3 Days In Sapa Itinerary: The ULTIMATE Guide (2024)

Find out the ideal 3 days in Sapa itinerary for an epic time in Northern Vietnam. Let’s get into the best things to do here, restaurants you have to try, where to stay including homestays, and more for your Sapa adventure!

Backpacking Sapa is a highlight when you are in Northern Vietnam. This spot is absolutely incredible with beautiful nature and friendly locals that will result in a busy 3 days in Sapa itinerary.

Think of bright green rice paddies, mountainous landscapes, and witnessing life in rural Vietnam. This place is absolutely gorgeous and honestly quite different from other popular towns and cities you may visit, but how do you make the most out of your stay?

Luckily enough I have traveled Vietnam from North to South discovering the best places worth checking out, including right here in Sapa. And from this experience, I will let you know my top tips for visiting and what is actually worth your time!

So let’s get into the details of this 3 day Sapa itinerary. From where to stay, where to eat, and what to do. Whether you want to check out some incredible waterfalls, and stunning views, make friends with the local animals, or even hike Fansipan Mountain known as the roof of Indochina.

sun plaza in the middle of sapa town
sun plaza in the middle of sapa town

🚗 How I Book Cheap Transport In Vietnam: Baolau & 12.Go Asia

Need A Quick Answer?

If you perhaps don’t have time to read this entire guide on how to spend your time in Sapa Vietnam, no worries, here are the top tips:

Best Sapa 2 Day Tour: Enjoy a stress-free trip with everything planned out including a visit to Fansipan Peak and Cat Cat Village, and return transfers from Hanoi. Book now with Get Your Guide.

Easiest & Best Way to Reach Sapa From Hanoi: Public transport such as a bus or train, and even private taxis can be booked on 12 Go Asia.

Where to Stay in Sapa: Top hostel choices for backpackers in Sapa include Lustig Hostel (dorms start from $4.00) and Flaco Hostel Sapa (dorms start from $10.00)

Explore The Countryside: Take a Sapa trekking tour through the rice terraces and to local villages. Book now with Viator.

How Many Days In Sapa Should You Stay?

If you’re wondering how long to stay in Sapa, worry no more. Many tourists spend about two to four days in Sapa to explore the scenic town, the nearby Sapa Valley, and the beautiful mountains.

Three days are considered perfect as this should give you enough time to get out into nature, take in the beautiful scenery, sample the delicious cuisine, and shop for souvenirs.

This is simply because the majority of travelers are limited to 30 days here and Vietnam is a huge country you need time to explore it all. Throughout the majority of my travels in Vietnam, I found having 3 days in each location was a great way to experience the best of that place.

Honestly, if you want to do some Sapa trekking and maybe a homestay, 2 days in Sapa would not be enough for this and to take in the town as well. Therefore three days at a minimum is recommended.

a couple of houses while trekking the countryside on the 3 day sapa itinerary
a couple of houses while trekking the countryside on the 3 day sapa itinerary

How To Plan A Sapa Itinerary

Now when it comes to your Sapa Itinerary you do have a couple of options for to getting to and visiting:

Independent travel: You can find numerous buses and trains traveling from Hanoi to Sapa so it is pretty damn easy to book it yourself over on 12 Go Asia. Once in Sapa hostels and guesthouses are everywhere, and treks into the valley are easy to arrange.

Organized tours: You will find numerous tours departing from Hanoi to Sapa which include your transfers, accommodation, activities, and some meals. This is a stress-free and easy way to explore Sapa on a budget.

Recommended Tours:

Day 1 Of My 3 Days In Sapa Itinerary

Get ready for your first day of the Sapa itinerary! Today we will concentrate on exploring the beautiful nature around the town and what makes it so special.

Morning: Mount Fansipan

First up, it’s an adventure to the highest mountain in Indochina. Though before we do that, you’ll need to fuel yourself with some breakfast. Head to Good Morning View Restaurant for a cheap meal to start the day.

After a delicious meal, it is time to start your backpacking Sapa adventure.

What You Need To Know About Mount Fansipan

Before figuring out how to get to the top of Mount Fansipan you’ll need to get to the base. It is located about a 30-minute drive from the township of Sapa.

The easiest way to get there will be by Taxi or Grab. You should estimate spending around $20.00 for the round trip. Alternatively, you could also book a group tour to visit.

A cheaper way to do it is by buying a ticket at Sun Plaza in Sapa. For $30.00 this gives you return transport in a tram and the cable car up the mountain.

