The best things to do in Sapa
As a highland town, Sapa not only is a famous resort of Sapa district, Lao Cai but also owns a host of miracles of nature.
So, what are the best things to do in Sapa?
Let's dig in.
Best things to do in Sapa
- Conquer Fansipan Mountain
- Ride a bike through Muong Hoa Valley
- Stay overnight in a local homestay
- Stop by the waterfalls
- Chill out at Sapa Town
Conquer Fansipan - the roof of Indochina
Besides being the highest peak in Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia), Fansipan is also the last major peak of the Himalayan range. So even if the 3,140m summit is less than half of Mount Everest’s, you can take pride in having conquered a mountain at the tail end of Himalayas.
That said, it’s not an easy hike. The fittest may do it in a strenuous day hike, although most Sapa hiking tours last over 2D1N, or 3D2N if you want to take it slow. The climb promises majestic views of the Hoang Lien mountain range.
Explore Sapa markets
Sapa has a great diversity of ethnic minorities; the total population is 36,000 people that consist mostly of minority groups. Each ethnic group has a difference in dress, lifestyle, customs, and methods of cultivation together with a distinct cultural identity. All these differences are shown in daily life activities, especially in markets. Exploring Sapa markets is one of the best ways to know more about the culture of people here.
Being a minority ethnic people market, Bac Ha market is located in 80 km from Sapa. Bac Ha is famous for its Sunday market which is a trading centre and meeting place for couples, friends, and relatives.
Every Sunday, Bac Ha hosts the biggest fair near the mountainous highlands and the Chinese border. It is the largest and most colorful market in the area and attracts throngs of villagers from the surrounding hill tribes. Some walk several hours for the weekly opportunity to trade and barter food, animals, clothes and household goods.
Markets in Sapa
Can Cau market is the fair market of the H’Mong and the Giay, however, it is operated with the ways trade of the Dao. The market has meeting on Saturday every week and holidays, New Year. In the fair, the line of the H’Mong, Giay from the villages flocked to the market: pedestrians, people carrying products, agricultural products and livestock…
The market is divided into separate areas for all kinds of items. Those goods such as: vegetables, herbs, spices, utensils and other products, which shows the talent of women. However, the most striking is the area where sell livestock because the H’Mong and Giay love livestock and want to select the best cattle. The atmosphere in this area is very vibrant; buyers, sellers have the deal.
Many villages around Sapa town offer visitors a glimpse of how each ethnic minority group goes about their everyday life.
The nearest is Cat Cat Village – a short 30min walk from Sapa. Due to its proximity, it is also the most touristy. But for me, its multiple descriptive boards gave a good introduction to the culture and lifestyle that take place in a typical H’ mong village.
Visitors to Cat Cat have an opportunity to experience the daily life and traditional customers colorfully here. You will see the image of young women sitting by looms with pieces of brocade decorated with patterns of flowers and birds. When these pieces are finished, they are dyed and embroidered. A noteworthy is that H'Mong women use plants and leaves to dye these brocade fabrics. Finally, they roll a round and smooth section of wood covered with wax on fabrics to polish them, making their colors durable.
Villages in Sapa
Besides Cat Cat, Muong Hoa is one of the most famous villages for breathtaking scenery. It is also is the largest farmland for rice growing in Sapa.
Visiting Sapa’s Muong Hoa Valley, you will have a chance to enjoy an easy walk downhill and along Muong Hoa River, through terraced fields passing some hamlets of the H’Mong people as Y Linh Ho, Lao Chai…, watching the locals at work. In the night, spending in Ta Van village which is Giay minority’s unique village in Sapa will be an excellent and remarkable experience.
Also located in Muong Hoa valley, Ta Van is a peaceful village that is the home for mainly the H'Mong ethnic, Giay, and Red Zao... with approximately 1000 people.
The road leads to Ta Van village that is small and narrow. Along two sides has a fertile terraced field which adorns by the green of corn and rice. When visitors come here, they can't help being amazed at the simple beauty of the houses in the village. Previously, Ta Van based on the customs and characteristics of the Giay in Lao Cai. They live together at the bottom, mountains, the valleys, along streams. They rarely live in the mountain or at the top. Because living in the same local, according to historical process, the Giay is influenced by the culture of the Tay, Thai, Nung about language, home, dress, and some cultural activities…
Sapa is not only famous for stunning scenery, colourful markets and a great diversity of ethnic minorities but also known with unique dishes.
