3D2N Sapa Itinerary — The Best Of Northern Vietnam

Sapa is a captivating destination in the mountains of Northwestern Vietnam. With its charming villages, cascading waterfalls, and panoramic views, Sapa offers a perfect getaway for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts alike. In this Sapa itinerary, I’ll be sharing the ups and the downs of our trip so that you can make the best use of your time in Sapa!

Overview of this Sapa Itinerary

Getting To Sapa

Getting to Sapa - Sapa Itinerary

Hanoi is the nearest major city to Sapa. From Hanoi, you can choose to take a train or bus to Sapa. There are numerous options, from budget to luxury, for both train and bus option.

We chose to take an overnight train into Sapa, as it was the most time efficient option for us. About a month before the trip, we booked the Sapaly Express via Klook, which costed VND 719,515 per person.

The Sapaly Express departed from Hanoi Train Station and terminates at Lào Cai Station, after which we had to take an hour long car ride (VND 500,000) up the mountains, into Sapa.

Also read: The Best Way From Hanoi To Sapa — Train Or Bus?

Day 1: Cat Cat Village, Love Waterfall, Heaven’s Gate

Sapa town center

If you chose the sleeper train option like us, you’ll likely arrive in Sapa around 8am; way too early for check-in. Drop your bags at your accommodation and head out for breakfast — the best way to get acquainted with a new town.

Breakfast at Good Morning Vietnam

The town centre has many food options, but after walking around for a bit, we settled on Good Morning Vietnam, just a couple of meters from our homestay (more on that later). This eatery had great reviews online and my friend was excited to try it out.

We got the Eggs, bacon, sausage, jam, toast, butter, tea or coffee (VND 80,000), Scrambled eggs, toast, butter (VND 50,000), Curry chicken in coconut (VND 140,000) and Fried springrolls (VND 55,000).

Yes, those were the names on the menu.

Food at Good Morning Vietnam

The curry chicken in coconut was served in a real coconut and there were even bits of coconut flesh in the curry. The coconut was beautifully infused with the curry and was reminiscent of a thai-style green curry, but sweeter. I’d really recommend you try that dish.

Opening hours: 8am – 10pm
Address: 063 B Fanxipan road Cat Cat street, Sa Pa, Vietnam, 330000

Cat Cat Village

Views at Cat Cat Village - Sapa itinerary

Once you’ve checked-in and freshened up, head over to Cat Cat Village, which is inhabited by the H’Mong people, known for their vibrant clothing and intricate handicrafts.

Most shops in Cat Cat Village sell silver trinkets and offer traditional clothing rental to visitors who want a taste of the H’mong life, as they are known for their vibrant clothing and handicrafts.

Cat Cat Village also offers a scenic view of the terraced rice fields and lush landscapes. There are also numerous fixtures you can get your pictures taken with. Just please be careful when you climb onto the fixtures. A step broke when we climbed up one of the fixtures to a vantage point for a better view of the terraces.

A downhill trek is required to get to the village and you’ll have to purchase tickets at at counter about 10 meters from entrance. You’ll also get a map of the area with the tickets.

Steps in Cat Cat Village
Wear comfortable walking shoes, most steps in Cat Cat Village look like this

There are also performance by the villages at 9am, 10am, 11am, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm, but as we were in a rush, we did not stay for the performance. Each performance is about 40 minutes long.

I’d recommend spending half a day here if you want to explore the entire village, but if you decided to hire a private driver for the afternoon like we did (more on that in abit), you will likely only spend 1-2 hours here so that you’re able to cover other sites as well.

Entrance fee: VND 150,000
Ticketing hours: 6am – 6pm

Getting To Cat Cat Village From Sapa Town Centre

Cat Cat Village is a 5-minute drive from Sapa town centre and the most efficient way to get there is via a scooter. It is only around 2.5km from Sapa town centre, so if you’re up for it, you can also choose to walk to Cat Cat Village.

