Sapa Vietnam

cycling sapa vietnam

Sapa cycling lets you to discover the best mountain retreat in Vietnam, the impressive terraced paddy fields, and to experience the rich ethnic culture. Whether you look for a half day bike tour to explore Sapa hill tribe villages or an overnight trip to discover its surroundings, Sapa has something to fit your personal requirements.

Sapa is a frontier township and capital of Sapa District in Lao Cai Province in north-west Vietnam. This is one of the main market ones in the area, where several ethnic minority groups such as Hmong, Dao (Yao), Giay, Pho Lu, and Tay live.

The scenery of the Sapa 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. 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 Fansipan comes into view.

Getting to Sapa Vietnam

Hanoi to Sapa by private car with driver

Renting a private car with driver is a perfect choice thanks to the recent opening of the Noi Bai – Lao Cai highway (245 km in length) passing through five provinces and cities of Hanoi, Vinh Phuc, Phu Tho, Yen Bai and Lao Cai. With this Hanoi – Lao Cai highway, using private car rental to Sapa is 4 hours shorter and more enjoyable than traveling by train. The private transfer offers you the chance to travel at your own pace. You will enjoy the view of the Vietnamese countryside along the road and it is by far the quickest and easiest way to travel between Hanoi and Sapa.

Hanoi to Sapa by train

From Hanoi it is a 8-hour train journey to Lao Cai Railway Station, the gateway to Sapa. Vietnam Railways operates 3 services everyday: 2 express trains SP1/SP2, SP2/SP3 and 1 local train LC1/LC2. Occasionally during high season and national holidays the railway company may announce additional services, such as SP7/SP8 and LC3/LC4 services. Express trains run during the night and stop only in major stations, whereas local trains run during daytime at slower speed and stopping in all stations along the Hanoi – Lao Cai railway line.

Hanoi to Sapa by bus

There are both sleeper bus and day bus from Hanoi to Sapa. The bus station in Hanoi is in My Dinh, about 10K from the Old Quarter. The bus station in Sapa is in the centre of town, near the lake. Express bus or shuttle bus departs daily at 7 AM via the newly built Hanoi – Lao Cai highway. It takes about 6 hours of driving from Hanoi to Sapa, depending on traffic and weather. Note that there is no toilet, and they only make one rest stop along the way.

Hanoi to Sapa by motorcycle

Sapa can also be reached by motorcycle from Hanoi by a variety of routes. The most direct route takes at least ten hours for first time riders, though local expats often brag about making it in less. Bikes can be rented in Hanoi for unguided passage, or local guides can lead the way.

When to go cycling in Sapa Vietnam

The climate of Sapa is unique in Vietnam. It is highly seasonal, with a subtropical climate in the summer and a temperate climate during the winter. Under the Köppen climate classification, Sapa has a subtropical highland climate, above the sea level by nearly 1,500 metres (4,900 ft). Mean annual temperature for Sa Pa town is 15.4 °C (59.7 °F), with a maximum of 29.4 °C (84.9 °F) and a minimum of 1.0 °C (33.8 °F). The warmest months are July and August, and the coldest months are December and January. Snow falls in some years on the highest peaks. It has snowed in the town itself in 1983, 2000, 16 March 2011, 15 December 2013, and 19 February 2014.

In common with the rest of northern Vietnam, Sapa experiences a marked wet season from May to September, with the heaviest rainfall occurring in July and August. Mean annual rainfall is 2,763 millimetres (108.8 in), with a high of 4,023 millimetres (158.4 in) and a low of 2,064 millimetres (81.3 in). Humidity ranges from 75 to 91 percent with a yearly mean of 86 percent.

sapa town, lao cai

Where to go biking in Sapa

Sapa hill tribe villages

Ta Phin Village

Ta Phin Village is located about 17km in the west of Sapa, and can be discovered by bicycle in a half day. Ta Phin is a village of Red Dao’s people possessing a rich culture that has not been damaged by the modern life.