Sapa has a cool temperature which is the invaluable resources that heaven has given to this place. Sapa is the place where Chinese black mushrooms hidden in the forests. Coming to the fair of Sapa; tourists will be invited to buy Chinese black mushrooms that are special food of Sapa. At the restaurants, you can require Chinese black mushroom dishes. If dried mushrooms soak in water, they will bigger; however, they maintain its flavours. Also, tourists can enjoy Chinese black mushrooms with meat, dried squid.
Enjoy Sapa specialties
“Thang co” is one of the most famous dishes of the H’Mong in the northwest of Vietnam. “Thang co” usually use for festival or special day. On the weekend, it is sold at the fair. Its name means a pot of soup which includes meat, organs of the horse, vegetables and special kinds of spices. Today, “Thang co” is cooked to serve all people in Sapa, especially to serve tourists
Discover Ta Phin Cave
Located 12 kilometers away from Sapa town, Ta Phin cave is not only a pristine tourist site but also is home to many valuable pieces of research in the field of archaeology. The north of the cave is the living place of two ethnic tribes Dao and H'Mong, in which Dao people is dominant.
Ta Phin is nearly 1 kilometer from the north of the limestone mountain range that is a branch of Hoang Lien Son. In a small mountain, the foot cracks a cave which is Ta Phin, opening a path to the ground. The cave is 5 meters high and 3 meters wide.
Going along the massive wall, visitors will cross cliffs. Notably, the most comprehensive space which is on the roof is about 8 meters in height. There are drooping stalactites in strange shapes hanging from the high ceiling without any arrangement, which result in the illusion space as well as the sparkling scenery.
You can also see the white giant raspberry patches, rough lava as well as coral patches rolling around. Ta Phin is embellished with the multi-colour lights that make visitors feel as they are in the fairyland. Exploring Ta Phin cave in the tranquil atmosphere of the northwestern jungle is an excellent experience for any travellers.
There are lots of things for you to do in Sapa such as trekking, cultural traveling, staying in a homestay, shopping at ethnic minority markets, and enjoying specialities, but the most favourite activity maybe is trekking.
Trekking in Sapa
Some favourite destinations are Muong Hoa valley, Y Linh Ho village, and Cat Cat village. Of which, Cat Cat village, located about 3km southwest of Sapa is the most popular short trekking there.
Choosing medium trek, you can have a chance to explore some famous attractions in Sapa such as Sin Chau village (home of the Hmong), Silver waterfall – 7km and 12km northwest of Sapa respectively.
Heading to the south, you can choose to go to Lao Chai village, where the Hmong people live (7km from Sapa) or Ta Van village, home of Dao people (10 km from Sapa).
Situated about 6km to the north of Sapa, Ta Phin village is also a good option for you. Furthermore, from the town, there are some destinations for multi-day trekking trip such as Ban Ho (Tay ethnic village, 23 km to the south of Sapa), Ban Khoang village (18 km northwest of Sapa).
Take part in festivals
Coming to Sapa in Spring, travellers will have a big chance to take part in the exciting festivals, thus can learn about Sapa's culture and people.
If travelers take a Sapa tour in spring, they will have a chance to take part in the biggest celebration of the year on this highlands town - Spring Festival. The days of the festival full of colorful traditional religious customs, such as blessing heaven for a child, fortune, or a lucky and happy life. That is also the time that mountain villagers, boys, and girls, all display their best clothes and new costumes.
It is Tay people' festival in Ban Ho village, where is one of the highlights in Sapa. If tourist book Sapa tours on this occasion, they will join in many funny activities with local people. Long Tong Festival reflects the desire to have good crops, health, as well as having more children and grandchildren.
The ceremony involves solemn rituals, such as staging a procession for the Water, worshipping ceremonies to the Village Deity, the Stream Deity, the Mountain Deity, and worshipping the “con” tree.
There are many merry games such as “nem con” (a game in which boys and girls throw cloth balls), tugs-of-war, playing cockfights by banana flowers, and buffalo fights by asparagus. The young come to the festival to folk dance, sing love songs, and make friends.
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