Sapa in Vietnam - Splendid mountainous region

Sapa in Vietnam is a mountain town, a famous resort center, a climatic station of Lao Cai province in the north of the country. Sapa hides many wonders of nature, the landscape of the rice terrace, topography, majestic mountains, green trees, cultural colors of local ethnic groups ... to create a harmonious and picturesque painting with romantic and attractive landscapes. We are very happy to share essential information about Sapa.

Sapa in Vietnam

Geography of Sapa:

Sapa is located at 1,600 meters above sea level on the slopes of the mountains of the Hoang Lien with the highest peak at 3143 meters called Fanxipang- The roof of Indochina.

Sapa is located in the northwest of Vietnam, 38 km from the city of Lao Cai and 376 km from Hanoi. Apart from the main road from Lao Cai, Hanoi ... Sapa is also accessible by another route: 4D National Road from Lai Chau and Dien Bien Phu.


In fact, the town of Sapa is located in north of Vietnam, which should bring to this charming region a humid tropical climate, but as it is located at 1600 meters, Sapa has the humid subtropical climate which is temperate, cool all year. In summer, we can experience all four seasons in one day: the morning is spring. At noon, it's summer, usually sunny, mild climate. In the afternoon, the clouds and mist are down by giving the fresh atmosphere of autumn and the winter is cold at night. The average temperature in Sapa is 15 ° C. In summer, the town is untouched by the summer sun like coastal plains. So, the temperature is about 15-20 ° C at night and 25-30 C in the daytime. In winter, the whole town is usually covered with mist and fog and the temperature can sometimes drop to 0 ° with snow sometimes. The average rainfall ranges from 1800 to 2200 mm. It usually rains during the period from May until August.

Sapa town is one of the places where snow falls sometimes in Vietnam. The record snow in Sapa was in 13/2/1968 when the snow relentlessly happened from 3 am to 14 pm in the same day, up to 20 cm thick. In the period 1957-2013, the snow had fallen in Sapa 21 times.

History of Sapa:

Sapa was a small village of minorities such as Hmong, Dao and Tay. In 1897, the French colonial government decided to open an investigation about the highlands, ethnic minorities... The first group of investigators had come to Lao Cai in 1898.

In the winter of 1903, while leading the work of mapping, geographers of the Geography Department of Indochina arrived in Sapa. This event marked the creation of the city of Sapa today.

Sapa in Vietnam

In 1905, the French people had received the first information about the geography, climate, vegetation ... Sapa began to be known as the place with fresh air, wild and beautiful landscape. In 1909, a health resort was built there. In 1917, a tourist office was established here and a year later, the French people began the construction of the first villas. In 1920, the railway Hanoi - Lao Cai has been completed, the French people built about 300 villas in this city. Sapa was then considered as the summer capital of Tonkin, the ancient name of northern Vietnam.

Sapa was devastated during the second French Indochina War and the Chino-Vietnamese border war in 1979. Thousands of hectares of pine forests covering the city were burned; many old villas built by France were also destroyed. In the 1990s, Sapa was rebuilt again.

Origin of the name:

Sapa is derived from the Chinese name meaning "sand dune" because of the presence of a sand dune where the market for local people was held.

From the word of Sa Pả is in the local language, Westerners have difficulty to pronounce and Sa Pả becomes Chapa. Later, this word is written as Sapa today.

When to go to Sapa:

The excellent time to get to Sapa is the period from September to November and March to May. In these times, it is often nice in Sapa and climate is stable, sunny in days and cool in night.

In April and May, the local ethnic groups begin their work of transplanting the rice in terraced rice fields. This is also the season for many species of flowers in Sapa. The scenes of works on terraced rice fields attract often a large number of paparazzi. Between June and August, the rice terraces in Sapa are covered by the endless greenery.

In September and October, rice is ripe in the fields. This honey yellow color is visible from everywhere, from all angles. The whole area becomes so nice as if it is covered by a new shirt of dazzling yellow. But you are advised to go there in the middle or end of September. In October, most of the fields could be harvested. From December to February, it is very cold; it freezes or even snows falls sometimes. This is also the season of peach flowers in Sapa.

