The Real Sapa Experience is organised by true Sapa experts. (Please read the reviews!) This 2-day, 3-night trek is the perfect itinerary for travellers to experience the very best of Sapa – without the tourist crowds! From start to finish, this will become a memorable experience that you carry with you for the rest of your life!
Overview of the Real Sapa Experience
After a comfortable overnight train ride from Hanoi, you will arrive at your destination of Sapa, “The Tonkinese Alps”. Sapa town is a colourful place, brought to life by the unique culture of the H’mong and Dzao tribal people.
You will be met by your local ethnic minority guide, who will lead you through the incredible landscapes that Sapa has to offer. From the luscious green of the region’s emblematic rice terraces to the rustic charm of the native dwellings, belonging to Dzay, Dzao, Tay, Xa Pho and H’Mong people – Sapa never fails to capture the imagination!
Over the course of your adventure, you’ll experience culture, breathtaking scenery and unique local cultures. This trek does not follow the same trails as the other tour groups. On this trek, you will hike the less trodden, non-touristic routes that skirt alongside the rice paddy fields and buffalo tracks. On the Real Sapa Experience, you’ll also enjoy a bonus cooking class and a 30-minute, well-deserved (by that point) herbal foot massage!
Itinerary – Real Sapa Experience – 4 Days, 3 Nights – Sleeper Bus Option
- START – DAY 1: Hanoi 6.30pm. (This is the start date you should choose above.)
- FINISH – DAY 4: Hanoi 6.00am.
DAY 1 # HANOI TO SAPA – OVERNIGHT SLEEPER BUS
Tonight we are departing from Hanoi, by overnight sleeper bus. You will have a Meet & greet at 62 Hang Buom Street before 5:30 PM for instructions about your Sapa trekking. You will be required to go to the bus meeting point yourself at the required departing time we explain to you clearly. It’s possible to leave & store your luggage not needed for your Sapa trekking at our office and before your departure.
You can use our lounge area to refresh yourself before 06:00 PM. You will receive from us a bus voucher for your bus tickets from Hanoi to Sapa and return. The sleeper bus throughout Vietnam are quite comfortable and an experience on their own. Each of you will have your own bunk bed. All bedding is provided. The bus is air-conditioned and has Western-style toilets your luggage can be stored under the bus. Food and drinks are not available for purchase on the bus. The bus might stop on the way.
Meet & Greet tour instructions
Meeting Point Bus departure
Where: Friends Travel Vietnam Office
Where: 18C Hang Voi Str, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
62 Hang Buom Street, Hanoi Vietnam
9.15 PM present to exchange vouchers
Time: before 6:30 PM
Departing Time: 10 PM
DAY 2 # TREKKING – LAO CAI – SAPA – CAT CAT – Y LINH HO – LAO CHAI
Route 1st Day trekking: Sapa – Y Linh Ho – Lao Chai, unique route non-touristic mountain area & on the rice paddy fields and buffalo tracks, 17KM+/-
Enjoy a very warm welcome at our hotel. After breakfast and a refreshing shower, our local Hmong or Red Dzao tour guide will be waiting for you. They will guide you through this stunning piece of Vietnam. From the lush terraced rice paddies to the rustic charm of the native dwellings, Sapa is a place you’re sure to fall in love with!
Many diverse groups like the Dzay, Dzao, Tay, Xa Pho or Hmong populate this richly cultural northern territory. You’ll sample their unique delights as you pass through each village where we trek on the rice paddy fields and buffalo tracks on a less-non touristic unique. Traditional meals with a local family. Cook & prepare the food with the family in the traditional way and enjoy a 30-min foot massage.
Overnight at our local homestay with the family, the accommodation for the evening is clean, basic bedding and mosquito nets are provided, western toilet & shower. It’s a great place to be! You will sleep on mattresses on the floor in a mixed-gender dormitory-style. There are a few better ways to understand a country and its people.
DAY 3 # LAO CHAI – GIANG TA CHAI – SAPA
Route 2nd Day trekking: Lao Chai – Giang Ta Chai – Sapa, a unique non-touristic route on the rice paddy fields and buffalo tracks, 12KM+/-
On day 3, after a traditional breakfast, we leave the homestay and continue our trek to visit the minorities in Giang Ta Chai village. We pass bamboo forest and stunning scenery and a lovely waterfall along our route. The terrain can be steep at times and slightly challenging.
