"The premier destination of NW Vietnam - Sapa!" Top 5 Page for this destination Sa Pa by kelnsha

Sa Pa Travel Guide: 133 reviews and 473 photos

A brief introducton of Sapa

It used to be a hill station built in 1922. Nestled in a beautiful valley close to the Chinese border, the spectacular scenery that surrounds Sapa includes casacading rice terraces that hug the heights looming over town. The mountains are often cloaked in mist that rolls back and forth along the mountaintops, offering tantalising glimpses of what lies in wait on a clear day. The valleys and villages around Sapa are home to a host of hill-tribe people who wander into town to buy, sell and trade.

Short history of Sapa

History has not always been kind to Sapa and the long series of conflicts that swept over Vietnam left it on its last legs.

From WWII, through the wars against the French and the USA, to the border skirmish with China in 1979, the old hotels built by the French were allowed to fall into disrepair and Sapa was pretty much forgotten.

Recently, the place has been rediscovered and the subsequent tourist boom has caused a sea change in Sapa's fortunes. Bad roads have been upgraded, many streets have been given names, countless new hotels have popped up, the elecricity supply is reliable and the food has improved immeasurably.

Inherent in all of this prosperity is cultural change for the Montagnards, many of whom are now well versed in the ways of the cash economy and are reaping the financial rewards of the tourism influx.

Sapa's climate and weather

One of the inconvenience that will not change is the weather. If you visit off-season, don't forget your winter woollies. Not only is it cold (0 degree celcius) but winter brings fog and drizzle. Quite why the French alighted on this spot is difficult to comprehend: it must have been one of those rare clear days when the views are to die for. The chilly climate does have a few advantages, though - the area boasts temperate-zone fruit trees bearing fruits such as peaches and plums and gardens for raising medicinal herbs.

The dry season in Sapa last from around January to June: January and February are the coldest and foggiest months. From March to May, the wether is often excellent and the summer is warm despite the rains between June and August. The window from September to mid-December is a pleasant time to be in Sapa, though there is a bit of lingering rain at the start and the temperature dips by December.

If possible, try to visit during the week when the prices are cheaper and Sapa is less crowded and more manageable. Crowds flock to Sapa for the Saturday market but a smaller market is held every day. There is plenty to see on weekdays and there are many interesting villages within walking distance of the centre.

  • Last visit to Sa Pa: May 2006
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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