Sapa should be at the top of your list of treks in Vietnam. With its mountainous topography and the diversity of ethnic minorities, Sapa offers the best trekking experience. The breathtaking natural scenes and culture will make your stay an unforgettable experience.

As this is the best place to hike in Vietnam, there are different routes from easy to difficult, from day to day. It can be confusing for beginners to choose hikes and decide if they can go alone. But do not worry, this article will provide you with detailed information on the trek to Sapa.

1. Sapa in general

Located 350 km northwest of Hanoi, Sapa is home to Mount Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest peak. At 3,143 meters above sea level, you will have the most impressive view of the rice terraces of the Sapa Valley. It rains during the summer and it can be very cold and foggy during the winter. You could even see some snow!

Sapa has the largest number of ethnic minorities in Vietnam, making it the most culturally diverse region in the country. There are five main groups living in the Sapa valleys: the Hmong, Dao, Day, Tay and Xa Pho peoples. Surrounded by mountains and valleys, Sapa is a popular trekking ground in Vietnam with its spectacular scenery.

Sapa bac ha market

Bac Ha Market

2. When to go to Sapa?

The weather is a very important factor when making decisions as it can make or break the experience. Clouds can obstruct your view and mud can make climbing uncomfortable and difficult. The best time to visit Sapa is from March to May and from September to November. The weather is dry and sunny between March and May, it is a very comfortable climate to travel. But if you want to enjoy the terraces, September to November is a perfect time.

3. How to move from Hanoi to Lao Cai?

It takes 320 km to go from Hanoi to Lao Cai, and thanks to the Noi Bai - Lao Cai motorway, 80 km/h travel time will be minimal.


You can take a bus from My Dinh bus station. Ha Son Bus 19006776 (available 24 hours a day) is highly recommended, the last one is at 12. This bus has a transfer service from Noi Bai airport via the highway to go to Lao Cai, you will save time to go to the center of Hanoi (30 km) for no reason.


If you want to experience the North-West train to Sapa, you can take the train from Hanoi train station. This train station has two gates: Hang Co (Tran Quy Cap Str) and the main gate (Le Duan Str). These 2 gates have no difference, but you have to go to Tran Quy Cap Str to catch your train.

Victoria Express train is the best option. It’s super clean and comfortable. Compartments were fitted with clean white linen sheets and a comforter and in addition to the sleeping accommodations, there was a restaurant car. We had actually reserved a deluxe cabin with only four beds - I and my colleague shared the cabin with 2 more friends and we had a great night. As it turned out, the toilets were clean and there was no pedestrian traffic coming through the carriage.


For those who want to take an adventurous journey, have good health and a detailed program, it is possible to drive a motorcycle to have the best experience in the North West of Vietnam. With your motorbike, you can stop whenever you want and see the majestic scene right in front of your eyes.

 Sapa vietnam

4. What to expect when hiking in Sapa?

Joy and some challenges. You can explore smaller villages downhill, play with children, walk in the green rice fields and on the less traveled trails, where no tourist has gone on before.

If you get lost, you will encounter some challenges. Do not be afraid, normally there are people passing by and they can help you find a way out. Before you go on the hike, ask a local to write the address of your hostel in Vietnamese and probably in a local ethnic language. You can then show the locals that you meet on the way if you get lost. It will be less difficult if you head to a well-known place in Sapa, such as Bac Ha Market or Ta Phin Village.

There are 3 levels of trekking difficulty to do yourself:

  • Level 1: Easy. Stroll and choose the path that suits you best and lives the adventure without a plan. Normally, these paths will lead you to small ethnic villages that will give you a brief understanding of Sapa.

  • Level 2: Medium. These treks usually lead to beautiful places that you can find on the internet, but they are not easily accessible by car or motorbike. These hikes are long but worth it. The most popular trek in Sapa is in the Muong Hoa valley with many hills. You will pass Lao Chai valley, Ta Van village or Hau Thao village on the way.

  • Level 3: Difficult. What can be more difficult than the trek at the top of Mount Fansipan? This is considered one of the hardest treks for travelers. Normally, you will need 3 days of hiking but it depends on the path you take. We recommend that you use a porter to accompany you along the way.

Sapa Fanxipan

The disadvantages of not having a guide in Sapa

  • You can get lost. Although it is not too difficult to find the way, it is a possibility. You should be aware of it.

  • You may miss all the good things. A guide knows where the right places are. You might not be able to find these places because they are sometimes kept secret.

  • Without a guide, you run the risk of missing cultural information. The guides are locals, they can teach you a lot more about local history and culture.

  • You must organize your own permits, homestays, food, and transportation of your belongings.

