16 Fun Things to See and Do in Sapa, Vietnam on Your Very First Visit

16 Fun Things to See and Do in Sapa, Vietnam on Your Very First Visit

Revel in the allure of Sapa by marveling at the picturesque mountainous views, traversing ethnic tribal villages and enjoying a warm bowl of pho at the Sapa Market!

Home to diverse hill tribes, breathtaking landscapes, harlequin green rice terraces and the highest mountain in Vietnam, the Tonkinese Alps of northwestern Vietnam have an abundance of attractions to offer. The Sapa region is notable for its picturesque mountain landscapes and the distinct cultures of many tribes such as the Hmong, Red Dzao and Phù Lá ethnic groups.

First trip to Sapa, Vietnam? Not to worry, you’re in good hands! Here’s a list of 16 things to do in Sapa to furnish your itinerary. Pack your bags and get ready to immerse yourselves in a riveting and an enjoyable adventure!

1. Trek and visit fascinating tribal villages

Image credit: Guerinf

Tribal trekking is commonplace in Sapa wherein visitors are guided through the many villages to immerse in authentic cultural experiences, enjoy local cuisine and surround themselves with the beautiful folds of rice terraces. If you are keen on traversing the cultures and traditions of the tribal groups, this experience will provide a hands-on and unmediated experience, contrary to merely visiting landmarks and points of interests.

To engage in a more fulfilling immersion, you can trek the villages in the day and spend the night at a local home, then continue your journey the very next day! This homestay experience appeals not only to travellers who are keen in the tribal cultures but also those who wish to avoid the throngs of tourists at popular sights.

2. Marvel at the beautiful and romantic Love Waterfall

Image credit: LC_24

Places are made of a thousand stories the legend behind the Love Waterfall is one that should not be missed. The ancient folktale tells a story of a forbidden love between a fairy and a boy who frequented the waterfall to play his flute. It is widely believed that the waterfall was a bathing place for fairies. In the aftermath of ferreting out the love affair, the fairy’s parents forbade her from visiting the waterfall. The story ends with the fairy metamorphosing into a bird to live with the boy. The symbolism of the waterfall as “Love” was born thereafter.

The Love Waterfall located in San Sa Ho Commune is a must-visit the beauty of the lustrous streams will captivate your senses. The 70,000 VND (~S$4) entrance fee is definitely a steal!

Tip: A ride from Sapa Town which will take approximately 30 minutes, contrary to hiring a motorbike which will take approximately an hour.

3. Lay your eyes on the breathtaking Silver Falls 

Image credit: LoriQoPB

If you’re not willing to pay 70,000 VND (~S$4) for the Love Waterfall, the 20,000 VND (~S$1) entrance fee for Thac Bac Waterfall (or the Silver Falls) is certainly reasonable. With a height of approximately 100m, the waterfall is relatively smaller and only requires a 20-minute climb.

The Thac Bac Waterfall is about 15km from Sapa Town and if you’re in for the best view, avoid rainy and foggy days. Take your Insta-worthy photo shots and for you lovebirds, the Thac Bac’s silver shimmery streams on the wrinkled rocks definitely exude a romantic ambience!

4. Take a leisure stroll near Sapa Lake

Image credit: Lynda

Tired of shopping or walking around? Take a breather at the Sapa Lake which emanates a blend of tranquility and marvellous grandeur. You can walk along the stretch of the lake or alternatively enjoy your food at the benches provided and wallow in the repose of your mind.

5. Climb the highest mountain in Vietnam – Fansipan

Image credit: Nguyen Thanh Long

The highlight of Sapa has to be the Fansipan Mountain. With an elevation of 3,143m, it is the highest mountain in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, and a triumphant embodiment of the ‘Roof of Indochina’. If you are up for a challenge, the climb is doable in a day, approximately within 10 to 12 hours. Most guide treks, however, suggest a two or three-day climb to pace the trek and minimise exertion especially for those who are less physically fit. The choice is up to you but it is advisable to hire a professional guide or porters if needed.  

Trekkers who stay overnight have the opportunity to mingle with other trekkers which makes the experience more uplifting as you share your struggles. The breathtaking view of Fansipan Mountain is one that you should not miss!

Tip: Prepare warm clothes and some heat packs as the campsite is usually cold and windy at night.

6. Take a cable-car up to lofty Fansipan

Too unfit to trek up Fansipan? Fret not! You can still bask in the picturesque Fansipan mountain with a ride up the Sunworld Fansipan Legend cable car. The ride guarantees enthralling sceneries of Muong Hoa Valley and the Hoang Lien Son Mountain range. Fun Fact: The Sunworld Fansipan Legend cable car has been recognised by the Guinness World Records Organisation as the longest non-stop three-rope cable car.

Tickets are 700,000 VND (~S$41) per ticket for adults, 500,000 VND (~S$30) per ticket for children. It is definitely worth every dong!

7. Bask in the green rice terraces of Muong Hoa Valley

Image credit: Pedro Alonso

No trip to Sapa is complete without treading on the bright green rice terraces – a manifestation of the livelihood of the Sapa hill tribes who are heavily dependent on rice cultivation. If mountain treks are over-taxing and arduous for you, then a trek along the rice terraces of Muong Hoa Valley is perfect!

8. Enjoy a traditional experience at Cat Cat Village

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The trekking never ends in Sapa, doesn’t it? Well, another alternative to the onerous mountain hikes would be a visit to the Cat Cat Village. While you are likely to experience a very long walk with numerous steps, it is certainly less strenuous.

The Hmong village people are friendly and albeit the many assertions of over-commercialisation in the area, the Cat Cat Village is still a nice spot to take touristy photos at the water wheels and watch some local performances.

