Looking for the best things to do in Sapa, Vietnam? You’ve come to the right place!
Sa Pa, often written as Sapa, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam, and it’s easy to see why! With its terraced rice fields, towering mountains and sweeping views, it’s a truly stunning place.
In this Sapa travel guide I have tried to include everything you need to know to have a great time in Sa Pa. Including what to do, where to stay, the best tours to join, where to eat, how to get around Sapa and more!
We spent three nights in Sapa as part of a wider Vietnam itinerary, and we really enjoyed our time there. The mixture of traditional villages, stunning views and unique terraced rice fields makes it really interesting.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s dive in and plan what to do in Sa Pa, Vietnam!
- 1 Key things to know before visiting Sapa
- 2 Best things to do in Sapa
- 2.1 Ride the Cable Car to Mount Fansipan
- 2.2 Explore Cat Cat Village
- 2.3 Go hiking
- 2.4 Buy some local handicrafts
- 2.5 Hike up to Fan Si Pan Peak
- 2.6 Admire the views from the Glass Bridge in Sapa
- 2.7 Drive along Ô Quy Hồ Pass (Đèo Ô Quý Hồ)
- 2.8 Admire Silver Waterfall & Love Waterfall
- 2.9 Explore the Terraced Rice Fields
- 2.10 Wander around the center of Sapa town
Key things to know before visiting Sapa
Before we dive into the best things to do in Sa Pa, Vietnam, I wanted to give you an overview of the logistics information that you will need to plan your trip.
These are all the useful things to know like how to get to Sapa, where to stay, how to get around and more!
How to get to Sapa
Sapa is located in the north of Vietnam, close to the border with China. It’s pretty far, and the journey is quite long, regardless of the travel method you choose.
You can travel to Sapa by bus, train or private taxi. The buses and trains both offer overnight sleeper options, as it’s a 5+ hour journey. A private taxi is obviously the most comfortable, although it can get quite pricey.
There are many options for train and bus tickets, ranging from basic to luxury.
We took the VIP overnight bus to Sapa from Ninh Binh for around 500,000 VND per person, and then the basic day bus from Sapa back to Hanoi for around 300,000 VND per person.
Needless to say the VIP bus was much more comfortable, but you don’t rely on getting much sleep.
The roads are bumpy, they drive like crazy and you will arrive in Sapa around 5AM, where you then have to decide whether to pay for early check-in at your hotel or just wander aimlessly around town with your bags while you wait for normal check-in hour.
We booked all our transfers in person at our hotels or home stays, but you can also book them online beforehand if you want to ensure you have it booked before you travel.
Overall, getting to Sapa was a bit of a journey, but it was definitely worth it.
Where to stay in Sapa, Vietnam
Being one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam means that Sa Pa has plenty of accommodation options to offer. Here are some of the best ones for every budget.
Budget: Sapa Rosie House – we stayed at this affordable guest house and it was great option. It’s a little outside the Sapa town centre, but it has a great view over the rice fields and the host is lovely.
Mid-range: Laxsik Ecolodge – this stunning Ecolodge offers beautiful bungalows with rice fields view, as well as a spacious outdoors dining terrace and an infinity swimming pool.
Luxury: Silk Path Grand Resort & Spa Sapa – if you want to treat yourself, this luxury hotel is the place to do so. With its fine interior design, huge swimming pool and great position, it’s the perfect place to relax after a long day hiking and exploring Sapa!
Best tours in Sapa, Vietnam
Here are some great tours that you can join in Sapa, which will make your experience all the more magical.
Sa Pa: Muong Hoa Valley Trek and Local Ethnic Villages Tour – this isn’t the exact guided hike we did in Sapa, but it’s very similar. A local guide will take you hiking through the iconic terraced rice fields of Sapa and to discover local villages you wouldn’t be able to see without a guide.
How to get around Sa Pa
Getting around Sapa is relatively easy and affordable. During my trip, I found that the best way to get around is to hire a motorbike or take a taxi.
