Beautiful Sapa is located in the northern mountains of Vietnam and is made up of a main town in the Muong Hoa Valley. Surrounding Sapa proper you will find a selection of local villages which are the home of some of the ethnic minorities in Vietnam. This means that this part of the country has a distinct and unique culture which makes a visit here not to be missed if you are in the region. On the outskirts of the town you will find jade hued rice paddies that are cut into the craggy mountain sides and the air is cooler as the mountains covered in a delicate mist. If you like trekking then this is definitely the place to come as the rugged scenery and mountain air makes this the perfect place to get outside and explore.
Here are the 25 Best Things To Do In Sapa…
1. Get out into the local villages
Sapa is basically a collection of small local villages which are dotted around the mountains.
This means that this is the place to come if you want to get out of the cities of Vietnam and experience something a little more rural.
You can stay in the local villages in a guesthouse with a local family and this will also give you a glimpse of how people have lived here for centuries.
The homestay programs here are not for everyone but for many who have tried them they are the highlight of a trip to Vietnam.
- Sapa: 2-Day Trekking Tour with Minority Village Homestay
- From Sapa: Sapa Valley Trek with Local Villages Visit (5 hour tour)
2. Visit Sapa Museum
Sapa doesn’t have too many ‘attractions’ in the main town but one of the few it does have is the Sapa Museum.
As such, this is the main (and only) place to come if your want to find a showcase of the history and culture of the region which stretches back to the French colonial period.
You can also explore galleries which are dedicated to the various ethnic minorities that live in this part of Vietnam and this is a great place to find out all about this unique section of the country.
3. Buy some local handicrafts
Sapa is known for its villages which are made up of local families who are also ethnic minorities in Vietnam.
These families include the Dao, the Yay, the H’mong and the Phu La and each of these ethnic groups is known for making amazing local handicrafts.
When you travel to the villages you can see how these are made and also pick up some traditional weavings or carvings which make great gifts and souvenirs.
4. Go hiking
Sapa started out life as a scenic hill station during the colonial period and many people came here in the days of old to escape the heat and to enjoy the scenery.
The cool climate here also means that this is one of the best places to go hiking in Vietnam and much of Sapa is covered in lush green hills.
As well as the rolling mountains, you will also find gorgeous glittering waterfalls and stunning valleys which are dotted with craggy caves.
You can take a guided hiking tour of the best spots around Sapa or you can go it alone if you fancy an adventure.
5. Have a drink at Cafe in the Clouds
One of the great highlights of a trip to Sapa is the chance to take in the lush views and there is no better way to do this than by having a drink in one of the mountain bars.
One of the most famous is Cafe in the Clouds and as the name suggests you can spend time here enjoying the mist creeping across the eerie landscape and marvel at the vistas over the emerald green valley below.
You can get a range of drinks here as well as basic local and international dishes and this cafe also has Wi-Fi if you need to get online.
6. Join a H’mong Sewing Class
The H’mong indigenous group in Sapa is known for its sewing and weaving.
If you want to have a go at this firsthand, then you can visit Indigo Cat which is one of the most famous craft stores in town.
Here you can take a class where you can learn how to sew your own handicrafts and you will be taught by members of the local H’mong community.
If you prefer then you can simply visit the shop to buy some of the souvenirs on display which include beautiful textiles as well as other delights like local teas and spices.
7. Hike Fan Si Pan
Fan Si Pan has the claim to fame of being the highest mountain in Indochina and is located at some 3,143 meters above sea level.
The mountain is around 9 kilometers outside the center of Sapa and it can take a full week to get to the summit.
If you are feeling fit however and if you have the time, then this is an experience of a lifetime and you will be able to take in gorgeous views over Hoang Lien Son.
If you prefer, then you can also do some shorter treks which will take you part way up the mountain.
One of the highlights of trekking around Fan Si Pan is the chance to check out the local flora and fauna such as cute monkeys and antelopes.
8. Dine at Hill Station Signature Restaurant
As Sapa used to be a famous hill station during the colonial period, it seems only appropriate to dine at Hill Station Signature Restaurant which specializes in delicious H’Mong cuisine.
This is also an eatery with a view and you can enjoy vistas across the valley as you try dishes like pork with lime as well as trout wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in ash.
Another reason to come here is to try the local corn and rice wine.
9. Visit Cat Cat Village
The charmingly named Cat Cat Village is one of the oldest villages in the Sapa region and it is also known for being the home of the H’mong ethnic group.
The village is famous for its traditional industries such as flax and cotton production and there is a strong tradition of weaving here.
When travelers visit, they can learn all about these traditional techniques as well as spend time studying the H’mong culture.
10. Check out the barbecue restaurants
Vietnam is known for its delicious barbecued meats and these can be a welcome treat in the cold climes of Sapa.
If you want to find a high concentration of barbecue stalls in Sapa then you need to head to D Phan Si where you will find a number of simple joints set up along the road.
These stalls barbecue a range of meats including chicken, pork and beef over hot coals and these are served with vegetables and sometimes rice wraps so that you can roll everything together to make a toothsome kind of spring roll.
11. Walk to Silver Waterfalls
Sapa is famous for its waterfalls and one of these is Silver Waterfalls.
This is a collection of gushing cataracts that tower to a height of some 200 meters.
Located just up the path from Silver Waterfalls is the beautifully named Love Waterfall which is a place that is steeped in local legend.
Locals will tell you that fairies used to bathe in the waters here and although it is a long trek to both waterfalls it is more than worth it for the pretty scenery.
Suggested tour: From Sapa: Waterfalls, Trekking and Tribal Villages Tour
12. Explore Fairy Cave
Another key attraction is Sapa is Fairy Cave which is located a little way upstream from the Chay River.
