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.

You can visit different markets on different days of the week. All markets are frequented by the hilltribe people. The Bac Ha Sunday market is the largest market in the area and easily accessible, while the Coc Ly Tuesday market is more remote and requires a 1.5-hour hike to reach it.

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. The total rail journey is about 10 hours...meals on own

 View Lodging
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 Coc Ly 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

Please note: depending on the day, the market may change.

 View Lodging
Day 3
Sapa / Lao Chai and Ta Van villages

From Sapa, a short drive brings you into the Muong Hoa valley, home to the largest terraced rice fields in Vietnam. You'll walk from Lao Chai village of the Black Hmong community, followed by a visit to Ta Van village, where the Zay hilltribes live. Return to the hotel in the afternoon with the rest of the day at leisure...B

 View Lodging
Day 4
Sapa / Cat Cat and Y Linh Ho villages / Overnight Train

Today you have the option to walk from the hotel to the nearby Cat Cat village, or you can ride in the vehicle. A leisurely walk through the village offers a great introduction to the traditional customs of the villagers. You can stop by a stunning waterfall (a great photo opportunity) before making your way to the Y Linh Ho village, and later return to the hotel to freshen up. This evening you'll board the overnight train back to Hanoi...B

 View Lodging
Day 5
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: 5 days
Cost From: $1240  
Arrive: Hanoi, Vietnam
Depart: Hanoi, Vietnam
Lodging: 2 nights aboard train, 2 nights hotel
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.