Trekking route in Sapa

There is no map or specific itinerary when you walk alone in Sapa. Most of the time, people get lost in the beauty of Sapa, then find a way out without knowing which trails or paths they have taken. However, there are recommended trek routes. Instead of the busiest village, Cat Cat, you can consider a hike between these less visited ethnic villages in the Sapa region:

  • Ta Van village - 10 km from Sapa town

  • Lao Chai village - 5 km from Sapa town

  • Sin Chai village - 6 km from Sapa town

  • Hau Thao village - 10 km from Sapa town

  • Ta Phin village - 12 km from the Sapa town

  • Ban Hoa village - 20 km from the Sapa town

Tips for hikes

  • Rules to follow in a village with ethnic inhabitants:

  • Do not touch sacred objects.

  • No kisses in public.

  • Ask permission when taking photos, especially of older people and children

  • Enter a house only if you are invited. Gifts for children are welcome but avoid money and sweets.

  • Pay for your meal if you are invited for lunch or for homestay accommodation.

y ty

What to bring when trekking in Sapa:

  • Food and water. There are not many shops on your way.

  • If you want to see a village or stay with a host family, a SIM card will be very useful. You may be able to access the Internet. Other than that, you should be ready for no signal. Be sure to charge the card to your phone first when you still have access to the Internet.

  • Sun cream/ hat/ sunglasses. It depends on when you go hiking. If it’s summer, it’s very necessary.

  • Warm clothes. In the winter, it can be very cold in Sapa. Sometimes host families do not have heating.

  • Light rain jacket.

  • Insect repellent.

  • Good hiking shoes.

5. Trekking itineraries

Day 1: Arrival in Sapa

We arrived in Lao Cai railway station at around 6:00 AM, the driver picks us up then drive to Sapa town. After almost 1 hour driving, we reach Sapa town and the driver drop us off at Victoria Hotel.

Enjoy breakfast and check-in.

We then have a short inspection of some hotels in Sapa named Silk path Grand Hotel & Spa and M’Gallery Hotel De La Coupole - one of the best hotels in this area.

In the afternoon, we have a half-day tour trekking to Suoi Ho & Ma Tra village. 13:30: the local tour guide - Ms. May met us at the hotel then begin the day with a 3km trek through the breathtaking landscape to the village of Suoi Ho, home to Hmong minority. The weather was not really good - quit foggy and cold; however, the trekking time is super nice. We pass the terrace and meet a lot of locals there, stopover at the local house to meet the old woman and also the kids in the village.

We then continue to Ma Tra village. The way to this village is easier and more convenient since a 15km motorway was constructed over ten years ago, so it only takes you half an hour to get to the village. However, our group followed the trail that conducts us to walk on the high hill path around the valley rather than follow the normal way in order to discover the real-life and experience.

We finished the trekking at 16:00. Enjoy dinner at the hotel and then strolling around the town.

Sapa vietnam

Day 2:  Victoria hotel tour - Lao Chai & Ta Van village - Victoria homestay

After breakfast at the hotel, we had a short hotel tour to inspect Victoria Sapa Hotel & Spa. The Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa is modeled after a mountain lodge with views over the charming town of Sapa, the resort’s lush gardens or impressive Mount Fansipan.

After lunch, we continue our trip to Lao Chai & Ta Van village. Ms. May meet us at the hotel at 14:00 then we transfer to the village by van in 20 minutes or even more because of the traffic jams by the construction.

We start trekking on small trails down the Muong Hoa Valley toward Lao Chai village of Black H’mong ethnic people. Here we will discover their daily life and how they make traditional clothes, handicrafts; indigo…We will visit the biggest valley which provides the best view for golden rice terraced fields in Vietnam. After Lao Chai, we walk to Ta Van village of Giay people. It is a small group of ethnic people in Vietnam with a rich culture and beautiful houses located on rice paddy fields.

We stop at Victoria Homestay where we will sleep, which my very first time sleeping in the local house.

Located between the Black H’mong village of Lao Chai and the Giay village of Ta Van, the Victoria Homestay Experience is right amongst the rice terraces with expansive views of the valley and river below The Victoria Homestay Experience brings us closer to the H’mong ethnic group.

Lao Chai village

Lao Chai village

Day 3: Sapa back to Hanoi

After breakfast at the homestay, Ms. May come and take us back to the hotel.  We then get on the Limousine D’car to Hanoi, finish the trip to the Cloud town.

6. Where to stay?

As a famous tourist destination in Vietnam, you will find many 2 to 5-star hotels as well as homestays. Avoid the crowded downtown and prefer facilities located in quiet places surrounded by nature and want to enjoy the quiet and cool atmosphere, the following list shows you the best facilities for your stay.
- Pao's Hotel*****: Muong Hoa Street, Sapa City, Sapa District, Lao Cai Province
- Sapa Diamond Hotel***: No.28A Muong Hoa Street, Sapa district, Lao Cai province
- Sapa Relax Hotel***: No. 19a Dong Loi Street, Sapa District, Lao Cai Province

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