Sapa is a small town in Lao Cai province in northwestern Vietnam that is known for its beautiful landscape. As a popular trekking town, Sapa attracts many hikers to this part of Northern Vietnam to explore terraced rice fields of the Muong Hoa Valley, and visit ethnic minority villages such as the H’Mong and Giay.
While it is possible to hike solo in Sapa, the best way to explore Sapa is through an organized hiking tour where you stay overnight in either Sapa or in a homestay in a local village.
In this post, I’ll show you exactly how you can book a tour to hike Sapa and what a typical 2-day Sapa itinerary looks like.
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Sapa solo travel: what you need to know
Before you plan your solo trip to Sapa, check out these travel tips first:
- Sapa is a safe town for solo female travellers especially if you join an organized tour. You will meet other like-minded travellers and never be on your own while hiking.
- Bring warm clothes. It gets chilly at night in Sapa because of the high altitude.
How to hike Sapa Vietnam as a solo traveller
There are two options for doing a Sapa 2 day trek:
- Take the overnight train or bus on your own from Hanoi to Sapa and join a local tour in Sapa
- Join an organized tour before going to Sapa
How to book an organized Sapa 2 day tour
Many tour companies organized multi-day trekking tours in Sapa. And the Sapa 2 days 1 night tour is the most common one.
As it was my first time going to Sapa and travelling on my own, I joined an organized tour ahead of time. I wanted to have all the accommodations and transportation booked and organized.
And truthfully, it was the best decision I made on this trip. I highly recommend joining a tour before heading up to Sapa from Hanoi.
You can book a hiking tour from one of the many tour companies in Hanoi Old Quarter. All the tours will include transfer and accommodation.
Alternatively, book a Sapa hiking tour online. I booked a Sapa tour similar to this one (I can’t find the original tour I was on) but this one also has the overnight train to Sapa, hotel stay and overnight train back to Hanoi.
Sapa 2 day itinerary
In this post, I’ll talk about all the details of the Sapa hiking trip I joined and it highly represents a typical itinerary you will find for most Sapa hiking tours.
Day 0 of the Sapa itinerary
As I mentioned already, the Sapa hiking tour I booked included an overnight train to Sapa.
The train journey actually starts on day 0 around 8pm or so when I made my way to the train station to catch an overnight train.
Day 1 of the Sapa hiking tour
The overnight train arrives in Lào Cai (a town where you must transfer to Sapa) around 6am the following morning. Once the group met the tour guide, the minibus shuttled us to our hotel in Sapa. The car ride was about 60 minutes.
Once we arrive at the hotel, we had a chance to freshen up and have a big breakfast before starting a full day of hiking.
My hiking group of eight was joined by several H’Mong women in traditional clothing. These small, tiny women helped us along the muddy paths and guided us for most of the day. My little H’mong lady is the cutest little woman you will ever meet (she’s the one with red hat and top in the photo below).
Cat Cat Village and Sin Chai Village
The first day of the Sapa trekking tour started off with a hike to Cat Cat Village in Muong Hoa Valley, which is about 3km from the town of Sapa.
The guided trek is relatively easy as it started off with a descent down a shallow hill. You can see rice fields and traditional H’Mong homes along the way.
The guided path continued to Cat Cat Village where you can see small farms, a waterfall and a community centre where the villagers perform cultural dance performances. Some of the H’Mong homes are also set up as shops where you can purchase local handicrafts made by the people living there.
The hike continues to Sin Chai Village to see rice fields before heading back to the town.
After a delightful day of hiking and an overnight train experience, the first day ends in the afternoon. We had a bit of time to relax, had lunch at the hotel and wandered around the town of Sapa.
Day 2 of the Sapa trekking tour
Y Linh Ho, Lao Chai and Tan Van
The second day of hiking is all about hiking to Y Linh Ho, which it is inhabited by the H’Mong minority group. The guided trek goes through the largest farmland in the region, there were many picturesque spots to take photos the cascading rice terraces.
Then continue hiking to Lao Chai Village to visit another H’mong town.
Continue hiking to Ta Van Village, a H’mong and Giay village. This is where hikers from several organized tours gather and have lunch.