As there were 3 of us, we decided to hire a private driver for the afternoon and got our homestay to make the arrangements for us. Unlike places like Bali which charges per day, we were charged by distance and locations we wanted to visit. For 3 locations, we were charged VND 1,410,000, quite expensive imo.

Love Waterfall

Love Waterfall - Sapa itinerary
This is the view of Love Waterfall from the road side if you don’t purchase tickets

Love Waterfall stands at 100 meters tall and is one of the most impressive waterfalls in Sapa.

Legend has it that the Love Waterfall was once bathing place for fairies. One day, a fairy caught wind of a melodious tune played by a young boy and fell in love. When her secret was discovered, her parents forbade her from returning. In her sadness, she transformed into a bird to be together with her love. Hence, the Love Waterfall earned its name and is now a testament to the power of love.

It’s a 30-minute trek through the forest to the waterfall so if you’re not up for more trekking after Cat Cat Village, you can give this spot a miss, or just look at it from the entrance, just like we did.

Entrance fee: Adult VND 20,000, Children VND 10,000
Opening hours: 9am – 5pm

Heaven’s Gate

View at Heaven's Gate

About a 5-minute drive from Love Waterfall, Heaven’s Gate is located at the peak of O Quy Ho Pass Situated at an altitude of up to 2,305 meters, this spot offers stunning views that rival that of Fansipan in my opinion.

Our driver dropped at off at the entrance, where the ticketing counter is. If you’re navigating here yourself, you can use these coordinates on Google maps to get here. The area actually belongs to Heaven Gate Hotel O Quy Ho, which across the road from the ticketing counter. After purchasing your tickets, head through the turnstile gate and follow the path to an impressive view of the surrounds.

Tickets for Heaven's Gate

There are many photo opts here but due to the altitude, it is very windy. Ladies with long hair, please tie up your hair to avoid having your hair all tangled up like mine did.

Opening hours: 9am – 5pm
Entrance fee:
Adults: VND 120,000
Children between 1m – 1.4m: VND 60,000
Children under 1m enter for free

Chusu Kitchen

Salmon at Chusu Kitchen

This well decorated, vibey eatery is one of the best rated in town. The food at Chusu Kitchen is mainly fusion, a mix of Vietnamese and European. Chusu Kitchen also offers cooking classes and you’ll be brought to the market to buy the ingredients for the class as well.

We got the duck, salmon and a pasta here but I don’t remember the prices of each dish. If you’re a capsicum/bell pepper hater, avoid this place at all cost, because all 3 dishes came with mountains of them. To be honest, this really ruined the experience for me as all I tasted in the dishes was capsicum, especially the pasta dish.

They did serve a great sangria though.

Opening hours: 7.30am – 10pm
Address: 08A Thác Bạc, TT. Sa Pa, Sa Pa, Lào Cai 330000, Vietnam

Day 2: Fansipan

Breakfast @ Fansipan Terrace

Fansipan Terrace Cafe

Fansipan Terrace is one of the best spots in town to enjoy a meal with a magnificent view. Their food is nothing to write home about, but they do serve a good egg coffee. As this cafe was part of our homestay, it was an easy spot to start our morning.

Opening hours: As Fansipan Terrace is also a homestay, there seems to be staff around at all times
Address: 067 Fansipan, TT. Sa Pa, Sa Pa, Lào Cai, Vietnam


Peak of Fansipan - Sapa Itinerary

Fansipan is arguably the one of the main reasons many visit Sapa and is the highest mountain in the Indochinese Peninsula, hence nicknamed “the Roof of Indochina”.

There are 2 ways to get to the roof of Indochina — via cable car or hiking. We chose the cable car option as the hike takes 2D1N.

To start your journey to the peak of Fansipan, you’ll have to purchase tickets at Sun Plaza in Sapa town and take a funicular to the cable car station. Check out the cable car guide for detailed directions on how to get up Fansipan as it can get confusing.

View on Fansipan

The entire journey up via cable car and funicular(s) will take 20 minutes, excluding waiting times. You may have to wait as the funicular(s) do not have set departure times and they fill up with as many people as possible before moving off. We waited around 10 minute each time we took the funicular.

