Welcome to the destination in the North of Vietnam, gateway to another world of mysterious minority cultures and luscious landscapes. The Queen of the Mountains, Sapa sits regally overlooking a beautiful valley, lofty mountains towering over the town on all sides. The town of Sapa lies at the attitude of about 1,600m.
The spectacular scenery that surrounds Sapa includes cascading rice terraces that spill down the mountains like a patchwork quilt. The mountains are often shrouded in mist that rolls back and forth along the peaks, 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 in to town to buy, sell and trade. Sapa is home to a great diversity of ethnic minority people.
The climate is moderate, cool in summer, foggy and cold in winter with occasional snowfall. In winter (the 4 months November to February), the weather in Sapa is cold, wet and foggy (temperatures maybe drop to freezing and there was snow in 2011). Travellers have rolled into town on a glorious clear day and proceed to spend a week trapped in impenetrable fog. Also the rice paddys are brown & empty (they are planted in spring), the paths very muddy and slippery and the glorious vistas of summer are completely hidden in the mist. If you chose to visit in winter, bring along warm clothes or prepare to be cold and miserable, as many hotels do not have efficient heating in their rooms. During that time, more upmarket hotels that do have heating fill up quickly, so make advance reservations if you can afford not to freeze. It rains very often during the month of August, especially in the mornings.
Some tips for travellers
Bear in mind that some of the minorities do not wish to have photos taken of them. Ask permission beforehand.
Bring along a poncho. You can also buy a cheap one in the many shops around.
Rubber boots and trekking shoes can be rented from some shops or perhaps at the hotel you are staying in. However, do bear in mind that they have limited sizes.
Do buy some hand made items direct from the ethnic minorities, especially if you have enjoyed a good conversation or received help from them. Though they do charge slightly more than the shops, bear in mind that the majority of them are very poor and depend on tourist money to survive.