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Hiking in Vietnam – the northern route; Swaying strongly on the Sa Pa stroll

Let’s look at hiking in Vietnam…

Hey guys, hope you are ready for something a bit different, a bit unique. A hike in Sapa Vietnam will challenge your fitness, hurt your muscles and will likely make you feel a bit exhausted at times. You’ll feel pumped up and amazing afterwards though! This strenuous bit of activity balances out with some great scenic moments along the way, as well as times of tranquillity and feelings of peace.

It’s not quite Mount Everest, but it’s a tough call to trek anywhere across this part of Vietnam. Hiking in Vietnam here offers a fair amount of upside and downturn treks and you’ll search for a rest at times. The trails and wonderful views, of Sapa, the rice paddies, makes hiking in Vietnam make it worthwhile. This is one of the destinations not to be missed!

Photo by D Tan on Unsplash

How do I get to Sa Pa Town?

You can take a bus or train to Sa Pa Town. The Sapa Express Bus has daytime rides operating every day. Taking a bus allows you to focus on the Sapa area and the surrounding areas you are looking to explore further on your trip. In Vietnam, it is usually better to take transport to places like Sapa or the national park areas rather than trying to hike along busy roads that are not well regulated or organised. Some people like to travel independently from Hanoi to the Sapa hiking trails. If you want a bit more adventure, you could consider hiring a motorcycle. Ask us at Absolute Asia Travel, as they might have a service like this to add to your itinerary.

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What should I bring with me?

As is standard attire in any trek, you’d be looking a good, solid pair of hiking shoes or boots. You know, the ones with a strong grip that can help level you out during those moments before the peak, where the gradient is a bit steeper than usual. Waterproofs are useful at any time, considering you’ll be going into a damper climate the higher you get, plus there are waterfalls to explore as well. A backpack is needed, a small one for the essentials like a first aid kit and a water bottle. You’ll need a bit of water for hydration around the trails.

The time of year decides the other clothing and accessories; there are four seasons where the scenery can change. Cooler, lighter clothes are recommended in Summer (June-August) although it’s worth taking warmer clothing during Winter (December-January), like a hat and coat. Also, think about equipment such as a hiking stick and a mobile phone with local sim card. This gives you stability, both physically and mentally. A good map is useful when on a walk along those hiking trails around Sapa.

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Can I prepare anything in Sapa Town?

It’s possible to get clothes and equipment in Sapa from the ethnic markets. The H mong and other ethnic groups from the villages will sell you all kinds of toys for your trails. Some are good quality and cheap, but some aren’t of international standards. Rights reserved on their part; they can sell you what is required at their right price. You’re taking a risk, purchasing hiking equipment under the table. You don’t want to get soaked in your local waterproofs or slip in your bargain $10 hiking boots. Not recommended!

Don’t forget to book a tour or a tour guide, where possible. You’ll be offered many tours the moment you arrive into Sapa. You can even book from Hanoi city before you go to Sapa. For information about tours, you can speak to Absolute Asia Travel, who will offer some advice and tips about the various ways to do trekking in Sapa and Northern Vietnam.

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Can I do anything in Sa Pa Town before my hike?

It is recommended that you would consider a day or two in Sapa either before or after your ramble around some of the wonderful views in this part of Northern Vietnam. The local ethnic groups like Hmong are always holding some activities around Sapa; try and get a bargain at the market or chat with some of the locals about their experiences of Sapa. They’ll tell you about some popular spots around this area.

You’ve got to get some photos at Sapa lake. Encircled by some lovely local architecture and encompassed by a towering mountain range it’s a lovely stroll around, especially during sunset. You can get some picture-snapping practice before the strong treks begin.

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Can you tell me more about the major trekking spots in Sa Pa?

It is easier to put these into sub-headings, so you can get a better idea of what is in these places. There are natural spots to go hiking around. Furthermore, there are a few villages that other some beautiful treks, particularly through the rice paddies known in this part of Vietnam. Hiking in Vietnam through both nature spots plus strolls around the local villages and rice fields offers the best of the Sapa trekking experience.

Muong Hoa Valley

It’s stunning here. You’ll see a lot of natural beauty, providing the perfect still framed photo for your memories. In this place, you can go trekking to see the flower bloom in Spring, or just stop from time to time to take some spectacular photos and absorb some of the most incredible mountain views in Southeast Asia. A good tour guide will escort you to some of the go-to stops. They might even show you some ‘hidden gems’ on your wander through this valley pass.

Silver falls and the love falls

These are known to be the two famous waterfalls in the Spa and Lao Cai region. Renowned as places to travel to, they are not to be missed. They are associated with some ancient folklore stories, so it is worth checking out. It’s a refreshing hike around here. There isn’t any excuse to miss these popular side stops.

