Sapa – a memorable trip to northern Vietnam

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рисовые поля Сапа


  1. What to see in Sapa
  2. trekking in neighboring villages
    1. Cat Cat
    2. Ta Phin
    3. Villages with rice paddies
  3. market
  4. hotel
  5. how to get there

Sapa sights

Sapa is a very small town, it takes at most 1 hour to get around on foot, and that’s assuming you’re constantly stopping or drinking coffee. In the center of the city there is a square, where on weekends the traditional dances of the children of the local peoples are shown. There are about 50 small nations living in Vietnam. The Hmong and the Zao live near Sapa. Once we went to the north of Thailand to see women with their necks stretched out.

центр Сапы
Sapa Center

There is also a cathedral built by the French, a cable car station leading to Fangshipan and a bunch of stores, cafes, restaurants, hotels and an endless number of beggars from the local ethnic groups who offer to buy their handicrafts or just bags from China, at very inflated prices.

кафе в Сапе
cafe in Sapa

Child labor flourishes here, as you can often see a girl of about 6 years old carrying her little brother on her shoulders, asking you to buy their necklaces. There are posters all over the city urging tourists not to encourage this and not to buy anything from hand. Periodically, the police come in the evenings, disperse these spontaneous markets by the side of the road, and scatter things. But exactly one minute after they leave, everything goes back to normal.

Often small children carry even smaller children over their shoulders
Smaller, smaller fundraisers
Стихийные рынки в Сапе

Many tourists go to Sapa to climb the highest point in Asia, Mount Fanshipan. You can hike for several days, or you can just take a cable car and in a few minutes be on the mountain. The choice is yours, and the cheapest way to buy tickets to Fanshipan is at klook.

In addition to Fanshipan, Sapa has built a glass bridge in the mountains, which is no less popular with tourists.. Unfortunately, it was very foggy in April, so we will have to come back here another month to enjoy the mountains to the fullest.

We did not want to stay long in the town of Sapa itself, and this is only the starting point of the route to the neighboring villages.


Cat Cat

Cat Cat Sa Pa
The most beautiful place in Cat Cat

The most famous village that all tourists go to is Cat Cat. Cat Cat is only 2 km away from the center of Sapa. Sapa is at the top and Cat Cat Cat at the bottom of the mountain, so the way to the village will be easy.

дорога из Сапы до Кат Кат
The road from Sapa to Cat Cat

But the way back is a bit heavy, so it’s better to use a bike cab. In Sapa there is a cab, but local, there is no Grab or Maxim, so the price is only as you agree. From Kath Kath, we drove to Sapa at 7 pm, it was quite dark, all the tourists had already dispersed to cafes to drink beer and eat rice with shrimp. I had no energy to walk, and it was quite scary to walk around in the dark because of the large number of stray dogs. I am afraid of dogs and a local guy advised us to be careful. Maybe he just wanted to scare us into going with him.

The motorcycle from Cat Cat village to the center of Sapa cost us VND 75.000.

Cat Cat special village, directly in it do not live locals, they live a little further away. And the village is designed purely for tourists. But we loved it madly.

Entrance to the village 150,000 VND/adult and 70,000 VND for children

карта деревни Кат Кат
map of Cat Cat

he village is very large, there are a huge number of restaurants, cafes, photo areas with windmills and goats. When you enter the village, it feels like you’ve come to the fair. At first, everyone is just something they try to obsessively sell you. And the products are not only local, but also cheap Chinese junk at super inflated prices.

But if you like something, haggle to the last) The price is often knocked down 5! We were offered to buy a bracelet for VND 150,000 while I was looking at it, the seller lowered the price herself. In the end it came down to VND 30,000.

вход в Кат Кат
At the entrance to Kat Kat village you enter the market
продажа украшений в деревне Кат Кат
They sell something Chinese, something local, but you have to bargain.
фотозоны в деревне Кат Кат
In the village there are many similar places for photos

But most importantly, there are performances all day long where you can watch dancing and listen to music, just like it was 100 and 200 years ago. Folk festivals and celebrations were accompanied by dancing and jumping over bamboo stalks, the women use just a plant leaf instead of a harmonica, but the music is amazing. And most importantly, many of the dances and games are invited from the audience, the children will not be bored.

расписание представлений в деревне Кат Кат
performance schedule in Cat Cat Cat village

There are several houses here that you can go into and see how people used to live. Although, by and large, not much has changed, only modern dwellings have a television and a washing machine. And also in the Kat Kat there are folk crafts: you can see how yarn was made, then woven fabric, how it was decorated.

