The 10 Best Things to Do in Sapa, Vietnam

Sapa is one of the most beautiful destinations in Vietnam. It is located in the northern highlands, surrounded by mountains covered in vast rice terraces. Put on your hiking boots because in the vicinity of Sapa, you can embark on fantastic hikes through the breathtaking nature. You’ll walk along winding trails through lush valleys, occasionally passing by spectacular viewpoints. You’ll also encounter authentic villages where you can connect with locals from various ethnic minority groups who have been living here for generations. Below, you’ll find information about the top 10 things to do in Sapa. We’ll also discuss the best time to visit, how to get to Sapa, provide tips for great restaurants, and suggest charming places to stay.

How to Travel to Sapa?

Most people travel to Sapa from Hanoi or Ha Giang. Below, you can read about the various options for getting to Sapa.

From Hanoi to Sapa

By Bus: The most budget-friendly way to travel from Hanoi to Sapa is by bus. The bus journey takes approximately 6 hours and goes directly to Sapa. There are many different bus companies to choose from. You can opt for a ‘regular’ bus or a luxury bus. Of course, there is a price difference, but it’s still relatively cheap. Compare all buses and reserve your seat.

By Night Train: Another comfortable option for traveling from Hanoi to Sapa is the night train. The train runs at night, saving you the cost of a hotel stay. You’ll spend the night in a sleeper car, and you can choose from different classes. The higher the class, the more luxurious it is. It’s worth noting that the train goes to Lao Cai station, which is 35 km from Sapa. So, upon arrival at the train station, you’ll still need to take a bus or taxi to Sapa. You can also pre-book the bus or taxi.

Van Ha Giang naar Sapa

By Bus: The only way to travel from Ha Giang to Sapa is by bus. Both tour buses and minivans are available, and the journey takes about 6 hours. Check out all the different buses and departure times.

What to Do in Sapa?

There’s plenty to see and do in and around Sapa. Here are my tips!

Drive from Sapa to Tram Ton Pass

The Tram Ton Pass stretches across the Hoang Lien Son mountain range and is also known as the Heaven’s Gate Pass. This 1900-meter-high (6234-feet-high) mountain pass is just a 20-minute drive from Sapa, and the best way to explore it is by scooter. Ride along the winding roads while enjoying the most spectacular views along the way. You’re likely to want to stop after every bend because the scenery is so beautiful! Read on below the photos for the most scenic spots to stop along the way.


The Tram Ton Pass may not be long in terms of miles, but there are quite a few attractions along the way. The Silver Waterfall is right next to the road, making this 200-meter-high (656-feet-high) waterfall impossible to miss. Walk around the waterfall on the wooden path and watch the water cascade down the mountains. A little further away from the main road, you’ll find another beautiful waterfall called Love Waterfall. To reach this waterfall, you’ll need to hike for 30 minutes. It’s quieter than The Silver Waterfall and perhaps even more enjoyable to visit. Five kilometers (3.1 miles) down the road, you’ll come across this massive glass bridge. It’s fun to walk across, but may not be suitable for those with a fear of heights. You can have a cup of coffee or tea here while enjoying the view. If you’re up for driving further into the mountains, visiting the Chu Va Viewpoint is fantastic. It’s about 13 kilometers (8 miles) from the Tram Ton Pass, and the view is absolutely stunning.

Stay in a Hotel with Rice Terraces View

If there’s one place in Vietnam where you can have a special overnight stay, it’s in Sapa. In the center of Sapa, you’ll find many hotels, but it’s much more enjoyable to stay just outside the center. Here, you’ll wake up to incredible views of the mountains and lush rice terraces. Regardless of whether you have a small or large budget, there’s something beautiful to be found in every budget range. Treating yourself or your travel companion to an unforgettable stay is fantastic. The hotels below are all highly recommended and share one thing in common: a breathtaking view.