Photo by Pathmarooban Nadarajah on Unsplash

Hoang Lien Son National Park

Hoang Lien Son National Park was described as a ”trekker’s mecca” by National Geographic and for good reason. It holds some of the most stunning scenery and beautiful mountain ranges across Vietnam and Southeast Asia. It must be explored by the individual who loves hikes. Hoang Lien Son National Park really is a visual and hiking treat; the terrain makes it a hiking challenge. There is a diverse range of locals you can talk with and experience new customs. There is an abundance of flora, fauna, rice paddies and encapsulating mountain ranges. The spice trails are everywhere; go and see if you can get cardamon samples.

Hoang Lien Son National Park is the location of Fansipan Mountain and is a must-see stop. Have a look at the reviews for this National Park online and please book this into your itinerary. This place can raise your chi levels!

Fansipan Mountain – The Rooftop of Indochina

This is the highest peak in Sa Pa Vietnam. From the top, on a clear day, you’ll get a view of Sapa and Lao Cai and the mountains in Vietnam. You’ll absorb all of the scenics this part of Vietnam has to offer. The peaks are around you, the valleys are in the distance and there are terraced rice hills in the landscape. Get some pictures of the cloudy mountain peak. This place stays cloudy all year long and is a regular stop for those who travel or who are hiking in Vietnam.

To hike this mountain from Sapa, you need a plan of action. It will take probably 2-3 days, a good amount of preparation. A good North Vietnam local tour guide should know a nice trail, one that can take you around some of the rice paddies along the way. For those hikers who love the atmosphere but having a bit of trouble with strolling around, you can get a cable car to the top of the mountain. It takes 15-20 minutes from Muong Hoa Valley cable car station and is an easy way to get photos of the misty mountain. This is the place to see in Northern Nam. Ask us at Absolute Asia Travel for more info.

Photo by Constant Loubier on Unsplash

Can I go camping in Sapa?

For those who want to explore Hoang Lien and Fansipan further and in more detail, there are lots of local homestays in the area. These places offer home-cooked food and are reasonably priced. There are a few good hotel options in Sapa that offer more luxury and comfort.

Of course, some hikers want to stay al fresco and sleep directly under the stars of Vietnam. For this, there are campsites available. You can stay the Mt Fansipan Campsite directly, or stay at one of the villages around the area. Don’t forget to bring your camping equipment; tent, stoves, sleeping bags etc. You can usually rent them at the campsite or village, but it isn’t a guarantee and you don’t know much about the quality. Probably better to bring your own camping equipment in Vietnam.

How friendly are local village treks around Sapa and Lao Cai?

The local ethnic groups, H’mong, Dai, Tat, and many others, are always ready to show you around their villages. There are various treks and hikes taking place between villages, with have much acclaim and praise from previous visitors. Cat Cat village is a short trek from Sapa Town and a place to see local Black H’Mong village life. For the more strenuous hikes, you could try treks to Y Linh Ho and Ta Phin villages which are a few hours trek from Sapa Town. A village trek is one of the experiences to be gained from hiking in Vietnam. Give us a call or an email if you are interested, Absolute Asia Travel. We know some good local guides around this area, who offer lots of knowledge and professional service for visitors on these trips.

Photo by Susie Ho on Unsplash

Could I do any trekking after Sapa?

You trek around Sapa, feel the vibe and want more hiking in Vietnam. Understood; it’s so healthy yet stimulating. Absolute addiction!

There are a few places around the area. A journey to Cat Ba island and islands around Ha Long Bay, south of Sapa, offers some trek options to hillsides and cave carvings. The scenery of Mai Chau and the Van village in Northern Vietnam is also recommended for its rustic vibe. Pu Luong natural reserve is also nearby. However, Sapa has a hikers’rival which you may hear on your visit, the echo’s of Ha Giang, Ha Giang, Ha Giang!

Photo by Louis Hoang on Unsplash

Ha Giang area is one known for some scenic hiking stops, where you can see Cao Bang and Ba Be National Park in the area. Ha Giang itself is one of the must-see areas in Vietnam. Others are Ban Gioc, the waterfall of the Vietnamese-Chinese border and Dong Van Geopark, full of karst and limestone structures. The country area of Northern Vietnam is home to some of the friendliest people, amazing trek areas and stunning rice terraces all over the place.

If you are interested in Cao Bang, Ha Giang, Ba Be National Park and other rice terraces in the North, or the World, come and speak with us at Absolute Asia Travel. Have the best time hiking guys, thank you!

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