January, the time when Vietnamese people celebrate Lunar New Year, is considered as the best time to travel Vietnam. The spring weather is dry, neither hot nor too cold. So why not add a Vietnam trip to your plan for the first month of the year?
Once you are in Vietnam in January, travel to the northern part of the country, to the town in fog – Sapa. Sapa Town won’t let you down!
Terraced paddy fields in Sapa (Source: Internet)
Where is it
Sapa is a frontier township of Lao Cai Province, 380 km northwest of Hanoi. The town lies at an altitude of 1600m above the sea level.
How to get there
If you visited Sapa several years ago, the only way to reach the town is by taking a train from Hanoi. The train will drop you in Lao Cai City which is about 35 km of winding road to Sapa Town. Therefore, you have to take a bus after getting off the train. It takes 8 to 10 hours to travel from Hanoi City to Sapa by this way.
Sapa rice field (Source: Internet)
Fortunately, in 2014 a new highway connecting Noi Bai Airport (Hanoi) to Lao Cai City came into operation. The highway allows the bus to run directly from Hanoi to Sapa Town and reduce the traveling time considerably, from 8 hours to 5 hours.
Where to stay
Hotels and hostels in Sapa spring up as the visitors keep coming. Whatever you need, from budget hostel to luxury hotels, they are available in the town.
Homestay is also the choice of many tourists. Here are some of the most recommended accommodation facilities in Sapa.
Infinity pool in Topas Ecolodge (Source: Internet)
- Topas Ecolodge: 24 Muong Hoa Street, Sapa. Room rate: Over $100
- Sapa Legend Hotel: No.01, Thu Dau Mot Street. Room rate: Over $100
- The H’mong sisters: 31 Muong Hoa Street. A new, most recommended homestay hosted by two H’mong women.
- Auberge Hotel: 07, Muong Hoa Street. Room rate: $10-$20
- Boutique Hotel: 41 Fansipan Street. Room rate: $20-$50
What to do in Sapa
Situated on a high mountain range (Hoang Lien Son Range – the eastern extremity of the Himalayas), Sapa weather is always 3 to 4 degrees Celsius lower than other parts of the country making Sapa an ideal place for a summer retreat. French people were the first to build villages and resorts in the town as an escape from the city.
Besides favorable climate conditions, Sapa offers a bunch of sightseeing attractions and cultural experiences.
Farmers who have to cultivate in the mountainous area, carve massive steps onto the steep hillsides to grow rice. This forms patterns along the slopes creating an impressive landscape.
There are two periods of the year that the terrace field in Sapa showcases its most amazing beauty. April, May, and September to October.
Trekking, hiking in Fansipan
Sapa is home to the highest peak of Indochina, Fansipan. With the height of 3143 m, Fansipan offers perfect route for trekking-lovers. There are several ways to get to the summit. An accessible route which takes about 8 hours, is for beginners and those don’t have much time. A longer and more challenging way for adventurers.
You don’t bother to hike? The capable car is here for you.
Fansipan peak (Source: Internet)
Experiencing Cultural diversity
Six different ethnic minority groups are living in harmony in the town of Sapa. They are Kinh, H’Mong, Red Dao, Tay, Giay and Xa Pho. Each group has their own cultural characteristics.
January is the best time to witness the cultural diversity of this incredible town. Most of their traditional festivals occur in January and can last the whole month.
Ethnic Minority Groups in Sapa (Source: Internet)
Joining Love Market
If you go to Sapa, love market is something you cannot miss. The market starts at Saturday night and ends on Sunday night. This is where local people meet after a week of hard working, where young people find their love. Love market is not about exchange goods but more about dancing, singing and show off what they have made like a good bottle of wine, a piece of skillful embroidery.
Love Market (Source: Internet)
Tips for traveling Sapa, Vietnam in January
- Bring a warm jacket. Vietnam weather is generally warm due to the tropical climate. However, it can be freezing in Sapa where in the winter, you might see snow. So don’t underestimate the cold here
- Ask before taking photos of ethnic people. Sometimes they can charge you money for that.
- Make sure to have a tour guide with you. To discover the further villages where Sapa showcases its alluring scenery, you’ better go with a tour guide. Many local people work as a guide who is multilingual, friendly and of course know the area very well.