Walking is also an option, but some destinations can be quite far apart, so be prepared for some exercise. If you’re comfortable with riding a motorbike, then renting one is the best way to explore the area at your own pace.
Prices vary depending on the type of bike, but you can usually expect to pay around 120,000 VND (5 USD) per day.
They didn’t ask us for it, but make sure you have an international driving license, and always wear a helmet.
Taxis are also widely available in Sapa. You can either hail one down on the street or use ride-hailing apps such as Grab or Be.
Taxi prices are generally quite affordable, with most rides within Sapa town costing around 50,000 VND (2 USD).
For those who prefer a more eco-friendly mode of transportation, there are also bicycles available for rent. Prices start at around 50,000 VND (2 USD) per day, and it’s a great way to see the beautiful rice terraces up close.
No matter how you choose to get around, Sapa offers a wide variety of options that cater to all travel styles and budgets. So don’t be afraid to explore and discover all the hidden gems this beautiful town has to offer.
How many days do you need in Sapa?
If you’re planning on visiting Sapa during your Vietnam itinerary, you might be wondering how many days you need to fully explore this beautiful region.
I would recommend staying at least 2-3 days in Sapa. This will give you enough time to visit some of the must-see attractions without feeling too rushed, plus getting off the beaten track to some lesser known spots.
It also depends on your arrival and departure times in Sapa, but generally speaking if you spend at least 2-3 full days in Sa Pa you will have enough time to visit Cat Cat Village, take the cable car to the top of Fansipan Mountain, go on a hike amongst the rice fields and explore the Sapa town centre.
Of course, if you have more time, you could easily spend a week or more exploring the region and getting to know the local culture.
Many travellers do multi-day hikes in Sa Pa, which obviously requires more time than the 2-3 days I suggested. Just remember to pack some warm clothes, as it can get chilly in the mountains!
Best time of year to visit Sapa, Vietnam?
They say that Sapa is gorgeous no matter what time of year you visit. However, some times of year are definitely better than others.
If you’re looking for sunny and dry weather, then the best time to visit Sapa is from September to November (Autumn).
During these months, the weather is cool and dry (with temperatures ranging from 15 – 25°C), making it perfect for trekking and exploring the beautiful surrounding mountains and terraced rice fields.
If you’re a fan of greenery and lush vegetation, then you should plan your trip to Sapa from March to May (Spring).
During this time, the spring rains keep the region well-watered, making the rice terraces and the valleys absolutely stunning.
There are also lots of flowers blooming everywhere, making for some incredible photos. It is still chilly during this season though, and the average temperature ranges from 15-20°C.
I wouldn’t visit Sapa from June to August, as its the rainy season in Sapa.
They say the frequent rain makes the mountains and valleys come alive with fresh greenery and colorful flowers, and that you will be able to see the waterfalls in their full power.
However if it’s pouring rain the whole time you’re there, how many outdoors activities can you really do?
Another period I would avoid are the winter months, December to February. Some people like it as they say this is when you can experience Sapa’s dreamy foggy landscapes.
The mist may create an otherworldly view, but as I quickly discovered in Ninh Binh, a clear blue sky always makes places look better than a dark grey one (even if it might look dreamy and foggy in photos).
So, there you have it – the best time to visit Sapa depends on your preferences and what you want to experience. Just don’t forget to bring travel insurance and pack accordingly for the weather!
Best things to do in Sapa
Ride the Cable Car to Mount Fansipan
If you’re anything like me and love breathtaking views, then I cannot recommend enough taking a ride on the cable car up to the tallest mountain in Vietnam – Fansipan!
The cable car is a modern and efficient way to get up to the top of the mountain, providing stunning views of the surrounding mountain range and terraced rice fields.
Located in Sapa, the cable car journey starts from Sapa town and takes you to the top of Fansipan mountain in about 20 minutes.
The views are truly spectacular and give you a great sense of the scale of the mountain and the surrounding valley. You’ll feel like you’re on top of the world!
