Sapa is a small, mountain town located in Lao Cai Province. The city lies about 350km northwest of Hanoi and is close to the Chinese border. Here, you can find the Hoang Lien Son massifs, which includes the country's highest peak, Fan Si Pan. This serene Vietnam town is home to several ethnic groups. The five main ethnic groups of Sapa are the Hmong, Dao, Tay, Giay, and Xa Pho. The first four groups first occupied Sapa since the Kinhs did not inhabit the highest valleys. At present, a diverse range of visitors visits Sapa due to its highland tribes, iconic rice paddies, forest treks, and the awe-inspiring natural beauty.
Hiking and enjoying nature is most popular in Sapa. The major attraction of the area is Fan Si Pan, the highest mountain in Vietnam. The mountain lies only about 19km from town. The trek is challenging even in this short distance, you will be walking through the rough terrain, and unpredictable weather presents some difficulties. This trekking route is accessible all year round, and the trekkers with a fine level of fitness and mountain climbing experience will love it. The best way to reach Sapa is to take the overnight train from Hanoi. Sapa was included on the national map only in the 19th century when the French arrived in Tonkin. This site of Sapa became a major location for the French military and missionaries. For decades, this mountainous backwater was unknown to tourists, but in 1993 Sapa became accessible to others when it was officially promoted as a tourist destination.
For such a small town, there are surprisingly large numbers of hotels in Sapa. Most of the accommodation in Sapa caters to locals and backpackers, and the prices are also quite lower than those in big cities. Sapa has a huge range of activities to offer to its visitors. You can visit the Ham Rong Mountain, Silver Waterfall, Rattan Bridge, Bamboo Forest, and Ta Phin Cave. People might think Sapa is always bright, but that's not the case. Due to its high altitude and the northern location, the town's weather is different, and the climate changes seasonally. Despite all the development and hasty tourist infrastructure, Sapa is still one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam. There may be huge cable car, hotels cropping up all around, but the heart of the Sapa Valley; its steep mountains and vibrant green hue will never change. The town itself has a strangely charming atmosphere. Whether you want to challenge the largest mountain of Vietnam, Mt. Fansipan, or just want to stroll around, Sapa has it all. Even though Sapa is a heavily congested, lively place, walk just 10minutes in any direction, and you will find yourself surrounded by nature. Even on a cloudy day, the mist on the top of the hills gives the valley a heavenly look.
Bac Ha Market is in the Bach Ha District and lies in Lao Cai Province, 80km from Sapa town. Bac Ha market is one of the biggest markets in Sapa and opens only on Sundays. This market is not only a trading center but also a major attraction for couples, friends, and relatives. In this market, you can buy any animals you can imagine, like pigs, dogs, cats, and horses. You can find almost anything you need in the Bac Ha market. The product ranges from local handicrafts of the different tribes-people to colorful fruit and delicious dishes that are worth a try. Try some sticky rice or noodle soup here in the market; they make some of the most delicious ones. You will also find an abundance of vegetables, herbs, and fruits. You think that's not a big deal, but the product sold at Bac Ha is locally sourced, which means they are fresh and organic. You will find sweet potatoes, cassava, cowpea, ginseng, etc. all displayed in contrasting colors at the top of bamboo mats. Stop by each mat and ask to try a few new items, they won't reject it. Here, you will find lots of rare foods.
Bac Ha cuisines bring various colors to Vietnamese recipes. You've probably tried pho in Hanoi, but have you ever tried red pho? You might have tasted the white sticky rice, but have you tried the blue one? Or the indigo one? Or the purple one? These rice uses herbs to take out different colors and are very popular. Another specialty of the region is buffalo and horse meat dishes, which you can find in the market. You can also buy various traditional clothes and Handicrafts. You will see lots of clothes and accessories that represent different cultures, and you can tell them apart from their contrasting colors and patterns. Every time sold here are hand-made and intricately sown. Feel the stitching, and you will feel the love of the maker of the item for their culture and work. You can also buy beautiful souvenirs like bronze bracelets and earrings with sophisticated carvings. Do not haggle too much. The VND might seem too much, but when converted to USD, it seems very low, but these might mean the world for them.
Here, you can also buy cattle and poultry such as chicken, bird, dog, pig, buffalo, cow, and horse. You can buy them in a variety of species, colors, and sizes. Bac Ha Market is a show of smiles and vivid colors. While trading is the main purpose, what distinct this market from other markets in Vietnam is the joy, smiles, and laughter exchanged throughout the market. At this market, there is no distance between the tribes, no language barriers, or regional contrasts. If you think living in the mountains, away from cities is tough, watch these people. Even if the work seems hard to you, they enjoy this life and love it.
Reaching Bac Ha
You can easily reach to Bac Ha from Hanoi on a bike. On-bike, you will be riding for around six hours on mountainous roads, totaling about 322 kilometers. If you think that's boring, think again, the mountainous roads are very scenic that will make your trip very enjoyable.
