Keep calm and explore Sapa, a paradise on land, in the most authentic way: the villages!
Overview of Villages in Sapa
Did you know that Sapa is the place where the local ethnic minorities gather even more than the normal Vietnamese people? It is home to a great diversity of ethnic people, including four main groups: Mong, Dao, Tay, and Giay. They do not live in the central area but in hamlets scattered among the valleys throughout the Sapa district. The town of Sapa is where ethnic minority people assemble, trade, or sell their farming products such as rice, corn, fruits, as well as handicrafts and souvenirs to travelers. There is one interesting fact about ethnic minority people in Sapa, especially the Mong tribe: they can speak English even better than Vietnamese university students!
So, let’s go and explore the genuine Sapa by discovering the authentic villages in and around this great land!
Ta Phin Village – Where Santa Claus is (Almost) Real
Gently nestled in the marvelous terrace fields and mountains, Ta Phin village has lured adventurous souls and nomadic wanderers with its authentic beauty. One of its symbols of beauty is Ta Phin Cave. With the stalactites pointing downward, it creates a surreal picture.
Show up at the door and your hosts will welcome you with not only warm smiles but also a full table of tea! A unique thing about the local people here – the Dao Do tribe: they always wear a red hat which reminds me of Santa Claus! I like to call these people Vietnamese Santa Clauses because they will also gift you an amazing present – an authentic local experience!
Before you get to the house of the Dao Do people, you will be wonderstruck by a courtyard full of plants, leaves, and herbs, which are comically called “natural collagen”. The Dao Do people walk deep into the forests daily to find, dry, and place dozens of herbs into hot tubs. The second you step into the alluring water, all your stress and pain will immediately fade away, and your skin will glow more than ever! If you’re really into these natural herbs, you can ask the host if you can join them and venture into the woods to collect the ingredients.
At night, when the weather gets colder, it’s the right moment for people to get closer. Sitting near the warm fire, sipping alcohol and munching sweet sticky rice will make the stories between the travelers and the hosts everlasting.
Location: Ta Phin Village
Entrance fee: 20,000 VND
Ta Van Village – Where Romance is Made
Ta Van village is located in the valley between the enormous Hoang Lien Son and Ham Rong Mountain. Unlike the bustling Sapa town, Ta Van village treats you well with its quiet and peaceful atmosphere. Its terraced fields are regarded as the most beautiful in Lao Cai province. My friend, I know you’re really eager to visit, but please don’t rush. Don’t be like normal tourists, who just come and leave. Ta Van itself is beautiful, but the scenery on the road leading to it is a true blessing in disguise! Stop anywhere, anytime you like, because traveling is not about the destination but about the exploration!
Life will be boring without challenges, right? So, I challenge you to walk on a rattan bridge named Cau May! It may sound easy at first, but you’ll need courage. What makes it scary is that each board you step on is about 20 centimeters apart. Though it looks intimidating, a lot of couples love taking photos here. It can be said that this bridge is a masterpiece showing the ingenuity and creativity of the H’Mong ethnic group in this upland village. On cold days, you’ll be able to witness the thick fog covering the bridge, so don’t forget to stop by even if the weather seems disappointing at first!
Another interesting site near this village is a variety of ancient rocks carved with unknown symbols. Until today, the ancient carvings have ranked as national monuments and a unique heritage of the Vietnamese people. Moreover, small wooden houses, bamboo groves, and a beauteous river stream make this area an idyllic picture. Most homestays here provide well-qualified wood chairs, tables, and teapots so that you can easily sip a cup of hot tea or simply close your eyes, rest, and blend into the green.
If you intend to come here at any time from September to April, congratulations, you have made one of the best decisions of your life! In the fall, when the rice field is ready for harvest, all you see is a massive yellow picture! Besides the spectacular scenery, you also have a chance to experience cultural characteristics of the ethnic minorities. To do this, you’d better sleep here one night, eat, and live with the local people. And when you sip a cup of corn alcohol with your new family, the next day you’ll be too hungover to want to come back!
Location: Ta Van Village
Entrance fee: 70,000 VND
Ban Ho Village – Where Diversity Comes True
Ban Ho, 30 kilometers southwest from Sapa, is a lovely village where the Mong, Dao, Tay, and Giay tribe assemble. Leaning against the poetic Muong Hoa valley, it’s definitely a paradise that encourages a relaxing mood. Besides, the local people here are truly amazing. No fake smiles, no lies, they always speak their thoughts and treat you like their family member.
From the moment you step on this land, you’ll likely encounter big groups of women weaving outside the doors of their homes. Weaving is not only for selling purposes, but it’s also a statement affirming their preservation of custom. At night, people frequently gather around a fire, singing traditional songs while dancing to the rhythm. As a guest, you should join them because it’s the best way to meet the local people! But if you’re afraid of dancing, don’t worry, just sip a cup of corn alcohol and you will have enough nerves to own the night!
Location: Ban Ho Village
Entrance fee: 15,000 VND
Y Ty Village – Simple Paradise
Y Ty village, more than 70 kilometers from Sapa, is a real heaven for travelers who want to escape their hectic city life. When I say “heaven”, I literally mean it! The village is at a height of 2,000 meters, and as a result, you can surround yourself with clouds! It is no exaggeration to say that coming to Y Ty is like entering a brand new world – the world of peace.