Once at the base, you then have two different options to get to the top, either hike or take the cable car. Though whichever you choose be sure to wear decent shoes as even taking the cable car you will need to climb up over 600 steps to reach the top.

You will also want to bring along some warm clothes as the weather can be quite harsh at the peak.

taking the cable car up fansipan mountain
taking the cable car up fansipan mountain

Reaching Mount Fansipan Peak

Hike: Now if you perhaps don’t want to do everything in this itinerary and are just using it for inspiration then you may find yourself being keen to hike to the top.

Be aware this is a full-day adventure that’ll take you around 10 hours just to arrive at the peak! You can book a hiking tour to Fansipan Peak on Viator for $80.00 including entrance fee, food, drink, and transfers.

Cable Car: For those short on time or simply just not keen to inflict that kind of pain on themselves, taking the cable car is an excellent way to reach the peak of Mount Fansipan. The journey will only take 20 minutes, much quicker than the 10-hour hike.

Each cable car can hold up to 35 passengers, though try to get a window seat for the best views! Also, it only operates between the hours of 7:30 am and 5:30 pm so make sure to plan your visit accordingly.

mount fansipan in sapa at sunrise
mount fansipan in sapa at sunrise

Afternoon- Waterfalls

After exploring the incredible Fansipan Mountain stop in at Silver Waterfall and Love Waterfall on your journey back to Sapa. This is on the way to the town of Sapa so it is the perfect excuse to stop.

Love Waterfall should be your first stop. This is a short 15 to 20-minute hike away from the main road. It is a peaceful walk underneath a beautiful forest.

The entry fee is $2.90 / 70,000VND and it is worth it.

A few kilometer’s drive away is also Silver Waterfall. This can be seen from the roadside. However, I definitely recommend hiking up the stairs to the top for the best view.

looking up at love waterfall across the bridge
the incredible love waterfall
silver waterfall in sapa
silver waterfall in sapa

Evening – Sapa Night Market

Time for an early dinner as you haven’t really had a chance to stop and simply relax. Head back to Sapa town and grab a bite to eat at Anise Sapa Restaurant.

They have the most incredible hot pots here. A sure way to build your energy back up after a busy day of exploring!

Next head to the Sapa Night Market. This is only held on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. So be aware you may need to switch this Sapa itinerary around depending on which days you plan to visit.

It runs from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm and is located on N1 Street in the middle of town so is super accessible.

This is the perfect place to partake in a little bit of souvenir shopping or perhaps go for a second dinner. Buying here is a great way to support the economy and the minority tribes here in Sapa.

Day 2 Of 3 Days In Sapa Itinerary

For the 2nd day of 3 days in Sapa, we will head further out into the countryside and stay at a homestay.

There is so much more to see than what is in the main town so make sure you venture further while backpacking Sapa.

Morning & Afternoon- Trek Towards Ta Van

After a delicious breakfast at Le Gecko Cafe. Make sure to fuel up as you’ll need the energy for today’s adventures as we will be doing some serious trekking to the small community of Ta Van.

Here you can find loads of Homestays where you can experience local life and appreciate countryside living. Trekking the incredible landscapes of Sapa is a must while you are here.

If you perhaps don’t feel like trekking but still want to experience some beautiful sights then you can actually still take a taxi the majority of the way.

This will cost you around $20.00. However, be prepared for a bumpy journey as the roads are not the best.

You can decide whether you want a guided trek to Ta Van or not. I recommend talking to your accommodation and asking whether you can leave your luggage there for the night. That way you will only need to walk with a day pack.

Remember if it has recently been raining then be prepared to walk the main road or just get muddy. We decided to walk the main road. Though if the weather is good you will want to trek in the valley among the rice fields.

Whether you decide to do a guided or unguided trek is completely your choice. Though since you are backpacking Sapa I will assume you want to do it unguided and on a budget.

Therefore I recommend you download the Maps.Me app and the Sapa map offline. This points out the routes you can take and highlights along the way.

trekking on a guided tour in 3 days in sapa itinerary
trekking on a guided tour is a must when you have 3 days in sapa

Evening- Home Stay In Ta Van

You will want to book your homestay in Ta Van in advance. You will find plenty of places available and I recommend checking out Booking.com.to see what’s out there.

This is the exact way I found my homestay and it was all super straightforward. To narrow down your search options you can filter by homestays or simply look at the map view for a stay a bit further out of the main township.

I stayed in a homestay slightly outside of Ta Van, though it only took about a 15-minute walk to be in the town. Unfortunately, it is no longer available. Though, a lot of homestays are quite similar in terms of facilities and inclusions.