However, passengers with a moderate fitness level should be fine. Our journey leads us along the small paths edging the rice fields, cross the Muong Hoa River and lunch will be on the way at a fantastic spot. We’ll head back after our second amazing trekking in the afternoon where we enjoy our lunch before slowly heading back to Sapa town, we arrive around +/-4PM.
You have free time to discover Sapa town on your own if you like, shower service is available and dinner will be offered around 6 PM at our hotel.
Your sleeper bus is departing between 9-10 PM at the bus station for your departure to Hanoi. Please note to present at the registration desk of the bus company before 9 PM it will take you +/- 20 min walk from our hotel. Taxi service upon your request (not included)
DAY 4 # SAPA – HANOI
Arriving back at Hanoi, arrival times are early, between 3 and 3:30 AM, it might be possible to stay at the appointed recommendations till 6 AM. Our office is open at 6 AM, where a lovely breakfast, coffee and a refreshing shower are waiting for you.
It’s possible to get a direct connection for tours to Halong Bay the departure times are around +/-7:30AM & 8 AM.
Itinerary – Real Sapa Experience – 4 Days, 3 Nights – Sleeper Train Option
- START – DAY 1: Hanoi 5.30pm. (This is the start date you should choose above.)
- FINISH – DAY 4: Hanoi 6.00am.
The information below is intended to assist you to have a clear view in expectations as you consider your travel options for Vietnam with us. In addition to the detailed itinerary each tour has been supported with some useful information to provide you with an overview of your accommodation & meals, all things money, passports, visas, vaccinations, insurance, clothing, personal equipment and much more to help you with your travel preparations.
Day 1 : Day 01: Hanoi – Sapa (Lai Cai) by Sleeper Train
12:00 AM – 05:30 PM: Tonight we are departing from Hanoi, by overnight sleeper train. You will have a Meet & Greet today at our office between 12:00 PM and before 17:30 PM for instructions about your Sapa trekking. It’s possible to leave & store your luggage not needed for your Sapa trekking at our office and before your departure. You can use our lounge area to refresh yourself or repack and organize your stuff for your adventure. You will receive from us a train ticket or voucher for Hanoi to Sapa and return and we discuss the pickup location for your train departure for tonight. You will have leisure time to wander around Hanoi’s Old Quarter and arrange your dinner yourself.
21:00 PM: Our guide & driver will pick you up at our discussed meeting point for your train departure, we will guide you to the train station all the way to your cabin, you will be required to be on time at the discussed meeting point.
22:00 PM: The sleeper trains throughout Vietnam are quite comfortable and an experience on their own. We booked a shared tourist class berth in a 4-berth cabin, each of you will have your own sleeper berth. All bedding is provided. The sleeper train is air-conditioned and has Western-style toilets, your luggage can be stored under the berth. Though restaurant carriage is not available, food and drinks are not available for purchase. Each carriage also includes one toilet at the end.
Overnight sleeper train
Includes: guide, transfer, train tickets and entrance fees.
Day 2 : Day 2: Lao Cai – Sapa – Cat Cat – Y Linh Ho – Lao Chai (B, L, D)
06:00 AM: After arriving at Lao Cai train station in the early morning, our driver is waiting for you with a signboard with your name on it and will pick you up from Lao Cai train station for a +/- 1-hour drive to Sapa town by car or bus. We will drive you to our hotel as the meeting point.
07:00 AM: On arrival at our hotel you’ll be offered a refreshing shower and enjoy breakfast on with stunning views of Sapa town and the Muong Hoa valley.
08:30 AM: Our local Hmong or Red Dzao tour guide is happy to meet you and will introduce her/himself, who will guide you the next days through this stunning piece of Vietnam. From the lush terraced rice paddies to the rustic charm of the native dwellings, Sapa is a place you’re sure to fall in love with!
Many diverse groups like the Dzay, Dzao, Tay, Xa Pho or Hmong populate this richly cultural northern territory. You’ll sample their unique delights as you pass through each village where we trek on the rice paddy fields and buffalo tracks on a less-non-tourist unique.
12:00 AM: Traditional lunch with a local family, our guide will explain how local life is around here the get a deeper understanding.
