14 Rewarding Things to Do in Sapa for First-Timers

What to See and Do in Sapa, Vietnam

Jane Pham
Jane Pham | Published: February 28, 2020

Located in Lao Cai, a province in the Northwestern region of Vietnam, Sapa is a small town but offers plenty of interesting things to do and places to see. Spectacular mountain landscapes, verdant rice terraces and unique ethnic minorities’ villages, all of them can be found in Sapa. To make the most of your Sapa experience, we have created an extensive of best things to do in Sapa for you. Let’s check it out.

1. Ride a Bike to Muong Hoa Valley

Muong Hoa Valley
Photo: Olympus digital camera


A stunning stretch of land at the bottom of Fansipan’s flank, Muong Hoa Valley is one of the most famous destinations for motorbike riders. 14 km far from the town, it lies between 2 high ranges of mountains. The place is a great place to learn about rice cultivating for those who want to understand more about local life. Driving from the town to Muong Hoa will be an amazing experience in your life. You have a chance to go through the highest mountain range to dozens of streams downhill, cross small villages and rice fields of ethnic minority people and watch how people do farming works. Besides, there are many photo opportunities of great views for you.


  • The color of the terraced rice fields are the most attractive during September.
  • The motorbike can be rent in Sapa town with just around USD 5

2. Conquer Fansipan – Roof of Indochina

Fansipan roof of Indochina


For those who truly love adventurous experiences, conquering Fansipan should be on top of your bucket list immediately. Regarded as the highest peak in Vietnam, it is located over Hoang Lien range, offering opportunities of discovering and enjoying many stunning scenery. It could be bamboo woods, rice terraces, or hospitable tribal people. And, a wonderful thing is that it doesn’t need any technical skill to conquer the Roof of Indochina. There are 3 different routes to climb to the peak. So, you should choose the most suitable one with your skill level and the time you have.


  • You should prepare some sturdy and no-slip boots because the hike can be wet and slippery. 
  • Make sure you bring bottled water, dry food, and a flashlight.

3. Shop for Trekking Gear and Local Handicrafts

Sapa brocade shop


Sapa and the surrounding areas have a number of local markets where you can buy both handicrafts and anything you need for your trek. In the city center, you can find the main market which is close to most hotels and hostels. It sells everything like clothing items, food, souvenirs, and hiking gear. 

Spread around the town, there will be many more small shops providing handmade items like musical instruments, leather bags, or locally designed items. However, the price of these items are a bit higher than the markets outside the city.

The best place to buy these nice things is at truly local markets in small villages. Here, you can get the most original and beautiful products at reasonable prices. You will also have a chance to meet the artisans and support them at the same time.


  • Many items are counterfeit brands like the North Face, Nike, or Adidas. So you should consider what to buy as trekking clothes.

4. Trek in Sapa

Trekking in Sapa


With dramatic landscapes, Sapa has been attracting trekkers for more than 30 years. As an undiscovered paradise for intrepid explorers, trekking in Sapa is a must-do activity when you visit this mountainous area. It is a challenging but incredible experience when you trek through the green paddy field and the world of minority villages around the town. You can choose to do it with or without a local guide. However, we highly recommend hiring a local guide to save your time and energy. They are also familiar with the weather, terrain, and tourist destinations so they can help you with a safer and more enjoyable trip. 


  • For a long trek in Sapa, it is better to stay at a local homestay. It will give you a deeper insight into the local lifestyle and join the daily works or prepare some tasty dishes.
  • Before going trekking in Sapa, you should check the destination you will visit carefully and search for the weather forecast also.

5. Climb to Ham Rong Mountain 

Ham Rong mountain in Spring


As the most spectacular mountain park, Ham Rong Mountain is a popular tourist area built on an area of around 150 ha. The more steps that you climb, the more breathtaking scenes you can discover such as orchid garden, cloud yard, heaven gate, and peach garden. Visit Ham Rong mountain, you can also explore a wide variety of plants and see a large number of rocks in different shapes. The place has its own distinct color at any time of the year. However, the best time to visit is spring when plenty of flowers are blooming, showing their sweetness and fragrance.


  • Ham Rong mountain is open from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm. So, you should consider this when planning your itinerary.
  • Before exploring the mountain, you should buy the ticket at VND 70.000 right in front of its main entrance.

6. Explore Silver Waterfall and be Amazed at Sky Gate

Silver Waterfall in Sapa


Waterfall has been famous as a land of Sapa which is about 200 meters high. Located at the foot of O Quy Ho pass, you can travel to this place by motorbike or bus. Most tourists to Sapa never miss the chance to get here because it is the most beautiful waterfall in Sapa. standing at the foot of the waterfall, you will see the sparkling water flowing down. It looks like a spectacular mountain scenery from afar, creating a wild and mysterious feeling. The Sky Gate is the place to admire the majestic beauty of Northwestern mountains and forests and the spectacular natural scenery. From here, you can see huge valleys with green terraced fields, the long road connecting Lai Chau and Lao Cai provinces, and the Silver Waterfall (Thac Bac). 


  • You should bring warm clothes because the weather can be quite cold and foggy even if it’s summer.
  • There might be mosquitos and insects around, so it’s better to have an insect sprayer with you. 

7. Visit Cat Cat, Ta Phin and Lao Chai Village

Cat Cat village


The villages in Sapa are an indispensable part of every Sapa tour. With beautiful and unique scenery, these villages attract large numbers of visitors to Sapa. Among them, Cat Cat, Ta Phin and Lao Chai villages are the most visited tourists. Cat Cat is home to Black H’Mong while Ta Phin is home to Dao ethnic people and Lao Chai is the village where H’Mong people live. These villages are all located in a four-sided wide and flat valleys. Coming here, you can get to know special features of different Vietnamese ethnic minority groups. Especially, it would be a great experience to try the bath medicine leaf Red Dao in Ta Phin village and buy local handicrafts in Cat Cat and Ta Phin villages.


