuries and are reverently maintained in their original state by descendants.
- The field of ancient stones covers several kilometers. In total, there are about 200 boulders on which ancient pictographic writings and primitive drawings carved on the surface have been found. It is impossible to decipher them. We determined the age of the inscriptions, it was 2 thousand years. Access to the attraction is free.
- Ta Phin caves are not unlike similar underground grottoes. There is no need to go specially to see it. As part of a comprehensive tour of the village of the same name, you can walk its winding paths, admire the bizarre stalactites and the original wall swells. The length of the area for tourists is limited to 300 meters, beyond that the passage is prohibited.
Where to stay in Sapa?
Most often the city is visited for a few days, devoting part of the vacation. There is no shortage of hotels, the city is focused on tourism, so the choice of rooms is quite decent.
During local festivals there may not be any seats available. Before the trip is worthwhile to clarify the issue and book a room in this case in advance.
Most often tourists prefer to stay in a small Mini House or a more comfortable Sapa Backpacker. The cost of 1 night stay is 10-15 dollars. There is no air conditioning in the rooms, the cool climate does not dispose to additional cooling, and stunningly clear and clean air negates all thoughts of closed windows in the room.
The most inexpensive housing options are around the stadium and market. Hotels with a mountain or lake view increase the price by $1 or $2, but the magnificent panorama from the window is worth it. You can take a closer look at Sapa House.
For those who want to be closer to nature, interesting accommodation options in small surrounding villages, where the locals always have a spare room.
Where to eat good food in Sapa?
There are many food outlets, some focus on European cuisine, some specialize in national cuisine, and most offer a combined menu.
- Sapa O`Chau Cafe is a place to meet interesting people. There you can also find a guide for visiting local attractions.
- The Red Dragon Pub features delightful views and friendly staff.
- Vietdiscovery restaurant offers an interesting concept, where traditional oriental dishes are combined with Western-style interior design.
The quality of the offered dishes is high, while the prices are also higher than the average in Vietnam, which is explained by the remoteness of the area from the central regions and the virtual absence of commercial competitors.
How to get to Sapa?
There is no air connection to the city, so you have to take a bus or rent a car. Most of the tourists go to Sapa from Hanoi. At a distance of 400 km, the road takes 9-10 hours. Drivers do not take the risk of speeding on the dangerous turns of mountain serpentines. How to get from Hanoi in Vietnam to Sapa city, everyone decides on the spot, choosing an independent or organized trip.
To avoid the organizational hassle, many people buy a sightseeing tour, which also includes hotel accommodation and meals. The price starts at $100 and varies depending on the excursion program.
An independent trip promises more freedom, but also requires considerable effort to organize it. There are flights from the area near Lake of the Returned Sword to Sapa. There are daytime and nighttime schedules. The seats in the cabin of the bus are reclining, the air conditioning works, the ride is comfortable and safe.
Sapa on the map of Vietnam is marked as a small area in the foothills, the day trip will give a vivid impression of the vegetation and landscape features, the night will save energy for the morning excursions in the city. The fare is $17.
To find out how to get to Sapa from Halong, you can get a bus schedule from a travel agency.
Most routes run through Hanoi, but it is more advantageous and convenient to buy a ticket for a direct flight, rather than running around an unfamiliar city in search of a transfer point.
Features of vacations in Sapa
There are not many sources of income in the city, so the locals try to make money from tourists in all legal ways. A photo with a member of an ethnic group will cost a dollar. You can go the other way, buy a souvenir and take a photo as a bonus.
Prices are generally higher than in other regions, and it is more profitable to pay for services in local currency, the dong. Dollars are accepted for payment, but usually there is no change. You will have to look for an ATM, most often they are located in the buildings of banks.
You need to take warm clothes with you to feel comfortable. During national festivals and holidays, the largest of which is the New Year, prices soar 2-3 times, and in hotels it is difficult to find a free room.
A visit to Sapa will long be remembered for the unusual weather in Vietnam and the unique rice terraces, created by the tenacity and diligence of the local people.