The most beautiful hotels with a view in Sapa

$ – D&D Eco Sapa
$ – Hmong House Sapa
$ – Sapa’s Soul
$$ – Sapa Eco Bungalows & Spa
$$$ – Laxsik Ecolodge
$$$ – Eco Palms House – Sapa Retreat

Visit the Cultural Cat Cat Village

Vietnam is home to a large number of ethnic groups, with 53 ethnic minority groups in total. These minority groups primarily reside in the mountains of Northern Vietnam. Located 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) from Sapa, at the foot of the Muong Hoa Valley, is the traditional village of Cat Cat village. Here, the Hmong people mainly live, and during a visit, you’ll get a glimpse into their traditional way of life. It’s worth noting that Cat Cat Village is focused on tourism, so you’ll pay a small entrance fee to wander through it. The money collected goes to locals who open their homes to visitors. In the houses, they’re eager to show you their handiwork and embroidery.

Running through Cat Cat Village is Tien Sa Waterfall. You’ll need to climb up and down quite a few steps to reach it, but once you arrive, you can fully enjoy the beautiful waterfall. To get there, follow the signs to the waterfall and turn left at this point. Here, you can peacefully admire the waterfall from above. Continue walking towards the edge of the waterfall and witness the water cascading down up close.

Take a Trek through the Muong Hoa Valley

Taking a trek through the Muong Hoa Valley is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable things to do in Sapa. With a guide, you’ll explore the most beautiful spots in the valley, visit villages, and meet locals. The minority groups living here are the Hmong, Dao, and Táy, each of them distinguished by differences in language, clothing, and customs. Your guide will share a lot of information about this during the trek. For example, my guide told me that there’s an indigo plant growing in the valley, which locals use to dye their clothing. That’s why you’ll see many people with blue paint on their hands. I went on the hike with this lovely guide, and I can highly recommend it to everyone. During the hike, you’ll see beautiful rice terraces, cross rivers, and learn a lot about Sapa.

Take the Cable Car to Mount Fansipan

For those who want to admire the vast valleys of Sapa from above, a ride on the world’s longest non-stop cable car is a must. The cable car to heaven takes you to the summit of Mount Fansipan at over 3,000 meters (9843 feet) above sea level. You’ll travel through the clouds in the cable car, occasionally catching glimpses of the lush scenery below. From the top, you’ll have an incredible view, and you’ll spot numerous waterfalls in the distance. Once you reach the summit, the view is fantastic. Stroll through the beautiful temple complex and be sure to climb the 600 stairs because this is where you truly reach the top of Mount Fansipan. Let the mysterious clouds pass by, and with a bit of luck, you might even see China in the distance. If you don’t feel like climbing the stairs, you can also take a train to the top of the mountain.

Tip: Do you enjoy a physical challenge? Climbing Mount Fansipan is a great option. The route to the top is about 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) with steep inclines and descents along the way. If you book this trek to the top of Mount Fansipan, you’ll spend the night at an altitude of 2,800 meters (9186 feet).

Vintage Shopping in Sapa

Attention, vintage lovers! In the center of Sapa, you’ll find Si Salt 2hand, where you can browse through unique vintage treasures. The collection includes colorful clothing with various cheerful prints, as well as denim and accessories. After your shopping spree, if you feel like grabbing a bite to eat or drink, right next to the store is the cozy Thong Dong Vegan 1 café, serving delicious food.

Explore Ta Phin Village

Located about a 30-minute drive from Sapa, Ta Phin Village is surrounded by rice terraces and herb plantations. As soon as you enter the village, locals will guide you and show you how they live here. Don’t be surprised if you suddenly find yourself inside someone’s house, as the locals are happy to give you a peek behind their doors.

There aren’t too many activities to do in Ta Phin Village. You mainly go there for the experience of authentic life. However, there are a few things you shouldn’t miss. It’s nice to enjoy a cup of coffee at Ta Phin Cottage while taking in the view of the valley. What’s truly unique is to take an herbal bath with a view! You can do this at Dao’s Spa, and it’s a delightful activity for relaxation. The herbs they use for the bathwater come from the valley and help relieve stress and reduce ailments like headaches and muscle pain. It’s also very affordable.

Tip: On the way from Sapa to Ta Phin Village, make a stop at the remains of this French church. This is a beautiful ruin surrounded by greenery.

Wander Through the Markets in the Sapa Region

If you want to get a glimpse into the authentic life of the Vietnamese people, visit one of the markets in the Sapa region. Here, you’ll step back in time and witness traders coming together to sell their livestock, vegetables, and fruits among dozens of trucks. Unfortunately, the markets are quite far from Sapa, so you’ll have to travel a long distance to reach them. However, the journey itself is beautiful as you pass through many stunning mountains and valleys. Due to the distance, it’s worth considering whether it’s worth the effort. The markets are not open daily, so check their opening hours.

