Sapa & The Rice Terraces
Sapa is a spectacularly beautiful town located in the north west mountains of Vietnam. The region is dominated by the Hoang Lien Son mountain range which is at the most Eastern extremity of the Himalayas! Sapa is famous for its dramatic rice terraces and Fan Si Pan, the highest peak in Indo China. With a diversity of ethnic groups and hill tribes. Our Mountain View hostel is the ideal base to go explore Sapa and the surrounding areas!
Sapa’s Ethnic Minorities
The largest of Sapa minority groups are the Black Hmong but you will also find The Red Dao, The Tay and the Giay in and around town, easily designable by their clothes:
The Black Hmong – Famous for the blouses decorated with batik flowers over short trousers all woven from hemp and dying it a deep indigo blue. They wrap their long hair around their head and wear a blue turban.
The Red Dao – Distinct in their red triangular shaped turban decorated with silver coins and tassels, the larger the turban the high that persons social status.
The Tay – Long sleeves and trouserswith both males and female wearing colourful head scarves.
The Giay– Wearing blouses differing in shades of indigo depending on the age – old women usually wear the darker shades. Women wrap their hair around their head and fix it in place with red threads
Sapa is well known for doing trekking tours. Spending 1, 2 or 3 days in the mountains and rice paddies is an experience that everyone should have. Overnight stays during trekking tours are organized in so called ‘Homestays‘. These homestays are owned by Vietnamese Ethnic group families and they will take care of you during your stay.
For those with a sense of adventure you can climb the highest mountain in Indochina – Mount Fan Si Pan at 3147m the real die hards can conquer Fan Si Pan in one day. You can also climb Fan Si Pan over two days summiting at sunrise for a truly soulful experience.
If long treks and climbing is not really your thing, there are loads more amazing activities you can do to explore Sapa. Renting a motorbike gives you the option to venture out a bit further from Sapa town. Some spectacular roads are situated in Sapa area. Visiting the silver waterfall and the Tram Ton Pass is a must on a motorbike.
Mountain bikes are for rent in Sapa town as well, but be warned, the roads and paths are steep!
If you have just a few hours to spare in the afternoon, walking to Cat Cat village is a good option. It is a village that is only 3.5 km away from Sapa and easy to get to. You can get a good view on the local rice terraces, but keep in mind you will not be the only one!
Salmon and Trout farms are found all over this region with a lot of restaurants specialising in these devily delicious fish. Street food joints are a selections of Hot pots and BBQ’s you can find a good varaity of local cuisine at The Street Food Market next to the town square.
Our favourite spot for some epic Hmong inspired food is The Hill Stations Signature Restaurant that showcasing a wide selection of local dishes made with a tonne of love.
For the ones craving western food, we have an awesome Mexican inspired restaurant: El Buffalo attached to our hostel in Sapa. A big bowl of nachos with beef chilli, sour cream and guacamole will sort you right out after a long day of trekking!
The climate in Sapa is unique in Vietnam. The year has four distinct season. The summers in Sapa are subtropical and the winter months a little chilli to say the least (lucky we have a roaring fireplace, to keep the cold at bay)
In the spring the sun shows it’s self more often than not with temperatures around the mid 20’s with it being a littler chiller if the mist rolls in! This time of year you can watch the clouds as the roll up and down the valley like waves crashing on the beach cycling every 20 minutes or so. It’s very cool.
The summers are made up of forever blue sky days, very dry and warm with temperatures hitting the mid 30 °C. Perfect trekking weather for enjoying the dramatic scenery.
The months of July and August are marked by the rainy season and some awesome afternoon thunder storms!
September and October continue to be dry with the odd thunderstorm. This time of year is peak season owing to the maturing rice and the lush seas of green and oranges it creates, It’s a gorgeous time to see the terraces.
December and January are the coldest months, temperatures can dropping to 1 °C, think hot chocolates and fire places!
Getting to Sapa
These days it is very easy to get to Sapa due to the new high way that opened between Hanoi and Lao Cai. Shuttle buses will take you to Sapa in under 6 hours. If you book the shuttle bus in one of our hostels in Hanoi (the Downtown or the Original), the bus will take you from door to door, how easy is that!
The nearest train station to Sapa is in Lao Cai. Trains from Hanoi to Lao Cai will take between 9 and 11 hours depending on the type of train. Transferring from Lao Cai train station to Sapa is very easy. There are a lot of minivans waiting outside the train station that will take you to Sapa. If you feel a bit more adventurous, you can take the local bus from Lao Cai to Sapa.