Lao Chai Village

Take a mountain bike to discover Lao Chai village is 6 km far from the centre town, you will see Lao Chai village where the black H’mong people are living, it is also the beginning of a valley which is called Muong Hoa valley. From a high point of the main road 8 Km from Sapa town, great view of the whole village open wide to offer the marvelous panorama of the village, backed by high mountains and facing the river.

Ta Van Village

Ta Van is located far from Sapa less than 10 kilometers, and can be explored in a half day by bike. The road leads to Ta Van village that is small and narrow. Along two sides has a fertile terraced field which adorns by the green of corn and rice.

Cat Cat Village

Cat Cat Village is located on the Muong Hoa Valley, this is the village of the H’Mong hill tribe. Taking a downhill ride to Cat Cat village is exciting. Visiting Cat Cat village, we can have a chance to visit a big waterfall on the stream and the old Hydro Electric Power Station built by the French here. That is the image of young women sitting by looms with colorful pieces of brocade decorated with designs of flowers and birds.

Ban Ho Village

At the end of the motor way about 25 Km from Sapa town lies a vast and flat valley, circled by mountains and hills. It is Ban Ho valley home to the Tay ethnic. It is divided into three areas: Ta Trung Ho, Xeo Trung Ho and Hoang Lien, which is place of the Mong, Dao, Tay. Cycling to Ban Ho village takes one day with support vehicle. The 2 day bike tour offers the chance to explore in depth the area.

Around Sapa Vietnam

cycling bac ha

Bac Ha Market

Being a minority ethnic people market, Bac Ha market is located in 80 km from Sapa, Bac Ha is famous for its Sunday market which is a trading center and meeting place for couples, friends, and relatives. Every Sunday, Bac Ha hosts the biggest fair near the mountainous highlands and the Chinese border. It is the largest and most colorful market in the area and attracts throngs of villagers from the surrounding hill tribes. Cycling to Bac Ha market from Sapa is quite hard but exciting.

Lung Khau Nhin Market

The famous antique market in the Northwest of Vietnam is Lung Khau Nhin Market, it takes you more than two hours from Lao Cai by car. The market is opened on every Thursday. Lung Khau Nhin Market is filled with brilliant colors of the dresses, blankets, vegetables and local’s products, they are all minority people such as: H’Mong, Nung, Man, Kinh…

Muong Khuong Market

Muong Khuong Market is a district of Lao Cai province, it’s far from Lao cai 50km and 90 km from Sapa. In here, there is special market on every Sunday, it’s Muong Khuong market. This is the biggest of the minority here, gathered many products to sell and trade such as: handicraft, cattle, vegetable, traditional incense and local products…

Tram Ton Pass

The way up to Tram Ton pass is very tough. When reaching the pass, you will be finally at the peak of Hoang Lien Son Mountain, which is called Heaven Gate where great views will be waiting for you. Keep cycling through the pass, you will arrive in Lai Chau is less-visited than Sapa.

Sapa cycling routes

Sapa – Lai Chau cycling route

Sapa – Than Uyen cycling route

Sapa – Bac Ha cycling route

Sapa cycling without tour guide

If you prefer cycling without a guide, the Sapa region has many things for you to wander around. You can hire a bike in Sapa and head for one of the villages outside of Sapa. You can buy a Tourist Map for location and routes. All of the main routes are marked. Some paths are easy to follow and there are a lot of people around to help if you are unsure.

There are not many bike shops in Sapa where you can hire a good mountain bikes such as a Trek or a Conondale. We recommend you to make your reservation in advance, so that the bikes will be ready when you are there.

Sapa guided bike tours

Here is our great selection of best guided cycling tours in Sapa Vietnam – All these bike tours are provided with English-speaking biking guide, high-quality bikes, support vehicle, and meals. Please note Sapa is a hilly destination. Terrain vary very much, offering both exciting downhill ride and challenging uphill bike ride. The area is highly recommended for experienced cyclists.

Additional questions about Sapa cycling?

Do you have any questions about bicycle touring in Sapa Vietnam that you want to ask us? Is there anything you think I should discuss about cycling around Sapa that we left out… that we should include in future updates to this article? Other Vietnam destinations for taking a bike tour? Leave a comment below with your questions and we’ll write you back with a response just as soon as we possibly can.