The Sapa Rice Terraces (or Sa Pa) of northwestern Vietnam are one of the country’s most scenic areas. Rice fields make picturesque artwork of the landscape, drawing attention from around the globe. Located in the remote Hoang Lien Son mountain range, the fields lie at altitudes of almost 5000 feet above sea level, and it’s home to Fansipan, the highest peak in Vietnam.
Established by the French in 1922, Sapa has since blossomed thanks to the rice and tourist industries. However, Sapa’s true beauty lies in the countryside—you’ll want to escape from Sapa town proper and head into the fields as soon as possible.
The weather can change rapidly, ranging from hot bright days to chilled wintry nights. The best time to visit is invariably summertime to autumn. But note that the paddies change with the seasons: in Spring, crops are new and the soil reddish brown; in Summer, the forest and paddies bloom in vibrant greens; in Autumn, the rice is all ripe, lending a honey-gold color to the landscape. Of course, it being the mountains, fog often collects at the highest peaks in the morning, regardless of the season.
Many ethnic minorities live in the region, including H’mong, Dao, Tay, Giay and other tribes. Talk to your guide if you are looking for a special handmade souvenir; they often know exactly who to speak with and where to look.
What is there to do in Sapa? Traveling to a locale as remote as Sapa, you’ll want to spend a few days there at least. There are a few hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and bars to keep you busy among the gorgeous scenery. Hire a motorbike and go village-hopping. Buy a map at the tourist info center and go trekking up the mountains. Sapa Lake is a beautiful waterway where you can rent pedal boats.
How to Get there: From Hanoi, it is an 8-hour train journey, or 6 hours by car. Willamette Intl Travel works with a handful of quality vendors that can build a whole itinerary of Vietnam’s highlights—including the lovely and unparalleled Sapa Rice Fields.