Encounter Vietnam’s Tribal Peoples and Explore Lively Markets


A former French hill station set at a cool 5,000 feet, Sapa is a center for Vietnam’s tribal peoples. The town’s lively market is full of street vendors, open-air eateries, and a mix of ethnic peoples from many regions. Vietnam’s mountain population is largely tribal, including Hmong, Dao, Tay, Thai, and many others. The ethnic Hmong, who migrated from China, include several subgroups—the Black, White, Red, Green, and Flower Hmong—differentiated by their elaborate styles of dress and hats.

There are markets on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. All markets are frequented by the hilltribe people. However, some are more accessible than others, which means they are more touristed. Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday markets are close to the road, so no hiking is required to reach them. The Tuesday market at Coc Ly, however, is more remote and requires a 1.5-hour hike to reach it.

Below is a sample itinerary starting on Monday. This itinerary is best suited for people who enjoy hiking. If you would prefer an easier tour, we can arrange this extension for other days of the week. We also offer a 4 night/5 day extension that includes two nights at the Victoria Sapa Hotel. Please call us for the details.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1
Hanoi / Lao Cai

From Hanoi, transfer to the station for the evening train to Lao Cai, with an overnight in air-conditioned sleeper compartments with a shared bathroom. The total rail journey is about 10 hours...meals on own

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Day 2
Lao Cai / Market / Sapa

Arrive in Lao Cai in the early morning and transfer to a local hotel for breakfast and a chance to freshen up. Afterwards, drive via Sapa to the weekly tribal market to see the Black Hmong, Flower Hmong, and Tay tribes in traditional dress. After your visit, take a boat ride to Na Nen village, where members of the Flower Hmong minority reside, then hike along the river to Trung Do village, where the Tay people live in houses built on stilts. On a riverboat ride, you can experience the magnificent sight of the beautiful mountains and bustling life along the riverbank. Continue to Sapa, a former French hill station set at a cool 5,000 feet and a center for Vietnam’s tribal peoples...BL

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Day 3
Sapa / Overnight Train to Hanoi

From Sapa, hike down terraced rice fields (or drive) to Lao Chai. Along the way, enjoy views of the valley and the surrounding mountains, and meet people from many ethnic groups, including the friendly Hmong, Zay, and Red Dao. Continue to a Black Hmong village, followed by a visit to Ta Van village, where the Zay hilltribes live. After a picnic lunch, take a scenic hike through bamboo forest to Giang Ta Chai hilltribe village, where the Red Dao live. Please note that this itinerary is flexible and those who don’t wish to hike will be transferred between villages by vehicle. Transfer back to Sapa and on to the hotel near the train station to freshen up before taking the overnight train back to Hanoi...BL

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Day 4
Arrive Hanoi / Begin Day 1 of the Vietnam and Cambodia Private Journey

Arrive at the Hanoi Train Station in the early morning, transfer to hotel where early check-in has been arranged, and begin Day 1 of the Vietnam and Cambodia Private Journey...B


Length: 4 days
Cost From: $1040  
Arrive: Hanoi, Vietnam
Depart: Hanoi, Vietnam
Lodging: 2 nights aboard train, 1 night hotel (first class and deluxe hotel and train options)
Meals: Meals as indicated (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Hiking / Trekking, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level:

Hiking and cultural exploration

Visa Requirements

A visa is required for U.S. citizens visiting Vietnam. Your visa must be obtained prior to arrival.