Among the many must-see destinations in Vietnam, the northern region of Sapa and nearby Lao Cai have enjoyed popularity with visitors for years. But, this four-day adventure is a journey of discovery through the areas’ lesser traveled treasures. Take the long and winding road through picturesque rice paddies with craggy mountains soaring up in the background. Visit charming, remote villages and meet their inhabitants, many of whom belong to tiny ethnic minorities unique to the small areas. Experience local customs and warm hospitality as you explore, discover and share in traditional village life. Take part in the hustle and bustle of a northern market and enjoy the colors, smells and sights as traders from miles around come together. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the real charms of Vietnam’s beautiful north.
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Embark upon your adventure starting from the bustling city of Hanoi where you will be picked up from your hotel bright and early at 8.30am. The brand new highway to Lao Cai runs through gorgeous scenery from the flat delta plains to the green hills and the journey will include plenty of comfort and photo breaks. After just over four hours, stop for lunch in a local restaurant in pretty Lao Cai before continuing for just one more hour to charming Sapa in the mountains. Check in at the Victoria Hotel and acclimatize to your new surroundings with a stroll around town.
Head southwest to Thanh Phu by the mountain road on a journey of just under three hours, which affords amazing views of the valleys of below. Take a stroll through Muong Bo valley to visit the village of My Son, home to the Xa Pho - a small ethnic group found only in certain areas of Lao Cai. Later, take the road onward to Nam Sai, a larger village set on a mountain stream; here you will have lunch in the home of a Tay family. A leisurely drive back to Sapa will see you back at the Victoria Hotel with the evening to yourself.
Alternatively, depending on the weather, begin your day with a relaxing drive through the mountains with plenty of stop-offs to take pictures of the unrivalled scenery, including the famous Heaven’s Gate. Before lunch, visit either the village home of the Red Hmong people, or Ban Khoang where the Red Dao live, and enjoy the colors and sights of local life. Later you’ll have the chance to meet either the Lu and Thai tribes or head to Ta Giang Phihn to see the Black Hmong. After your day of exploring, enjoy the two-hour return journey to Sapa.
Enjoy breakfast in your hotel before checking out and driving off into the countryside. Your destination will depend on the day of the week. Sunday is market day in Muong Hum and your driver will take the ninety-minute scenic drive through Ban Khoang Commune and the Ta Giang Phinh Valley, with panoramas of soaring peaks and fields of rice. Amidst the mountains lies the village, home to the most colorful market in the province, attended by the people of the Black Hmong, Red Hmong, Black Dao, Red Zao, Day and Ha Nhi ethnic groups, all in their beautiful traditional dress. After lunch in the marketplace, it’s a short drive to Nam Pung where you can take a leisurely walk and explore Ha Nhi village.
Alternatively, on a Tuesday, take the two-hour drive from Sapa to Coc Ly, a bustling weekly market on the banks of the Chay river. Here the ethnic groups from the surrounding area gather together to trade, with attendees from the Flowery Hmong, Black Dao, Day and Tay tribes. Enjoy a picnic of local dishes on the riverbank, followed by a boat ride to Trung Do. Here you can visit one or two home villages of the Tay and Hmong people.
After your busy day, take the winding road trip back to Lao Cai and check in to your luxury hotel; we recommend the comfortable and international Sapaly Hotel.
After a delicious breakfast, check out of your hotel, bid farewell to Lao Cai and begin the leisurely journey back to Hanoi. Enjoy the scenery along the highway and take the time to make photo stops along the way. Once back in the city, check in to your hotel or enjoy your onward adventures.
The four-star Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa, the only luxury hotel in the region, was built in traditional chalet style with wooden décor. The Resort overhangs the village, blending in perfectly with its natural surroundings. Its 77 rooms and suites feature private terraces with views over the Sapa village, the resort’s lush gardens or Mount Fansipan, and the property comes with all the modern amenities one would expect from a four-star hotel. The resort's Ta Van restaurant combines French and Vietnamese cuisine around a cozy central fireplace, as well as traditional dance performances every Saturday. Guests can travel between Hanoi and the resort on the luxurious Victoria Express sleeping train.
Conveniently located in the centre of the provincial capital of Lao Cai, the Sapaly Hotel offers international standards of service combined with traditional Eastern charm. The hotel features 116 superior and deluxe rooms, plus junior suites and the Presidential Suite. These are the best rooms available in the area. There are multiple dining options, including a cafe, a formal Vietnamese restaurant and a VIP private dining room. The lobby bar offers a range of international wines. There is also a basic fitness centre.