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Sapa Trekking – Tips about your trek in Sapa Vietnam!

Sapa Trekking? A visit to Vietnam is not complete without a stop in the beautiful Sapa (Sa Pa) district of the Lao Cai Province. Sapa is home to the 3,143 meters high Mount Fansipan, dubbed the roof of Indochina, and the valleys invite you to go trekking through the endless ricefields Sapa is known for. In this blog post we discuss everything you need to know about your Sapa trek and climbing Fansipan. Get answers to questions like how long, what to wear, and very important, what about the weather?

Last updated in May 2020

Sapa, actually Sa Pa, is the capital of the district of the same name in Vietnam’s north-western border province of Lao Cai. It is an important market town in this area, with significance for the Hmong, Red Dao and Tay mountain tribes living in the area. The region is home to about 38,000 inhabitants who, before the 90s, predominantly made a living from agriculture. In the 90s, however, more and more (local) tourists came to visit the area, paving the way for a vibrant tourism industry today.

Last updated in May 2020Sapa, actually Sa Pa, is the capital of the district of the same name in Vietnam’s north-western border province of Lao Cai. It is an important market town in this area, with significance for the Hmong, Red Dao and Tay mountain tribes living in the area. The region is home to about 38,000 inhabitants who, before the 90s, predominantly made a living from agriculture. In the 90s, however, more and more (local) tourists came to visit the area, paving the way for a vibrant tourism industry today.

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The area attracts a lot of people who are spicing up their Vietnam travels by going trekking through the ricefields. Organized trekkings in a group are the standard in the Sapa Region. Because trekking in Sapa doesn’t require a lot of experience, anyone will be able to join. If you want to beef it up a bit, you should consider doing the trek to on Fansipan Mountain. At 3.134 meters, Mount Fansipan is the highest peak in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam combined. This is why Fansipan is dubbed the “The Roof of Indochina”.

How To Get To Sapa From Hanoi?

Sapa is tucked away in the Northwest of Vietnam and getting there is not an easy mission. The long narrow shape of the country makes Vietnam a difficult country to travel. When you are in Ho Chi Minh City and you want to go to Sa Pa, you will have a long road ahead of you. When trekking in Sapa is on your wishlist, you plan ahead. The most logical thing to do is to make a sidestep when you are in Hanoi. From Hanoi, there are a few different ways to get to Sapa.

By Sleeper Train

There is a train from Hanoi to Sapa every day. With this comfortable 4-person sleeping car leading, you will arrive relaxed and well-rested in the northwest of Vietnam. From the train station in Lao Cai it is then only about an hour by taxi or bus to Sapa. Trains are much safer than traveling by bus or with your own motorcycle. The night trains from Hanoi to Lao Cai have sleeping cars of the Soft Sleeper category. These consist of compartments with four comfortable beds, with two beds on top of each other.

The lower beds are slightly more expensive than the upper beds. If you wish, you can also reserve a whole compartment for yourself. For this you have to book tickets for four people and pay around 1.5 million Dong. The easiest way to book your Sapa train ticket is online. The travel portal

By Luxury Train

In addition, there are also special tourist carriages which private operators such as Livitrans or Oriental connect to the normal trains from Hanoi to Sapa. In the past, these coaches were generally better equipped than the normal sleeping cars of the Vietnamese Railways and were therefore partly real luxury trains. But in the meantime the picture has changed: Today the tourist trains often consist of discarded sleeping cars of the state railway, which have only been slightly refurbished. It may not be worth the extra money.

By Express Bus

In the past, almost everyone recommended the train because the bus journey was long and miserable. But this changed in 2014 when Vietnam officially opened the Hanoi – Lao Cai Expressway. This is a brand new highway that runs directly from Hanoi to Lao Cai (the city at the foot of Sapa Mountain – the same place where the train ends). The express bus to Sapa allows you to travel in different comfort levels like Seated Bus, Sleeping Bus or Limousine Luxury Bus, and run at various times: morning, noon or in the evening. You can book your bus ticket in advance through your trekking company. This will cost you about 25 USD per way.

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Sapa Weather – The Best Trekking Season

Although Sapa has four very distinct seasons, you can go trekking all year round. According to Nguyen Minh Tien of

Snow is not often seen in Vietnam. When winter kicks in and snow is forecasted for the higher peaks in the Sapa Region, many international and domestic tourists make their way North to have life-long memories in the snow. Many Vietnamese have seen their first snow in this part of the country. December and January are the coldest months and you definitely will want to bring something warm along.In February you can already feel that Spring is in the air as the weather gets slightly warmer.

March and April are ideal or trekking in Sapa, as the weather is crisp and the trails become more accessible. “This is a great time to visit one of the five ethnic groups that are residing in the area,” says Tien. “Staying a local family in Vietnam is the thing to do in Sapa.”June and July come with a word of caution. The rainy season will bring along a lot of downpours and there is a chance of experiencing typhoons. Not the most ideal month, but we can promise you that you wouldn’t be the only intrepid hiker in the area.

