Real Sapa Trek & Homestay | 2 or 3 Days | from HANOI, VIETNAM

(16 customer reviews)


  • Incredible 2-Day Trek in Sapa with 1-Night Homestay.
  • Local Ethnic Minority Guide (Red Dzao or Hmong) for a True Insider Experience.
  • Off The Beaten Track, Non-Touristic Trails!
  • Includes: 2 X Overnight Train Journeys from Hanoi + All Food + Homestay Accommodation + Cooking Class + Foot Massage.
  • Read the article about this trek here.
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The Real Sapa Experience is organised by true Sapa experts. (Please check the TripAdvisor reviews!) This 2-day, 3-night trek is 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 – 2 Days, 3 Nights

  • START – DAY 1: Hanoi 6.30pm. (This is the start date you should choose above.)
  • FINISH – DAY 4: Hanoi 6.00am.


On Day 1, you will depart from Hanoi, by overnight sleeper train to Sapa. The group will meet at the Friends Travel  Vietnam Office – 62 Hang Buom Street – in the Old Quarter at 6:30 pm for introductions and information about your upcoming adventure! If you have a big rucksack and you don’t want to take it with you, you can store your luggage safely at the office whilst you are in Sapa.

You will meet again at 8.30 pm to set off to the train station. You will be led to your cabin on the sleeper train, which is a soft 4-berth sleeper cabin. You’ll find the experience comfortable, clean and very enjoyable! You’ll get your own bedding and bottle of water and the sleeper train is air-con with Western-style toilets. You can buy food and drinks on the train. The train departs between 9.40 pm and 10 pm.

  • Sleeper train included.


After arriving at Lao Cai Train Station in the early morning at 6 am, you will be met by your driver (who will have a sign with your name on it) who will take you to Sapa Town by bus. The journey takes around one hour. When you arrive at the hotel, you can take a shower and enjoy a delicious breakfast on the top floor of the hotel with beautiful views of Sapa town and the Muong Hoa valley. After that, you will meet your local guide at Sapa Eden Hotel at 7.30 am.

Your tour guide for the trek will be from the ethnic minority Hmong or Red Dzao. Nobody knows this land better than Sapa’s indigenous tribal people, so who better to guide you through the lush terraced rice fields and small villages?

As you explore Sapa, you’ll encounter many of Sapa’s diverse groups, such as the Dzay, Dzao, Tay, Xa Pho and Hmong. You’ll discover more about their unique culture as you pass through each village, passing by rice fields and buffalo tracks on the route less travelled!

In the evening, you’ll help to prepare (and then eat!) a traditional Vietnamese meal with a local family. And, after all that trekking, you’ll enjoy a 30-minute foot massage treat!

You spend the night at our local homestay with the family. The accommodation is mixed-gender basic dormitory style with mattresses on the floor. Clean and comfortable, with bedding and mosquito nets provided, western toilet and shower. This is the local way of sleeping and we think you’ll find it surprisingly cosy!

  • Trekking Route: 17km (Loi Cai – Sapa – Cat Cat – Y Linh Ho – Lao Chai.)
  • Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. (Vegetarian food available.)
  • Homestay accommodation included.


After a traditional breakfast, you’ll leave the homestay and continue trekking to visit the ethnic minorities of Giang Ta Chai village. On your walk today, you will pass through a bamboo forest, beautiful mountain scenery and a waterfall. The trail is quite steep today and can be a bit challenging! (Those with moderate levels of fitness should be fine.)

You’ll continue your journey along the small paths that skirt the rice fields, cross the Muong Hoa River and stop for lunch in a picturesque spot! After lunch, your group will slowly make your way back to Sapa town arriving around 4 pm.

You’ll then have time to explore Sapa Town at your own pace. There’s the opportunity to shower if you like and dinner will be offered at 6 pm at the hotel. After dinner, the driver will pick you up at the hotel ready for your train, which departs between 9-10pm.

  • Trekking Route: 12km (Lao Chai – Giang Ta Chai – Sapa.)
  • Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. (Vegetarian food available.)
  • Sleeper train included.


