The town of Sapa sits in dramatic mountain scenery to the north of Vietnam, close to the border with China. Surrounded by cascades of rice terraces, Sapa was originally built by the French in 1922 to act as a hillstation. Sapa offers incredible trekking and there are multiple hilltribes in the area, creating a fascinating cultural melting pot.
The town of Sapa has seen a lot of development in recent years, and so to make the most a stay in the area, visitors should head out to the countryside to enjoy the peaceful valleys and cool mountain air. There are many treks to choose from, for all levels of availability, be it a short and leisurely stroll between villages, or a challenging trek up to the summit of the Ta Giang Phinh mountains. Close to Sapa is Vietnam's highest peak, Fansipan, which stands at 3,143 metres, with some serious fitness and determination required to reach the top!
Due to its location close to the border with China and not overly far from Laos, Thailand and Myanmar, Sapa's surrounding valleys are home to a number of ethnic minorities, with the five major tribes being the Hmong, Tay, Giay, Xa Pho and Dao. This has created a culturally diverse region, with varying traditional dress, beliefs and dialects. For those who want to truly immerse themselves in the local culture, there are a number of simple but charming homestays.
Most days there is a bustling market in Sapa, where many hilltribe people come to sell handicrafts and clothing. There is also an excellent museum in the town, which explores the area's history and delves into the cultural differences between the ethnic minorities.