Make sure you contact your host in advance if you require a trekking guide. They will be able to recommend one or may even do it themselves.

I also recommend asking if they do a family-style dinner and partake in that. They generally cost a few dollars and you will get to experience a local-style dinner and share stories over a meal. Seriously some of the best food I had in Vietnam was during my homestay.

You don’t necessarily need to stay in Ta Van. There are plenty of other homestays dotted around the countryside in Sapa.

Though Ta Van is a small little village with quite a lot going on. There are a couple of delicious restaurants here and shops in case you require anything.

a hammock hanging up outside our sapa homestay on a foggy day
it basic living at a homestay but you will still have all you need
sitting around the fire with no heating at our homestay in sapa
sitting around the fire with no heating at our homestay in sapa

Day 3 Of 3 Days In Sapa Itinerary

On our last day of the Sapa itinerary, we will be experiencing a bit more of local life.

Explore the township of Ta Van or simply the peacefulness of life at your homestay, the culture at Cat Cat Village, and then top it all off with a well-deserved massage.

Morning- Explore Ta Van / Head Back To Sapa

Spend your morning exploring Ta Van village and heading back to the main town for Lunch. You can choose to either walk there or taxi.

Though be aware it is quite uphill, whereas the way to Ta Van is downhill. A taxi will only cost you $20.00 so can work out quite affordable if you have people to share it with.

If you want to visit Cat Cat Village in the afternoon then I would recommend taking a taxi. Though be aware it is quite touristy so perhaps you would rather enjoy a peaceful walk back to Sapa town than visit Cat Cat Village and that is okay as well.

water buffalos on the road to sapa
water buffalos on the road to sapa

Afternoon- Cat Cat Village

Before heading out to Cat Cat Village be sure to grab lunch from one of the delicious restaurants in town. There is plenty to choose from and you deserve a hearty meal. Therefore if you are craving pizza or pasta just get it!

Cat Cat Village is a popular spot for tourists to visit while in Sapa. It is super accessible being located in the Muong Hoa Valley, just 3 kilometers from Sapa Town.

It is a super easy walk to get here and the pathway is well-maintained. The entry fee is $1.00 / 25,000 VND.

This place is home to the ethnic H’Mong and Dzao people and here they demonstrate their handicrafts and skills to those interested, which includes cultivating rice and corn, as well as weaving fabric.

You will be able to enjoy not only the stunning scenery and villages but also meet beautiful people as they show you their way of life.

Be aware that you just spent the evening at a very authentic homestay experience and have spent the past 24 hours appreciating the beauty of the countryside. You may find Cat Cat Village a bit touristy compared to what you have already seen. Though I am just letting you know this so you can set your expectations accordingly.

fast water flowing under the bridge at cat cat village sapa itinerary
the river flowing through cat cat village just outside of sapa

Evening – Massage

For the final evening of your 3 day Sapa itinerary, I highly recommend getting yourself a massage. For just a few dollars you can find yourself relaxing and getting a back or foot massage.

There are so many massage parlors located around Sapa town you won’t have trouble finding one close to your hotel.

Go on have a massage, after all that trekking in Sapa you deserve to relax and be pampered!

Add To Your Sapa Itinerary?

If you happen to be staying longer than 3 days in Sapa then there are other things to add to your Sapa itinerary:

O Quy Ho Pass: This is one of the incredible passes in Vietnam’s northwestern region. At O Quy Ho Pass you can check out the beautiful countryside as you travel over and around mountains.

Y Ty: A few hour’s drive away from Sapa is Y Ty. This is a much more authentic place when it comes to experiencing the culture in Northern Vietnam. Here you can find a few homestays that will be able to sort you a bed. Located at over 2000 meters above sea level the temperature here is cooler year-round. This is where the minority Ha Ni people live and they cultivate many medicinal plants.

Ha Giang Loop: If you have some extra time and want to explore further up North, why not try the Ha Giang Loop? This is an epic adventure through the roads in Northern Vietnam and has been growing in popularity year after year!

Ha Long Bay: Another alternative is Ha Long Bay. This famous site is a must and one of the best things to do in Vietnam.

🚗 How I Book Cheap Transport In Vietnam: Baolau & 12.Go Asia

Map Of The Sapa Itinerary

Ultimate Travel Tips For 3 Days In Sapa Itinerary

So we can tick off organizing the Sapa itinerary, now let’s check out the top travel tips for your 3 days here.

I mean, of course, we want you to have an amazing time, where you can enjoy great weather, stay in the best accommodation, and scams to watch out for.