After eating a meal made in the local village, it’s time to say goodbye to our H’mong women who helped us trekking through the rice fields. And this is where they try to sell you their handicrafts.
A minibus came by to drive us back to the hotel (so we didn’t have to backtrack). This is when we can use the shower facilities at the hotel and have a few more hours in Sapa before catching the overnight train back to Hanoi.
If you are spending more than 2 days in Sapa
Generally, spending 2 days in Sapa is sufficient. But Northern Vietnam is so beautiful that you might consider staying another day.
And if you do, visit Mount Fansipan, the highest peak in Indochina. You can either do a one-day hike up the highest peak or take the cable car ride.
Or simply hang out in the town of Sapa and enjoy a bit of nature before heading back to the bustling city of Hanoi.
How to pick a Sapa hiking tour for solo travellers
While I was searching for hiking tours in Sapa, I found many tour operators running many different types of trips from Hanoi to Sapa but they include different options.
For example, these are the differences that I have found:
- Overnight train versus morning limousine ride from Hanoi to Sapa
- Stay at a hotel in Sapa versus a homestay with a local family
- Option to include a cable car ride to Fansipan Peak
- Hike 3 days in Sapa instead of 2 days
Whichever hiking tour you decide to book, all of them will include all the best Sapa attractions like Cat Cat Village, Y Linh Ho and other spots around the beautiful rice terraces.
So no matter which hiking tour you pick, you will see the best of Sapa in just a few days.
Going to Ha Giang from Sapa? Check out Ha Giang 3 day motorcycle trip
Where to stay in Sapa for solo travellers
Organized Sapa tours include accommodation. For my tour, it included a stay at the Golden Villa Hotel in the centre of Sapa. However, there are many other tours that the hotel was overbooked. So, I stayed at the Sapa Freesia Hotel instead, which was much newer and nicer.
I was also stayed an extra day in Sapa at the Sapa Highlight Resort & Spa. Highly recommend this hotel because of the view!
And since my visit to Sapa, many new hotels have popped up. If I were to go back on my own, I would consider staying at these hotels:
- Pistachio Hotel Sapa ($$) – a 4-star hotel in Sapa city centre with nicely decorated rooms.
- Check prices and reviews: Agoda
- Hotel de la Coupole – MGallery ($$$) – centrally located luxurious hotel with swanky rooms.
- Check prices and reviews: Agoda
- Topas Ecolodge ($$$)- splurge on one of the nicest hotels in Sapa. It’s a bit further away from the centre but the views of the mountains from the infinity pool is to to die for!
- Check prices and reviews: Agoda
What to eat in Sapa
Your hiking tour will include meals as indicated. But if you decide to stay in Sapa longer, there are good places to eat around the centre of Sapa. There are many restaurants on Cầu Mây Street and Mường Hoa Street, and a few more facing the Bia giải phóng Sapa park.
Here are some places I tried while I was in Sapa:
- Le Gecko Restaurant – the menu has Vietnamese food and international cuisine.
- Moment Romantic Restaurant – hotpot is the perfect meal in the chilly evening.
Along with the typical northern Vietnamese cuisine recommended in the Hanoi solo travel guide, Sapa is famous for some unique treats:
- Thắng cổ – a traditional soup of Hmong people made with buffalo, pork or horse meat
- Thịt heo cặp nách Sapa – specialty pork in the region
- Pau Play Day Cake – spherical glutinous rice that is eaten with sugar
Are you going to join a Sapa 2 day tour?
I hope so because it is a wonderful experience in Northern Vietnam. I’ve never seen such beautiful rice terraces. And hopefully the weather holds in Sapa up so you can enjoy the scenery.
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about travelling solo to Sapa. I’ll do my best to answer all your inquiries.
Thank you for reading my Sapa hiking post
You might also like these other posts on solo travel in Vietnam:
- 3 weeks Vietnam solo travel itinerary
- Hanoi Solo Travel: 2 days in Hanoi
- Day trip to Ninh Binh from Hanoi
- Halong Bay 2 night cruise for solo travellers
- Hoi An 3 day itinerary
- One day in Hue Vietnam
- Things to do in Mui Ne Vietnam
- Ho Chi Minh City 3 day itinerary