The Fansipan cable car is open from 7:30am to 4:30pm and costs around 700,000 VND for a roundtrip ticket.
That might sound like a lot, especially when compared to average prices in Vietnam, but trust me, it’s worth every penny.
Plus, the cable car is a smooth and comfortable ride, so sit back and relax as you soar above the stunning landscapes of Sapa. Plus, once you make it to the top, you can expect more than just a viewpoint.
From the spot where the cable car arrives to the actual 3,147 metre peak of Fansipan there is still a little bit of a stretch. You have to walk around 20-30 minutes to reach it, passing by beautiful temples, pagodas and statues.
Fansipan mountain is an important cultural and spiritual site for many ethnic minorities in the region, such as the Hmong people.
The mountain has historically been climbed for ceremonial purposes and pilgrimages, but with the addition of the cable car in recent years, more and more tourists are able to experience the majesty of Fansipan mountain.
If you’re hesitant about heights or the cost, I can assure you that this is an activity you won’t regret. The views are simply breathtaking and provide a unique perspective of Sapa and the surrounding Northern Vietnam region.
Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture those once-in-a-lifetime moments!
Overall, taking the cable car up to Fansipan mountain was one of the highlights of my trip to Sapa. The stunning views, cultural significance, and smooth ride all made for an unforgettable experience.
So, if you’re planning a trip to Sapa, be sure to add a ride on the Fansipan cable car to your itinerary!
Click here to book the entrance ticket to Fansipan cable car, or check out prices & availability in the calendar below!
Explore Cat Cat Village
I was a bit wary of visiting Cat Cat Village, as I’d heard very different feedback about it.
There are those who regard it as a lovely little gem of a town, steeped in traditional culture, and others who just see it as a tourist attraction and trap.
My experience sits somewhere in between those.
As an ethnic Hmong village dating back to the late 1980s, Cat Cat Village is supposedly steeped in history and culture.
However, there’s no denying that it has taken quite a touristy turn in recent years, with many locals adapting to sell souvenirs for tourists.
When I arrived, I was immediately struck by the beautiful traditional costumes worn by locals and tourists alike, adorned with bright and intricate patterns.
Add to it that Cat Cat Village is located in a breathtakingly beautiful setting, surrounded by lush green mountains, bamboo forests, terraced rice fields and a waterfall, and it all makes for a very picturesque experience.
As you wander through the village you will find a wide range of traditional handicrafts on offer.
From embroidery to weaving, silverwork to lacquerware, there is a wide variety of products being created on-site by skilled artisans.
Entrance to the village costs 70,000 VND (around 3 USD), and it’s open every day from 9 AM to 6 PM. Guided tours are available, but I don’t think it’s essential.
I found that exploring at my own pace allowed me to really take in the sights and sounds of the village.
You can easily spend a few hours wandering around the village and its surroundings, checking out the local handicraft stalls, tasting some local dishes and just generally enjoying the atmosphere.
Is it a tourist attraction? Yes. Is it a pretty place to visit in Sapa? Also yes. There are probably more authentic villages that you can visit in Sapa, but I still found my visit to Cat Cat Village interesting.
One of the best ways to fully experience the stunning views of Sapa is by going on a hike. And let me tell you, it’s definitely worth the effort!
There are several hiking trails to choose from, ranging from beginner to advanced levels of difficulty, as well as day hikes or multi-day hikes that usually involve overnight stays in Vietnamese home stays.
We did the Lao Chai – Ta Van trail, which offered stunning views over the rice fields and mountains, as well as a beautiful glimpse into the everyday life of the locals.
We did our hike with a local guide, organised through our home stay, and it was pretty interesting to see what life is like in authentic local villages, as opposed to slightly more touristy ones like Cat Cat Village.
Click here to book your guided hike of Sapa rice fields & local villages, or check out prices & availability in the calendar below!
The hike took us through rice fields, past waterfalls and over suspension bridges.
We even had the opportunity to visit a local home, where we were introduced to how handicraft products were made and traditional farming techniques.