By Sleeper Bus
From My Dinh bus station in Hanoi, two sleeper bus departs daily to Bac Ha. The route is the same as a motorbike and takes as much as when riding on the bike.
If you love traveling by train, that is also possible. You can take a train from Hanoi to Lao Cai City. After arriving at the train station, you will head to the bus station about 10kms away from where you can get a bus at any time from the early morning to 3 pm every day.
Another way to reach Bac Ha Market is through a car; you can hire a car in Hanoi. You can contact any car service that travels the North-West route in Hanoi.
From Sapa to Bac Ha
Bac Ha lies on the eastern side of Lao Cai province while Sapa lies on a western side. The distance from Sapa to Bac Ha is 100 kilometers that take about 4hours to travel. There are many rugged bends and steep slopes scattered along the mountainous roads, but the spectacular mountain scenery makes this dangerous route worthy.
When to visit Bac Ha Market
The Bac Ha Market is open only once a week on Sunday. Locals from Bach Ha and nearby regions open the market from early morning until noon, 6 am to 12 pm. The vendors start their day to set up their stalls from as early as 4 am. Bac Ha also celebrates some unique festivals on specific days during the year. We recommend you to visit the Bac Ha Market during one of these festivals. Spring is the festival in bac Ha. From January 2nd to 6th and January 15th on the lunar calendar, the inhabitants celebrate the Say San Festival and Ruoc Dat Ruoc Nuoc Festival, respectively. During these two festivals, locals pray for a new year with favorable weather, bumper harvest, and prosperous life. They celebrate the horse racing festival in early June. Finally, the Bac Ha Temple Festival falls on July 7th.
Enjoy the gorgeous landscape of the mountain region of northern Vietnam
Explore the traditional and the biggest market of La Cai Province
See the highest mountain of Vietnam, Mt. Fansipan
- Ground transport
- International airfare
- Travel insurance
Hanoi to Lao Cai, Lao Cai to Sapa, trek to Y Linh Ho - Lao Chai - Ta Van village
Tonight, your guide will pick you up at the hotel and head towards Hanoi railway station. From here, you board an overnight train to Lao Cai. Overnight trains in Vietnam has multi-share compartments where you share space with other passengers. Even though the compartments are compact, they are very comfortable.
We will reach the Lao Cai train station in the morning. After we arrive at the station, your tour guide will pick you up, and then you head towards the Sapa town with a drive for an hour.
In Sapa, check into the hotel then freshen up. After that, enjoy a delicious local breakfast in the hotel. Then, we begin our trekking from Sapa town. We will trek through the villages of Hmong and Dzay people. We will also meet locals working on the mountainsides or the rice terraces, witness kids riding on the back of buffalo, and you will also get a chance to take some stunning photos of scenic valleys and gorgeous sceneries. On the way, we take a short break for a picnic lunch. After lunch, we continue the trek towards the Ta Van village of Dzay people. Our host for the day will welcome us, and we stay at their homestay and enjoy a delicious Vietnamese dish. The homestay accommodation is on a multi-share basis, and you will be sleeping on the ground on a mat. This is a great way to experience the rural life of Vietnam.
Sapa Trek; Giang Ta Chai - Supan
We rise early in the morning today to experience the daily life of the villages' ethnic minorities. After breakfast, we bid goodbye to the hosts of the homestay then head out towards the Giang Ta Chai Village of the Red Zao peoples. While touring around the village, you will meet women doing their stitching works to make their traditional dresses. Sometimes, you will also see the blacksmiths making farming tools and even hunting rifles. Then, we visit the waterfall and suspension bridge called Rattan Bridge, then cross Muong Hoa River up to the mountain to visit the last village of the trek - Supan village of the H' mong. Here, you can see some unique techniques of building houses on the steep rocky land. In the afternoon, we head back to Sapa via car or van. On the way back, we visit the ancient stone circle where ancient carvings adorn the stones of the area. Then, we check into the hotel, and the rest of the time is free for you to explore this small town.
Sapa to Bac Ha Market – Lao Cai Station/ Overnight train to Hanoi
We get up early today and have a delicious breakfast. Then, we check out of the hotel and the drive to the Bac Ha Market. We will move through some stunning mountain ranges. After driving for a few hours, we reach the Bac Ha market. This market opens only on Sunday every week and is the biggest ethnic market in the Lao Cai province. Here, you can find almost anything from cattle and poultries to traditional dresses, handicrafts, fruits and vegetables, and many more. You can also meet many skilled blacksmiths, saddlers, traditional medicine doctors, artifacts, and many other professionals. We will reach the market before 9 am as the market ends at around 12:30. You can enjoy some delicious at the many stalls of the market where you can have a variety of local tastes. In the afternoon, walk around the villages of flower H' monh, and taste corn wine. In the evening, we move towards the Lao Cai station from where we head towards Hanoi.