The cave looks like something out of a fairy tale, as the name suggests, and the scenery here is reminiscent of Halong Bay.
The cave is said to be sacred in Vietnam and the mountain here is also cut through with babbling streams which make the perfect place to go for a swim at the end of a long trek.
13. Enjoy the pastries at Baguette and Chocolate
In Vietnam, as a result of the influence of the French colonial period, you are never far from somewhere that sells baguettes and pastries.
In Sapa, this comes in the form of Baguette and Chocolate which is housed in a former colonial villa.
They serve a good breakfast or you can also come here for a crusty baguette sandwich or a slice of tart.
One of the best things about Baguette and Chocolate is that is employs disadvantaged youth from Sapa and trains them how to cook.
14. Go boating on Sapa Lake
Sapa Lake is one of the main attractions in town and is just a 5 minute walk away from the main church.
The lake allows you to take in the beauty of Sapa from the water and this is a popular place to come for local families at the weekends.
One of the great highlights of the lake is that you can rent a peal boat for an hour and shoot all over the glassy surface of the water and enjoy the sights.
15. Visit Tram Ton Pass
If you want to see more of the scenery in Sapa then you need to head for the Sapa and Lai Chau road which then turns into the Tram Ton Pass.
The pass stands at an elevation of some 1900 meters which makes it the highest pass in all of Vietnam.
You will find a number of lookout points here which have amazing views over the surrounding area and you can also combine a trip here with the nearby Silver Waterfall.
16. Shop at Sapa Market
If you want to enjoy a traditional shopping experience in Sapa, then head for Sapa Market which is also conveniently located close to the local bus station.
Here you will find a range of colorful local produce as well as a fresh meat section which is certainly not for the faint of heart.
You will also find some handicrafts here sold by the hill-tribes people that live in the villages around Sapa.
17. Watch the Ta Phin Commune Church Singing
If you happen to be in Sapa during the first few weeks of spring then you can travel to Ta Phin Village where you can watch the annual church singing.
This is actually a traditional wedding tradition and you will get to watch brides and grooms parading through the village while locals sing and dance around them.
The colorful outfits worn by the young lovers are worth the trip itself and visitors are welcome to watch the festivities as long as you are respectful of the proceedings at the same time.
18. Walk around Muong Khuong Bird Market
Many towns in Southeast Asia have a local bird market and Sapa is no exception.
If you visit Muong Khuong Bird Market then you will get to watch the different tribes of the region getting together to listen to the birds sing.
In Vietnam many houses will hang a bird cage in front of their home to bring good luck, and people buy and trade birds from the market.
As such you can listen to avians such as nightingales signing and the market is a bustling affair which is best visited in the morning if you want to see it at its peak.
19. Check out Muong Hoa Valley
The Muong Hoa Valley is one of the jewels in the crown of Sapa and you will find the Hoa Stream cleaving through the valley and running through to villages like Han Thao and Tan Van.
You can take a tour from Sapa that will lead you through the amazing valley and there are even paintings on stones here that are said to date back some 3,000 years.
If you walk down to the bottom of the valley then you can also enjoy some river hiking along the Hoa Stream.
Suggested tour: Private Hoang Lien National Park & Tribal Village Trek
20. Drink some wine in Ban Pho Village
One of the best villages to visit around Sapa is undoubtedly the Ban Pho Village which is the home of the Mongolian Bac Ha tribe.
The village is also known for its wine making industry and when you come here you can learn how the villagers have been making corn wine here for centuries and even sample some of this signature tipple yourself.
You can also easily visit Ban Pho as part of a day trip from Sapa and as with all the villages in the region it also has spectacular views over the rice fields.
21. Admire Sapa Church
Sapa doesn’t have a huge range of monuments, but one of the most recognizable buildings in town is Sapa Church which dates back to the French colonial period.
The church is closed throughout the week and only opens for Mass every Sunday, but you can check out the exterior which is very pretty or venture inside if you happen to be here at the weekend.
22. Go for a walk around Ham Rong Resort
Ham Rong Resort is actually something of a misnomer as this is not a resort but more of an informal park area which sits at the base of Ham Rong Mountain.
Here you will find a cool and serene place to go for a walk although be warned, there are a lot of steps that lead you up the mountainside.
Still, if you don’t want to tackle some of the larger mountains in the region such as Fan Si Pan then this is a good place to go for a walk for a few hours and take some photographs across the valley.
23. Take a cooking class
Vietnam is world famous for its delicious food, and with that in mind you may want to have a go at cooking it yourself.
If this is the case then you need to head to Hill Station Signature Restaurant where you book a class a day in advance.
You will then get the chance to learn from a H’mong chef who will take you out to the local market so that you can learn all about the traditional ingredients used in Vietnamese cooking.
Classes usually include learning how to cook five local dishes which you can then eat in the communal dining room at that end of the class and also pair with some local wines.
24. Dine at the Hot Pot Stalls
The weather in Sapa can be much colder than other parts of Vietnam due to the advanced elevation.
As a result, if you feel like you need warming up, then you may want to take a trip to the famous Hot Pot Stalls of Sapa.
These are considered to be a local delicacy in the town and this kind of hot pot is known as lau in Vietnamese.
The hot pot consists of meat stew which is then cooked with local vegetables such as cabbage and mushrooms which makes for simple yet hearty fare.
25. Tour the rice fields
The main reason why many people come to Sapa is to visit the rice fields, and even if you decide not to stay overnight in a homestay with a local family, a trip out into the countryside is not to be missed.
You can book a guided tour from Sapa which will take you out onto the famous stepped rice terraces and you can admire the views and also learn now the locals till the fields and harvest the rice.