Sapa is a mountain town nestled in the Tonkinese Alps of northern Vietnam, 1,600 meters above sea level. It is 38 kilometers from the train station in Lao Cai city.
Sapa was first inhabited by some of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups hundreds of years ago. The Colonial French saw Sapa’s touristic potential around the turn of the last century. Since then, Sapa has undergone much change, but the traditional culture of Sapa’s people has been preserved.
Ethnic Minority Groups
Sapa district has around 40,000 inhabitants, the majority of whom are from ethnic minorities and just over half are Hmong. The other ethnic minority groups living here are Dao, Tay, Giay and Xa Pho.
What was once a small Hmong village, is now a bustling mountain destination that is a must on the traveler’s itinerary. Tourists use it as a base to visit some of the ethnic villages in the area as well as a starting point for the trek up the 3,143 meter high Mount Fansipan.
There is a great selection of western and Vietnamese restaurants. Sapa’s street BBQs and hotpots are specialties and offer not only a great selection of foods but also a chance to share a shot of rice wine with the locals. The market is a great option and an experience as you can share your table with the regulars and get in on the gossip. There are plenty of places where you can dig in to a bowl of Pho (rice noodle soup) or Bun Cha (meatball and noodle soup).
Nightlife in Sapa is relatively low key, but the fresh beer from kegs flows all day in summer. With a welcoming expat community and visitors arriving every day you will not be short of a friendly face to chat to if you visit one of the local bars or streetside partys.
Sleeping here you are spoilt for choice. There are plenty of hotels on offer, from luxury to budget, and Sapa O’Chau can help you find a room to suit your budget. A word of warning – hot water and some form of heating is essential in the winter here… so don’t scrimp on a few dollars for the sake of some basic comforts!
Getting to Sapa
Overnight train services run regularly from Hanoi to Lao Cai city. The overnight train service offers a soft sleeping bed. Sapa O’Chau is happy to book the train tickets for you. If you are a light sleeper then earplugs and an eye mask are a good idea.
At the train station in Hanoi many people are willing to lend you a hand to locate your train and cabin – but at a price and perhaps not a reasonable one! Keep hold of your bags and head out to the train tracks. Your ticket will tell you which platform the train is departing from and the platforms are numbered. Just give yourself plenty of time and enjoy the experience of boarding a train in Vietnam. Remember to keep hold of your tickets to present on arrival at Lao Cai station.
We can arrange a transfer for you from Lao Cai to Sapa. Just let us know and our driver will receive you at the entrance to the train station holding a Sapa O’Chau sign with your name on it.