Tip: The way back from the village to Sapa is a steep climb so if you do not fancy the walk, you can get a motorbike ride for 20,000VND (~S$1).   

9. Savour the flavour of traditional Hmong-style cuisine

Image credit: Chi Chi

Ah, food! Time to replenish your energy! You can enjoy traditional Hmong-style cuisine at The Hill Station Signature Restaurant, renowned for its spring rolls, tofu, traditional Hmong pork confit, smoked buffalo and black pudding. Unwind with some house wine and craft beer if you’d like! The price is extremely reasonable and excellent service is provided. This restaurant is also perfect for vegetarians.

10. Hop on a motorbike tour!

Another alternative to trekking through the villages and mountains is the motorbike tour. They provide half day, full day and 2D1N packages. This tour is not only a less wearisome option but also allows you to cover a greater distance and learn about the various tribal cultures in different villages.

If you opt for the 2D1N package, then you’re most likely in for a homestay experience with your tour guide, allowing for an authentic cultural experience and flavorsome home-cooked food!  

11. Marvel at the architectural design of the Holy Rosary Church of Sapa

Image credit: Khanh Hmoong

Tired of traipsing around nature hikes? A visit to the Holy Rosary Church of Sapa requires no physical exertion and you get a chance to immerse in remnants of French colonial history after the post Second World War destroyed nearly all the 200 colonial buildings in Sapa.

The church flaunts a rustic exterior and a colonial architectural design that take us back to the French colonial period in Vietnam. It is opened only on the weekends and while you may not get a glimpse of the church’s interior, the beautiful exterior is worth a snap!  Furthermore, it is fascinating to observe the activities in town and people-watch at the nearby Quang Truong Square.

Tip: The church is also beautiful at night with its colourful exterior lighting!

12. Shop at the local Sapa Market

Image credit: David McKelvey

The hustle and bustle of the Sapa market is emblematic of the vibrant lives of the tribal people. It is a mere 20-minute walk from Town Square, so if you’re in the area then drop by to get a glimpse of the frenetic atmosphere and buy some clothing, utensils or handcrafts. Some haggling skills are essential and be sure to stay firm as vendors may get a bit pushy! If you get too tired and hungry, a warm bowl of beef pho at a local stall is certainly consoling.

13. Take in the flowery sights of Ham Rong Flower Garden

Image credit: Nguyen Xuan Nam

Calling all anthophiles! Swarmed with bright-coloured flowers in the dewy air and sweet fragrances up your nostrils, the Ham Rong Flower Garden is a worthy visit. If you’re tired of trudging uneven grounds not to worry the garden is nicely paved and stairs are provided. This place is family-friendly and the entrance fees of 70,000 VND (~S$4) for adults and 20,000 VND (~S$1) for children are reasonable.

The entire path will take about three to five hours to complete and you can enjoy a free traditional performance right up the mountain for 30 minutes. The steps may be a bit steep but it is a relatively easy climb. Not to forget, the top overlooks the Sapa Town and Sapa Lake. If you happen to visit Sapa Town or the church, then make a visit to the Ham Rong Flower Garden which is within the vicinity!

14. Explore Sapa’s history and culture at Sapa Museum

Image credit: Sapa Museum

If you’re looking for a more formal historical perspective on Sapa and its inhabitants, head down to the Sapa Museum! The museum offers an informative visual introduction to the different ethnic groups in Sapa and the distinctive features of their cultures, as well as the history of the French occupation and town development.

The museum is also near the church and is a handy option during bad weather. There is a shop on the ground floor of the museum, so if you’re looking to buy some handicrafts, embroideries or clothes for your loved ones back at home, there’s a vast array of options!

15. Have a sip of coffee at Cong Caphe

Image credit: Cong Caphe

Sapa is not all about villages and mountainous areas  – they have fancy cafes as well! The Cong Caphe whirred up excellent reviews from many tourists. The cordial and relaxed atmosphere appeals to customers who seek to unwind with a sip of the cafe’s glorious coconut coffee.

The interior of the cafe is unique and the staff are really friendly, so feel free to inquire about the different foods and coffees. If your accommodation is a short distance away, the Cong Caphe can be your go-to cafe every morning!

16. Be a third-wheeler at Sapa Love Market

Image credit: Arian Zwegers

Love and market? How contradictory! But that’s where the demand and supply of prospective partners and relationships interplay. The Love Market is a distinct practice of the Mong and Dao ethnic groups. The distance between both villages do not allow for frequent interaction (and dating opportunities), thus the Love Market provides a space for people from both ethnic groups to meet one another.

The ladies will don their colourful dresses and decorative ornaments, whereas the gents dress in traditional costumes. The Love Market only occurs on a Saturday where they interact, sing and play games with one another. Don’t worry about being the third wheel and immerse yourself in a long-standing tradition of the Mong and Dao ethnic groups!

If you have been contemplating to go on a trip to Sapa, Vietnam, then wait no more! With the abovementioned 16 things to do in Sapa, you can kickstart your itinerary planning and pack your bags. With its diverse hill tribe cultures and an abundance of nature, the trip to Sapa will certainly be mind-altering and an adventure of a lifetime.

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Siti Nurfatin
Siti Nurfatin

Fatin is a Thai milk tea lover who yearns to try all the Thai milk teas she can get! With her wavy short hair and undercut, Fatin may look a tad bit unapproachable but she’s a big softie at heart. Greatly inspired by Ellen DeGeneres, “be kind to one another” is a motto she lives by. Fatin is also a proud mother of three endearing felines named Korra, Bubu and Mochi.

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