Женщина Hmong делает пряжу
The Hmong woman makes yarn
роспись ткани в Кат Кат
fabric painting in Kat Kat

The most beautiful place in the village is where the river flows and there are several waterfalls, there are the most beautiful sightseeing restaurants, mills, mini-farm with goats.

Типичное кафе в деревне Кат Кат
A typical café in Cat Cat Cat village. By the way, in one of the cafes we met a local resident of Cat Cat Cat village who speaks good Russian. He lived in Moscow for 10 years and worked at the market.
меню в кафе в Кат Кат
A typical menu in any cafe in Cat Cat
копченое мясо из печи в Кат Кат
In Sapa, they sell cured meat everywhere. In Cat Cat, you can buy it straight from the oven.

Down in the center of Cat Cat flows a river. In 1925, the French built the first hydroelectric power plant in Indochina here.

Sapa was originally a resort, like Dalat, for French officers, because you can find freshness and coolness here. Here, too, a power plant was built to supply the resorts of Sapa with electricity.

In 1960, Polish engineers doubled the generator’s capacity, but only the administrative buildings and the geophysical station had electricity in Sapa. In 1979, the station provided electricity to the city’s needs. But since the capacity was still low, the city was divided into two parts, and electricity was alternated there.

In 1993, Sapa began using the national grid, and the Cat Cat power plant was closed. But the preserved rapids and waterfalls still attract tourists.

речка в деревне Кат Кат
the river in the village of Cat Cat
порог на реке в деревне Кат Кат
rapids on the river in the village of Cat Cat

Well, Justyna and I, as usual, walked a bit in the center of the village and decided to turn to the less popular part of it, marked on the map of the village as 8 and 9. After walking a short distance, we met the houses of local residents who always live here, not just come to work. There were no more tourists here, but we found lavender fields.

лавандовые поля в Кат Кат
lavender fields
Прогулка по окраинам Кат Кат
A stroll through the outskirts of Cat Cat.

We spent about 4 hours in the village, but if I had more time, I would have walked here longer.

Opening hours: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Although the ticket booth says the village is open until 9 p.m., that’s not true. As darkness falls, everyone wraps up and goes home. You can walk around the village, but it’s a little scary because there are no lights, no other people and there are dogs running around.

Кат Кат после захода солнца
After 6 p.m., everything sharply closes.

On the one hand, the Cat Cat is a sham for tourists, one cannot see here how people live in the present. But on the other hand, you have to treat it as a folk art museum and ethnos. Only here you can quietly and with a clear conscience, go into the houses to get acquainted with their structure. Yes, when the next few days you make a trip to the local village, it is also possible that the locals will invite you into their homes, but simply because they are waiting for money from you. It’s all clear here – pay the entrance fee and walk around all day, see what you’re interested in. It gives jobs to the locals and helps you not to forget your history.

A great idea is to go to Cat Cat the day you arrive in Sapa. For one thing, you already have an incomplete day, and the second half of the day is just enough time to go to Cat Cat. There you will dip into the atmosphere to go on a full-blown hike the next day.

Village Ta Phin

The next day, on the one hand, we were a little tired from walking to Cat Cat village, because we walked only through the village about 15 km, but on the other hand, we wanted to see the non-touristy places. We approached the first bike cab driver we saw and asked him to take us somewhere. He suggested Ta Pin Village and asked VND 200.000 for a round trip and to wait for us there anytime. I think we could have been twice as much, but we did not want to, moreover, we found such an amount acceptable.

Ta Ping Village is located 10 km from the center of Sapa. It is known for the huge cave located on its territory, as well as the fact that the black Hmong and red Dao live in the neighborhood.

village Ta Phin

The Cave

When you enter the village, some woman is sure to come up to you and offer her services as a tour guide. I tried to negotiate the price of her services in advance, but she said that I didn’t have to pay anything, but just that I would buy something from her at the end. Then her sister came up to us and they gave us a tour of the cave together. At the end they asked that I buy something from the two of them. We bought a hat that the Hmong wear for VND 200,000. I know that such hats are sold in Sapa for VND 50,000, but I wanted to thank them for the tour. But the women very aggressively started saying that I should buy something else from another woman as well. I had no more money and no desire to buy something I didn’t need.

Address: Ta Ping Cave

Never go into the cave without a chaperone! It is very long, we didn’t get around the whole cave in an hour. There were places where even with local women we went the wrong way and got a little lost.