The view throughout the journey will be spectacular, with panoramic views of the rice terraces and mountain ranges in Sapa, so get your cameras ready!

The weather on Fansipan can be very unpredictable. Do bring at least a windbreaker and something to cover your ears regardless of the weather. It’ll make it a much more comfortable experience as the winds can get crazy. A clear day can also get foggy in a matter of minutes, do tailor your expectations before heading up; but don’t let this be a deal breaker, the views are great up there!

We started at Sun Plaza at 11.30am and got back to Sapa town at 2.30pm, so I’d recommend you set aside the same amount of time as well. For context, we climbed up to the peak after alighting the cable car instead of taking the last funicular so that took about an hour of our time. More on that in the cable car guide as well.

Operating hours for Sun Plaza ticketing counter:
Weekdays 7.30am – 4pm
Weekends & Holidays 6am – 4.30pm

Sang Meo Restaurant (Nhà Hàng Sang Mèo Sapa)

Sang Meo Restaurant Sapa

Just a 2-minute walk from Sun Plaza, Sang Meo Restaurant is known for their salmon and sturgeon hotpots, a popular dish in Sapa.

However, it was sweltering when we were visited Sapa so we gave the hotpot a miss. Instead, we ordered stir fried noodle with chicken (VND 75,000), sautéed vegetable (VND 60,000) and countryside grilled sapa salmon (250,000).

Opening hours: 8am – 10pm
Address: 29 Fansipan, TT. Sa Pa, Sa Pa, Lào Cai, Vietnam

Massage @ Eden Massage & Spa

Eden Massage Sapa

Sapa is filled with plenty of massage shops and what better way to reward yourselves after a tiring Fansipan outing than with a massage?

We tried out Eden Massage & Spa as the exterior of the shop looked clean and posh. I got a 60-minute foot massage (VND 350,000) and my friend got a Swedish Massage (VND 420,000). Both massages started off with a SCALDING HOT herbal foot soak, which properly cooked cleansed my feet.

My foot massage was really satisfying with the right amount of pressure but I do think the prices are on the higher side. It was also easy to communicate as the counter staff at Eden Massage & Spa could speak English.

We did try out another massage shop just down the street but I wouldn’t recommend it as it felt a little like a scam, with out foot massages turning into full body massages and ended up having to pay for the full body massages. Though, it was likely due to a language barrier and bad menu graphic design.

Opening hours: 9.30am – 11pm
Address: 08 Thác Bạc, TT. Sa Pa, Sa Pa, Lào Cai 30000, Vietnam

Ladybird Restaurant & Cafe

Skewers at Ladybird

We ended the night with drinks at Ladybird. They serve up pretty good margaritas and recommend great wines but I wouldn’t necessary have a full meal here. We ordered a Margherita pizza and Pork Lemongrass skewer if I remember correctly, but they weren’t great.

We ended up at this spot because it had good reviews on Google, 4.6 stars out of 691 reviews at time of writing, but we’ve learned in our 2 days in Sapa that Google reviews really don’t mean much in Sapa. Many eateries had stellar reviews but the food really disappointed. So, do tailor your expectations.

Opening hours: 6.30am – 11pm
Address: 4 Thạch Sơn, TT. Sa Pa, Sa Pa, Lào Cai, Vietnam

Day 3

Bus Back To Hanoi

Sao Viet Overnight Bus

We spent the most of day 3 on a sleeper bus back to Hanoi. Unlike the overnight train, the pickup point of the sleeper bus is not at Lào Cai station, so we did not have to travel an hour down the mountain. Instead, the pickup location was just a 10-minute car ride away, at Sao Viet, our bus operator’s shop.

The entire journey took 7 hours, from 10am to 5pm, so it took up most of the day. I’ve also detailed more of our sleeper bus ride experience in the Hanoi to Sapa transport guide, but I would not recommend it, unless you’re tight on budget, or have many extra days in Vietnam to spare. For the Sao Viet sleeper bus, we paid VND 472,807, which is half of what we paid for the Sapaly Express.