The moment that you have to avoid to go there:

These are the holidays in Vietnam according to the solar calendar: 30 December to 1 January (It is better to avoid the Solar New Year); From April 29 to May 2; 1 September to 3 September; ... The rest of the year, it is better to avoid the weekends because there are too many people in Sapa.

Sapa in Vietnam

The reasons to go to Sapa:

In the 1940s, the French people had planned Sapa to be an ideal resort. This mountainous town had everything: a hydroelectric system, water stations, the Palace of the General Governor, the treasury, offices, a road network and especially over 200 villas in Western style in the heart of the city, situated between the forest of peach, pine… These things created in Sapa an image of a European city in Asia.

Sapa has many beautiful natural landscapes such as the Silver waterfall having 200 meters high, the Rattan Bridge, a historical vestige of ethnic minorities. Heaven's Gate is the highest point that can be reached by road for contemplating the summit of Fansipan, the bamboo forest, the cave of Ta Phin, prehistoric rock field located in Muong Hoa valley, Mount Ham Rong (Dragon Jaw) or the botanical garden in the town of Sapa.

The Ham Rong garden was built according to the natural terrain of the peaks considered as the Jaws of the Dragon. To visit it, travelers must climb a long way with thousands of stone steps. At each level reached, the different scenes are exposed in front of you: the orchids garden, the forest of peach trees, the garden of Vietnamese zodiacal signs, the cultural space of the local ethnic groups in Sapa and around...The last point is the highest point on Ham Rong mountain, an observatory, from here, you can have a panoramic view on Hoang Lien mountain chain and on Sapa town.

Sapa is located not far from the Fansipan peak at 3143 m altitude on the Hoang Lien mountain range where scientists have identified many bird species, wood and precious animals such as partridge, deer, black bears, monkeys, 136 species of birds, 56 species of mammals and 553 species of insects. Among which there are 37 mammal species registered in the Red Book of Vietnam.

The US Travel and Leisure Magazine has just introduced the 7 most beautiful and majestic terrace rice fields of Asia chosen by its readers. Rice fields in Sapa have the honor of being one of these wonders.

The beauty of these rice terraces in Vietnam was praised by the famous Internet site Mother Nature as one of the 30 most beautiful destinations in the world.

Sapa in Vietnam

These rice fields in Sapa are the masterpiece of the local inhabitants in the valley which can satisfy all visitor, even the most difficult ... These terraces, following one another spreading from the foot to the top of the mountains covered with white clouds are compared with the image of a giant ladder linking heaven and earth. This is an especially attractive destination in Sapa.

Being a mountain region, Sapa has a different climate from the other Vietnamese places. So, the region has only one rice crop a year during the summer until autumn or June to October each year. This is the best time to make a tour in Sapa to contemplate beautiful ripe rice with brilliant yellow color under the morning sun.

Created for centuries by laborious hands of ethnic groups as Hmong, Dao, Zay ... living throughout the valley, the rice in terraces are everywhere in the valley but the most beautiful are located in villages as Tavan - Hau Thao - Lao Chai in the valley of Muong Hoa with a total area of ​​nearly 1,000 ha.

In particular, there are 196 ancient carved stones blog with many strange forms of local residents from thousands of years ago that archaeologists are still struggling to decipher. This field has been ranked in the list of national monuments of Vietnam.

Sapa is the kingdom of fruits and flowers like peach, yellow peach, purple plum, plum, pear ... and peach, chrysanthemums, rose blossoms…especially the flower of Immortality ... Sapa proves the mosaic of 6 ethnic groups living together in the valley like black H'mong, Red Dao, Zay, Tay and Xapho. Once visited Sapa, you'll have the chance to admire the most beautiful and colorful dress of these minorities in the day of the weekly market.

