Sapa

General information

This range includes Viet Nam’s highest peak, Fansipan Mountain at 3,142m above sea level and a vast area covered by thick forest, which is rich in wildlife. The township of Sapa lies on a hill station at the altitude of about 1,600m and was built by the French. Built as a famous summer resort with some hundred colonial villas, which became known as “Tonkin’s Alps.” The complex terrain of Sapa includes steep high mountains, wide valleys, mountain streams and terraced paddies.

Famous for these breathtaking landscapes, Sapa is also home to a diversity of ethnic minority peoples. Sapa was first inhabited by highland minorities of H’mong and Zao groups who immigrated from southern provinces of China, later came the Tay, Zay and a small number of Xa Pho to form the five main ethnic groups which make up 85% of the district’s population today. The Vietnamese, in smaller numbers, immigrated to the region, mainly living in town. Most of the ethnic minority live a traditional lifestyle in small hamlets and villages across the mountains and valleys.

Weather Summary

The climate in Sapa and Viet Nam’s far north-west is divided into two seasons. The dry season runs from October to late March and the wet season comes from April to September. The warmest months are July and August, because of Sapa’s high altitude it is not very hot compared to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It can get very cold in December and January, especially at night. In the summer months of August to December, skies are more likely to be clear. These months see more rainfall, but they are warmer and sometimes you can’t beat a nice summer rain when showers are typically brief, but heavy. Winter can be cold, foggy and rainy, but every three or four days, the weather clears and the views are more gorgeous than they are any other time of year. Sapa’s summers see a subtropical climate and winters a temperate climate.

While trips can be enjoyed all year-round, the winters in Sapa get cold, with some fog, drizzle, and snow falls in some years on the highest peaks. The average temperature for Sapa is 15.4ºC, with a maximum of 29.4ºC.

Trekking and adventure: The best trekking conditions in Sapa and the northwest are from September to November and from March to May. Daytime temperatures range from 15-28°C, and night-time temperatures from 10-18°C. Trekking and cycling are possible year-round, however the wintertime can be rather chilly, and the summer rather wet.

Highlights of Sapa

Hill Tribe Markets

Hill tribe markets are the highlights of Sapa so most markets are swamped with tourists, especially at the weekend. However they are still the best way to observe the indigenous culture and traditions of this mountainous area. These rural markets are quite far away from Sapa town, around 3-4 hours drive.

Coc Ly (Tuesdays) market
Embark on a 3-hour drive up and down the hill and along a slightly bumpy road to the small Coc Ly Market, situated alongside Chay River. Every Tuesday morning, locals from the surrounding ethnic villages such as Flower H’mong, Phu La and Black Dao, resplendent in their distinctive costume, gather here to buy and sell their products, whether a buffalo to a bunch of chilies. Afterwards, take a simple local boat down Chay River for the sights of beautiful caves and local life on the river banks before having a packed lunch on board. Take a short trek to Na Nen Village where Flower H’mong lives.

Lung Khau Nhin (Thursdays) market
* This market tour is more suitable with active people
Embark on a 3.5-hour drive up and down the hill and along a slightly bumpy road to the tiny tribal market of Lung Khau Nhin surrounded by pine forests and hill tribe villages. One of the most untouched markets in the North, here Flower H’mong, Tu Di, Tay and Giay ethnic minorities come to buy and sell home-made products. There is an optional trekking trip to Black Dzao village of Sinlungchai where you can chat to the local people.

Can Cau (Saturdays) market
* This market tour is more suitable with active people as it requires trekking uphill.
Situated in the mountains near the Chinese border, Can Cau is a small but very colorful market. Taking place only on Saturdays, it offers a very photogenic display of Flower H’mong, Black Dao, Phu La and Nung ethnic costumes. Chinese people also come for trading. Climb uphill to explore the market where fruits, vegetables, meat, colorful fabrics and items of traditional dress are on sale. A local boat cruising on Chay river takes you through a breathtaking landscape of mountains jutting from the water. Trek through the Tay ethnic village of Trung Do.

Muong Khuong (Sundays) market
Set out on 3.5-hour driving, slightly bumpy drive from Sapa, passing through beautiful landscape filled with ethnic villages, stunning mountains and rice and maize paddy fields. Arrive at the small Sunday market of Muong Khuong where different ethnic groups gather once a week to buy and sell livestock and produce as well as meet their friends over rice wine. This market attracts a wide variety of ethnic minority groups including the Flower Hmong, Dao, Phu La, La Chi and Tay who still retain their age-old cultural traditions and distinct costumes. Visit a Village of Tay people to observe their daily life and enjoy a packed at the village.

Bac Ha (Sundays) market
Bac Ha is the largest and most colorful market in the area (it is also filled with locals and tourists). Every Sunday morning, many different ethnic groups such as Flower H’mong, Phu La, Black Dao, Tay and Nung minorities gather to buy and sell local products that cannot be found elsewhere. After 3-hour drive up and down the hill drive from Sapa, explore the market where ethnic people sell homemade wares ranging from embroidery, tobacco and rice wine and household animals such as dogs, cats, chickens, pigs, horse, buffaloes. This is also a place to meet friends, drink rice wine and enjoying their life after one week of hard work. Visit the Trung Do village where you enjoy a fun water buffalo cart ride and enjoy a packed lunch at the village. Then embark on a simple local boat down Chay River for some stunning scenery.

Hill tribe markets are the highlights of Sapa so most markets are swamped with tourists, especially at the weekend. However they are still the best way to observe the indigenous culture and traditions of this mountainous area. These rural markets are quite far away from Sapa town, around 3-4 hours drive. Coc Ly (Tuesdays) market Embark on a 3-hour drive up and down the hill and along a slightly bumpy road to the small Coc Ly Market, situated alongside Chay River. Every Tuesday morning, locals from the surrounding ethnic villages such
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Climate chart in Sapa

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Temperature (°F)(°C)
Rainfall
1000 mm
125°50°
800 mm
100°40°
600 mm
75°30°
400 mm
50°20°
200 mm
25°10°
0 mm
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Temperature (°F)(°C)

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