Things to See and Do in Sapa
According to Siti Nurfatin with Vietnam.CM edited
Revel in the allure of Sapa by marveling at the picturesque mountainous views, traversing ethnic tribal villages and enjoying a warm bowl of pho at the Sapa Market!
With diverse hill tribes, breathtaking landscapes, rice terraces and the highest mountain in Vietnam, Sapa has an abundance of attractions to offer. The Sapa region is notable for its picturesque mountain landscapes and the distinct cultures of many tribes such as the H’mong, Red Dzao, Tày, Giáy and Phù Lá ethnic groups.
First trip to Sapa, Vietnam? Not to worry, you’re in good hands! Pack your bags and get ready to immerse yourselves in a riveting and an enjoyable adventure!
1. Sapa Love Market (Chợ tình Sapa)
Hehe, love market? You are not mistaken, read more about Love Market
But that’s where the demand and supply of prospective partners and relationships interplay. The Love Market is a distinct practice of the Mong and Dao ethnic groups. The distance between both villages do not allow for frequent interaction (and dating opportunities), thus the Love Market provides a space for people from both ethnic groups to meet one another.
The ladies will don their colourful dresses and decorative ornaments, whereas the gents dress in traditional costumes. The Love Market only occurs on a Saturday where they interact, sing and play games with one another. Don’t worry about being the third wheel and immerse yourself in a long-standing tradition of the Mong and Dao ethnic groups!
2. Climb up Fansipan – “Roof of Indochina”
The highlight of Sapa has to be the Fansipan Mountain. With an elevation of 3,143m, it is the highest mountain called “Roof of Indochina”. If you are up for a challenge, the climb is doable in a day, approximately within 10 to 12 hours. Most guide treks, however, suggest a two or three-day climb to pace the trek and minimise exertion especially for those who are less physically fit. The choice is up to you but it is advisable to hire a professional guide or porters if needed.
Trekkers who stay overnight have the opportunity to mingle with other trekkers which makes the experience more uplifting as you share your struggles. The breathtaking view of Fansipan Mountain is one that you should not miss!
Tip: Prepare warm clothes and some heat packs as the campsite is usually cold and windy at night.
Take a cable-car up to lofty Fansipan (Cáp treo)
Too unfit to trek up Fansipan? No problem! You can still bask in the picturesque Fansipan mountain with a ride up the Sunworld Fansipan Legend cable car. The ride guarantees enthralling sceneries of Muong Hoa Valley and the Hoang Lien Son Mountain range.
The Sunworld Fansipan Legend cable car has been recognised by the Guinness World Records Organisation as the longest non-stop three-rope cable car.
3. Muong Hoa Valley (Thung lũng Mường Hoa)
No trip to Sapa is complete without treading on the bright green rice terraces – a manifestation of the livelihood of the Sapa hill tribes who are heavily dependent on rice cultivation. If mountain treks are over-taxing and arduous for you, then a trek along the rice terraces of Muong Hoa Valley is perfect!
4. Acient Stone Sapa church (Nhà thờ cổ Sapa)
The church flaunts a rustic exterior and a colonial architectural design that take us back to the French colonial period in Vietnam. It is opened only on the weekends and while you may not get a glimpse of the church’s interior, the beautiful exterior is worth a snap! Furthermore, it is fascinating to observe the activities in town and people-watch at the nearby square.
5. Love Waterfalls (Thác Tình yêu)
Places are made of a thousand stories – the legend behind the Love Waterfall is one that should not be missed. The ancient folktale tells a story of a forbidden love between a fairy and a boy who frequented the waterfall to play his flute. It is widely believed that the waterfall was a bathing place for fairies. In the aftermath of ferreting out the love affair, the fairy’s parents forbade her from visiting the waterfall. The story ends with the fairy metamorphosing into a bird to live with the boy. The symbolism of the waterfall as “Love” was born thereafter.
