Sapa & Surrounding Hill Tribe Villages in Vietnam

Sapa is a little hillside village located in midst of the Hoang Lien Mountains of Vietnam, which border the north western frontier with China. It was founded by the French as a station to enhance the communication trough out the area, and thanks to that, it is easily accessible from Hanoi , Vietnam’s Capital, by an overnight train (approximately 9 hours).

North Vietnam's Beautiful Images

Hill Tribe Women in the Mountainous Region where Sapa is located.
Hill Tribe Women in the Mountainous Region where Sapa is located. | Source

Sapa has a French atmosphere clearly manifested in the urban architecture of the place. The town is completely tourist oriented but it is not artificially manufactured. Amongst the Occidentalized architecture of the hotels, restaurants and cafes, you’ll see lots of women elegantly dressed in hill tribe fashion speaking strange dialect and behaving as they always do, which means that Sapa has also a mixture of truly authentic hill tribe lifestyle. Sapa is the gateway to the many surrounding hill tribe villages of North Vietnam and the place to go if you’d like to experience their culture, traditions, behavior and way of life. They get the benefit of your visit, you get the benefit of their willingness to open up and show you their existence; it is somewhat touristy but it is also a win-win situation, and the only possibility for this encounter to take place.


Rice Terraces near Sapa

Rice Terraces surrounding Sapa, mountainous region of North Vietnam.
Rice Terraces surrounding Sapa, mountainous region of North Vietnam. | Source

Natural Beauty

Another highlight of the region is the natural beauty of the irregular luscious landscape, composed of dramatic slopped mountains, wrapped in sometimes quite dense fog. For those who like mountain climbing, Mount Fansipan (3,143m) is pretty nearby.

show route and directions
A markerFansipan -
Fansipan, Lai Chau, Vietnam
[get directions]

B markerSapa, Vietnam -
Sa Pa, Provincia de Lào Cai, Vietnam
[get directions]

C markerHanoi -
Hanoi, Vietnam
[get directions]

Capital

D markerLuang Prabang -
Luang Prabang, Laos
[get directions]

A Visual Guide to Luang Prabang: http://hubpages.com/_1fclx5rkjd1r/hub/A-Visual-Travel-Guide-to-Luang-Prabang-Laos

Peasant Women

Sapa, Vietnam.
Sapa, Vietnam. | Source

Hill Tribe People

The hill tribe people of Vietnam have traditionally lived from the land, being agriculture their main activity. Now a day, some younger generations of women have learned English and moved on to work as tourist guides at Sapa. They generally make agreements with hotels and tour operators to head expeditions through the mountains and rice fields, to finally arrive at a particular hill tribe village, where home stays are arranged.

As you walk towards the village you’ll see family houses with their own terraces and peasant women, with the classic conical hats, working their own fields. Lifestyle in these places still goes around family and work, and people work with family. They lead a very simple uncomplicated life and they seem to be happy.


Trekking through Hoang Lien Mountains

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Peasant Woman with Famous Conical Hat. Sapa, Vietnam.Hill Tribe Women dressed with Traditional Attire, Sapa, Vietnam.River during dry season, Sapa, Vietnam.Waterfalls, Sapa, Vietnam.Mountainous region surrounding Sapa in North Vietnam. Hoang Lien Mountains.Peasant, Hill Tribe Women, Sapa, Vietnam.Rice Terraces, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam.Rice Terraces, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam.Hill Tribe Women walking through Hoang Lien Mountains, Vietnam.Rice Terraces, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam.
Peasant Woman with Famous Conical Hat. Sapa, Vietnam.
Peasant Woman with Famous Conical Hat. Sapa, Vietnam. | Source
Hill Tribe Women dressed with Traditional Attire, Sapa, Vietnam.
Hill Tribe Women dressed with Traditional Attire, Sapa, Vietnam. | Source
River during dry season, Sapa, Vietnam.
River during dry season, Sapa, Vietnam. | Source
Waterfalls, Sapa, Vietnam.
Waterfalls, Sapa, Vietnam. | Source
Mountainous region surrounding Sapa in North Vietnam. Hoang Lien Mountains.
Mountainous region surrounding Sapa in North Vietnam. Hoang Lien Mountains. | Source
Peasant, Hill Tribe Women, Sapa, Vietnam.
Peasant, Hill Tribe Women, Sapa, Vietnam. | Source
Rice Terraces, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam.
Rice Terraces, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam. | Source
Rice Terraces, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam.
Rice Terraces, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam. | Source
Hill Tribe Women walking through Hoang Lien Mountains, Vietnam.
Hill Tribe Women walking through Hoang Lien Mountains, Vietnam. | Source
Rice Terraces, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam.
Rice Terraces, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam. | Source

The expedition begins headed by one single hill-tribe-guide. The further you walk, the more women and children join the group until you are accompanied by a large female entourage. They are very friendly people, all smiles and positive attitudes. They are interested in westerners and they represent a good chance to learn more about their lives and customs. They ask all kinds of questions and want to conquer your heart and befriend you. You’ll find that in the end they will also want to sell you something, but that is OK.

