Visiting Sapa and northern Vietnam in winter is not quite common as the main tourist season begins during the spring. Temperatures in Sapa are around 10-18 degrees in February, fog and rain are normal. Unfortunately, our timing was bad, but hopefully there will be at least fewer tourists ….
How to get to Sapa by bus from Hanoi or Cat ba
1. Hanoi – > Sapa
You can reach Sapa from Sapa either by train or by bus. But bus is cheaper and easier option. If you do not mind traveling by this means of transport, we definitely recommend it. If you want to travel by train you have to take it from Hanoi to Lao Cai and then take a bus to Sapa.
There are several bus companies, but we recommend these two:
Sapa Express – ticket costs 275k, new and nice buses, professional approach
Sapa Green Bus – ticket costs 250k, new and nice buses, professional approach -> our choice
2. Cat Ba island – > Sapa
Almost everyone sells bus tickets on the island. The point is that you can take a direct bus to Sapa with a local bus where no one speaks English, people sit in the aisle and the staff are unwilling, or choose a tourist bus with a transfer in Hanoi / Hai Phong and everything goes smoothly.
We recommend buying tickets from Cat Ba Vision, Cat Ba Venture or Signature Journey.
Best places to see and visit in Sapa
Sapa is one of the smaller towns around which are rice plantations and terraces. At the same time it is also the largest background for tourists. So if you want to see the most beautiful tea plantations, you have to get out of the city! Guides are waiting for people at every corner and offering their services. But if you want to plan and go by yourself, we recommend to download mapy.cz/maps.me, rent a bike (around 100k/day) and go! We had three days in Sapa, but in the end it was only shortened to two days due because it was raining on the first day and We couldn’t see anything because of fog. The disadvantage of February is that the rice fields are not as green as on the famous photos. They are mostly watered or the plants are just in the beginning of growing.
1. Lai Chai area and Tram Ton Pass
Rent a motorbike and head to the Tram Ton Pass, which leads from Sapa to Lao Chai village, offering stunning views of the countryside. Along the way you can visit the Silver Waterfall or Heaven gate, which are charged. We arrived to the middle of the route due to strong wind and cold weather, but it was still great. On your way back, we recommend turning into a valley that leads you directly between the rice fields. About 8 km before Sapa there is a small detour to Phan Si Bang Street. We came across it by accident and we were very happy for that.
2. Lao Chai area
The area with beautiful rice fields is located in the southeast of Sapa. You can either walk here by walking through various routes (you can find them on mapy.cz, mapsme), with a guide, or by motorbike. We chose a motorbike and set off for Ban Ho. A few kilometers from Sapa we turned down into the valley (for example, we passed Sapa Clay house) and drove down to the bridge over the river. It is a good descent so it happened to us that on the way up the motorcycle did not pull us and Anet had to jump, even push a motorbike for a while. Unfortunately in February, Sapa does not have beautiful green rice fields, but it also has its charm :). We parked the bike on top of a hill and made a 4 km walk around the fields. We walked through typical villages, saw local children playing and cows walking in the field and crashing into the mud: D. We were lucky that fog disapperared and we had finally good visibility.
3. Cat Cat village
The most popular and best-known village around Sapa. Unfortunately, this is in our opinion tourist trap and you have to pay entrance fee 90k. Ticket lady promised us to see some performances and the lives of local people. It seemed absurd to pay for that and instead we walked around the village hill (we turned at Sapa Mountain View) and enjoy more views of the countryside and the village. In addition, we have met nobody along the way so we enjoyed the peace and quiet :).
4. Fansipan Mountain
The highest mountain in Indochina is also called the “Roof of Indochina”. It is 3,143 m long and can be reached by cable car from Sapa (around 25 EUR per ride) or on foot along a hiking path. We did not go on top because the weather was not ideal and we would not see anything because of fog 😀
How to choose accommodation ommodation in Sapa
Sapa is full of hotels and homestays, so it only depends on which price level you are looking for. Homestays are usually cheaper and further from the center of Sapa. But they often offer the best views of the countryside. Their only disadvantage may be cold because they do not have usually heating and it can be unpleasant during the winter months.
Low cost budget version verze
If you want to save money, we recommend to book one of the homestays. For example, we stayed at Tatu Sapa Homestay, where we paid 6,5 EUR/night for separate double room with breakfast. More information and availability can be found here
Nice hotel near the center of Sapa and with a wonderful view of the surroundings? All this can be found at Sapa Prague Hotel. We recommend booking a room with a balcony and mountain views, as it is worth it. We paid for this room 26 EUR/night with buffet breakfast and we enjoyed the stay very much. More information and availability can be found here.
If you want to stay away from civilization with the best view and without disturbing Wifi network, Topas Ecolodge is made for you! The price is much higher than the previous options but certainly offers an unforgettable experience. Check out their websites and judge for yourself 🙂
The other similar type, but a little bit cheaper version of this accommodation is Sapa Clay House, located about 4 km from Sapa, but again offers overnight stay near rice fields. More information and availability can be foud here