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Discover the Colorful Hilltribes of Northwest Vietnam in Mountainous Sapa

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Sapa is a scenic mountainous town in Lao Cai Province in Northwestern Vietnam, near the Chinese border.  It is one of the region’s major towns and where many ethnic minorities such as the Hmong, Dao and Tay live.

This scenic valley town had its fair share of unfortunate events throughout its history.  Conflicts during World War 2 and successive wars after that nearly resulted in Sapa being entirely wiped off the map.  The town was almost forgotten, save for a few dedicated residents.  With the recent surge of tourism in Vietnam, Sapa experienced a revival of sorts.  Roads have been upgraded, new hotels and resorts have sprung up and electricity service has become consistent and reliable.

Most of the people around the town of Sapa work on sloping terraces, growing rice and corn.  The rainbow-colored smocks of the Hmong, the bright red headdress of the Dao and the blue clothes of the Tay and many other tribes all converge to the town’s markets every day, providing a great photo opportunity and a chance to experience a truly colorful and lively market place.

The town is also famous for its scenic and rugged landscape.  Situated in the Tonkin area (sometimes informally know as the Tonkin Alps), Sapa is 1,600 meters above sea level.  Because of this elevation and mountainous terrain, the town receives unique seasonal climates, ranging from subtropical (maximum of 30°C) during the summer and temperate (minimum of 0°C) during the winter.  Snow falls in some peaks during the colder winters, making for an unusual scene in Southeast Asia.  January to June is the town’s dry season, with the first two months of the year being the coldest and foggiest months.  Spring in Sapa consists of excellent weather and the summer is warm with high chance of rain.  Fall, just like spring is also a great time to visit Sapa.

Visitors can take a short two kilometer walk to the Hmong community of Cat Cat.  The village is famous for its brocade weaving craft as well as its gold and silver jewelry making.  In addition, the town is also known for its unique tradition known as ‘wife pulling’.  A single man may ask one of his friends if he knows a single woman.  The woman is then invited to stay at the single man’s house for three days and if she is interested in him, they can marry.  She is also free to leave if she does not show an interest in the man.  The walk to Cat Cat Village and its nearby hills provide an opportunity to see farms and techniques used by the people in the area.  The path also provides great views of Sapa and the surrounding area.

Sapa is a unique Vietnamese town that adds a new dimension to a Vietnam visit.  It’s temperate weather, breathtaking mountain scenery and influx of colorful hilltribe people creates an unforgettable experience.  Exotissimo’s Sapa Essential tour allows you to discover this rich and vibrant town along with its nearby neighbors.  If you are interested in a thorough North Vietnam program, then The Best of Northern Vietnam tour is for you.  After visiting Sapa and Lao Cai near the Chinese border, you will experience the colonial charm of Hanoi and be whisked away to the always scenic Halong Bay.  If you’d prefer a varied adventure tour through North Vietnam, then Exotissimo would like to recommend the Sapa to the Sea tour.  Trek along the magnificent trove of Northern Vietnam, starting from the buzzing capital of Hanoi to the scenic mountains of Sapa and finally to the mystical waters of Halong Bay.   You may also see our recommended Vietnam tours for other memorable trips into this magnificent country.

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