3 Days In Sapa Vietnam: Detailed Itinerary & Tips

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Sapa is famous for stunning scenery and beautiful villages with impressive rice paddy fields and ethnic cultures. One can spend more than a week here and still have plenty of things to discover. While 3 days are pretty short, you can have a quick glimpse of this Northern town. 

In this guide, I share my suggested 3-day Sapa itinerary and tips to make the best of your trip.

Muong Hoa Valley Sapa Vietnam
View of Muong Hoa valley, Sapa, Vietnam.

 

Day 1: Hanoi – Cat Cat village – O Quy Ho Pass

From Hanoi, you can take a train or bus to Sapa and arrive at about 5 am. After checking in your hotel and having breakfast, it’s time for exploring!

Morning: Cat Cat village

Located about 3 km from Sapa town, Cat Cat village is an ethnic village of the H’Mong people.

This village was formed in the middle of the 19th century, and you can see traditional crafts such as growing cotton and weaving cloth here.

On our trek from Sapa to Cat Cat village, I was impressed with the picturesque scenery. The mountains, the fog, and the beautiful houses together painted a stunning picture. 

best things to do in Sapa Vietnam

At the beginning of the village, there are many places to rent ethnic clothes. If you want to try on the clothes and take pictures, you can rent them for 50,000 VND ($2)/ set. 

There are many things to do and see in the village, such as the ethnic dance performance, the waterfall, and the Si bridge crossing the stream. 

After exploring the village, you can return to Sapa town to eat and then rest for the afternoon.

Read more: Check my Cat Cat village travel tips for your visit.

Afternoon: O Quy Ho Pass

In the afternoon, you can visit O Quy Ho, one of the most impressive passes in Vietnam’s northwestern area. 

From the center of Sapa town, go about 12km, you will reach the Silver Waterfall. In the rainy season, this waterfall has beautiful white flowing water. The ticket to the silver waterfall costs 20,000 VND ($1)/person.

Still, you continue about 12km more on the same road, and you will reach O Quy Ho pass.

Riding along this pass, you will be impressed with the vast sky, floating clouds, and majestic mountain view.

O Quy Ho Pass Sapa Vietnam.
With an altitude above 2000m, O Quy Ho Pass is a famous destination for adventurous travelers.
O Quy Ho peak, Vietnam.
O Quy Ho peak.
Read more: I’ve written a detailed guide for O Quy Ho Pass. You can check it to plan your trip there.

Evening: Discover Sapa cuisine

You can find lots of delicious barbecue shops in Sapa town. Also, you can try Sturgeon and Salmon hotpot, a Sapa specialty.

 

Day 2: Ta Phin – Lao Chai  – Ta Van village

On the second day of your Sapa itinerary, visiting the ethnic villages would be a good idea. 

Morning: Ta Phin village & Ancient monastery

Ta Phin

Ta Phin village is the main living area of the Dao ethnic group, where the traditional craft of brocade weaving is still preserved and promoted. The textile products here are very diverse in types, with unique textures and meticulousness in each line.

Walking around the village, you can easily see on the backs of locals who always have baskets of leaves.

You can try the Red Dao leaf bathing experience here. Soaking in a wooden bath with precious herbs, you will feel refresh and relax.

Ta Phin village Vietnam.

Ta Phin cave

At the end of the village is a mysterious cave. You can rent the light from the kids and explore the cave. 

French monastery

After visiting Ta Phin village, I recommend stopping by the ancient monastery located 3km from the town.

The building was built during the French colonial period. Currently, this place is abandoned and is covered in moss, creating a mysterious look. 

 

Afternoon: Lao Chai – Ta Van village

In the afternoon, head to Lao Chai and Ta Van village. 

Both of these villages are close to each other, so you can trek from Lao Chai village to Ta Van and see the typical terraced fields of the Northwest mountains.

The best time to come here is from April – May or September to mid-September.

In May, the rice paddy fields are covered in lush green colors, while the whole village will be painted with rich yellow colors and rice aroma if it’s September.

Lao Chai Ta Van Sapa Vietnam

Read more: Check my Lao Chai – Ta Van guide to plan your trip.

 

Day 3: Fansipan cable car

Located at an altitude of 3,143m, Fansipan is the highest peak in Vietnam and the Indochina peninsula. It’s often referred to as the roof of Indochina.

Muong Hoa mountain train

You can take the Muong Hoa mountain train from Sapa town. With a total length of 1.7km, it connects Sapa Station with Hoang Lien Station (the departure station of Fansipan cable car).

The train will take you through the largest rose valley in Vietnam (Muong Hoa valley). 

The mountain ticket costs 100,000 VND / way.

Fansipan cable car

From Hoang Lien station, you’ll get on a 15-minute cable car trip to reach the roof of Indochina.

Sitting in the cable car cabin, you can admire the entire Northwest nature with the rich and diverse vegetation of the Hoang Lien Son mountain range as well as the beauty of Muong Hoa valley.

The round-trip ticket price is 750,000 VND/adult and 550,000 VND/ child.

Fansipan station Sapa Vietnam.
Fansipan station Sapa Vietnam.

