Sapa – The Heaven in Cloud

Sapa – Wonderful for Holidays in Vietnam

Sa Pa is a frontier town and capital of Sa Pa District in Lao Cai Province in northwest Vietnam. Sapa was first inhabited by people we know nothing about. They left in the entire valley hundreds of petroglyphs, mostly composed of lines, which experts think date from the 15th century and represent local cadastres.

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Then came the highland minorities of the Hmong and Yao. The town is one of the main market ones in the area, where several ethnic minority groups such as Hmong, Dao, Giay, Xa Pho, and Tay groups. In 1993 the last obstacle to Sa Pa’s full rebirth as a prominent holiday destination was lifted as the decision was made to open the door fully to international tourism. Sa Pa was back on the tourist trail again, this time for a newly emerging local elite tourist crowd, as well as international tourists.

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Sapa is now in full economic boom, mainly from the thousands of tourists who come every year to walk the hundreds of miles of trekking trails between and around the villages of Dao villages of Ta Van and Ta Phin.

Sa Pa District is located in Lao Cai Province, north-west Vietnam, and 380 km north-west of Hanoi, close to the border with China. The Hoang Lien Son range of mountains dominates the district, which is at the eastern extremity of the Himalayas. This range includes Vietnam’s highest mountain, Fan Si Pan, at a height of 3143 m above sea level. The town of Sa Pa lies at an altitude of about 1500 meters above sea level. The climate is moderate and rainy in summer (May—August), and foggy and cold with occasional snowfalls in winter.

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Most of the ethnic minority people work their land on sloping terraces since the vast majority of the land is mountainous. Their staple foods are rice and corn. Rice, by its very nature of being a labour-intensive crop, makes the daily fight for survival paramount. The unique climate in Sapa has a major influence on the ethnic minorities who live in the area. With sub-tropical summers, temperate winters and 160 days of mist annually, the influence on agricultural yields and health related issues is significant.

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The geographical location of the area makes it a truly unique place for many interesting plants and animals, allowing it to support many inhabitants. Many very rare or even endemic species have been recorded in the region. The scenery of the Sa Pa region in large part reflects the relationship between the minority people and nature. This is seen especially in the paddy fields carpeting the rolling lower slopes of the Hoang Lien Mountains.

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The impressive physical landscape which underlies this has resulted from the work of the elements over thousands of years, wearing away the underlying rock. On a clear day, the imposing peak of Fan Si Pan comes into view. The last major peak in the Himalayan chain, Fan Si Pan offers a real challenge to even the keenest walker, the opportunity of staggering views, and a rare glimpse of some of the last remaining primary rain forest in Vietnam.

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