You’ll arrive back in Hanoi very early, between 4.45 am and 5.30 am. You are required to find your way back to the Friends Travel Vietnam office by yourself, pick up not included. The office opens at 6 am and here, a lovely breakfast, coffee and a refreshing shower will be waiting for you! The team will be happy to help you with further tours or ongoing transport.

Want an extra day in Sapa?

Do you want to stay longer in Sapa? You may want to add another day’s trekking onto 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. (+ $55 US)
  • Extra Option 2: One more night’s homestay in Sapa, with a free day to explore by yourself on the third day. Breakfast included. (+ $35 US)
  • 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 hilltribe 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. 

Practical Info

What’s Included in the Real Sapa Experience?

  • Meals (3 x breakfasts, 2 x lunches, 2 x dinners) – Vietnamese Cuisine
  • Trekking tour – 2 days
  • Local homestay accommodation
  • Train tickets (2 ways soft sleeper, 4-person berth)
  • English speaking ethnic-minority guide
  • Cooking class with local family
  • 30 min foot massage
  • Trekking shoes & gear, if needed
  • All transfers
  • All entry fees

What’s NOT Included in the Real Sapa Experience?

  • Alcoholic drinks (available to purchase)
  • Tips
  • Personal expenses
  • Travel insurance

What should you pack for the Real Sapa Experience?

Most travellers carry their luggage in a day backpack, though an overnight bag with a shoulder strap is okay if you are travelling light. Backpacks with wheels are not convenient.

  • Day backpack: You will need a day pack/bag to carry water and personal belongings.
  • Shoes: Comfortable walking shoes/boots with a good grip. Sandals/flip-flops for the evening. Rubber flip-flops for the shower.
  • Hiking poles/walking sticks if you like.
  • Trekking socks.
  • Camera/mobile phone. Plus spare batteries/charger/camera bag.
    Personal items: Toiletries.
  • Personal Health: Mini first aid kit, personal medication, sunscreen (high factor), lip protection, hat, sunglasses, insect repellant, anti-histamine, insect bit cream, hand sanitiser, anti-bacterial gel/wipes, motion sickness tablets, after-sun, paracetamol, dehydration powder (salts & glucose), diarrhoea pills.

This packing list is based on feedback from previous travellers. Please use it as a guide only.

When is the best time to trek in Sapa?

Sapa has four distinct seasons:

  • March-June = Spring. One of the best times to trek in Sapa with cool, sunny days and plants and flowers starting to bloom. You can see ethnic minorities planting rice at this time.
  • July-August = Summer / Rainy Season. With downpours in the afternoon, you can still trek in Sapa during the rainy season, you just need to bring a rain jacket. At this time you’ll see lush rice fields and rainbows and you may experience four seasons in a day.
  • September – November = Autumn. Another great time of year to trek when the rice reaches its harvest and the terraces are lush and green.
  • December – February = Winter. Temperatures can reach below zero at night during winter in Sapa, but if you’re willing to brave the cold, the landscape is astonishingly beautiful with a touch of frost on the mountains.

Can you do the Real Sapa Experience all year round?

Yes! You can trek in Sapa all year round, depending you have the right gear. If you’re unsure about what to pack, please ask us for advice depending on the season.

Winter – If you are trekking in Sapa during late December to February, you will need to bring warm clothing. Woollen hat, gloves, scarf, thermal underwear or several layers, jumper, fleece, woollen socks, boots.

Wet Season – If you are trekking in Sapa during the rainy season, May to September, you will need a rain jacket, waterproof bags for keeping your belongings and waterproof trousers.

Should you tip your guide, porter, trekking crew?

Tipping is at your own discretion and Friends Travel Vietnam would like to stress that they pay our guides well and they do not rely on the tips from tourists in order to earn their living.

However, with the influx of tourism to Sapa, and the different nationalities who come to Sapa to trek, in particular, those nations for whom tips are the norm, tips are becoming more and more expected.

