Established as a hill station by the French in 1922, Sapa today is the tourism centre of the northwest. Sapa is orientated to make the most of the spectacular views emerging on clear days; overlooking a plunging valley, with mountains towering above on all sides. Views of this epic scenery are often subdued by thick mist rolling across the peaks, but even when it's cloudy, local hill-tribe people fill the town with colour.
If you were expecting a quaint alpine town, recalibrate your expectations. Modern tourism development has mushroomed haphazardly. Thanks to rarely enforced building height restrictions, Sapa's skyline is continually thrusting upwards.
But you're not here to hang out in town. This is northern Vietnam's premier trekking base from where hikers launch themselves into a surrounding countryside of cascading rice terraces and tiny hill-tribe villages that seem a world apart. Once you've stepped out into the lush fields, you'll understand the Sapa area's real charm.
-- Credit: "Lonely Planet"