I walked all the way alongside a very pretty tinny woman that seemed very wise and fit, and had an unusual sparkle in her eyes. Our communication was quite limited but she had a very nice attitude and I liked her company. She wore beautiful embroidered hill tribe clothing full of accessories including a headdress, a sort of “apron”, a belt, and a bag. She also had a very sophisticated heavy silver necklace that caught my attention. It was something very different and I really flattered her for it. Immediately after, she wanted to sell it to me and kept on and on insisting without stop. All though I genuinely liked the necklace, I was on a one year travel plan with two important things to have in mind (1) keep in budget and (2) don’t start accumulating stuff, limit myself to the capacity of my backpack. The persistency of the hill tribe women could sometimes be annoying but one has to bear in mind that their economy is very small in the context of a globalized changing world.


Hill Tribe People from Around Sapa

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Hill Tribe Vietnamese Girl carrying a baby, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam.Hill Tribe Women, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam.Hill Tribe Women, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam.Hill Tribe Vietnamese Girl carrying a baby, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam.Hill Tribe Women in Traditional Attire, always prepared for the rain. Sapa, Vietnam.
Hill Tribe Vietnamese Girl carrying a baby, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam.
Hill Tribe Vietnamese Girl carrying a baby, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam. | Source
Hill Tribe Women, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam.
Hill Tribe Women, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam. | Source
Hill Tribe Women, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam.
Hill Tribe Women, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam. | Source
Hill Tribe Vietnamese Girl carrying a baby, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam.
Hill Tribe Vietnamese Girl carrying a baby, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam. | Source
Hill Tribe Women in Traditional Attire, always prepared for the rain. Sapa, Vietnam.
Hill Tribe Women in Traditional Attire, always prepared for the rain. Sapa, Vietnam. | Source

Home Stay

Hill Tribe Village, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam.
Hill Tribe Village, Hoang Lien Mountains, Sapa, Vietnam. | Source

Hill Tribe Village Home Stay

After a whole day of walking across mountains and meeting women and children in the way, our guide took us to the designated home where we would spend the night. It was one of the few wooden houses that made up the tiny village in the lowest part of the valley, where the river runs.

At dusk, we had a nice traditional Vietnamese dinner cooked by the man of the house hold, which consisted of different stir fry combinations that included vegetables, poultry and tofu, served with white rice; very elementary and heartwarming. After a couple of cups of tea and some chit chat with the fellow visitors, we went to sleep in barn type fashion (on a blanket layout on the floor). It was just the one night to rest off the trek and head back to Sapa again the following morning, this time on a different route. We walked back through more horizontal terrain and crossed beautiful bamboo forest (exciting!), before climbing uphill again to the hotel on top of the hills.


Village of Sapa

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Hill Tribe Vietnamese Women in Sapa.Hill Tribe Vietnamese Women in Sapa.French influence in Sapa, Vietnam.French influence in Sapa, Vietnam.French influence in Sapa, Vietnam.
Hill Tribe Vietnamese Women in Sapa.
Hill Tribe Vietnamese Women in Sapa. | Source
Hill Tribe Vietnamese Women in Sapa.
Hill Tribe Vietnamese Women in Sapa. | Source
French influence in Sapa, Vietnam.
French influence in Sapa, Vietnam. | Source
French influence in Sapa, Vietnam.
French influence in Sapa, Vietnam. | Source
French influence in Sapa, Vietnam.
French influence in Sapa, Vietnam. | Source

Sapa: Accomodation

Hotel clinging to the hillside with a very good view of the mountains and cascading rice terraces
Hotel clinging to the hillside with a very good view of the mountains and cascading rice terraces

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Comments on "Sapa & Surrounding Hill Tribe Villages in Vietnam" 6 comments

Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

Great photos and information. I know a few people who have been to Vietnam on holiday/vacation and all have spoken of the friendliness of the rural people.


Claudia Tello profile image

Claudia Tello 5 years ago from Mexico Author

Thanks! I just published the hub and am glad you liked it.

There you go! we all had the same impression :)


irka winniczuk 4 years ago

I just can't get enough looking at the photographs on this hub. Such a different world with such charming people captured by you in their activities


Claudia Tello profile image

Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico Author

Hi Irka,

Sapa and the surrounding hill tribe villages of Vietnam were a photographic paradise to me, I wanted to capture everything!!!! North Vietnam is particularly beautiful, the rice terraces, the peasant women, the hill tribe people and their traditional clothing..... everything catches one´s eyes. I agree with you, Sapa is lovely.

Thanks for your kind words, interest and comments.


precy anza profile image

precy anza 4 years ago from San Diego

Beautiful photos Claudia! It must have been a treat to see this place and to meet the friendly villagers. That rice terraces is breathtaking! :)


Claudia Tello profile image

Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico Author

@precy anza: hey! thanks for dropping by; you are right, visiting Sapa and the hill tribe villages of north Vietnam was a real treat and I feel honored to have been there; glad you liked this picture series, thank you so much for saying so.

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