If you feel like you have experienced excellent service from your guide and trekking crew then a tip is an accepted form of saying ‘thank you’ – no doubt it will be greatly appreciated.

Sometimes, you may find that giving a tip is difficult as in Vietnamese culture, it’s common for people to get embarrassed when being thanked or praised. One idea is to gently put the tip in someone’s pocket and walk away giving them a nice surprise!

How much should you tip?

We suggest that you tip 50,000 VND – 100,000 VND per person ($2-5 US). This is based on suggestions, local considerations and feedback for a 2-day, 1-night trek.

Refund Policy

  • In order to book this experience, you will need to pay a deposit online via South East Asia Backpacker.
  • This deposit is fully refundable if you wish to cancel up until 48 hours before the start of the activity.
  • For cancellations made fewer than 48 hours before the start of the activity there is no refund available.
  • You can request a change of date at any time, free of additional charges.
  • Date changes are entirely down to the availability of the operator and nothing to do with South East Asia Backpacker. 
  • If your date change is not agreed, as long as it is within 48 hours of the start date you originally made your booking for, your deposit can be refunded in full if you wish to cancel.
  • The remaining payment for the experience is payable directly to the operator.
  • The operator can request the remaining payment via an online payment link or upon arrival at the destination.
  • The refund of the second payment, which goes directly to the operator, is based on the terms and conditions of the operator, over which South East Asia Backpacker have no control.
  • Please see our customer terms and conditions for more information.


Friends Travel Vietnam

The South East Asia Backpacker Community have tried and tested adventures across the region and handpicked a selection of only the BEST companies to work with.

Why we chose Friends Travel Vietnam?

We chose Friends Travel Vietnam because they provide experiences beyond the norm. Their trips take you off the beaten track, away from the tourist crowds and their respect for local cultures and the environment can be 100% relied on. The owners Sidney (Dutch) & Thao (Vietnamese) his wife and their team do everything they can to make sure that travellers (since 2013) have the best experience possible and we consistently hear glowing reports. Here are some reasons why we love Friends Travel Vietnam and why we think you will too:

  • They think small – They take the care and attention to ensure that even the smallest of details is well thought out.
  • They think local – They go to great lengths to ensure that the encounter between the traveller and the local community is beneficial to all.
  • They think about the planet – An aspect of travel which is often sadly overlooked. Friends Travel Vietnam ensure that the tours they organise have a positive effect on the planet.
  • They only provide tours that they would truly like to go on themselves – This carries through every aspect of the tour, the guide, the accommodation, the transport, food etc. Everything has to meet the high standards that the company themselves would demand when travelling.
  • They are honest – This can refer to a number of situations. For instance, if bad weather is expected during the time that a customer has booked a tour, Friends Travel will inform them of this and make suggestions as to the ideal clothes for them to bring with them. Sometimes the accommodation provided on a certain tour is basic, in a shared room, or simple mattresses on the floor. In each of these situations, the accommodation will be good and highly appropriate for the trip in question. However, it is very important that the traveller knows what to expect.
  • They only offer a small collection of tours, but they are awesome – Here at South East Asia Backpacker we are guided too by this exact philosophy. There is too much choice in this world of travel. Both we and Friends Travel Vietnam believe that by offering only the very best activities and doing them as well as humanly possible, we can ensure an amazing experience for the traveller.
  • Their support continues after the tour – When you come to the end of your time with Friends Travel, they will be very happy to help you with the next stage of your journey, whatever you may need!

16 reviews for Real Sapa Trek & Homestay | 2 or 3 Days | from HANOI, VIETNAM

  1. Connor

    Our Real Sapa Trek & Homestay experience was fantastic and Friends Travel Vietnam made the whole tour experience wonderful. They answered any of our questions, added small touches like goodie bags for the overnight train and gave us great recommendations for dinner in Hanoi before we left. Our trekking guide was knowledgeable and along with some other local women dragged us up the steep tricky sections of the climb as the track was muddy following all the rain. The foot massage after the first day trekking was a treat and revitalised tired feet. We loved our time in Sapa and would recommend booking tours through Friends Travel Vietnam!

