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05 Days - Hill tribes of Sapa and Weekend markets

The mountain valleys of Vietnam’s far north are home to colourful mountain tribes from all across Asia. During this Sapa tour a guide will take you and a small group of fellow travellers to visit the Black H’mong and Red Dzao. These mountain tribes have lived very secluded lives far away from the outside world for many years. Today, most of them wear traditional dress and still live according to ancient customs. Sapa is a popular travel destination, so you probably won’t be the only foreigner there. However, during this Sapa tour you’ll leave the tourist throngs behind you and travel deeper into the mountains than most visitors. You’ll hike across bamboo bridges, through valleys surrounded by steep mountainsides covered with tumbling rice terraces. Before travelling on you’ll also visit the folklore market in Bac Ha; a colourful hub of traders from all corners of the region. If you’d prefer a private Sapa trip and would like to spend the night at a local home, check out our other Sapa trek. If you'd like to start building your Vietnam holiday, take a look at our range of bite-sized Vietnam tours. Alternatively, if you'd rather leave the planning to us, you can take your pick from our selection of ready-made Vietnam holidays or give one of our friendly travel specialists a call on 0983880763

Day 01: Hanoi sleeper train – Lao Cai
On day one of this Sapa trip you’ll be collected from your hotel in Hanoi in the early evening and driven to the local train station. After stocking up on food and drinks for your trip, you’ll board the night train to Lao Cai. The train is air-conditioned and it probably won’t be along before you find yourself dozing off to the sound of the train travelling across the tracks. You’ll spend the night in a 4-bedded couchette. The beds are made according to Vietnamese standards, so they may be a bit short if you’re taller than the average Vietnamese person.

Vietnamese trains are definitely the most authentic way of travelling through Vietnam. The Vietnamese travelling in the train with you may try to strike up a conversation to find out more about you. They may not all be fluent in English, but a bit of creative interpretation and some gesturing should speed things along.

Day 02: Sapa arrival – Black H’mong visit
It's day two of your Sapa trip and early in the morning the sleeper train will pull into the train station at Lao Cai. Your ride will be waiting to take you on the 1 hour transfer to Sapa. You’ll drive past dense forests, and rice terraces winding up mountainsides like giant staircases. When you arrive in Sapa the hotel staff will be waiting to check you into the hotel. You’ll stay at a comfortable, mid-class hotel with lots of local charm right in the heart of Sapa.

Once you’ve freshened up a bit, you’ll go on a 7km guided hike to the more remote village of Y Linh Ho, home of the Black H’mong. As their name suggests, the Black H’mong usually wear black clothing. Village elders greet you with smiles exposing dark red teeth which have been stained as a result of chewing the red seeds of the betel palm which are rolled up in a leaf and chewed like chewing tobacco.

Day 03: Guided hike to the Red Dzao
On day three of this Sapa trip you’ll go on a guided hike to meet the Red Dzao mountain tribe. You’ll understand why they’re called the ‘Red Dzao’ when you see their red headscarves. Since Sapa has gradually become more touristy in recent years, you probably won’t be the only traveller around. That’s why we’ve organised a trek to take you a little further off the tourist trail during your Sapa tour. You’ll hike approximately 10km in about 5 hours, which should be doable for anyone with an average level of physical fitness.

There are several stops planned along the way. You’ll also hike across a couple of bamboo bridges over clear mountain streams and have a view of sprawling valleys and mountain ranges. As you walk along, you’ll see quite a few women at work in the fields. Though they may only speak a few words of English, they are a warm and welcoming people, and will often invite you for tea in their homes. Pack a lunch before you set off on this trek and you can stop along the way to enjoy a picnic in the mountains. Alternatively, you can ask your guide to prepare a lunch for you for a small fee.

Day 04: Bac Ha Market ( Sunday ) – Overnight Train to Hanoi
It's the fourth day of your Sapa trip and this morning you'll grab your backpack and say farewell to Sapa… but your Sapa trip isn’t over just yet. You'll take a drive to Bac Ha, a small mountain village famous for its busy market. Many mountain tribes come to sell their wares at the local market. Women from all parts of the region come dressed in pinks, reds, blues and greens to sell their fresh vegetables, meat and other products. It’s a great place to pick up a few unique, locally-made Vietnamese souvenirs. If you see something you like, be prepared to do some haggling. After visiting the market you’ll have time for a walk through the nearby town of Ban Pho. Local school children enjoy visits from foreigners and usually wave and say hello when travellers pass through.

Eventually you’ll be dropped off in Lao Cai where later on in the evening you’ll catch the sleeper train to Hanoi. You’ll have plenty of time to grab an evening meal in town before your train leaves.

Day 05: Arrival in Hanoi
You'll arrive in Hanoi on day five at about 5.30am in the morning and this is where your Sapa trip draws to a close.

Taxis and tuk-tuks will not be in short supply, so you can easily travel from the train station back to your hotel. It will be a little too early to check in at your hotel, so we would recommend arranging an early check-in in advance. If this is something that you would like to organise, then just let one of our travel specialists know. End of tour

If you're continuing your Vietnam trip itinerary, you could follow your Sapa tour with something a little more relaxing, such as our Halong Bay trip or you could begin your journey south, stopping to update your wardrobe with our Hoi An trip on the way.

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