Set among some gorgeous scenery with sweeping, rice terrace-filled valleys, and mountains all around it, Sapa in the north of Vietnam truly is a delight to visit. While the center of the small town has become increasingly touristy in recent years, the surrounding region has a wealth of astounding natural sights for you to enjoy, with lots of amazing hikes and viewpoints on offer.
Tucked away amid the stunning landscapes are a number of charming and picturesque villages for you to visit. These are home to ethnic minorities and hill tribes such as the H’mong, Dao, and Hoa. The northern part of Vietnam is renowned for its unique cultural make up, and Sapa is the perfect place from which to learn more about its many people, languages, and cultures while enjoying the beautiful scenery all around you.
10. Stone Church
Lying at the heart of the town, Stone Church is one of the most important and impressive buildings in Sapa. You will inevitably pass by it at least a couple of times when wandering around. Dating back to 1930, the Church of our Lady of the Rosary, as it is also known, was constructed during the French colonial period and exhibits some wonderful architecture. As it was built facing the sunrise, a great time to visit is early in the morning when the sun creeps over the horizon, dramatically illuminating the giant cross that dominates its facade.
The lovely little square in front of Stone Church often hosts traditional cultural events, and each Saturday evening there is a fantastic ‘love market’ for you to check out. Here, locals dressed in traditional clothes come together to sing, dance, and meet prospective partners, as well as buy and sell products. The festive atmosphere is a delight to take part in. With the lively market before it and the forest-coated Ham Rong Mountain behind it, Stone Church really does make for a majestic sight.
9. Sapa Market
Selling a huge range of fresh produce and local handicrafts, Sapa Market is a bustling place to explore that is simply a must if you want to see the authentic side of the town. Located right next to the bus station, the daily market is full of color and life, with stacks of fruits and vegetables piled up before you.
As Sapa is one of the main market towns in the region, lots of people come from the surrounding area to sell their wares or go shopping themselves. While there is now undoubtedly a more touristy feel about the market due to the recent surge in visitors to Sapa, it is still where most locals come to get their groceries. A great place to buy some souvenirs, Sapa Market is lots of fun to explore – just be prepared to haggle hard for anything you set your heart on.
8. Ham Rong Mountain
Overlooking the center of town, Ham Rong Mountain is home to a beautiful mix of natural and human-made landscapes, and is just a short stroll away from Stone Church. Meaning ‘Dragon Jaw’ in the local language, the mountain is named after its distinctive shape. Hikers who make it up to its lofty peak are sure to enjoy a fantastic view out over the surrounding mountains and valleys, provided that it is a clear day.
Tumbling down its slopes, you can find some gorgeous orchards and gardens, with lots of lovely orchids. Meandering their way through the plethora of hydrangea, geraniums, and cherry blossom trees are some very tranquil and quiet paths for you to wander along at your leisure.
7. Thac Bac Waterfall
Cascading down the side of the mountain, the series of falls that make up Thac Bac Waterfall look incredible, and the lush trees and plants that lie to either side only add to the perfect scene. Standing at the bottom of the fall and watching the white jets of water tumble down from a height of some 200 meters or more is a magical feeling.
Located around 15 kilometers away from Sapa, he Silver Falls (as they are also known) are a very popular tourist destination, and lots of people visit while on their way to the nearby Tram Ton Pass.
6. Ta Phin Village
If you are looking to gain a greater understanding and appreciation for the rich tapestry of cultures found in the region, then it is well worth taking a trip to visit the sleepy, laidback village of Ta Phin. Nestled among rice terraces and mountains, the small collection of traditional houses are home to the Red Dao – a local ethnic group that still retain their proud heritage and culture.
While walking around, you’ll see people wearing traditional clothes and women sewing beautiful hand-crafted items. In addition to this, some people may even invite you into their home to show you how they live. Throughout the year, numerous local festivities take place, with weddings being particularly joyous affairs as the whole village breaks into song and dance to celebrate.
5. Love Waterfall
As the legend goes, Love Waterfall is so named because a fairy once fell in love with a boy who had come to bathe in the falls and was playing the flute. Once her parents found out, they forbade her to return to the falls. Heartbroken, she decided to turn herself into a bird so that she could forever fly around the falls and be with her love.
The enchantingly named Love Waterfall certainly does look as if it has just emerged from a fairytale as its gushing waters course magically down the rockface to the pool below. Tucked inside Hoang Lien National Park with Mount Fansipan lying not far off, Love Waterfall is well worth a visit, and the hike there takes you through some stunning landscapes.
4. Cat Cat Village
A very popular place to visit, Cat Cat Village lies just three kilometers away from Sapa. The hike there takes you through some magnificent mountain scenery, with rice terraces and cornfields on either side of you. Set in a very idyllic spot, it is one of the oldest villages in the region and retains much of its rich heritage and culture.
As such, it is a fantastic place to head if you want to learn more about the local H’mong and see how they live. As well as seeing how jewelry and textiles are made, visitors can visit or stay at a local home and even try their hand at making some of the traditional handicrafts.
3. Tram Ton Pass
Lying at the height of around 1,900 meters, the Tram Ton Pass is the highest mountain pass in the whole of the country. As such, it offers up some irresistible views of the valleys and mountains to either side of it. To get there, take the road from Sapa to Lai Chau. Many people stop off to see the glittering Silver Falls that lie nearby.
As the pass acts as a natural barrier between two weather fronts, you’ll often find that while one side is cloudy and wet, the other is warm and sunny. With such spectacular views on show, Tram Ton Pass is simply a must when exploring Sapa and its scenic surroundings.
2. Muong Hoa Valley
Home to some of the most beautiful scenery in Vietnam, the Muong Hoa Valley is a treat to visit, as neatly manicured rice terraces lie alongside rugged forest-coated mountains. Located just a stone’s throw away from Sapa, the valley makes for some fantastic trekking.
It is well worth staying a night in one of the local villages so you can experience first hand their humbling hospitality and generosity. While hiking through endless rice terraces with the majestic mountains all around you is unforgettable, it is meeting local families and communities that make it an even more memorable experience.
1. Mount Fansipan
Towering to a height of 3,141 meters, Mount Fansipan dominates its surroundings and is widely known as ‘the roof of Indochina.’ The tallest mountain in not only Vietnam but also Southeast Asia, the majestic mount is located just ten kilometers outside of Sapa. As such, lots of people come here to go hiking or mountain climbing. Wandering along its many paths and trails really is a delight. There is so much spectacular nature all around you, with over 1,680 types of plants on show.
The landscape changes the higher you go; from its lofty peak, there are some absolutely breathtaking views for you to revel in. This depends though on if the surrounding region isn’t shrouded in cloud, as it frequently is. To get to the top, visitors can either hike there themselves over the course of a few days or take a 15-minute scenic cable car ride above the beautiful Muong Hoa Valley.
Located in the Hoang Lien Son mountain range, Mount Fansipan is definitely worth a visit if you have the chance, as there is just so much amazing nature for you to enjoy.