When it comes to trekking in Vietnam, Sapa should be on the top of your list. With its mountainous topography and the diversity of ethnic minorities, Sapa offers the best trekking experience. The breathtaking natural scenes and the deep understanding of the culture that awaits you will make for an unforgettable experience.
Because it is the best place to trek in Vietnam, there are various trekking spots ranging from an easy to hard level, from one day to multiple days. It can be confusing for first-timers deciding on which treks to pursue and whether they can trek on their own or join a tour. It’s an impending headache. But don’t worry, this article has these problems covered. It will provide you detailed information about trekking in Sapa and make it much easier for you to decide.
Facts about Sapa
Located 350 kilometers northwest of Hanoi, Sapa is home to Mount Fansipan, the highest peak in Vietnam. At 3,143 meters above the sea level, you will have the most impressive view of the terraced rice paddies lining Sapa’s steep valley walls. It drizzles during the summer and it can get very cold and foggy during the winter. You might even see snow! Sapa has the most ethnic minorities in Vietnam, making it the most culturally diverse area in the country. There are five main groups living throughout the valleys of Sapa: Hmong, Yao, Zay, Tay and Xa Pho people. Surrounded by mountains and valleys; Sapa is a popular trekking base in Vietnam with spectacular landscapes.
When to Trek in Sapa
Weather is a very important factor during decision-making time. It is necessary to have nice weather when you embark upon your trek because it can make or break the experience. Clouds can impede your view and the mud makes it difficult and sometimes unpleasant to walk up a steep slope. The best time to visit Sapa is from March to May and from September to November. It is dry and clean with sunshine during March to May, a very comfortable climate for traveling. But if you want to enjoy the terraces, September to November is the perfect time.
There are 3 levels of do-it-yourself trekking tour difficulty:
Level 1: Easy trekking. This also means play it by ear. Walk around and pick the path you feel is best and experience the plan-less adventure. Normally these paths will lead you to small ethnic villages which will give you a brief understanding of Sapa.
Level 2: Medium trekking. These treks normally lead to pretty places that you may find on the internet, but they are not easy to access by car or motorbike. These treks are long but worth it. The most popular trek in Sapa is through Muong Hoa valley with a lot of up and down hills. You will pass the Lao Chai valley, Ta Van village, or Hau Thao village on the way.
Level 3: Hard trekking. What can be harder than the trek to the top of Mount Fansipan peak? This is considered one of the most challenging treks for travelers. Normally, you will need 3 days hiking to complete the trek but it depends on what trail you take. For this trek, I recommend you find a porter to support you along the way.
Sapa Trekking Map
There is no specific map or route when you trek by yourself in Sapa. Most of the time people get lost in the beauty of Sapa, then find the way out without knowing which trails or which paths they originally took. However, there are some recommended trek routes. Instead of the most frequented village, Cat Cat, you can consider trekking between these less visited ethnic villages in the Sapa area:
Ta Van village – 10 km from the town of Sapa
Lao Chai village – 5 km from the town of Sapa
Sin Chai village – 6 km from the town of Sapa
Hau Thao village – 10 km from the town of Sapa
Ta Phin village – 12 km from the town of Sapa
Ban Ho village – 20 km from the town of Sapa
Here is the map for these more common treks:
Rules to follow in a village with ethnic inhabitants:
- No drugs.
- Do not touch sacred objects.
- No noise making and alcohol drinking (rice wine in their presence is doable).
- No kissing in public.
- Ask for permission when taking photos, especially of older people and children
- Only walk into a house if you are invited. Gifts for kids are welcome but avoid money and sweets.
- Pay for your meal if you are invited for lunch or for homestay accommodation.
- I recommend buying a handmade object to show appreciation of hospitality.
What to Pack when Trekking in Sapa:
- Food and water. There won’t be many stores in your path. Make sure you have enough food and water because you should only rely on yourself.
- Those stunning scenes need to be captured and saved.
- In case you want to see a certain village or stay in a specific homestay, a map will be very helpful. If you have data from the Vietel provider; there is a possibility you can access the internet here. Other than that, you should be prepared for no signal. Make sure to load the map on your phone beforehand when you still have internet.
- Sunscreen/ hat/ sunglasses. This depends on when you are trekking. If it is summer, it is necessary.
- Warm clothes. In the winter, it can get really cold in Sapa. Stay warm. Sometimes homestays have limited to no heating.
- Lightweight rain jacket.
- Bug spray.
- Good hiking shoes.
I hope this article will help you decide what you want to conquer in Sapa. Sapa is definitely a place to remember and a place to return to as well!