Sapa is one of the most scenic destinations in Vietnam. This is one of those regions in Vietnam where you will find the iconic rice terraces that seem to stretch right up into the clouds.
The cold air in Sapa is a total escape from Vietnam’s otherwise humid tropical climate. In fact, it even snows in Sapa every now and then.
The cool climate draws lots of local tourists from all over Southeast Asia, looking for a change from the normally hot and humid conditions.
Things to do in Sapa, Vietnam
There are plenty of things to do in Sapa that can easily keep you busy for up to a week. I personally spent 5 days in Sapa and felt as though I could have hung around for a few more. Here I will run you through some of the most popular things to do in the region.
1. Explore the Terraced Rice Fields
The most popular thing to do in Sapa is to hike through the terraced rice fields. There are quite a few guides around town that can take you up the mountains to explore the narrow foot trails.
From high up in the mountains you’ll get some pretty epic views of this northern end of Vietnam.
Depending on the time of the year, you will get to see locals planting or harvesting rice in the terraced paddies. The work is done by hand and buffalo, the old fashioned way. If you don’t mind getting a bit muddy you can ask to jump in and help.
There are plenty of one day and multi-day hikes through the terraced rice fields to choose from. Multi-day hikes include an overnight stay at a local farm house, an experience called a farmstay, more on these below.
2. Summit Mount Fansipan (Phan Xi Pang)
At 3,143 metres high, Mount Fansipan is the tallest mountain in Vietnam and nicknamed “the roof of Indochina.” If you are an avid mountaineer or just love hiking, then Mount Fansipan must be on your Vietnam bucket list.
The relatively low summit means you can climb Mount Fansipan without any special equipment, porters, or guides. Yep, you can go at it solo but we do suggest going with a hiking buddy as their have been deaths on the mountain in past years.
The hike to the summit is around 11km one way. If you are fit the climb should take around 6-7 hours. If you’re not so fit, then allow up to 9 hours. Given the duration, it is advisable to start early in the morning.
You should carry plenty of drinking water and snacks as there are no shops around. It is also advisable to pack warm clothing for cold weather, and a rain jacket in case the weather turns. Vietnam Coracle has a great in-depth review on conquering Mount Fansipan.
Since 2016, a cable car runs from just outside Sapa to the summit of Mount Fansipan. The 6km ride takes just over 15 minutes and offers some stunning view of the mountainous landscapes. Tickets cost around 700,000 VND ($30), a good option for your descent down the mountain.
3. Visit Silver Waterfalls (Thac Bac Waterfall)
The Thac Bac Silver Waterfall is located about a 30 minute drive north of Sapa. This huge waterfall towers up to 200 meters high and although you cannot swim in it, this is definitely a sight worth seeing!
The easiest way to get to Silver Waterfall independently is to rent a motorbike in town. Motorbikes rent for about 100,000 VND ($5) per day. Make sure you get a full tank of fuel before departing.
You will find the entrance to Silver Waterfall along the side of the road heading up to the summit of Mount Fansipan. There are lots of small stalls around the roadside here, so you can’t miss it. There is another 10 minute walk from the entrance to the base of the waterfall.
4. Explore Sapa Town Centre on Foot
Although the town centre of Sapa feels a bit touristy, it is still worth exploring by foot for a couple of hours. There are a few key attractions you can easily visit such as the Sapa Market, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Ham Rong Mountain.
5. Visit the Sapa Love Market
The Sapa Love Market is one of the most unique markets in Southeast Asia (or perhaps the world). Held every Saturday night, villagers from the regions Mong and Dao ethnic groups gather here to meet each other. This is a great place to see the locals gathering in their traditional highland dress.
6. Day Trip to Muong Khuong Bird Market
The Muong Khuong Bird Market is held on Sunday mornings. Locals from the surrounding ethnic hill tribes will gather here to sell a variety of handicrafts, fresh vegetables, cattle, and various birds.
All throughout Vietnam it is a tradition to keep small birds, typically nightingales, in small cages out the front of a house or shop. Those with the best songs are worth the most and can go for a small fortune.
Don’t be surprise to see a crowd gather around a bird cage at the Muong Khuong Bird Market.
How Many Days Should You Stay in Sapa?
We recommend spending about 4 to 5 days in Sapa. This will give enough time to explore the town and surrounding regions for hiking through the scenic mountains and terraced rice fields, and the chance to visit a homestay along the way.
- Day 1: Explore the town of Sapa
- Day 2: Climb to the top of Mount Fansipan
- Day 3-4: Hike the Rice Fields and stay at a farmstay with a local family
- Day 5: Visit the Muong Khuong Bird Market