Sapa is a small, walkable town in the province of Lao Cai in Northern Vietnam. It’s home to two of Vietnam‘s top tourist attractions: the majestic Sapa terraced rice fields and Mt. Fansipan, the so-called “Roof of Indochina.”
What’s the best area to stay in Sapa?
The answer depends on your purpose (i.e., trekking, hiking, living with a Hmong family). Here, we break down the top reasons why you’d want to visit this chilly town and where we think you should be staying to have the best experience.
Sapa Town Center
The center of town is the best area to stay in Sapa if your purpose is at least one of these reasons:
– A self-guided walking tour one afternoon to check out what it offers
The main attractions in Sapa are several kilometers from the center, but in itself, the town center has something that you’d want to spend a few hours exploring.
Set aside one afternoon to check out the Sapa Museum, to appreciate the beautiful Hmong fabrics, and to have a cup of coffee at one of the cafes.
– A convenient base for your Mt. Fansipan hike
In case you need to buy a pair of Salomon trailrunners or a hardshell mountain jacket, there are a few stalls that you can rely on.
We booked a 1-day Fansipan hike with Sapa O’Chau, and the experience was hassle-free. The call time was 5 in the morning, and although the agency was willing to pick us up at our hotel, we opted to meet our guide at the O’Chau office. Our reason for this choice? The hotel we stayed in was only 3 minutes away.
– A starting point for any tour that lasts only one day (e.g., exploring the rice fields, walking half day to see the nearby areas)
Sapa is a good place for trekking. It’s best that you sign up for a multi-day trek to better explore Lao Cai, but if you’re out of time, half-day trips can be an option. In this case, a hotel in the center of town is a good base.
The day after our Fansipan hike, a Hmong guide walked with us to check out Cat Cat Village, an elementary school, and the rice fields. Read our experience here…
– Our top hotel recommendations
Sapa has a variety of hotels to choose from, but we suggest that you stick to a room with a nice view of the lake, the mountains, or the town. Here are our top three suggestions.
- For a perfect view of the lake (Ho Sa Pa), book a room at Sapa Lake View Hotel.
- At Sapa House Hotel, depending on your room, you’ll be rewarded with a view of the mountains or the town. This hotel is a 5-minute walk from the Fansipan cable car station.
- Sapa Aroma Hotel is in the heart of Sapa, but to find it, you need to climb a flight of stairs from Sapa Park. Choose a room with a window to get excellent mountain and town views.
These hotels are a 10-15 minute walk from the center. They give you stunning views of some top attractions in Sapa.
- Black H’mong View Hotel gives a perfect window view of Muong Hoa Valley.
- Sapa Odyssey Hostel Hotel is a 10-minute walk from the center. It gives you beautiful mountain views from the balcony. Below is Cat Cat Village.
- Sapa Hills Hotel is within walking distance to Cat Cat Village. The top floor affords amazing mountain views.
Lao Chai and Ta Van
As previously mentioned, there are half-day tours that take you to vantage points for the best views of the rice fields. But if you can spend one night in Sapa, stay at one of the homestays hosted by Hmong residents.
Many of these homestays are located in Lao Chai and Tan Van Village.
Not only will you enjoy unlimited views of the rice fields, but your host will let you experience how the locals live. This includes dressing up in Hmong clothes and helping your host cook authentic North Vietnamese food.
Here are our top homestay recommendations.
- Rated “exceptional” by previous guests, Sapa Eco-Home – Mountain Retreat lets you wake up to beautiful views of the rice fields.
- Tavan Chopai Homestay is far from the center, but if you want to experience how the locals in the highlands live, book with this homestay.
- Rated highly by group travelers, The Little Hmong House has a “super friendly” host who makes delicious meals.