  • During your visit to any ethnic villages, please ask for permission first before taking photos. Some of ethnic people are not comfortable with this.

8. See the Ancient Rock Field

Ancient rock field


Ancient rock field is a unique spot that is located in Muong Hoa valley. The rock field is a good place to explore interesting history and take photos with its motifs. Located on the steep mountain road, the ancient rock field consists of more than 150 small and large boulders near the rice fields. Though it doesn’t look impressive at all from afar, you will be amazed to hear the introduction and examine the rocks after getting off the bus. Covering an area of 8 square km, most big rocks with strange and beautiful carvings are in Pho village. The carvings feature 11 styles of strange human images and the scientists consumes this was a big heritage of mankind.


  • Each carving is believed to store a story about ancient people’s life, living and culture. So, let’s see and guess what they want to say.

9. Enjoy the Seven-color Steamed Glutinous Rice of Nung Dinh People

Seven color glutinous rice of Nung Dinh people


The seven-color steamed glutinous rice is a specialty of Nung Dinh people. The dish was initially invented to present to their ancestors to wish for an abundant harvest and a comfortable life. Each color of glutinous rice presents a special meaning. For example, the green is the color of spring, the dark red is the color of patriotic martyrs who sacrificed their life in the war, and the yellow presents the color of the scatter and heart-break. The dish is a great combination of seven colors without using chemical colors. The clever local woman creates the color by using many kinds of forest leaves and herbs and some of their traditional secrets. Nung Dinh people believe that eating this dish will bring luck to you. With an attractive appearance and special taste, it is prefered by many tourists.


  • The original dish is in Muong Khuong, Lao Cai. However, you can find this dish in the morning market in Sapa town. 

10. Enjoy Sapa Specialties at Sapa Food Court

Food court Sapa central market


Every trip will not be complete without sampling the best local cuisine. As a culinary paradise with a diversity of food and flavors, Sapa food court is a great place to enjoy the most various culinary experiences. The place is very bustling and offers many delicious food stalls at reasonable prices. Eggs, grilled sweet potatoes, grilled meat,… all of these foods will surely fill your tummy before leaving. To make your eating experience in Sapa more enjoyable, it is advisable to go with your friends.


  • The snacks area in Ham Rong street will be open from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm. So if you wish to find something to eat in the evening, you can head to the BBQ area in Cau May street.

11. Admire Terraced Rice Fields

Spectacular terraced rice fields


Sapa is not only a best choice for summer escape but it also attracts tourists to admire its stunning beauty of terraced rice fields on the hilly slopes. Due to steep features and fertile soil, local ethnic minority people grow their rice and establish beautiful terraced rice fields. We highly recommend trekking these rice fields where you can both understand about local cultures and admire the beautiful and spectacular scenery and have nice photos. Seen from afar, these terraced rice fields are a great picture of nature with heart-catching beauty that makes tourists stay for a while. The color changes seasonally with alluring charm in the beginning of new crops and yellow ripening rice when it is about harvested.


  • If you visit the terraced rice fields in the harvesting crop, you can ask the local farmer and join them in harvesting rice. It would be a brand new experience in your whole life.

12. Have a Drink at Café in The Clouds

Cafe in the clouds


One of the great highlights of a trip to Sapa is having a drink at a cafe in the clouds where you can take in the lush beautiful views and enjoy a local drink. Most of these cafes can be found in Fansipan and Cau May streets. To name an outstanding cafe shop, it would be Cafe in the Clouds where you can spend time enjoying the eerie landscape and admiring the vistas over the green valley below. The cafe also offers a wide range of drinks and both local and international dishes. This could be a great experience to try in Sapa.


  • To get the best view over the mountain and terraced rice fields, it is recommended to check the weather before visiting Cafe in the Clouds. In the early morning, it is likely to have fog so you could not see anything clearly.

13. Take Part in H’mong Sewing Class

Hmong sewing products


H’Mong ethnic minority counts a large population in this mountainous town. Their weaving technique is so unique and famous here. If you are curious about how they sew and make the products, just head to Indigo Cat where you can take the sewing class. An experienced local H’Mong person will teach you every step from picking the leaves, putting these leaves in the barrels, taking out, adding the lime,… to the final product. After that, you can try to practice and make your own product. The HMong are really good at English so they can explain to you carefully about the details. Besides, you can buy authentic weaving products for your family and friends here.


  • If you are looking for some H’Mong clothing items different to the shops on the main street, this is the place to find some.

14. Watch The Ta Phin Commune Church Singing

Ta Phin village


If you visit Ta Phin village during the very first weeks of spring, there will be a chance to witness one of the most beautiful traditions of the ethnic people called “church singing”. On this occasion, local people and visitors in the area will flock to the Ta Phin commune to watch this wedding tradition and listen to the beautiful singing. For most of ethnic minorities in Lao Cai province, marriages are still pre-arranged. During the church singing, the grooms and brides-to-be will participate in the procession to the village. The young men and women sing and dance in a competition to fulfill spiritual needs. The most exciting thing about this occasion is that you will see ethnic clothes in different styles and colors, creating a beautiful and unforgettable picture.


  • You should come to the church early because there will be so many people attending this event.

So, there are many activities to try in the town. Above is our recommended list of best things to do in Sapa. If you have any other more interesting idea, please let us know so we can share with other travelers. 


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