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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 cave
At the end of the village is a mysterious cave. You can rent the light from the kids and explore the cave.
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.
The round-trip ticket price is 750,000 VND/adult and 550,000 VND/ child.
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.
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.