Sa Pa is a small mountain town located in the province of Lao Cai, about 350 km northwest of Hanoi, near the Chinese border. Several ethnic groups live in these peaceful mountains surrounded by terraced rice fields. Sa Pa is the favourite destination of many travelers because there are extraordinary landscapes.
Hiking enthusiasts will appreciate the comfortable climate and sunny days at the end of March. Unfortunately, you will see brown rice fields filled with water, waiting for rice to be planted. During your trip to Sa Pa in June, you will be immersed in the cool green rice fields. However, the rainy season and the heat of the day do not allow you to fully enjoy a trekking. September is the best time to enjoy the beautiful green rice fields, but it’s also the most popular time for travelers in Sa Pa.
What to do?
Choose a 3-day and 2-night package on your trip to Sa Pa. Make a day of hiking and a day of discovering the mountains and small isolated villages. Don’t miss a walk in the town of Sa Pa to discover its fabulous night market.
What to visit?
Rice paddies on the terrace. This is the main attraction, to do absolutely during your trip to Sa Pa. They are accessible during a guided hike. Sa Pa rice fields are known to be the most beautiful in the world. Enjoy landscapes of a different color depending on the time of year.
April-May: during the rainy season, local people water their fields to the maximum to prepare a new harvest.
June-July: the rice fields are in full cultivation, which makes the area completely green.
September-October: the rice is ripe, ready to be harvested. The fields are then of a beautiful golden color.
Villages of ethnic groups in Sa Pa
The Cat Cat Hmong Village. The village is located in a beautiful valley 3km from Sa Pa. It is a relatively touristic village, so do not hesitate to continue your hike to Y Linh Ho, to enjoy a much less frequented trail.
Giay de Ta Van Village. It is located about 8km from the city. Do not miss the path between the villages Hmong and Giay, which is one of the most beautiful in the region!
The Dao Village of Ta Phin . It is located 12 km from Sa Pa, but a day hike is enough to get there. There are many more to discover, which will make your trip to Sa Pa and its surroundings incredible. NB: you will have to pay an entrance fee in most villages.
The Muong Hoa Valley. It is one of the most famous destinations for travelers in Sa Pa for these breathtaking scenery. Along the mountains, one can find strange cut stones (petroglyphs), discovered in 1923, whose meaning remains too vague. Mount Fansipan . It is the highest mountain in Vietnam (3,143 m). Different paths lead to the top. On foot, this is possible in 1 to 3 days of walking. However,
Fansipan Mountain is also accessible via the Fansipan Legend Cable Car (15 minutes drive). It is the largest cable car and the highest elevation change in the world. The round trip costs $15 per person.
Take a 5-hour hike. As we did on our trip to Sa Pa, choose to be accompanied by a charming local guide. It will take you through the mountains to enjoy the best view. Ask your host for a fixed price. You don’t need to be a trained walker, although it can sometimes be physically challenging. In this case, do not hesitate to ask for a more accessible path.
Price: VND 500,000 ($20) for 2 people.
Rent a motorcycle. Get lost through the mountains on your trip to Sa Pa. Rest assured, there is only one road so it is impossible to get lost! We think this is the best way to visit because you are totally autonomous: you can stop whenever you want.
Price: VND 170,000 ($7.00) for one day motorcycle rental.
Where to eat?
Little Sa Pa .
Thanks to an extensive menu, you will be able to find what you want at an affordable price (among the lowest in the city). Try the tomato mushroom sauce, specialty of Sa Pa.
Address: 5 Dong Loi, Sa Pa, Lao Cai Province, Vietnam
Open: 8am-3pm, then 5pm-10pm, daily
Price: from VND 40,000 ($1.5) for a meal
One of the favorite restaurants of the local population. There are specialties from the northwest of Vietnam. Try thang co, a dish made with meat and horse, beef, buffalo and pork organs.
Address: 15 Thach Son, Sa Pa, Lao Cai Province, Vietnam
Open: 9am-10:30pm, daily
Price: $2 - $3 for a meal
Antique Sapa .
One of the best "Set Menu" you can find on your trip to Sa Pa. You will find generous portions and recipes that will make you fall in love with local food.
Address: 22A Phan Xi Pang, Sa Pa, Lao Cai Province, Vietnam
Open: 8am-10pm, daily
Price: $5 to $10 for a meal
Nature View Restaurant .
Dine with stunning views of the surrounding hills. Enjoy Vietnamese-Western fusion cuisine. It’s one of Sa Pa’s most expensive restaurants, but it’s definitely worth it.
Address: 51 Fansipan Street, Sa Pa, Lao Cai Province, Vietnam
Opening hours: 7.30am-6.30pm, daily
Price: $10-$30 for a meal
Where to stay?
The city of Sa Pa has become a busy place and, according to some, has lost its charming side. To live a real experience with the local ethnic groups, choose to sleep in "homestays" located outside the city centre. Your hosts will be delighted to share their cultures and experiences and will offer you, in most cases, to share a meal with their family.
Our recommandations :
Little Hmong House.
You will find traditional accommodation of the Hmong ethnic group. Located 12 km from Sapa Night Market, it includes 2 bungalows for up to 20 people. The family that welcomes you will offer a delicious local meal and will perfectly organize your trip to Sa Pa.
Prices from $10 for a night for 2 people in double room with garden view (a little more expensive to enjoy the view of the mountains).
Eco Palms House.
It is located in the village of the Hmong ethnic group, Lao Chai. It is the homestay offering one of the most beautiful views of the Hoang Lien Son mountain and the Muong Hoa valley in Sa Pa. The family is very friendly and does its best to make your stay comfortable and memorable. Prices around 50$ for a night for 3 people in bungalow.
Average Budget ($$): Grand Blue Hotel. Beautiful hotel located 2.3 km from the Fansipan Legend cable car station, but also close to the nightlife and all the amenities offered by Sa Pa. The staff is professional and very helpful.
Prices from $30 for a basic room for two (mountain views from $36).
High budget ($$$): Aira Boutique Sapa Hotel & Spa.Guests can enjoy exceptional mountain views, away from the noisy city centre. Special mentions for excellent service and restaurant that offers delicious dishes. Price from $80 for one night for two.