Note: there are also overnight bus options, but they sell out quickly as they are a cheaper alternative to trains. It’s best to start booking at least a month in advance.

Things To Do If You Have More Time In Sapa

Sapa Lake

Sapa Lake - Sapa Itinerary

This is a pretty nice area to take a stroll, though I feel it’s more of a pond than a lake. The views around the lake resembled that of Europe and it takes about half an hour to walk around the entire lake.

The biggest (and seems to be the only) supermarket in Sapa, Xuân Trường Supermarket, is also nearby the lake.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Located in the centre of Sapa town, Notre Dame Cathedral, was built by the French in the 20th century. It is also known as the Stone Church as it is built out of stone with a mixture of lime and molasses.

The Notre Dame Cathedral is a small church, but worth a quick stop if you’re in the town centre.

Opening hours: 6am – 8.30pm
Address: 8RPR+2WP, TT. Sa Pa, Sa Pa, Lào Cai 333100, Vietnam

Where To Stay In Sapa?

Fansipan Terrace

Fansipan Terrace Exterior

Being a small town, Sapa does not have many fancy luxurious accommodation options but they do have numerous homestay offerings. Most of these homestays are like basic hotel rooms and the owners or staff are always on the property, just like how you would get concierge service at a hotel.

We settled on Fansipan Terrace as it was one of the cheapest options online. For 2 nights, we paid a total of VND 1,080,000 for the Quadruple Room, which comes with 2 double beds. Despite booking online, the room payment was to be made on property and the card payment terminal was down during our visit so we had to pay in cash. Do make sure to have enough cash on hand, as the systems in Sapa do seem less reliable than in the city.

Room of Fansipan Terrace

The rooms were located below the property’s restaurant. Each room came with a private toilet. The room was clean, but the beds were really hard. In room amenities were basic, including toothbrushes, towels, kettle and room slippers. Note that the room slippers are not the disposable ones so bring your own slippers if it matters to you. There is no fridge in the room as well, but we managed to get ice from the restaurant so cool our drinks.

Overall, we had a good experience at Fansipan Terrace.

Value: 5/5
Cleanliness: 4/5
Service: 5/5
Location: 4/5

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How do you get around Sapa?

1. Tuktuk

One of the most common transport options in Sapa are tuktuk. You can easily flag down a tuktuk as there are plenty around. You’ll likely see many tuktuk parked by the roadside as well. Tell the tuktuk driver your destination and you’ll be quoted a price as there is no meter.

Transport in Sapa – Sapa itinerary

2. Motorbike

There are also plenty of riders offering motorbike rides around Sapa and you can also order one via Grab. If you’re flagging down a bike, you can use Grab as a gauge on how much the ride should cost.

If you prefer not having to flag down transport, you can also rent a scooter or motorbike. Rental prices start at VND 110,000 per day. Do also rent from reputable sources, such as those that have a Google Maps listing as there are many scam rental companies.

3. Car

Grab is available in Sapa and it’s not difficult to get a ride either. It is really easy to arrange for a private driver in Sapa as well, we got our homestay to help with the arrangement.

How’s the weather in Sapa?

Sapa View from Fansipan Terrace

Sapa is cooler than most parts of Vietnam. It is an average of 7 – 10 degrees cooler than Hanoi. It can get cold in the winter months, dropping to as low as 6 degrees in December, so do bring appropriate clothing.

When is the best time to visit Sapa?

The best time would be spring, March to May and autumn, September to November. It is cooling and not extremely hot during this time.

As many people visit Hanoi and Sapa in 1 trip, do also take into consideration the weather of Hanoi when planning your trip to Sapa. The months of May, June and July are the hottest in Hanoi, going up to 39 degrees.

Disclaimer: Some links on this post are affiliate links, purchasing through these links mean that I make a small amount of commission. All reviews and opinions still remain fully my own.

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