6. Silver Waterfalls (Thác Bạc)
The Thac Bac Waterfall is about 15km from Sapa Town and if you’re in for the best view, avoid rainy and foggy days. Take your worthy photo shots and for you lovebirds, the Thac Bac’s silver shimmery streams on the wrinkled rocks definitely exude a romantic ambience!
Ticket: 20,000 VND (~$1)
7. Cat Cat Village (bản Cát Cát)
The trekking never ends in Sapa, doesn’t it? Well, another alternative to the onerous mountain hikes would be a visit to the Cat Cat Village. While you are likely to experience a very long walk with numerous steps, it is certainly less strenuous.
The Hmong village people are friendly and albeit the many assertions of over-commercialisation in the area, the Cat Cat Village is still a nice spot to take touristy photos at the water wheels and watch some local performances.
8. Ham Rong Flower Garden (Vườn hoa núi Hàm Rồng)
Hàm Rồng means “Jaws of Dragons”. It is like Dalat of Sapa
Swarmed with bright-coloured flowers in the dewy air and sweet fragrances up your nostrils, the Ham Rong Flower Garden is a worthy visit. If you’re tired of trudging uneven grounds – not to worry – the garden is nicely paved and stairs are provided. This place is family-friendly.
The entire path will take about three to five hours to complete and you can enjoy a free traditional performance right up the mountain for 30 minutes. The steps may be a bit steep but it is a relatively easy climb. Not to forget, the top overlooks the Sapa Town and Sapa Lake. If you happen to visit Sapa Town or the church, then make a visit to the Ham Rong Flower Garden which is within the vicinity!
9. Sapa Museum (Bảo tàng Sapa)
If you’re looking for a more formal historical perspective on Sapa and its inhabitants, head down to the Sapa Museum! The museum offers an informative visual introduction to the different ethnic groups in Sapa and the distinctive features of their cultures, as well as the history of the French occupation and town development.
The museum is also near the church and is a handy option during bad weather. There is a shop on the ground floor of the museum, so if you’re looking to buy some handicrafts, embroideries or clothes for your loved ones back at home, there’s a vast array of options!
10. Sapa Market (Chợ Sapa)
The hustle and bustle of the Sapa market is emblematic of the vibrant lives of the tribal people. It is a mere 20-minute walk from Town Square, so if you’re in the area then drop by to get a glimpse of the frenetic atmosphere and buy some clothing, utensils or handcrafts. Some haggling skills are essential and be sure to stay firm as vendors may get a bit pushy! If you get too tired and hungry, a warm bowl of beef pho at a local stall is certainly consoling.
11. Hmong-style cuisine (Ẩm thực H’mong)
Renowned for its spring rolls, tofu, traditional Hmong pork confit, smoked buffalo and black pudding.
Of course, must try thang co (thắng cố)
“Thang co” is one of the most famous dishes of the H’Mong in the northwest of Vietnam. “Thang co” usually use for festival or special day. On the weekend, it is sold at the fair. Its name means a pot of soup which includes meat, organs of horse, vegetables and special kinds of spices. Today, “Thang co” is cooked to serve all people in Sapa, especially to serve tourists. Now, the Dao, Tay know how to cook “Thang co”. However, the special flavors that tourists can unforgettable are made by the H’Mong. With the H’mong, “Thang co” is not only delicious but also shows the ingenuity and cultural beauty of ethnic.
12. Trek and visit fascinating tribal villages
Tribal trekking is commonplace in Sapa wherein visitors are guided through the many villages to immerse in authentic cultural experiences, enjoy local cuisine and surround themselves with the beautiful folds of rice terraces. If you are keen on traversing the cultures and traditions of the tribal groups, this experience will provide a hands-on and unmediated experience, contrary to merely visiting landmarks and points of interests.
To engage in a more fulfilling immersion, you can trek the villages in the day and spend the night at a local home, then continue your journey the very next day! This homestay experience appeals not only to travellers who are keen in the tribal cultures but also those who wish to avoid the throngs of tourists at popular sights.
13. Hang Tien (Hang Tiên)