It was a very interesting and unique experience, which gave an insight into local life that we wouldn’t have been able to have without a guide.
As for prices, it’s completely up to you!
You could go for a wander along the main road, taking in the views over the terraced rice fields by yourself, but you would miss out on all the interesting insights that a local guide can give you.
Plus, many parts of the trail we did were through rice fields and unmarked, not the kind of route you would follow if you didn’t know to go there!
Tours range from 300,000 to 700,000 VND (around 13 to 30 USD), and in our case also included lunch. Keep in mind that prices may vary based on the difficulty of the trail and the length of the hike.
Overall, I highly recommend going on a guided hike in Sapa. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the area, and to get a glimpse into the traditional way of life of the local people.
Plus, the exercise will make you feel amazing!
Buy some local handicrafts
One of the best things to do in Sapa is definitely shopping for local handicrafts. The town is full of shops and stalls selling handmade items made by the local families and ethnic group of the region, such as the Hmong and Red Dao.
One of my favourite places to browse was the Sapa Local Market, located in the town center.
Here, you can find a wide variety of goods including colorful fabrics, intricately embroidered clothing, handwoven baskets, and hand-carved wooden items. It’s a great spot to pick up unique souvenirs to take back home with you.
Like most markets in South East Asia, there is a fair bit of haggling and bargaining going on.
Personally I’m not very good at it, and often end up paying the full price they ask for, but if you’re a good haggler you can definitely get away with spending less.
It’s important to note that many of the handicrafts available in Sapa are not just decorative pieces, but they also support the livelihoods of the local people and their families.
By purchasing a handmade item, you’re not only taking home a unique souvenir, but you’re also supporting the culture and traditions of the ethnic minority groups in northern Vietnam.
Hike up to Fan Si Pan Peak
I’ve already mentioned taking the cable car to Mount Fansipan, but did you know you can also hike up to this stunning peak? Hiking Fan Si Pan is considered a memorable experience in Sapa.
As the tallest mountain in Indochina, Fan Si Pan stands tall at 3,143 meters above sea level and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
If you’re a fan of hiking and stunning views, then hiking Fan Si Pan should definitely be on your bucket list when visiting Sapa, Vietnam.
It’s recommended to book a guided tour for this hike, as the trails can be challenging and the weather can change quickly.
You can either hike up overnight, and reach Mount Fansipan in time to see the sunrise, or spread out the hike across different days, with overnight stays in homestays and villages along the way.
The entrance fee for hiking Fan Si Pan is around 70,000 VND (around $3 USD) per person, and the guided tour prices vary depending on the length of the tour and the number of people in the group.
If you decide to hike Fan Si Pan, it’s important to bring proper hiking gear and clothing, as well as insect repellent and sunscreen.
The weather can be unpredictable, so it’s important to be prepared for rain or sudden drops in temperature. Here are some options for guided hikes up to Fansipan Mountain Peak:
Admire the views from the Glass Bridge in Sapa
We didn’t go to the Glass Bottom Bridge in Sapa as I’m a bit scared of heights, but there’s no denying that experiencing the stunning views from this unique spot must be quite the experience!
Located in the Hoàng Liên Son mountain range, the bridge hangs over a deep valley, offering incredible views of the surrounding landscape.
The glass bottom adds an intense element of excitement, as you are essentially walking on air – or at least it feels that way!
The glass bridge is around a 30-minute scooter drive from Sapa, and you can enjoy some pretty beautiful views on the drive over.
Along the way you will find a few waterfalls and viewpoints that you can stop at to break up the drive.
The Glass Bottomed Bridge is open from 7:30am to 5:30pm. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and dress appropriately for the weather.
The ticket for the bridge costs around 100,000 VND (4 USD), a small price to pay for such an unforgettable experience.
Drive along Ô Quy Hồ Pass (Đèo Ô Quý Hồ)
This is the mountain road that connects Sapa to the glass bottom bridge, so if you plan on doing the above mentioned activity, you will already be ticking off this bucket list experience too.
