[Video] Your Guide to Trekking and Hiking in Sapa, Vietnam

[Video] Your Guide to Trekking and Hiking in Sapa, Vietnam

Posted by Jessica Drolet

Sapa is my favourite travel destination in Vietnam. Not only do you witness spectacular views of rolling mountains and rice terraces, but you get to mingle with local hill-tribe people who make the experience unique and authentic.

Last July, I went back to Sapa to hike the highest peak of Vietnam (3.143 m) with a friend visiting from Dubai. Fansipan (Phan-Xi-Pǎng) is one of the prettiest and most enjoyable hikes I’ve done. If you enjoy trekking adventures, Sapa should be on your list.

How hard is it?

Fansipan summit 8tiquette
Me at the summit, 8 hours after the start of our hike!

It’s not an easy hike. The second half of the Trạm Tôn route, the shortest trail, is rather steep and involves climbing ladders.

I read that—and have seen—people go up in 4 hours and hike down in about the same amount of time, but it actually took my friend and I 8 hours just to go up. If we had taken fewer breaks, I know we could have hiked much faster, but 4 hours seems ambitious.

Good thing a cable car was built in February 2016. Although it makes the top commercial and crowded, it allows you to go down in just 20 minutes.

How to get there?

From Hanoi, your best bet is to take an 8-hour night train. The price is about US$40 each way. The four-berth cabins are comfortable enough to get some sleep but make sure you bring warm clothing as the air conditioning can be very cold.

Your other options are to take a 5-hour bus for as low as US$15 or to arrange shuttle transportation from Hanoi with your hotel if they have it.

Where to stay?

The Junior Suite at AIRA Boutique Sapa Hotel & Spa.

Many people opt for home stays which provide the most authentic experiences. For this trip though, I was looking for the easiest and most comfortable solution.

I chose AIRA Boutique Sapa Hotel & Spa and highly recommend it. It’s modern, central but away from all the noise, and the service is impeccable. They upgraded us to a Junior suite and gave us the room when we arrived, at 6:30 AM. What’s more, they offer decently priced spa treatments. I would definitely go back.

If you’re a group of 3 or 4, you might enjoy Sapa Jade Hill’s cute villas a little further away in the mountains, and if you like eco-friendly hotels, check out Topas Ecolodge which is all about social responsibility. It’s 18 km away from Sapa town but it has a beautiful infinity pool.

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How long to stay?

2 or 3 days in Sapa is the perfect length. You’ll need 1 day for trekking and 1 day for hiking if you’re fast or come down by cable car, or 2 days if you sleep in the mountains.

Our itinerary was as follows.

Day 1:

Day 2:

When to go?

Compared to Ho Chi Minh City where it’s always around 30°C, Sapa’s weather varies a lot. Most sources recommend going between March and May, and from September to November, when chances of rain are lower and the weather is not too cold. I unintentionally did the opposite. The first time I went was in December and this time was at the end of July.

July and August are the greenest but also the hottest and wettest months. Do check weather forecasts as typhoons are more common in July and August than during the rest of the year. It usually rains in the morning and clears up in the afternoon, but we had two beautiful sunny days.

Also go during the week as it can get crowded over the weekend.

Tips for trekking in Sapa villages

Village Etiquette

Other than Vietnamese people, there are a number of indigenous communities derived from Chinese migration living in Sapa villages, the two main ones being Hmong and Dao (pronounced Zao or Yao). So the culture is different there, and people may not return your “Xin Chào” (which means hello in Vietnamese) as they have their own dialect. My advice is:

The lovely lady who followed and helped me throughout the trek.

Tips for hiking Fansipan

Hiking Etiquette for first-timers

What was your favourite hiking experience? Have you been to Sapa? Share your experience in the comment section below.

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