Where To Stay in Sapa?

Even if the town of Sapa is not the most atmospheric place to stay overnight, it is still a convenient starting point. Most tour operators pick up their guests in the city center. So it’s good to stay central if you have to leave early or come back late at night and don’t want to commute to a village. In the town of Sapa, you will also find all the restaurants and bars, so it is a good choice if you want to have some choice in cuisine. In Sapa, you can find accommodation in all different price categories. From extravagant hotels to budget style backpacker hostels, whatever suits your needs. You can browse options on the booking engines of your liking, or you can go book on the go when you arrive in Sa Pa.

Sapa Trekking Tour – How Long?

An average trek in Sapa takes two days. There are however options for trekking for three or four days. Because of backpacking tourism in Vietnam, many are short in time or in money. Hence, the most popular treks in Sapa are two days. This allows trekkers to get a good impression of what the Sapa Region is all about. Ta Van is a town not far from Sa Pa and a trek to here allows you to enjoy the area without too much sweat. Another option is a trek to Ban Ho, not far from Ta Van. If you have more time than that, you can consider combining the Muong Hoa Valley with the Muong Bo Valley and spend more nights at a homestay.

What Is Sapa Homestay Trekking?

If you have never tried a homestay before, Vietnam is a great place to give it a go for the first time. Homestay accommodation in Vietnam is fairly well organized and regulated, so safety and standards of comfort and hygiene are usually quite high. One of the draw factor of going trekking in Sapa is that you get to spend the night at a local home. A local family will accommodate you and you get to share a meal of them.

Obviously, a part of the money of your trekking package will go to the family you are staying with. This is a source of income for the family you are staying with. The main source of income is usually agriculture. Homestay trekking allows you to get to know the local minorities of Sa Pa.

Get to Know Local Minorities of Sa Pa

H’mong (Miao)

The Hmong, known in China for centuries under the name Miao, used to be called Méo in Southeast Asia. Their number is about three million and they are scattered over a vast territory stretching from southwest China (2 million) to North Vietnam (600,000), Laos (about 250,000), Thailand (150,000) and Myanmar (formerly Burma) (about 30,000). The H’mong are easy to identify because of their red costume.

Dao

The Dao, known for centuries in southwest China as the Man or Yao, also number tens of thousands in Laos, Thailand and Myanmar (formerly Burma). The Dao-Mien settled in Vietnam two to three centuries ago, depending on the area. One of the cultural characteristics of the Dao-Mien is their traditional writing system with Chinese characters.