Driving along the Ô Quy Hồ Pass is truly a breathtaking activity. Located about 50 kilometers away from Sapa town, it is one of the highest mountain passes in Vietnam.
As we ascended the winding road, I couldn’t help but feel a rush of adrenaline mixed with awe as I looked out at the stunning views of the surrounding mountains, terraced rice fields and valleys.
The beauty of this landscape is truly something that needs to be experienced in person.
I was a bit wary going into Ô Quy Hồ Pass, as I’d read online that the road was quite scary, but I was actually very pleasantly surprised.
Yes the road is very winding, it can be narrow in certain points as well as steep, but we found it to be well paved and in better condition than most roads in Vietnam.
If you don’t want to drive yourself, there are also motorbike tours available in Sapa that will take you along the pass.
Prices for the tour vary depending on the length and activities included, but generally start at around 800,000 VND (35 USD) per person.
It’s important to note that the pass can be closed during the rainy season due to safety concerns, so be sure to check the weather as well as any travel advisories before embarking on the journey.
Click here to book your private motorbike tour in Sapa, or check out prices & availability in the calendar below!
Admire Silver Waterfall & Love Waterfall
On the drive from Sa Pa city center to the Glass Bridge, there are a few more attractions beyond the scenery and view of Ô Quy Hồ Pass.
Along the way you’ll find two famous waterfalls; Silver Waterfall and Love Waterfall.
Silver Waterfall is partly visible from the road, although you will have to pay a small 20,000 VND fee if you want to get up close to the waterfall to see it properly.
To see Love Waterfall instead you will have to do a short 45-minute hike. We didn’t have time to do the hike, but I’ve heard the route is super scenic and the hike is beautiful to see, especially during the rainy season.
Explore the Terraced Rice Fields
One of the highlights of my time in Sapa was exploring the stunning terraced rice fields. These fields are a must-see for anyone visiting northern Vietnam, and I was blown away by their beauty.
The terraced rice fields were initially created by the Hmong people, who have lived in the mountains of northern Vietnam for centuries.
They built these fields by hand, carving out the hillsides and creating a series of flat, stepped terraces. Today, the fields remain an integral part of the local economy, as rice is still a staple crop in the region.
We explored the rice paddies as part of our guided hike with a local tour guide. My guide was incredibly knowledgeable about the history of the fields and the local culture.
As we walked she shared stories about the Hmong people and their traditional way of life. I learned about the various stages of rice cultivation, and how it impacts the lives of the locals.
It was fascinating to see the rice fields up close and to gain a deeper appreciation for the hard work that goes into growing rice.
Wander around the center of Sapa town
Sapa has a lively town centre, where you can find shops, bars, restaurants and street food stalls of every kind. Many of the shops and streets are decorated with colourful lanterns and plants.
It can be a bit chaotic, but nothing like the traffic of Hanoi. It’s a nice town centre to wander around for a while, tasting the local cuisine and purchasing local souvenirs.
You will also find plenty of massage parlours. Sa Pa is known as a trekking town, so it’s only natural that so many massage parlours popped up in the area!
After all, after a long day hiking amongst the rice fields, a foot and leg massage is just what you need!
Final thoughts on visiting Sapa, Vietnam
There you have it, the ultimate travel guide to Sa Pa, Vietnam! Have you been to Sapa before? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below!
Whether you spell it Sapa or Sa Pa, this unique corner of Vietnam is a must-see on any Vietnam travel bucket list. With its terraced rice fields, towering mountain peaks and traditional villages, it’s a really interesting place to visit.
Especially for people who love hiking, being outdoors and want a taste of traditional Vietnam, it’s a must-see stop on any Vietnam itinerary.
Personally I really enjoyed my time in Sapa (and not only because we finally had some blue skies after a week of grey weather in Ninh Binh and Halong Bay)!
I hope you find my Sapa travel guide useful! If you have any questions on what to do in Sa Pa, Vietnam, just let me know in the comments below!