Nestled in the lush hills of northern Vietnam, Sa Pá is a beautiful small town that encircles a lake high in the mountains. A premier spot for trekking, biking, and relaxation, Sa Pá is home to numerous hill tribes.
Visiting Sa Pá is a great way to get away from bustling cities and into what remains of Vietnam's natural environments.
Sa Pá is filled with tour guides who will gladly take you off the beaten paths to visit hill tribes that live in conditions quite different from those of the city-dwellers.
Sa Pá is home to popular crafts markets that bring in villagers from the surrounding hills.
A wide variety of Vietnamese cuisine is on offer in this town, including the ubiquitous pho.
Travelers have the opportunity to visit nearby Hoang Lien National Park with its mighty waterfalls.
Several of the highest mountains in Southeast Asia, such as Phan Xi Păng, are located in the vicinity of Sa Pá.
A highly seasonal climate brings snow to the peaks above town during cold winters. The wet season lasts from May to September, making March, April, and October the best months to visit.
There is no airport near Sa Pá, so international travelers should fly to Nội Bài International Airport (HAN) in Hanoi and take a train or bus into town (see below).
A nine-hour train journey runs to Sa Pá from Hanoi. Carriages are operated by both national and private entities and the best way to avoid getting ripped off is to buy tickets at the station. Soft seats cost ₫220,000, while soft sleepers charge twice that.
The roads in Vietnam are of high quality, but the traffic is dangerous. Foreigners can drive in the country if they have an International Driver's License but this must be accompanied with local insurance.
Numerous bus operators reach Sa Pá, including Sapa Express. A night bus from Hanoi should cost around ₫34,0000.
The old town has many cheap hostels - one highly rated option is the MiKu Chill House. Other options in town include Khach San Hoang Ha and the plush Chau Long Sapa Hotel.
Sa Pá is entirely walkable and there is no public transport.
There are several taxis in Sa Pá, as well as moto-taxis, which operate for a negotiated price that varies wildly. It shouldn't cost more than ₫15,000 to get across town.
Renting a car with driver in town is possible but can be expensive, with prices around ₫4,315,850 per day. Those looking for their own form of transport would do well to opt for a motorcycle under 115cc instead.
Simacai Market is a wonderful place for those interested in local crafts and customs. Embroidery is a well-loved local product. Costs vary significantly in Sa Pa, and you should expect prices significantly higher than elsewhere in Vietnam because of its touristy nature.
Produce is often sold at local markets. Expect to pay about ₫5,000 for local fruit like rambutan, while bread costs about the same for a freshly baked baguette.
Sa Pá has many restaurants that cater to everyone from the luxury traveler to the local. A dinner purchased at a restaurant will usually cost about ₫70,000 at a modest establishment. Popular eateries include Little Sapa, Bombay Indian, and Hill Station Signature Restaurant.