The Ta Ping Cave is very low in places, so you really have to crawl, in places it is very narrow, so you have to wade through it somehow, wiping the arches with your clothes. It is better to walk here in not very good, but warm, clothes. We washed our sweatshirts for days afterwards. And be sure to wear sneakers!

вход в пещеру Та Пин
At the entrance to the cave, locals are already waiting for tourists to give them a tour.
своды пещеры Та Пин
The vaults of Ta Ping Cave

прогулка по пещере Та Пин

A walk through the village

After visiting the cave, we took a short walk around the cave. The women kept saying that their house was nearby, but they didn’t offer to go inside.

My guides were 32 and 34 years old, but they didn’t go to school, but they speak English very well. They each have two children now, the Hmong don’t have as many children as they did decades ago. And today’s children go to school.

прогулка по деревне Та Пин
Ta Ping Village Walk
резная дверь в деревне Та Пин
a carved door in Ta Ping village
красные Дао в деревне Та Пин
red Dao in Ta Ping village
по улицам Та Пин
through the streets of Ta Ping

Cafe Stone Garden Homestay

Toward the end of our itinerary, we stopped at the Stone Garden Homestay.

Everyone advises taking a tobacco leaf bath here for VND 150,000. Unfortunately, we only had time to drink a shake. But there’s a huge beautiful area, fish swimming and a view of the rice terraces. By the way, their specialty is fried chicken.

The chicken is then slaughtered before cooking.

вид из кафе Stone Garden Homestay
View from the Stone Garden Homestay Cafe

кафе Stone Garden Homestay

меню кафе Stone Garden Homestay
The Stone Garden Homestay Café’s beverage menu

Independent trekking

On the third day of our stay in Sapa, my 5-year-old daughter and I decided to go for an unaccompanied hike through the nearby villages. We just found a beautiful spot on google maps and walked there. We walked 24 kilometers in one day that day. But it was the most amazing day. We said the word “Wow” more than 1,000 times for sure.

The first point of our route was the observation deck (the link will open a google map).

местные жители на повороте в деревню
Local women waiting for tourists

If there are local women sitting at the turn from the highway, you can safely turn – there will be a village with beautiful views. And the women sit waiting for tourists – something to sell them or give them a tour of the village. Even the 70-year-old grandmothers here are very good at Speak English.

Hmong woman

Here we met locals, they of course offered to buy some bracelets and hats, but there were no aggressive sales like in the city itself. In general, everyone was quite nice, relaxed and didn’t express much interest in us. But it was VERY BEAUTIFUL. It was for these views that we came to Sapa.

рисовые поля Сапа Рисовые поля Сапа Рисовые поля Сапа

cafe Sapa
On the way there are cafes with an unparalleled view

Local markets

Local markets are one of the key attractions of the area. The market in Sapa is open daily throughout the day. It sells goods for locals and tourists alike. Here you can buy fruits, vegetables, pipes for smoking, and dressy fabrics for sewing clothes worn by the Hmong and Dao. Our choice was smoked meat.

копченое мясо в Сапе
Smoked meat is sold everywhere in Sapa. If you don’t buy it in Cat Cat, you can buy it at the market
рынок в Сапе
market in Sapa

On certain days, larger markets are held in nearby towns, where traders from all over the region gather. Often they also sell cattle, for example, or dogs. Yes, dogs are bought here not only for the soul. The largest market is located in the town of Ban Ha. Market here only once a week – on Sundays. The most convenient way to visit it is to buy a tour. The bus will pick you up from Sapa from the hotel, then bring you back to the hotel. On your own without a motorcycle to get to the market will not be cheaper.


Many people recommend living in Sapa itself. On the one hand, you will go to a different place every day, and Sapa is in the middle. There are lots of restaurants where you can spend the evening. But on the other hand, the child beggars are quite annoying, and we had no desire to go out because of that. Probably a good option is to stay in Sapa, but on the outskirts of town, with a view of the rice fields.

While walking around Sapa, we really liked the hotel with a panoramic pool overlooking the rice fields – The Mong Village Resort & Spa.

The Mong Village Resort & Spa
The Mong Village Resort & Spa

How to get there

To get to Sapa, you need to fly to Hanoi, no closer airports, and then about 6 hours to go from Hanoi to Sapa by bus or a super convenient speed-bus.

You can look for bus tickets on We specifically from Hanoi to Sapa the cheapest bus tickets can be bought at

We took a flight that leaves from Hanoi city center at 7:30, and at 13:00 we were already in Sapa. We quickly threw our things into the hotel and went to Cat Cat village).

слип бас от Ханоя до Сапы
слип бас от Ханоя до Сапы

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