When Is The Best Time To Travel Sapa

Depending on the time of year you decide to book your Sapa adventures can really affect what you can do there, and how much you will enjoy your time overall.

I, unfortunately, didn’t do this research on this before visiting, and ended up there during the month of February. As a result, there was a constant fog, the temperature was below zero degrees Celsius and we had to buy more warm clothes as soon as we arrived in Sapa town.

Nevertheless, we made the most out of a bad situation.

December To February

This is the coldest part of the year and also the time I visited. Be aware many homestays don’t have heaters so make sure to bring warm clothes.

It can even get so cold that it can snow in Sapa! It isn’t super wet, though there is a constant fog around so things can feel quite moist.

March To April

This is a beautiful time to travel to Sapa. It is when the rice fields are the greenest and many flowers are in bloom.

This is one of the most popular times to be backpacking Sapa.

May To August

May to August is the wet season when it is known to rain. Though this is just for a few hours each day, so bring a rain jacket and some old shoes for trekking.

September To November

During these months, the rice harvest happens. As a result, you may not get those bright green rice fields that Sapa is so famous for as the rice paddies will be empty.

Though you will get a unique experience as you see the landscapes constantly being worked by the locals.

one of the lodges on the road to ta van
one of the lodges on the road to ta van

How To Get To Sapa

The gateway to Sapa is Hanoi so no doubt this will be your starting point. From here you will find a heap of transport options and I will give you a brief overview of each.

If you are interested in going more in-depth you can check out my Hanoi to Sapa travel guide.

I recommend booking your tickets over on Baolau or 12.Go Asia. These are platforms I have personally used in Southeast Asia and Vietnam. I prefer Baolau for trains and 12.Go Asia for buses.

Train: The train is a great and super comfortable way to travel. Though the main thing to be aware of is that the train arrives in Lao Cai, not Sapa. From Lao Cai, you will have to take another transport method for the last hour.

Bus: Taking the bus is great if you are on a budget. You will find plenty of sleeper buses from Hanoi to Sapa. This total journey takes around 6 hours which honestly isn’t too painful. I find anything over 8 hours really makes you question your life choices. Plus it is a direct journey so there is no need to stop in Lao Cai like the train.

Taxi: If you can afford to splurge a bit then you have the option of a private taxi. This is for sure the fastest and most comfortable way to travel from Hanoi to Sapa.

Mini Van: Taking the minivan is another great way to travel from Hanoi to Sapa. This is slightly a more expensive option than the bus, but some of these minivans are fancy AF. Like they are known as limousine vans. Think plush, lazy-boy-style seats.

Transport MethodTimeCostHighlightBook Your Tickets
Train8 hoursfrom $23Comfortable journeyBaolau
Luxury Train8 hoursfrom $30Super comfortable journeyBaolau
Bus6 hoursfrom $10The cheapest way to travel12.Go Asia
Tourist Bus6 hoursfrom $15Most comfortable bus option12.Go Asia
Taxi5 hoursfrom $200The fastest way to travel12.Go Asia
Mini Van5 hoursfrom $20A fast and affordable way to travel12.Go Asia
the rice terraces in sapa from above backpacking sapa
the rice terraces in sapa from above

Where To Stay While Backpacking Sapa?

When deciding on your accommodation in Sapa you will have plenty of choices. Most people, including myself, decide to split their time between a hotel in the township and a homestay out in nature.

Sapa town offers a variety of accommodations, ranging from budget-friendly guesthouses and hostels to luxurious new hotels. Bamboo Sapa Hotel is a fantastic choice, featuring an incredible pool and stunning valley vistas.

In terms of more budget options, I had a wonderful stay at Lustig Hostel. Here you can enjoy mountain chalet vibes at an affordable rate of just $4.00 per night.

I recommend also experiencing a homestay in Sapa, where you can live with a local family, enjoy their cuisine, and immerse yourself in the stunning countryside.

Homestays are generally more affordable than hotels in the town center, though they are simpler in amenities.

For hostels with dorms, Little Ta Van Homestay is a great option. The family is welcoming, and they have a couple of sweet cats and dogs for those in need of animal companionship. During our stay, we enjoyed cozy evenings by the fire, enjoying warm sugarcane with limited electricity, all of which added to the charm.

For a homestay with a touch of luxury, Sapa Riverside Eco Lodge and Spa offers private single rooms starting at $25.00 per night. This is an excellent choice for those who want the amenities and comforts of a hotel, surrounded by the natural beauty of the countryside.

