If you are a backpacker, you will love Sapa for its exotic and breathtaking experiences around Mount Fansipan, the tallest mountain in the Indochina peninsula.
In just one overnight bus from Hanoi, you can already enjoy the scenic view of the mountains, rice terraces, and waterfalls. You will also get to meet the locals who live a simple but culturally rich life.
However, traveling to remote places in Sapa can be both life-changing and tiring. The hikes can take hours to complete and the roads can be bumpy and challenging. That’s why, in this blog post, I share some relaxing and wellness activities that you can do in Sapa. I also include some things that are not too exhausting, but still give you a beautiful view of Sapa.
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1. Ride on the Cable Car from Sapa and Get a Hot Drink in Mount Fansipan.
One of the laid back things to do in Sapa is to get a hot drink in Mount Fansipan. This is the highest mountain in Vietnam and offers a stunning view of the surrounding landscape. You can take a cable car to reach the summit and enjoy a warm beverage at the cafe there. The photos below show the summary of this journey.
Read full story: What to Expect & Visiting Information
Did you know that you can reach the summit of Mount Fansipan without hiking it? You can do that by taking the Fansipan cable car, the “longest” uninterrupted 3-rope cable car in the world. It will take you to the top of the tallest mountain in the entire Indochina peninsula in just 15 minutes. You don’t have to spend three to four days hiking to enjoy the incredible scenery. You can sit back and relax in the cable car and admire the view!
What’s interesting is that when you hop on the Fansipan cable car, you experience two world records at the same time. Not only will you ride on the longest cable car, but you will also ride on the one with the highest altitude difference in the world.
You’ll soar 1410 meters higher than the first station in fifteen minutes. I had an exhilarating experience when I tried it. My ears hurt a little due to the sudden change in altitude, though. But it didn’t matter. The scenic view from the cable car kept me fascinated throughout the ride.
If you want to try the Fansipan cable car, you should book in advance for cable car trips. That way, you won’t have to wait in line at the cashier. The journey to the summit of Mount Fansipan begins at a funicular railway station at the center of Sapa town, near the Accor hotel building.
Once you arrive, you can find trams that will bring you uphill to another station adjacent to Sunworld Cable Car station. That’s where your actual cable car experience starts.
When I arrived at Sunworld Cable Car station, I was surprised because it looked more like a park than a cable car station. There were beautiful flowers and shops all around. In front of the main entrance of the cable car station, there was a temple with an enormous landmark of Sunworld Fansipan Legend. Behind it, there were picturesque mountains in the backdrop.
One of the best things that you will see when you ride on the Fansipan cable car is the beautiful rice terraces of Sapa. From above, you can clearly see the shapes of each step of the terraced rice fields. I suggest that you visit Sapa and ride in a cable car during the pre-harvest season. That way, you may see the rice terraces glowing in gold color. They look like stairs covered with golden carpets for colossal beings in my imagination.
Another exciting experience awaits you in the cable car if the weather is good. As you move further and further upwards, you get closer and closer to the clouds. It will feel like you’re going to touch the sky!
What can be wondrous in Sapa is the possibility that you enter a whole new world after entering the clouds. What do I mean by that? Some clouds just stay at an altitude lower than the summit of the mountains, typically 1,500 to 2,500 meters above sea level.
Above the clouds, if the atmosphere is clear, you might see a spectacular sea of clouds with mountains resembling islands in the ocean. The sea of clouds is the phenomenon that serves as a significant reason why you should go to Fansipan. If you witness it, I think you’ll be awe-inspired for the rest of your days in Vietnam.
The temperature drops significantly when you arrive at the Fansipan cable car station. During my visit, there was a 10 degree Celsius difference between the Sunworld and Fansipan cable car stations. I was kept updated with the temperature readings thanks to Instagram stories.
I was not prepared with warm clothes when I visited Fansipan. I only had two layers of clothing, a shirt and a sweater. Clearly, that was perfect for the 5 degrees Celsius at the mountain’s summit (Sarcasm. LOL!) I was shivering a few minutes after I arrived. So yeah, I recommend bringing your own warm clothing. Otherwise, you might have to buy jackets with prices that are as high as Mount Fansipan! I regret not doing that, though.