Coc Ly Market – This is an important local market for ethnic minorities in the region. There are hardly any tourists, and the market is incredibly authentic. It is only open on Tuesdays from 06:00 to 14:00 and is located about 2.5 hours from Sapa. The journey there is very scenic, and you can get there by taking a tour, taxi, or riding a scooter on your own. If you prefer to visit the market with a tour, you can book one at Thong Dong Vegan Sapa.

Bac Ha Market – This traditional market also provides insights into authentic life. The market is held every Sunday from 06:00 to 14:00 and is about a 2.5-hour drive from Sapa. If you visit the market with this guide, he will tell you everything about the culture, customs, and history.

What NOT to Do in Sapa?

In the surroundings of Sapa, and actually everywhere in Southeast Asia, you’ll come across children selling bracelets and other items. Often, they are incredibly cute, and saying ‘no’ can be difficult. However, we strongly advise against buying anything from children during your trip. By buying from children, you encourage them to work when they should be going to school or playing. If you want to support the local population, purchase a beautifully handcrafted souvenir from an adult in one of the villages. Bargaining is customary in these transactions.

The Best Time to Visit Sapa

Sapa experiences different seasons. In principle, you can visit Sapa year-round, but not every season is recommended. The winter months, from December to February, are the worst time to visit Sapa. It rains little during this period, but it is cold with temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius and frequent fog. The rice terraces are brown, making the surroundings less beautiful. March to May offers better weather in Sapa. The average temperature is around 15 degrees Celsius. June to August are the warmest months and also the busiest. It may rain more in these months, but this keeps the rice fields beautifully green. Late August to early October is the harvest season. The rice fields are at their most beautiful during these months, and the temperatures are pleasant. However, be sure to bring your rain poncho, as rain showers are not uncommon even during this period.

Best Restaurants in Sapa

Thong Dong Vegan – This delightful vegan restaurant has two locations in Sapa and is my favorite restaurant. They serve healthy breakfasts, delicious soups, and rice bowls. You can even make your own fresh spring rolls.
The Mist Sapa – Here, you can enjoy the best coffee and order a Banh Mi sandwich or a sweet coffee bun. Relax in the cozy garden and enjoy the tranquility.
Sapa Sky View restaurant & bar – From this cozy restaurant, you can savor meals while enjoying the view. They serve salads, pasta, and delicious sashimi.
Viettrekking Coffee & Restaurant – Once again, a place where you can relish a fantastic view of Sapa’s green valleys. They serve Vietnamese and international dishes.
Good Morning Vietnam Restaurant – A cozy restaurant with a very friendly owner. You can enjoy a tasty breakfast, lunch, and dinner here. The menu is extensive, offering both meat and vegetarian dishes.
Yummi Restaurant –
As the name suggests, the food here is very delicious! Visit during daylight to enjoy the view as well.
Little Vietnam Restaurant –
If you’re in the mood for delicious Vietnamese cuisine, this is the place to be.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Sapa

At Hmong House Sapa, you can book a room with a fantastic view without a hefty price tag. In the morning, you can watch the sunrise from your bed, which is truly unique! The homestay is run by a very kind family that makes you feel right at home. If you’d like to stay in a hotel with a pool, then Sapa Eco Bungalows & Spa is perfect! From this eco-hotel, you have a sweeping view of the rice terraces and the mountains. You’ll stay in a comfortable double room with a balcony and a cozy bed. The staff is super friendly and goes out of their way to make your stay enjoyable. If you want to pamper yourself and stay in a luxury lodge, Laxsik Ecolodge might be the most beautiful hotel in Sapa. From the pool, you can gaze over the rice terraces for miles, and you’ll stay in a fantastic bungalow with the same breathtaking view. You can also enjoy delicious meals at the restaurant.

Good to know: The hotels mentioned above are all located a bit farther from the city center. This allows you to enjoy the beautiful views and tranquility. If you hop on a scooter or take a taxi, you’ll be in the bustling city center in no time.