Sapa is blessed with the majesty but rustic natural beauty. These days, Sapa welcomes a diverse range of domestic and foreign visitors, attracted by the highland tribes, vast rice paddies and forest treks.
Like most rural areas in Vietnam, there are no shopping malls in Sapa. Instead, shopping takes place at markets where locals buy (and sell) an assortment of goods. Fresh ingredients, handicrafts and clothing are plentiful. Tourists can also purchase souvenirs. There’s also lots of faux-tribal goods that have come stright from a factory in China. If you want to buy something, bargain hard. The tribal ladies selling the goods can drive a very hard bargain.
Located next to the bus station, Sapa Market is open daily from 06:00 to 14:00. The town is very small, so it’s easy to find this local market. The most popular day to visit is Saturday. It was made famous mostly because of the ‘Love Market,’ wherein teenagers from the tribes go to town to find a partner. Unfortunately, it has become significantly commercial in recent years.
The Bac Ha Market and Coc Ly Market are good alternatives for those who want to experience shopping the way locals do without being dampened by commercialisation. If you want to visit these Tribal markets, you should book a day tour from a travel agent in town.
Every Sunday, the different hill tribes that meet in the morning to sell their wares make up the Bac Ha Market. Unlike the Saturday Market, this is more about local business than tourism. The market is open until noon, but the best time to visit is between dawn and late morning. If you miss the Bac Ha Market, you can wait until Tuesday for the Coc Ly Market, which is smaller and less varied.
The Best Markets in Sapa
- Sapa Market (daily wet market in town)
- Bac Ha Market (large Sunday market, 2.5 hours drive from Sapa)
- Coc Ly Market (Tuesday market with authentic feel. 1.5 hours drive from Sapa)
Trekking and Hiking in Sapa
Trekking is the main activity in Sapa. Trekking maps are available from the Tourist Information centre on Fansipan Street. These maps are invaluable if you want to trek aroundthe area without a guide. They show the walking trails and trekking routes around town. Most hotels in Sapa offer tourists guided half-day and day long treks, but the best places to inquire about these treks are the Cha Pa Garden, Auberge Hotel, Cat Cat View Hotel and Mountain View Hotel.
While it is possible to go hiking around Sapa on your own, it’s better to have the assistance of a guide to guarantee a more enriching experience. When it comes to longer treks or overnight stays in the villages, the knowledge of a local will come in handy.
Regardless of being on a walking tour or not, tribal women will walk with you and try to assist you in any possible way hoping for a tip.
Tourists who want to learn something new can go on community-based tours to Sin Chai, a Hmong village. On most tours, overnight stays are arranged so people can learn about textiles, or tribal music and dance.
For more information about activities in Sapa, please visit our website.