  2. Finn

    Friends Travel Vietnam were amazing and made everything extremely easy, as well adding great complimentary touches making our trip even more comfortable. Would definitely recommend booking through them. The trek itself was incredible, had a fantastic guide. Everything felt very authentic and real, homestay was very memorable. Trek was decently challenging which we really loved – wasn’t simply an easy stroll. Was a great experience.

  3. Mari Soerung

    We had a wonderful time during our two days trekking in the Sapa area. Our guide was a lovely woman, and we walked through the beautiful nature for hours before we arrived at our homestay. It was a nice place to spend the night, with good food and a hospitable family. Super happy with the agency, their connections and how organized they seemed.

  4. Emily

    The experience was incredible. Our guide was a local and spoke very good English. She spent extra time telling us about the local village and what life for her is like. The landscape is beautiful. Would definitely recommend Sapa and Friends Travel Vietnam to anyone traveling to Vietnam!

  5. Jonas

    We had an amazing time in Sapa! The organization was excellent and very smooth. The trip was truly local and we almost didn’t meet any other groups on our trip! We had a very kind and nice guide who shared a lot about her culture and the daily life of farmers in Sapa. Be prepared for tough hikes and wear appropriate shoes (I did the mistake not to). Don’t expect a luxurious stay but a very authentic and adventurous experience that puts things that we see as self-understanding into perspective. I would always book again with Friends Travel Vietnam.

  6. Carly

    Absolutely phenomenal! Thank you, Friends Travel, for creating such an amazing, authentic experience! Their office staff are so helpful and generous. And many more thanks to Su May for opening her home to us and leading us through the beautiful countryside. She was a wonderful guide and host, giving us such incredible insight into her life and the lives of other ethnic groups in the region. The food was excellent, and she made sure to have plenty of vegetarian options. Much appreciated! We were sad to part with her at the end of our trek. Our two fellow travelers from Germany were wonderful too!
    And it truly was off the beaten track. As others have noted, we crossed paths with only a few tourists over the two days of trekking. Even with heavy fog both days, the scenery we did glimpse was absolutely stunning, especially during the few moments of clearing. Don’t let fear of bad weather stop you – I actually thought the fog created a wicked cool atmosphere, with the sounds of people working in the terraces and water buffalo grazing amongst the bamboo in the hillside above you coming from just out of sight.

  7. Claudia Patricio

    It was a very, very nice experience this trekking. The team at Friends Travel were excellent and our local guide was amazing. Although the weather was not so good we still had a great time. It was worth it every minute and everything. Totally recomend this tour.

  8. Mark Bullen

    A truly magical and unforgettable experience. The Real Sapa tour was the highlight of our travels, everything from start to finished with 100% professionalism and yet we still felt almost like family. Our guide was from one of the surrounding villages and lived and worked on the rice terraces, she took us to places we would never have seen with other tours in fact on day 2 we didnt see a single other tourist. I cant recommend this experience highly enough, if you want to see the Real Sapa this is the one for you!

  9. Hannah Hale

    This trip was so well put together, and has a personalised feel to it despite the numbers that trust Friends Travel as their tour operator. The tour guide was phenomenal and we were very sad to part ways after our 3 days with her, she made us feel completely at home. The knowledge of the local area that she had meant we could head off the beaten track. The views of the rice paddies below are unforgettable, and the food we had throughout was delicious and wholesome, and catered for my veggie needs despite it being uncommon. We were slightly hesitant to visit Sapa as we heard it was very touristy but were so glad we went through with booking this tour!

  10. Rosie

    Wow…what an incredible trip! Friends Travel Vietnam have absolutely nailed this. From the moment we started the tour we knew we were in for a treat. The team have got the winning formula for a memorable and simply unforgettable Sapa experience. From luxury travel to an authentic homestay and incredibly warm and knowledgable local guide we could not have asked for more. I highly recommend this tour to others looking for a real and authentic Sapa experience – we only saw three tourists over the whole trek!

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