Lustig Hostel

Lustig Hostel

A beautiful hostel with mountain vibes for backpackers. Dorms here start from $4.00 oer night.

Flaco Hostel Sapa

Flaco Hostel Sapa

Super affordable private rooms in an excellent location. Rooms start from $10.00 per night.

sapa clay house mountain retreat

Sapa Clay House Mountain Retreat

Beautiful private rooms from $82.00 per night and in an incredible location with a pool.

bamboo sapa hotel

Bamboo Sapa Hotel

A super modern and luxurious hotel, starting from $40.00 per night with an amazing pool.


How To Keep Safe Backpacking Sapa

Sapa is a pretty safe place for backpacking, though you will find many of the standard Vietnam scams. These are often to do with robbery and pickpocketing.

Some of the children in their traditional clothes may be thieves looking for an opportunity. One child may try to keep you occupied, while another will pickpocket you.

In Vietnam, motorbike snatch-and-grab theft is quite common. Thieves may spot an unsecured handbag, backpack, camera, or phone hanging off you and snatch it while riding by on their motorbikes.

Avoid drinking tap water. Most hotels and hostels offer water refill stations, and minimarts sell cheap bottled water.

The key is to use your common sense to stay out of dangerous situations. I wasn’t scammed or taken advantage of in Vietnam, thanks to thorough research and awareness of common tourist scams.

looking out over the mountains while on the 3 days in sapa itinerary
watching out over the mountains in sapa

Where To Go After The Sapa Itinerary?

North: There isn’t too much further North, but if you own a motorbike then you can explore more in-depth. However, if you are looking to tour the Ha Giang Loop with a group and have an easy rider these typically depart from Hanoi.

South: Alternatively, you will have plenty of options heading South to Hanoi and further beyond. If this sounds like you definitely look into train hopping down to Ho Chi Minh. There are some great places to explore along the way including the Imperial City of Hue, discovering the Hoi An old town, snorkeling In Nha Trang, spending sunrise at the sand dunes in Mui Ne, and exploring the tunnels outside of Ho Chi Minh.

FAQs About Sapa Itinerary 3 Days

Is Sapa too touristy?

As a popular tourist destination, Sapa can come off as quite touristy at times. Especially some parts such as Cat Cat Village where it may seem like it is all put on for visitors. I recommend going on a trekking tour to a more authentic village or booking a homestay experience.

How many days in Sapa is enough?

Honestly, the amount of days you spend in Sapa entirely depends on what you can do there and your travel style. However, for the typical traveler, I would recommend a minimum of 3 days in Sapa. This will give you enough time to explore the main town as well as some of the ethnic villages in the valley.

What is the best month to visit Sapa Vietnam?

The best time to visit Sapa is from September to November or March to May. During these months, the weather is pleasant with warm temperatures during the day and cool temperatures at night, making it comfortable for activities such as trekking.

Vietnam Sapa Itinerary: Wrap Up

Vietnam offers a truly unique and unforgettable experience. With stunning landscapes, vibrant ethnic cultures, and adventurous activities, it is no wonder that Sapa has become a popular destination.

From trekking through picturesque rice terraces to visiting local villages and markets, this Sapa itinerary won’t disappoint.

Any Questions? Let me know in the comments!


Find out the ideal 3 days in Sapa itinerary to ensure you have the ultimate time in Northern Vietnam. Let’s talk about the best things to do, restaurants, where to stay, and more for your three days backpacking Sapa!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. So, if you click on it and purchase something, I get a small percentage at no extra cost to you. As always all opinions are my own and your support is much appreciated.

Photo credit: “Vietnam-Sapa-Cat Cat Village-P1070359” (CC BY 2.0) by mmmngai.rogers. “Sapa Love Waterfall” (CC BY 2.0) by Guerette . “Sapa Silver Waterfall” (CC BY 2.0) by Gueretto .

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2 thoughts on “3 Days In Sapa Itinerary: The ULTIMATE Guide (2024)

  1. Avatar for Pete
    Pete says:

    Hi. Thank you for your informative article. May I ask if you experienced regional/territorial health/covid restriction traveling inside Vietnam? Thank you.

    • Avatar for Tasha Amy
      Tasha Amy says:

      Hey Pete, I traveled pre covid, but as far as I am aware the restrictions are relatively minimal and quite different to other southeast asian countries as mask-wearing isn’t enforced. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help :) I have recently been watching Paddy Doyle on Youtube who has been traveling the entirety of the country and he did speak on how relaxed covid measures are in the country

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