There is more fun to enjoy after you arrive at Fansipan station, though. You have the option to ride on another tram to avoid climbing 600 steps to the summit. Or you can choose the stairs and see grand structures, temples, and statues along the way.
I took the stairs after I reached the summit. I was really impressed by the structures around the summit of Mount Fansipan. They were both artistic and gigantic! I wondered how they built every massive structure on the top of the mountain.
At the summit of Mount Fansipan, you can find a coffee shop called Cafe Du Soleil. It is a cozy place where you can relax and enjoy the beautiful view of the clouds and mountains. It was my refuge from the chilling weather at the peak of the mountain.
The coffee shop has a well-themed establishment with walls decorated with colorful fabric weaved in a Vietnamese way. The tables are also decorated with mats printed with some kind of ethnic pattern. They made me feel that I was really in Vietnam sipping a coffee, not just in any ordinary coffee shop.
The seats are comfortable, and the view from the window is marvelous. The coffee is a little bit expensive, though. A small cup costs between 3 to 6 USD. The latte I bought for 130,000 VND was nice, but I did not find the taste I was looking for. I would have bought another drink if I were not traveling on a budget.
The shop offers other beverages like fresh fruit juice, smoothies, whiskey, cocktails, and non-alcoholic miracle juices. If I were traveling slowly in Vietnam and the weather was fine in Fansipan, I would stay in Cafe Di Soleil for much longer. How long? Maybe from after lunch until the last cable car trip back to the Sunworld station in Sapa. I love to stare at the mountains and watch the sea of clouds spectacle for hours in a day.
2. Watch the Sunset in Sapa Lake.
Another great place to relax and enjoy beautiful scenery in Sapa is Sapa Lake. You don’t have to pay or exert any effort to visit this spot. It is in the east of the town, where you can find gardens, hotels, coffee shops, and beer houses. If you love taking photos, you will love watching the sunset in Sapa Lake.
Personal notes about Sapa Lake
Before I arrived in Sapa, all I knew was that beautiful mountain views and magnificent rice terraces awaited me. I also knew I could quickly visit Mount Fansipan’s summit through the Sapa Cable Car, but I never knew Sapa had a lake.
I love lakes. They are places I always look for whenever I travel. Lakes are lovely, and they seem to give me peace of mind and many other benefits. That’s why, when I discovered from Google Maps that there was a lake in Sapa, I immediately got the directions and followed them.
If you are traveling to escape emotional tension, anxiety, or stress in your life, I recommend Sapa Lake. I have experienced those too. And I promise that seeing calm water helps relieve the pain inside.
More photos of Sapa Lake and my experience
When I arrived at the lake from the town center, the first thing I saw was the lovely park view. The lake reflected the colorful houses and buildings that were behind the park’s garden. Flowers were everywhere. They seemed to invite me to explore the area further.
As I walked around, I saw locals hanging around the park and roaming along the lakeshore. I saw families bonding together, kids playing badminton, teens arranging events in the park, and guys fishing in the lake. It might seem usual, but it gave me a moment to think about how beautiful a simple life can be.
There are seats around the park beside Sapa Lake, where you can sit and rest your legs. I spent some “me” time there with my Vietnamese coffee frappe. It was also the same spot where I waited for the sunset to catch the golden hour – the best time to take photos.
Sapa Lake will satisfy your artistic self if you are a photography enthusiast. The lake is really calm, perfect for creating mesmerizing water-reflection shots. The lakeshore railings also create good leading lines, an element that enhances your photos.
Here are some of the pictures I captured from Sapa Lake:
3. Swim in a Pool in Sapa With a Magnificent Mountain View.
What could be better than enjoying the relaxing benefits of water and the awe-inspiring views of mountains? Maybe nothing. It sounds perfect, right? That’s why I decided to try one of the hotels in Sapa that have an outdoor pool. I wanted to see if it was really a good experience. And the result? Absolutely YES. It was a wonderful thing to do in Sapa!
As far as I know, there are only two hotels in Sapa that have an outdoor pool: Bamboo Sapa Hotel and Topas Ecolodge.