If you’re impressed with the number of clouds, stay tuned, because you will be more fascinated by the local people here – the Ha Nhi Den tribe. The local girls will capture your attention immediately, they are enchanting in a unique way and you might find yourself getting lost in trying to understand their beauty. Unlike urban ladies who beautify themselves with costly jewelry and makeup, the women in Y Ty prefer realistic decorations, such as thick plait wigs. You might be asking yourself “wigs?” I was wondering the same thing until a woman revealed it on a TV channel: the wigs keep their heads warm and can be used as a pillow.
Stroll around this village, and try not to break into a smile! Unlike the surreal beauty surrounding this village, you might notice some authentically funny things. For instance, there are “mushroom houses” – houses with roofs made of layers of cogon grass! The unique mushroom-shaped houses lying on the mountainside, along with the rich cultural identity of the Ha Nhi Den people attract every kind of traveler.
The best time to visit Y Ty is from September to April. This is the time when the sky is bright and clean, which is very suitable for people who want to hunt the clouds. Moreover, during this time, the trail is less slippery and safer for you to drive.
Location: Y Ty Village
Entrance fee: free
Ban Pho Village – Where Challenges Are Designed for You
What’s it like to stay in a village that is absolutely pristine? Come to Ban Pho and find the answer yourself! Since it is over 100 kilometers away from Sapa town, it still preserves the beauty of the wilderness. You’ll have a chance to admire jaw-dropping plum flowers, plentiful hiking paths, and the authentic lifestyle of the Mong people. This village is such an awesome gift from mother nature that you will love it at first sight!
In addition to farming work, a significant source of income for rural households comes from the legendary corn alcohol. When the weather turns cold, there is nothing more wonderful than sitting close to new friends, inviting them to enjoy a cup of corn alcohol, and listening to their adventure stories.
What if you’re an adventure junkie and not satisfied with the gentle experience above? Let me tell you a secret: before getting to the village, you are challenged by uncountable hairpin bends, bumpy trails, and unpredictable slopes! But don’t be afraid to come here, because this place is worth every second of your precious time.
Location: Ban Pho Village
Entrance fee: free
Sin Chai Village – The Most Pristine of All
Not located too far from Sapa (around five kilometers), this village is known to be magically unspoiled and less touristy than other villages in Sapa town. You can hardly find any street vendors selling brocade or embroidery souvenirs here, just ethnic people living their daily life in joy and peace. They’re very friendly and even willing to guide visitors through their rice terraces and around the village. Sometimes, a couple of water buffaloes will show up and keep you company as you trek this incredible area! Ban Pho and Sin Chai are truly two of the few precious gems that still retain their charm in this northern Vietnam village cluster.
Like the other villages mentioned above, Sin Chai is surrounded by a spectacular natural scenery with fantastic mountain views that can melt anyone’s heart. The terraced rice fields are immaculate and offer some amazing Instagram shots. Scattered throughout this breathtaking scene are lovely wooden houses of the locals, the architecture makes it easier to cultivate and take care of the farming.
Sin Chai village also has a unique feature. Visit during March, April, September, or October, and you can have one of the most unique experiences when traveling to this region of Vietnam. Because of its suitable weather condition, March and April are when farmers in Sin Chai start planting their field crops. You’ll admire marvelous rice terraces perfectly layered and completely soaked in water. With a little sunshine, it will burst even more beautifully in mirror-like and sparkling fields. These crops will be ready to harvest in September and October, which then turn into magnificent golden fields across the mountain range. Take as much time as you need to immerse in the scenes and enjoy this village to the fullest.
Note: Cat Cat is another ethnic village nearby that is worth a quick visit. It’s actually on the way to Sin Chai so it’s very easy to find. However, Cat Cat village is more of a popular tourist attraction so you will see lots of stores and vendors here.
Location: Sin Chai Village
Entrance fee: 40,000 VND
- Remember to wear good slip-resistant shoes because you’ll walk through a lot of rugged trails on the way. Some trails will be very muddy and slippery. I also suggest wearing an old pair of shoes you don’t mind throwing away.
- Prepare a raincoat to keep yourself dry in case it rains suddenly.
- Bring mosquito and bug spray in advance. Most of these villages have rice fields, which also means there can be lots of mosquitoes and other annoying bugs. You also won’t find these products in the village.
- In some villages, it’s very likely that people will follow you and try to sell souvenirs and hand-crafted items. If you don’t want to buy these items, just say no clearly and politely.
Getting to know the villages is just the beginning, how to arrive in Sapa safely is the real matter! Check out our other articles to have the perfect trip!
How To Get From Hanoi To Sapa On Your Own
Discovering Sapa: A Comprehensive Guide to Visiting Vietnam’s Northern Hill Station
The Best Homestays in Sapa (For An Authentic & Personal Experience)
If you enjoyed reading this article and would like some more fun info about what to see, do, and eat (and a bunch of interesting cafes!) in Vietnam, follow us at The Christina’s Blog!