The area attracts a lot of people who are spicing up their Vietnam travels by going trekking through the ricefields. Organized trekkings in a group are the standard in the Sapa Region. Because trekking in Sapa doesn’t require a lot of experience, anyone will be able to join. If you want to beef it up a bit, you should consider doing the trek to on Fansipan Mountain. At 3.134 meters, Mount Fansipan is the highest peak in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam combined. This is why Fansipan is dubbed the “The Roof of Indochina”.Sapa is tucked away in the Northwest of Vietnam and getting there is not an easy mission. The long narrow shape of the country makes Vietnam a difficult country to travel. When you are in Ho Chi Minh City and you want to go to Sa Pa, you will have a long road ahead of you. When trekking in Sapa is on your wishlist, you plan ahead. The most logical thing to do is to make a sidestep when you are in Hanoi. From Hanoi, there are a few different ways to get to Sapa.There is a train from Hanoi to Sapa every day. With this comfortable 4-person sleeping car leading, you will arrive relaxed and well-rested in the northwest of Vietnam. From the train station in Lao Cai it is then only about an hour by taxi or bus to Sapa. Trains are much safer than traveling by bus or with your own motorcycle. The night trains from Hanoi to Lao Cai have sleeping cars of the Soft Sleeper category. These consist of compartments with four comfortable beds, with two beds on top of each other.The lower beds are slightly more expensive than the upper beds. If you wish, you can also reserve a whole compartment for yourself. For this you have to book tickets for four people and pay around 1.5 million Dong. The easiest way to book your Sapa train ticket is online. The travel portal Bao Lau offers tickets for all train routes in Vietnam – and at the same price as the Vietnamese railways charge. All you have to do is enter your departure point and destination in the website search and the system will show you the connections. You can also organize this through your trekking company. Tickets cost 35-40 USD per way.In addition, there are also special tourist carriages which private operators such as Livitrans or Oriental connect to the normal trains from Hanoi to Sapa. In the past, these coaches were generally better equipped than the normal sleeping cars of the Vietnamese Railways and were therefore partly real luxury trains. But in the meantime the picture has changed: Today the tourist trains often consist of discarded sleeping cars of the state railway, which have only been slightly refurbished. It may not be worth the extra money.In the past, almost everyone recommended the train because the bus journey was long and miserable. But this changed in 2014 when Vietnam officially opened the Hanoi – Lao Cai Expressway. This is a brand new highway that runs directly from Hanoi to Lao Cai (the city at the foot of Sapa Mountain – the same place where the train ends). The express bus to Sapa allows you to travel in different comfort levels like Seated Bus, Sleeping Bus or Limousine Luxury Bus, and run at various times: morning, noon or in the evening. You can book your bus ticket in advance through your trekking company. This will cost you about 25 USD per way.Although Sapa has four very distinct seasons, you can go trekking all year round. According to Nguyen Minh Tien of TOM Travel , the best months for Sapa trekking are all the way from August to April. “Especially in August, when we had most of the rains, you can get brilliant views of the rice terraces.”, says Tien. It is no wonder that it gets busy in the summer months. Yes, rains and sudden storms can happen, but they are brief. Many tourists choose to spend the hot months in the much cooler Sapa Region.The peak in tourism doesn’t stop at the end of summer. You could say that it is only the beginning. Autumn, which lasts all the way to early December, is a very popular season for trekking in Sapa. The temperatures are moderate, there is little to no rainfall and the views over the golden rice fields are unforgettable.Snow is not often seen in Vietnam. When winter kicks in and snow is forecasted for the higher peaks in the Sapa Region, many international and domestic tourists make their way North to have life-long memories in the snow. Many Vietnamese have seen their first snow in this part of the country. December and January are the coldest months and you definitely will want to bring something warm along.In February you can already feel that Spring is in the air as the weather gets slightly warmer.March and April are ideal or trekking in Sapa, as the weather is crisp and the trails become more accessible. “This is a great time to visit one of the five ethnic groups that are residing in the area,” says Tien. “Staying a local family in Vietnam is the thing to do in Sapa.”June and July come with a word of caution. The rainy season will bring along a lot of downpours and there is a chance of experiencing typhoons. Not the most ideal month, but we can promise you that you wouldn’t be the only intrepid hiker in the area.Even if the town of Sapa is not the most atmospheric place to stay overnight, it is still a convenient starting point. Most tour operators pick up their guests in the city center. So it’s good to stay central if you have to leave early or come back late at night and don’t want to commute to a village. In the town of Sapa, you will also find all the restaurants and bars, so it is a good choice if you want to have some choice in cuisine. In Sapa, you can find accommodation in all different price categories. From extravagant hotels to budget style backpacker hostels, whatever suits your needs. You can browse options on the booking engines of your liking, or you can go book on the go when you arrive in Sa Pa.An average trek in Sapa takes two days. There are however options for trekking for three or four days. Because of backpacking tourism in Vietnam, many are short in time or in money. Hence, the most popular treks in Sapa are two days. This allows trekkers to get a good impression of what the Sapa Region is all about. Ta Van is a town not far from Sa Pa and a trek to here allows you to enjoy the area without too much sweat. Another option is a trek to Ban Ho, not far from Ta Van. If you have more time than that, you can consider combining the Muong Hoa Valley with the Muong Bo Valley and spend more nights at a homestay.If you have never tried a homestay before, Vietnam is a great place to give it a go for the first time. Homestay accommodation in Vietnam is fairly well organized and regulated, so safety and standards of comfort and hygiene are usually quite high. One of the draw factor of going trekking in Sapa is that you get to spend the night at a local home. A local family will accommodate you and you get to share a meal of them.Obviously, a part of the money of your trekking package will go to the family you are staying with. This is a source of income for the family you are staying with. The main source of income is usually agriculture. Homestay trekking allows you to get to know the local minorities of Sa Pa.The Hmong, known in China for centuries under the name Miao, used to be called Méo in Southeast Asia. Their number is about three million and they are scattered over a vast territory stretching from southwest China (2 million) to North Vietnam (600,000), Laos (about 250,000), Thailand (150,000) and Myanmar (formerly Burma) (about 30,000). The H’mong are easy to identify because of their red costume.The Dao, known for centuries in southwest China as the Man or Yao, also number tens of thousands in Laos, Thailand and Myanmar (formerly Burma). The Dao-Mien settled in Vietnam two to three centuries ago, depending on the area. One of the cultural characteristics of the Dao-Mien is their traditional writing system with Chinese characters.

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Tay

The Tay ethnic group is the third largest minority in Sapa. The Tay, who have been present in Vietnam from the beginning, are a branch of the Tay-Thai group. In Sa Pa, the Tay ethnic group is concentrated in some southern communities such as Ho village, Nam Sai village and Thanh Phu village. On your Sapa tours you will easily be able to distinguish the Tay from other ethnic groups because their clothing is very different and has only one colour, dark indigo.

The Tay ethnic group is the third largest minority in Sapa. The Tay, who have been present in Vietnam from the beginning, are a branch of the Tay-Thai group. In Sa Pa, the Tay ethnic group is concentrated in some southern communities such as Ho village, Nam Sai village and Thanh Phu village. On your Sapa tours you will easily be able to distinguish the Tay from other ethnic groups because their clothing is very different and has only one colour, dark indigo.

Xem thêm bài viết thuộc chuyên mục: Traveller

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