SAPA SUGGESTED ITINERARIES


Sapa - the most typical ethnic tourism destination in Vietnam 1
Located 38km from Lao Cai City, Sa Pa is a mountainous district of Lao Cai Province. Sa Pa District is very well-known with Sa Pa Townlet, a beautiful and romantic resort.

At the height of 1,600m above sea level, the average temperature of the area is 15-18oC. It is cool in summer and cold in winter.

Visitor to Sa Pa in summer can feel the climate of four seasons in one day. In the morning and afternoon, it is cool like the weather of spring and autumn. At noon, it is as sunny and cloudless as the weather of summer. And it is cold in the evening. With no advance warning of a thunderstorm short and heavy rains may come at noon on any summer day. Subsequently, a rainbow appears, transforming Sa Pa into a magic land, which for years has been a constant source of poetic inspiration, lights up the whole region.

Sa Pa has many natural sites such as Ham Rong Mountain, Silver Waterfall, Rattan Bridge, Bamboo Forest and Ta Phin Cave. Sa Pa is also the starting point for many climbers and scientists who want to reach the top of Fansipan Mountain, the highest mountain in Vietnam at 3,143m. Hoang Lien Mountain Range is also called the Alps of the North Sea area since Fansipan Mountain is not only the highest peak in Vietnam, but also in the Indochina Peninsula. The pyramid-shaped mountain is covered with clouds all year round and temperatures often drop below zero, especially at high elevations.

The first thing you notice when approaching the resort town are some detached wooden mansions and villas perched on a hill top or hillside, behind thick pine forests and almost invisible on this foggy morning. Old and new villas with red roofs now appear and now disappear in the green rows of pomu trees, bringing the town the beauty of European towns.

Fresh and cool air in Sa Pa is an idea climate condition for growing temperate vegetables such as cabbage, chayote, precious medicinal herbs, and fruit trees such as plum, pear... 



Sapa Lake
Sa Pa is home to various families of flowers of captivating colours, which can be found nowhere else in the country. When Tet, the Lunar New Year Festival, comes, the whole township of Sa Pa is filled with the pink colour of peach blossom brought from the vast forests of peach just outside the town. Sa Pa is regarded as the kingdom of orchids. Here, orchid lovers are even amazed by the choice, when trekking in the forest filled with several hundred kinds of orchids of brilliant colours and fantastic shapes, such as Orchid Princess, Orchid of My Fair Lady's Shoe. Some orchids are named after lovely singing birds such as the canary, salangane's nest, and more.

Sa Pa is most beautiful in spring. Apricot, plum and cherry flowers are splendidly beautiful. Markets are crowded and merry, and are especially attractive to visitors. Minority groups come here to exchange and trade goods and products. Market sessions are also a chance for locals to promenade and young men and women in colorful costumes to meet, date or seek sweethearts.

Visitors to Sa Pa will have opportunities to discover the unique customs of the local residents. Apart from the breathtaking landscape and favorable weather, the cultural authenticity of numerous ethnic minorities in Sapa is truly a striking feature attracting tourists to visit this mountainous district every year. “Ethnic tourism” over the last decades is not a new concept for those who are keen on exploring the quaint customs of exotic local people. When it comes to Sapa, the most typical ethnic tourism destination in Vietnam; sensible travelers may be interested in some basic information about the lifestyle of indigenous communities here.

Population
 
According to the national census in 2009, Sapa has a total population of 52.899 people, belonging to 9 different ethnics. Sapa is one of the few districts in Vietnam with Hmong people composing the majority: 51.65%, followed by Yao 23.04%, Kinh 17.91%, Tay 4.74%, Day 1.36% and Xa Pho 1.06%.

Ethnic groups:
 
Among 54 ethnic groups found along Vietnam, excluding the dominant Kinh people, there are eight different ethnic groups in Sapa including Hmong, Dao (pronounced Zao or Yao), Tay, Giay (pronounced Zai), Muong, Thai, Hoa (ethnic Chinese) and Xa Pho. The majority of citizens in Sapa are Hmong and Dao people which accounts for over 70% of the population while the last four groups only comprise more or less 1% of the people in total. A large number of ethnics are subsistence farmers, distributed unevenly throughout the district while others live in Sapa town, providing various kind of travel services to make a living. 

Sapa - the most typical ethnic tourism destination in Vietnam
Costume:
 
Although each group has its own unique costume with distinctive designs, nearly all the clothes of minority ethnic groups are made from hemp, dyed with a deep indigo blue colour and embroidered with decorations. Women always wrap their long hair along the head and wear turban of their ethnic group. Today, many wear Viet or Western clothes due to the broad integration with Viet community as well as foreign visitors.

Family responsibility:
 
Regarding the family responsibility, men are accountable for physical-demanding work like building house, making agricultural implements, ploughing and threshing whereas women take the responsibility of planning, weeding, harvesting, preparing food and making clothes. Children and the old help with lighter works like household chores.

Marriage:
 
The marital rituals vary from group to group but in general, the parents of the bride and groom usually consult the astrologer to cast their horoscope and it is important that their fortunes are well matched. It is the boy that must give the bride's family silver coins, pigs, chicken and rice wine as the dowry for the wedding ceremony.

Beliefs:
 
As is the case with Kinh people, ethnics all worship their ancestors. There are also other places for worshipping the house spirit, the kitchen spirit and even the door spirit.

TRAVEL TIPS:
 
The best time to witness the scenic beauty of Sa Pa is in April and May. Before that period, the weather might be cold and foggy; after that period is the rainy season. In April and May, Sa Pa is blooming with flowers and green pastures. The clouds that settle in the valley in early morning quickly disappear into thin air.

From Hanoi now aday you could take bus to Lao Cai and Sapa by national express way from Hanoi (a round 4 hours - a half time by express night train), and you could spend a litter time than normal to discovery Sapa. Read more - Sapa Tours by Bus from Hanoi

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