Sapa is a city in the Lao Cai district in the north of the country. The city was built in the middle of the Hoang-Lien-Son Mountains at an altitude of 1,600 meters and has also been chosen as the capital of the district of the same name.
The city is of enormous importance for the many local hill tribes, such as Hmong, Red Dao and Tay. It is not only the next start-up point for various errands and daily shopping, it is also a hotspot for tourists with whom a lot of money is washed into the region.
Sapa offers its visitors a wonderful view with lots of nature, mountains and the legendary rice terraces.
If you’ve ever seen a photo of Vietnam like this, it is most likely from Sapa.
And so here in Vietnam almost every local, tourist or expat talks about this beautiful spot when it comes to the best destinations in Vietnam. And people do it with such enthusiasm and with this sparkle in their eyes that I couldn’t miss this adventure.
Location: 1,600 meters above sea level.
Average temperature: 15 to 18 °C.
Best time to travel: If you want to see the rice terraces in full bloom, you should be there before September.
Recommended length of stay: 4 days.
Attractions in Sapa
In Sapa there are many ways to spend a nice and unforgettable time. There are no beaches here, but all the more nature and fresh air. Hiking enthusiasts and adventure people are in best hands in this region.
It’s very hectic here during the day. A lot of traffic and noise dominate the cityscape. At the time of my visit, all roads were rebuilt, which also led to an enormous dust pollution.
And so life in Sapa only really flourishes after sunset. Numerous tourists then come out of their accommodations and frolic in the city center. Only now the city becomes romantic and calm and shows its beautiful sides. Now many bars and restaurants open their doors and invite the hungry and thirsty mouths to linger. Now numerous women and children of the hill tribe come onto the streets and show themselves in beautiful, ethnic and traditional clothes and try to earn some money by selling self-made souvenirs and other stuff.
Cat Cat Village
Admission price: 70,000 VND (approx. 2.73€).
Recommended length of stay: 4 hours.
If you are looking for the most popular attractions in Sapa, you cannot miss the Cat Cat Village. If you want to believe the opinion of the crowd, it is the ultimate attraction. And so I set out and wanted to take a closer look at what was behind it.
The village is only about 2 kilometers south of Sapa. Once there, you pay a fair entrance fee of only 70,000 dong and may probably stay in the village until it closes in the evening. The entrance fee should benefit the people in the village, which I believe and also like to pay.
On the day of my visit, there were a lot of tourists, which made the narrow streets and small houses in the village crowded and made it difficult to stroll. You can’t get lost here, especially when there are so many people out and about. Just follow the crowds and you won’t get off the track that quickly.
Small and large wooden huts with stalls are all over the way. Everywhere you see handmade dolls, toys, souvenirs and clothes that can be bought on same place. It seemed to me that there were only shops in every corner of the entire village, which gave me as a visitor the feeling that I was at a sales event. This feeling gave the whole thing a bitter aftertaste.
And so my personal conclusion is somewhat sober. Cat Cat Village is an attraction and worth a visit, but I missed this authenticity. I wanted to experience real village life, not the one that was staged for tourism. I will not come back, but I am still glad I was here.
Fansipan – Roof of Indochina
Sapa by Bike
Bars, Shops and Restaurants
Every time I am visiting an interesting place, I am looking for the bar, the shop or the restaurant, which I will remember for a long time. I even found some of them in Sapa and would like to share them with you.
If you are looking for a souvenir, something original and handmade, you can buy something from the street or go straight to the Indigo Cat and let yourself be excited by the variety and beauty of the products.
The Indigo Cat is the first shop in Sapa that is 100% owned by Hmong. With the purchase you support over 50 families who work with passion on all the offered products. Here in the shop you can browse in peace, you will neither be accost nor forced to buy something.
I can recommend everyone to give a visit here and take something nice home with them.
The Hill Station Signature Restaurant
One of the best restaurants in town. The Hill Station offers local food with a touch of luxury. The ambience is dominated by wood and was decorated with great attention to detail. The food here is delicious. I didn’t know most of what was on the menu, so I was able to try my dish for the first time.
I even found craftbeer. Here at the “The Hill Station” they serve beer from Pasteur Brewing Company.
Color Bar Sapa
My favorite finding in Sapa was the Color Bar. It’s the cutest bar I’ve ever seen. The interior is completely in ethnic and hippy style. And the entire ambience gets a finish by gentle, electronic beats.
The owner is totally open-minded and you can get into conversation quickly. In this bar you can comfortably review the day and let the evening fade away.
My hotel recommendation
My personal experience with hotels here in Sapa has been a bit sober. I had to change hotels twice until I found the perfect hotel for me. In the first one, I wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night due to the noise. The second hotel was anything but not that, what was promised in the pictures on the Internet. But all good things come in threes. Son my third try I found my match.
The Saparis Hotel offers the best price-performance in the city. The staff is super nice, fulfilled all my wishes and could even organize a bus ticket to Cat Ba for the onward journey, which I even couldn’t find online by myself.
Breakfast is ordinary, but still tasty and sufficient. Every morning I chose delicious coffee with freshly made pancakes and watermelon.
Sapa, the high mountain town everyone in Vietnam talks about. The city that was founded by the French and was supposed to serve as a health resort. The city with the legendary rice fields. The city that enchants everyone and so does me.
I will always remember Sapa. Despite a lot of constructions there, I found the beautiful side of the city. Despite the already harvested rice fields, the mountain landscape still looked amazing.
I have traveled to the north with a lot of expectations and have not been disappointed. And a reunion is already planned.