Bamboo Sapa Hotel
Bamboo Sapa Hotel is a 4-star hotel that is conveniently located near the center of Sapa town. It offers 100 hotel rooms and a luxurious buffet restaurant on the ground floor. The highlight of the hotel is the infinity pool that overlooks the stunning mountains. I was very impressed by the room I booked. It was worth every penny of the 40 USD I paid. It felt like a 200 USD room in other places. Bamboo Sapa Hotel exceeded my expectations.
You can check their promotional video here:
Check rates: Bamboo Sapa Hotel.
Sapa Topas Ecolodge
Have you seen the viral Instagram post about the epic pool in Sapa? If not, you can check it out below.
This is Sapa Topas Ecolodge, a unique and eco-friendly hotel in Sapa. It is different from Bamboo Sapa in many ways. First, it is far from the town center, about a 45-minute drive. Second, it does not have TV or Wi-Fi, but only the pure nature and breathtaking views of the mountains. You can enjoy them from your room or from the saltwater infinity pool in the ecolodge.
Sapa Topas Ecolodge is a great choice for sustainable tourism. It supports the local community and the environment. It hires locals from nearby villages and uses local products and goods. It also has waste management facilities, so it does not harm the nature. If you are looking for a luxurious and responsible travel experience, you should stay at Sapa Topas Ecolodge.
Check rates: Sapa Topas Ecolodge.
4. Get a Body Massage From a Spa in Sapa.
Sapa is a place for fantastic adventures and cultural immersion in ethnic villages. These activities are fun, but they can also wear you out. A body massage is a great way to soothe your sore feet and muscles. But you don’t have to be tired to enjoy a massage.
Sapa has many spas that offer rejuvenating treatments for your well-being. They use the Vietnamese style of massage, which is a unique and exciting experience. Whether you are tired or not, visiting a spa is a nice thing to do in Sapa. Here are some of the best-rated spas in Sapa:
Do Quyen Spa Private Experience in Sapa
Note: The spa is now permanently closed.
Do you need a body massage to ease your pain in your feet, back, or legs? Then you should try Do Quyen Spa. You get a full-body treatment from head to toe for just a few dollars. You will also get a cup of soothing tea after your massage. It will make you feel pampered and refreshed. It offers more than just body massage. You can also enjoy a sauna, a Red Dao Footbath, a Red Dao Herbal Bath, a Hot Stone Body Massage, or a Vietnamese Body Massage.
Lavender Spa Treatments in Sapa
If you want to pamper yourself more, you should try Lavender Spa. It has a high rating on different booking platforms, and it offers more than just a massage. The price might be slightly higher than Do Quyen Spa, but the service you’ll get will be very satisfying. One big difference between Lavender Spa and other spas in Sapa is the treatment rooms for the body massage. You’ll love the luxury of the room and the comfort of your bed.
Lavender Spa has many services you can choose from, such as the Herbal of Red Dao People bath. It also offers a green tea body scrub, a luxury facial treatment, an oat body wrap, a Vietnamese coconut body wrap, an Indian head massage, an Asian heritage body treatment, a Sapa Mountain Hot Stone Therapy, and more!
See pictures and learn more: Lavender Spa Treatments.
5. People-Watch at Quang Truong Square in Sapa.
If you’re visiting Sapa by the weekend, you should experience the fantastic Love Market in Quang Truong Square. This is an exciting event that resembles the “cultural street party” at Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi.
The Love Market happens every weekend, particularly on Saturday nights. It is a lovely thing to do in Sapa, especially if you are looking for a cultural experience.
Hmong and Dao Singles “Party”
This event is not to be missed because the locals themselves go to the town center. They showcase their food, goods, and culture.
A part of the event that you will enjoy is the pairing of the singles from the Hmong and Dao tribes. Even if you’re just relaxing and sitting down at a bench, you can witness this unique tradition.
They play games in the middle of the town square during this gathering to match singles. It is a fascinating event to watch, especially if you love learning about Vietnamese culture.
Barbeques on the street
Quang Truong Square is also a great place to enjoy cheap and delicious street food. If you’re a foodie, you’ll love the variety of dishes available there.
You can savor your meal while watching the Love Market event in front of the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary. This is a beautiful spot to observe the local culture and traditions.
Don’t miss the locals’ freshly cooked hot barbecues. They are perfect for warming up in the freezing night weather in Sapa.
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