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Sapa & The North

Sapa is situated in the country’s northwest at an altitude of 1,600 meters. In the early 20th century the French took advantage of Sapa's cool climate, developing it into a summer retreat from the heat and humidity of Hanoi. Today, Sapa town still retains its European feel, largely due to the French architecture and gardens and today is a popular destination due to its beautiful scenery and colorful ethnic people. Sapa town is reached via a winding 40km road from the town of Lao Cai. The drive provides a taste of what is to come as the road winds its way up through lush rice terraced valleys and breath-taking scenery passing several different minority villages along the way.

The valleys surrounding Sapa are home to several of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minority groups, each with their own distinctive dress, customs and dialects. These tribes can all be seen at the weekend market in Sapa town to trade with one another. Sapa has also become a destination for travelers seeking adventure. It is a staging point for trekking in the nearby valleys and for climbing Mount Fansipan, Vietnam's highest peak as well as motorcycle rides in to the wild hill country. Extended treks to visit villages of minority tribes are also available.

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Vietnam’s northern mountain ranges are breathtakingly beautiful with fresh air and cool temperatures. To visit these remote mountains, take advantage of the elegantly restored Victoria Train with its plush seating and wood-paneled Pullman carriages. Home to a diverse group of ethnic minorities such as Tay, Red Dao, Black and Flower H’mong, Sapa boasts of ample hill tribe trekking and home stay opportunities. The four-star Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa, the only luxury hotel in North-Western Vietnam, opened in 1998. Built as a traditional mountain chalet with accented wooden décor and a welcoming stone hearth fireplace, the Victoria overlooks the town, blending perfectly with the natural surroundings. “Probably the best view in the world.” Topas Ecolodge is now the only one of its kind in Vietnam. Topas Ecolodge is based on ecological principles. We use solar technology and have implemented a wastewater facility to avoid pollution. We employ local people and use local products to bring benefits to the local community. Ideally located on a quiet side street, right on the heart of Sapa town, within easy walking to Sapa market and the Church. The eye-catching Chau Long Sapa Hotel offers tourists and visitors a magnificent view of Vietnam’s highest peak Mount Fan Si Pan. Sapa is home to many colorful native hill tribes.

Sapa – Attractions

Weekly Minority Markets
This cultural activity has a long history and is still significant in the modern life of the minority people.
The market is an attractive place for visitors who are keen on exploring traditional cultures.

Mount Fansipan
Indochina's highest peak, Mount Fansipan is only 9km from Sapa town and climbing to its summit is one of Asia's most challenging adventures. The trek takes visitors through tiny remote villages and areas of rainforest.

Mount Ham Rong
Lied close to Sapa Town, it's nearly 2,000m high and looks very much like the dragon's head in the clouds. Visitors to Ham Rong have chances to climb up the San May (Cloud Yard) to enjoy the panorama of Sapa Townlet, visit the orchid gardens with beautiful and colorful flowers. In addition, Ham Rong Mountain has numerous caves and stones in extraordinary shapes.

Hilltribe Villages
(Ta Phin, Ta Van, Lao Chai, Sin Chai, Y Linh Ho, Ma Tra, Cat Cat)
Shorter treks are also very rewarding, and within just a few hours walkers can be in villages that have seen few foreigners. The hill-tribe peoples in this area of Vietnam wear colorful traditional dress as a matter of daily routine and all follow their traditional agricultural way of life which has remained unchanged for centuries. The various ethnic peoples are relatively easy to identify due to their attire. For example the H’mong wears dark clothing, usually blue or black. The dye is fashioned from the indigo or hemp plant that is native to the area. H’mong women wear long aprons with embroidered waistcoats and have their hair rolled up into a turban-like hat, whilst the men wear a black skullcap, long waistcoat and loose trousers. Another equally distinctive minority are the Dao (pronounced Zao). Dao women are particularly striking as they shave their hair and eyebrows and wear a large red turban often covered with old coins or jewelry.

Heaven Gate - Tram Ton Pass
The incredible road between Sapa and Lai Chau crosses the Tram Ton Pass on the northern side of Fansipan, 15km from Sapa. At 1900m this is the highest mountain pass in Vietnam. Even if you are not planning to carry on around the northwest, it is well worth coming up here to experience the incredible views from the top of this pass. Descend by mountain bike before returning by truck or rent a motorbike to make the short hop to the new Tarn Duong (Binh Lu). This is a truly spectacular ride.