13:00 PM: Continue trekking to our homestay.
16:00 PM: After a beautiful day of trekking & adventure in the mountains of Sapa we reach our homestay where the family is waiting for you with a refreshing drink. Here we will experience local life and get deeper into the details of the minority families living here. Our local host is happy to get your bearings around the homestay, showing the rooms where we sleep that night and will invite you later that afternoon to assist with local cooking. We think you are ready for a refreshing shower after an interesting day like this, for sure you have earned your rest after such a challenging day of trekking to enjoy the breathtaking scenery
Overnight at our local homestay with the family, the accommodation for the evening is clean, basic bedding and mosquito nets are provided, western toilet & shower, just a great place to be with ways to better understand a country and its people.
18:00 PM: Prepare & assist local traditional meals with the family as a small cooking class
19:00 PM: Traditional dinner with a local family
20:30 PM: For sure you going to love this, 30 min foot massage with a herbal foot bath.
Route: Lai Cai – Sapa – Cat Cat – Y Linh Ho – Lao Chai
Scenery: Mountains area
Duration trekking: 6 – 7 hours
Length trekking: 17 KM +/-
Accommodation: Homestay shared with the group
Overnight local homestay
Includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, cooking class, transfer, English speaking guide and entrance fees.
Overnight at our local homestay with the family, the accommodation for the evening is clean, basic bedding and mosquito nets are provided, western toilet & shower, are just a great place to be. You will sleep in a private room or on mattresses on the floor in a mixed-gender dormitory style and there are few ways to better understand a country and its people.
Day 3 : Day 3: Lao Chai – Giang Ta Chai – Sapa (B, L, D)
07:30 AM: Breakfast
08:30 AM: Time to say goodbye to our family and we leave the homestay and continue our trek to visit the minorities in Giang Ta Chai village. We pass bamboo forest and stunning scenery and a lovely waterfall along our route. The terrain can be steep at times and slightly challenging. However, passengers with a moderate fitness level should be fine. Our journey leads us along the small paths edging the rice fields, cross the Muong Hoa River
12:00 AM: Lunch will be on the way to a fantastic spot.
13:00 PM: We’ll head back after our second amazing trekking in the afternoon where we enjoy our lunch before slowly heading back to Sapa town.
16:00 PM: Arrive in Sapa Town at our hotel, time to say goodbye to your guide as memories are made. Our team at the hotel will help you to get your bearings and shower service is available and dinner will be offered later today. Leisure time to discover Sapa town on your own if you like.
17:30 PM: Dinner served.
18:45 PM: Our driver will pick you up from our hotel, it’s +/- 1-hour drive to Lao Cai station
20:00 PM: Arrive at Lai Cai Train Station, please present at the registration desk to exchange your train voucher for a train ticket.
21:30 PM: Departing sleeper train. We booked a shared tourist class berth in a 4-berth cabin, each of you will have your own sleeper berth. All bedding is provided. The sleeper train is air-conditioned and has Western-style toilets, your luggage can be stored under the berth. Though restaurant carriage is not available, food and drinks are not available for purchase. Each carriage also includes one toilet at the end.
Route: Lai Cai – Sapa – Cat Cat – Y Linh Ho – Lao Chai
Scenery: Mountains area
Duration trekking: 4 – 5 hours
Length trekking: 12 KM +/-
Accommodation: Sleeper Train
Overnight in Sleeper Train
Including breakfast, lunch, dinner, train ticket, English speaking guide and entrance fees.
Day 4 : Day 04: Sapa (Lai Cai) – Hanoi
04:45 AM – 05:30 AM: Arriving back at Hanoi, arrival times are early depending on your train booking, You will be required to find your way back to our office yourself, pick up service not included.
06:00 AM: Our office is open at 6 AM, where a lovely breakfast, hot coffee or our famous iced coffee and a refreshing shower are waiting for you and you can use our lounge waiting area. Included: Breakfast, shower service, waiting lounge, free laundry
Want an extra day in Sapa?
Do you want to stay longer in Sapa? You may want to add another day’s trekking to your trip in Sapa. Or, you may just want a day to relax in Sapa Town and explore the area at your own pace. Or perhaps, you want to add on an Easy Rider adventure! There are several options to extend your Sapa adventure. Choose one of the additional options when you book or contact us if you would like us to personally adapt your trip.
