Despite its commercialization during the last five years, Sapa is still a must-see on any northern Vietnam itinerary. On a clear day you will treated to views of steeply terraced rice fields, towering verdant ridgelines, primitive mud-thatched villages, raging rivers and astounding waterfalls. Nestled high in the Tonkinese Alps near the Chinese border, Sapa was built as a hill station during French colonial days, to serve as a respite from stifling Hanoi summers. These days, weekends are still the biggest draw in this crumbling hill-tribe center. Visitors from the capital flock to Sapa for a glimpse of the famed "Love Market," a trek to local hill tribe villages, or an ascent of Vietnam's highest peak, Fansipan.
sapa has the feel of an alpine resort. The architecture is a mix
between French colonial and traditional Vietnamese (often painted in a
bright ochre or mustard) derived styles. It's common to arrive early in
the morning and there's often a very enthusiastic welcome awaiting the
sleepy tourist, providing an opportunity for a rapid acquaintance with
the local minority people.
To get to Sapa, the most common routes are by train to Lao Cai and then mini bus, or by driving. The route to Sapa twists it's way around steep slopes and as the height increases the vegetation begins to change from the bright green familiar tropical varieties to a more alpine kind.
Traditionally tourists make either a north-south run down Vietnam from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City or a south-north run up, and this unfortunately means you miss Sapa, one of the most breathtaking places in Vietnam.