Each ethnic group has a different culture, a different costume, a dialect apart and own create a very mysterious and rich cultural diversity that exists only in Sapa.

1. H 'Mong people: This is a major ethnic group in Sapa. They are account for about 53% of the local population. In the past, they were very strong farmers in rice plantations along the Yangtze in China. They passed the border to immigrate to north of Vietnam after a conflict with Han people. Their presence in Sapa, mainly around the Hoang Lien mountain range, dates back to 300 years ago.

Sapa in Vietnam

2. Red Dao: Red Dao are second group after the H’Mong in terms of population in Sapa. Also from Yunnan in China, the red Dao in Sapa are a part of Dao groups immigrating in Vietnam during the XIII century to the 40s of last century. They live in the largest communes of Ta Phin, Nam Cang, Suoi Thau, Trung Chai…belonging to the district of Sapa.

3. Tay: After the Hmong and Dao, Tay is the third population in Sapa. Present in Vietnam since early enough, since probably the first millennium BC, Tay is one of the peoples sharing the Tay-Thai linguistic family. This language group extends in long strip of land from South of China to the North and Northwest of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, through Myanmar, and even in India, there is also a group of San speaking the Tay-Thai language family. In Sapa, they live mainly in some southern villages like Ban Ho, Sai Nam, Thanh Phu Thanh Ho ... where they are less rocky valleys, fertile land with several streams and rivers, ideal for fishing and rice cultivation.

4. Zay: Day people are also a branch of the ethnic groups of the linguistic family of Tay-Thai, living mostly in the high mountains of northern Vietnam. They have 25000 people in Vietnam and in Sapa, they represent only 2% of the population inhabiting the valley around the villages as Lao Chai and Ta Van. Like other ethnic groups in the valley, they practice the cultivation of rice annually. After Tet or the New Year, they organize a ceremony entitled Gioong Pooc literally meaning: Descent in the fields, in January to ask God for a good year with a good harvest.

5. Xapho: Belonging to the family of the Phu La, Xa Pho people have the population of only 4,000 people in Vietnam. They are not numerous here by living in the most remote villages of the region where access is difficult. At present, some people of this ethnic group in Sapa still use the patois or retain their native language of the Sino-Tibetan family…

Our services in Sapa:

Generally, in Sapa, we offer easy walking tours for everyone in the two valleys inhabited by ethnic groups: Muong Hoa and Ma Tra-Ta Phin after 10 minutes drive from the town of Sapa.

Sapa in Vietnam

Several trekking (hiking) are also available for travelers who have good physical condition: From half day treks to 4 days with overnight in home stay. Several trekking levels are also available: Easy, medium, hard ... at your choice. You can contact us for more details.

Sapa is developing its community tourism. Many local families have been equipped with basic comfort as: toilet, bathroom, blanket ... to accommodate travelers. If not, in the center of Sapa, there are all kinds of hotels: From family guest houses, small local hotels to luxury hotels.

Often in Sapa, we offer excursion to the markets of ethnic groups: Coc ly market (Tuesday), Cao Son (Wednesdays), Lung Khau Nhin (Thursday), Can Cau (Saturdays), the Bac Ha market or the biggest and the most colorful around Sapa.

How to get to Sapa?

Sapa is easily accessible by road from Hanoi (one day with the old road, 5h-6h drive with the new highway), Dien Bien Phu (one day), the border town of Lao Cai with China (1h15), the Thac Ba Lake (4h)...

For travelers who have little time, Guide du Vietnam offers travel between Hanoi and Lao Cai by night trains which have air-conditioned, clean and safe compartment. You can choose the cabin of 4 or 2 berths...

Things to avoid in this moment:

At this moment, the Sapa city is turned upside down by the construction works. So the city lost its charm. Nevertheless, the surroundings represent the interests not to be missed. So if comfort is not a problem for you, we will not go through the city but directly to ethnic villages. We will spend at least one night in homestay with simple comforts but clean to admire its splendid beauty…You can write us an email: for more free details about Sapa.