- Extra Option 1: One more night’s homestay in Sapa, with extra day trekking. All meals included.
- Extra Option 2: One more night’s homestay in Sapa, with a free day to explore by yourself on the third day. Breakfast included.
- Extra Option 3: An Easy Rider Adventure Tour! Explore the local countryside around Sapa with an experienced local motorbike rider from a local ethnic minority hill tribe community. Ride pillion (on the back) and take in the amazing mountain vistas. These guys know the area like nobody else! In the evening, spend the night at a local homestay in the countryside. All meals included. (+$95 US)
Solo Travellers, Families & Dietary Requirements
- Solo travellers – There is no extra cost when you book this trek as a solo traveller. Solo travellers will be joined with a group if there is a group trek already running that day. If not, the tour will still run with one person with no extra fee!
- Families with children – We are very happy to arrange a trek for you and your family. However, due to the difficulty level of the trek, children under 9 years are not advised to join the Sapa trek.
- Dietary requirements – Are you vegetarian, vegan or have an allergy? Please let us know when booking if you have any special dietary requirements and we will try our best to accommodate.
We did a 2 day/1 night trek with our guide Su May.
We had the best time! Su May was very knowledgeable, we learnt a lot about the villages and their culture and lifestyles along our trek. The landscape is beautiful and the trekking on each day was not too difficult. We had beautiful weather (October), with no rain, lots of sun but not too hot for a full day of walking.
Su May and her family were very welcoming during our home stay, and cooked us a delicious dinner and breakfast.
Would recommend this trek and our guide!
Came across the site for a trekking trip in Sapa with the borders opening up. Signed up for a 2 days 1 night trip with local homestay. The trekking was adventurous as we trekked across rice terraces, on slopes and across rocks. The views are spectacular despite the seasons being a foggy. Needless to say, the tour guides were amazing and displayed great hospitality! Definitely recommend this experience 🙂
Jonathan Wilkes –
This experience was absolutely excellent. Friends Travel organised everything very well and also helped us arrange onward travel following our return to Hanoi. Our local guide around Sapa, Ping, was brilliant. She took the time to explain local customs and answer any questions that we had. The homestay family were extremely friendly and looked after all of us very well. I would definitely recommend this experience.
Overall great experience – beautiful, solid trekking, great guide, comfortable accommodations the whole way. As mentioned in an earlier review, we did get very pressured to buy items by a few local women who hiked part way with us on the first day. Understandable, but very uncomfortable and caught me off guard in the moment. Also, it felt like we were shuffled between many different chaperones with lots of time between each one on the trip back to Hanoi. I would still recommend booking with Friends Travel Vietnam – worth the money.
Fantastic trip. Enjoyed Sapa valley in mid/late November. Although Rice is long harvested by that time, nature and view are hauntingly beautiful.
The friends travel team was super helpful and reliable in answering all of our questions. Once arrived at Sapa we met our super welcoming and knowledgeable guide Chu who took us through fantastic paths with wonderful views into the valley over the two days.
Thank you for everything – wonderful trip!!
Great tour – pricey but recommended.
Our guide was fabulous, the honesty equally good. Food served very food too. Everything was very well organised.
The only thing I don’t quite understand (henxe 4 stars not 5) is why get some people on the overnight train where you hardly sleep and that takes 8 hours where the bus takes 4 and gets you to sleep in a proper bed (esp ahead of trekking 12 kms in the Vietnamese mountains).
Our three days trekking couldn’t have been better. Ping our guide knew everything there is to know about the area, she was keen to answer questions but also not imposing if we wanted to enjoy the amazing views and nature. We could not finish the amount of food provided for every meal and it was delicious! The two homestays were a fantastic experience, chickens and cows and all! The transport, timing and facilities of friends travel was impeccable, everything was planned to a t. I would recommend friends travel in a heartbeat…we hope to be back in the future.
Amazing experience and incredible views.
Knowledgeable and friendly guide. Homestay gave an authentic taste of Vietnamese life. Professional logistics. Vegetarian options made available. Appreciated the showers at the office and Eden Hotel in Sapa. Dinner at the hotel was also good.
Some hard, persistent selling from locals who walked part of the way could make for uncomfortable moments.
Overall, very happy with the service provided by Friends Travel Vietnam.