Fansipan mountain train

After getting off the cable car, you need to climb about 600 steps to reach the top. The path is convenient and easy to walk, and there are lots of seats to rest.

If you don’t want to climb the steps, you can buy a round-trip mountain train ticket for 70,000 VND / one way.

Fansipan mountain train has only one cabin with a maximum capacity of 60 tourists. From Do Quyen station, the train will take you through the underground tunnel at the foot of the Buddha statue, following the mountain top in an arc to reach Truc May station, 50 stone steps from Fansipan peak.

Standing on the top of the mountain, you can enjoy a panoramic view of majestic and beautiful scenery that nature bestows on the Northwest land.

Around noon, you can return to Sapa town to eat, rest, then depart for Hanoi.

 

Plan your trip to Sapa

Getting from Hanoi to Sapa

The distance between Hanoi to Sapa is 235 km, and you can travel by train or bus. I took both, and I prefer the train more. 

Vietnam Railways offer daily trains from Hanoi to Sapa. I recommend getting the night train so you can save time and get to Sapa in the early morning.

When arriving at Lao Cai station, you continue by bus to Sapa for 50,000 VND / turn.

On weekdays, you only need to book train tickets 2-3 days in advance. However, on weekends and holidays, I recommend buying Sapa train tickets one month in advance.

Read more: Check my transportation guide from Hanoi to Sapa for more information.

Getting around Sapa

You can rent a motorbike in Sapa town at 150,000 to 200,000 VND ($7 – $10) per day. Make sure to check the bike breaks carefully before departure, as the roads in Sapa and surrounding areas are very hilly. 

Otherwise, you can also take a taxi to get around town. Please know that taxi price doesn’t calculate per km due to steep roads.

The price to get around town and to Cat Cat village is around 50,000 VND. To reach nearby villages, expect to pay about 100,000 VND. As always, you should negotiate the price first before getting in the taxi.

Best places to stay in Sapa

Sapa has many hotels, motels, and homestays, from affordable to high-class, with diverse prices, catering to visitors’ needs and preferences. A hotel room in Sapa usually costs from 300,000 VND  ($15) or more.

For a relaxing and memorable stay, I highly recommend Topas Ecolodge.

best places to stay in Sapa - Topas Ecolodge

 

Sapa travel tips

  • Some Sapa specialties that you can buy are herbal tea, rose tea, Northwest spices, and buffalo meat.
  • In Cat Cat village, you should limit buying souvenirs from street vendors because the price is usually relatively high compared to Sapa Market. Also, the quality is not very guaranteed.
  • Please don’t give money, candy, or gifts to ethnic children because they may drop out of school and start begging tourists. 
  • You should have special trekking shoes and pack warm clothes with high water resistance if you plan trekking.
  • Bring essential medicines such as anti-flu, paracetamol, or digestive medicine on your trip.
  1. Wonderful post! Unfortunately, I did not make it to Sapa when I was traveling in Vietnam. I would love to learn more about the textiles of Ethnic minorities. The landscape looks lovely too. Sapa is definitely on the list for a second trip to Vietnam.

  2. Sadly we have never had the chance to visit Vietnam. I had never heard of Sapa before. But it sure looks lovely. I love the little villages. And the great outdoor beauty. But I would not miss taking the cable car up for a panoramic view.

  3. Unfortunately we didn’t get to visit Vietnam, but my husband always wanted to go. There seems to be so much to explore beyond Hanoi. I’ve never heard of Sapa town, or the ethnic villages around it. I love that you can eat a lot of good quality fish in Sapa, like sturgeon or salmon. Hope to make it there someday.

  4. I’ve never experienced Vietnam before, but you’ve inspired me by this post. It is indeed very scenic with the lush soil and vegetation, the mountains and fog seeping in. I love the 3-day intinery, especially would like to try the red leaf baths. Great tips shared, especially for new travellers to the are.

  5. Vietnam is still on my dream list. So far, I have only visited neighboring Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia. But another trip to Asia wants to go to Vietnam, and of course, Sapa is a must-see. I am happy to use your detailed and exciting Sapa guide. It will make planning my trip easier. For sure I would love to see Cat Cat village, as its ethnic village of the H’Mong people. Ancient monastery Ta Phin seems so fascinating as well. I also love the idea of taking a Fansipan cable car to reach the roof of Indochina and take a lot of pictures.

  6. A Vietnamese American lady in my hiking group suggested Sapa as one of the places to visit when I go visit Vietnam. I think she’s not wrong after I’m done reading your post. The area looks clean, pristine, and pretty laidback. It reminded me of villages in Java, Indonesia. It will be a wonderful experience to visit with the locals in Sapa.

  7. We love Vietnam and Sapa included!! Having lived there as digital nomads before and being avid cat lovers, our favorite would be Cat Cat village. It’s one of the things we miss most about Asia — villages like this where cats are taken care of and roam around. Thanks for bringing back good memories and sharing!

  8. Sapa village is so mesmerizing with its lush green mountains and misty aura. I would love to hop aboard the Fansipan mountain train to enjoy the exotic views and the cable car ride is also a must.
    The pictures are beautiful and it tempts me to visit the place.

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