Sapa is a picturesque little town in the northwest of Vietnam, with no shortage of beautiful landscapes and even more beautiful people. While trekking is the number one activity, you should not miss out on the other little adventures on offer. Here is a list of our favorite things to see and do in Sapa.
Explore the town on foot
Walking around the Sapa town is an absolute must. Even though it is a little touristy, this shouldn’t put you off exploring the many things that make Sapa what it is. You can tick the Sapa Market, Notre Dame Cathedral, Cat Cat Village and Ham Rong Mountain off your list quite easily as these are located within walking distance of each other. Don’t be afraid to wander off the path as you will come across intriguing alleys and hidden gems.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Sapa Market, QL4D, Sapa, Lao Cai, Vietnam, +84 166 616 6797
Duong Len Nui Ham Rong, Sapa, Lao Cai, Vietnam, +84 214 3871 289
Shop for handicrafts
It is very likely that every hilltribe woman you bump into will try to sell you something – be it handicrafts, food, tours or a place to crash at night. There are tons of items you can buy, from bracelets, anklets and headbands to scarves, jewelry, handbags, shoes and carpets – each with embroidery intricately sown with love and care. The colors and patterns on the items represent the different tribes of people, and it is interesting to figure out which is which. Don’t be afraid to let your curiosity get the best of you. Talk to the women and find out. Not only do these items make for great souvenirs for yourself, but your loved ones at home will adore them too. Sapa Market is full of stalls with colorful displays, and we are sure you will not come out empty handed.
Sapa Market, QL4D, Sapa, Lao Cai, Vietnam, +84 166 616 6797
Rent a motorbike and drive around
While tours to every popular location are available, it is almost always better to do it by yourself at your own pace. Renting a bike for the day will allow you to do just that. A favorite route among travelers to drive through is Dinh Deo Pass that leads to Heaven’s Gate. If the dangerously serpentine roads don’t make you hold your breath, the stunning views on both sides of valleys and mountains will surely do. If you have never ridden a bike before, this is not the place to learn. Hop on the back of the bike of an experienced rider and let them take you around. Make sure to stop frequently so you can get as many photos as possible! The town is also a great place to explore on a motorcycle, by the way.
Northern Vietnam is home to the highest peak in Indochina, Mount Fansipan. At an elevation of 10,312 feet (3,143 meters), this is a beast to conquer and is definitely worth your time and effort. Do not attempt to do this by yourself, as there have been cases where things have gone wrong. There are many tour agencies in Sapa and Hanoi offering various types of guided tours up the mountain, and you can choose one that appeals to you. The best ones span over two days and offer all-inclusive packages, so you do not have to go through the hassle of finding homestays yourself. Once you reach the summit, you will be rewarded with beautiful views over the city and the terraced rice fields below. If it is cloudy though, your view might be obstructed.
Trek Muong Hoa Valley
Just like everything else on this list, this is an absolute must when in Sapa. You can only truly appreciate the beauty of Muong Hoa Valley if you take your time to trek it and spend a night or two at a local village homestay. You can book trekking tours online (try Sapa O’Chau) or through travel agencies you come across in Hanoi or in Sapa. Sometimes women from the regional ethnic minority tribes may even approach you while in town (the bus station is a popular place for this) and offer a trek and homestay. Don’t be afraid to say yes. Often these are more authentic than the ones done through tour agencies. Taking muddy trails through terraced fields, drinking water out of streams, sleeping on the floor in traditional long tail houses, and spending time hanging out with local families and drinking happy water (rice wine) in Aquafina bottles – are typical things that will happen on these tours. The memories made up in the North are unrivaled.
Sapa O’Chau, 08, Thac Back Road, Sapa, Lao Cai, Vietnam, +84 2143 771 166
Hang out with members of the different ethnic tribes
The H’Mong are the predominant minority tribe in Sapa, but you will come across Yao and Zay people as well. Striking up a conversation is easy, as most of them are well-versed in English, having learned from other tourists they have bumped into, or at school. Get to know them and their stories and you will probably be invited to their home to share a meal and laughter. It’s a humbling experience to live with them, even if it’s just for a day, and you will leave Sapa with a new found appreciation for life.
Eat to your heart’s content!
Leave your cravings for burgers and pizza behind and indulge yourself on some of the delicious regional cuisine. Thang co, a favorite dish among the H’Mong tribe is hotpot made of horse meat, internal organs and bones. Salmon hotpot, black chicken, and bamboo sticky rice are also worth trying. You can find these dishes and many more in restaurants like The Hill Station Signature Restaurant. For thang co, visit A Quynh, a popular venue among locals.
The Hill Station, 37 Fansipan St, Sapa, Lao Cai, Vietnam, +84 2143 887 111
A Quynh, 15 Thach Son, Sapa, Lao Cai, Vietnam, +84 214 3871 555
Drop by the Sapa Love Market
This is a unique experience in Sapa, and only happens on Saturdays. The Sapa Love Market is where young ethnic tribes people would come to meet one another, fall in love, and get married. Because villages in Sapa are sparsely populated, those living in far-away villages would make the journey days ahead so they can arrive in time to find someone. You will see boys and girls hanging out, laughing, drinking, eating, doing traditional dances and playing traditional games together. It’s a different world to what we are used to. At the end of the day they part ways but promise to meet again, probably in a week, when the market comes to life again.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.