Planning a trip to Vietnam, and wondering how to plan 3 days in Sapa itinerary independently? You are in the right place!
When planning my 2-week trip itinerary to Vietnam, I knew that the highlight of my trip would be to go trekking in Sapa and do a homestay with a Black Hmong tribe, and it was much better than what I dreamed. Now I am here to share my experience, and how to make your experience as memorable as mine.
I knew it would be challenging. It would involve strenuous hiking in the mountains, and I would need to figure out how to communicate and eat whatever I would be served. But the opportunity to trek among the misty rice fields and the highland villages of the hill tribes in Sapa was going to be epic.
Here you can find my complete guide to trekking in Sapa, what to expect when you hike with a local hill tribe lady, and I am sharing very helpful tips you need to know prior to your trip. So without any further ado, let’s discover the very best of Sapa trekking!
You may also enjoy these articles:
- Homestay with the Black Hmong Tribe
- Sapa, a complete Ethical Travel Guide
- Ultimate Guide to Plan a Trip to Vietnam
- 3 Days in Sapa Itinerary Overview
- Where is Sapa, Vietnam?
- How to Get to Sapa, Vietnam?
- Sapa Trekking: Sapa 3 Days Itinerary
- What to Pack for 3 days in Sapa?
- 3 Days in Sapa Conclusion
3 Days in Sapa Itinerary Overview
Here is a quick overview, to help you to find out what to expect when you choose to go trekking in Sapa. Also, I recommend you read more here on how choosing an independent homestay in Sapa helps the local community:
When you choose to trek in Sapa, you’ll enjoy amazing views of mountains, waterfalls, rice paddies, rivers, and cross bridges where you can see local women washing clothes.
You’ll pass small villages and meet many curious children on their way to and from school. This very remote and quiet part of Vietnam is home to many different ethnic tribal people, and you’ll see the five main groups in Sapa: the largest group is the Black Hmong, followed by Dao, Tay, Giay, and Xa Pho.
Sapa is not only beautiful, but it is also very rich in culture and a safe place to visit while you are in contact with nature and the lovable local people. It will definitely help you to travel back in time and make you appreciate a few days of quiet and inspiring nature.
The itineraries will vary, depending on the length of time you choose, the guide, and the weather conditions, but each experience is remarkable and unique, I chose to hike and homestay with a local Black Hmong family for 3-days, but you can also do a day hike if you are short in time, or choose to be at the hotel in the town of Sapa if you don’t want to do the homestay.
- You can visit only the town of Sapa and its surroundings, with the opportunity to visit some villages, or
- You can hire a local guide and trek the mountains in Sapa for up to 3-days and 2-nights, doing a homestay with one of the hill tribes
It depends on the length of time and the type of tour you choose to do, and if it includes meals and homestay. If you book in advance from a tour company, it can cost from $60-$100 per person, and normally it also includes your meals and homestay.
Now, if you book with a local lady the price can be around $30-$50 per day – again, it depends on what is included such as length of time, meals, homestay, etc. The very modest price that I paid for the homestay with Bau included staying in her house, fresh breakfast and dinner, trekking as much as I wanted, and lessons about the land, people, and everyday life.
They don’t expect you to tip them but considering that they receive very little help from the government, and they depend heavily on tourism, a few extra dollars will help them a lot! Also, considering that your experience is already very cheap to go trekking in Sapa, plus meals and homestay. So I recommend tipping them, with whatever you can and think they deserve.
I highly recommend booking your Sapa trekking directly with them because the experience you will have with them is the most authentic, they are very knowledgeable about the mountains and villages in Sapa, they can cook very well, they will take good care of you, they speak good English and the most importantly, you will be giving back to the community.
Homestay with a local tribe is a great way to support the locals and to help the income to be with the locals; improving dramatically the host’s lives and the villages overall. As a stronger supporter of ethical travel, I recommend you book directly with a local lady instead of a tour company. You can message me at the end of this article, and ask for more information on my guide.
You have the option to book a tour in advance with a travel agency, and I recommend choosing an ethical tour operator like this one. Or you can book directly with a local lady, if you are interested in my friend Bau, please leave me a comment at the end of this article and I will personally connect with you to provide her contact information.
Another option is to book a tour upon your arrival in Sapa. You can negotiate and book a tour with one of the trustworthy local ladies. They’ll be waiting for guests at the bus stop in Sapa Town (your first stop).
Read More: Ethical Travel Guide for Sapa, Vietnam
Where is Sapa, Vietnam?
Sapa is located beyond the clouds in a mountain in the North of Vietnam, in Lao Cai Province which also includes Vietnam’s highest peak, Fan Si Pan.
Sapa is located in the mountains in the North of Vietnam, and tourism in this part of the country has increased in the past few years due to the beautiful trek and also the opportunities to live like a local at a homestay with one of the hill tribes.
It is in a remote place in Vietnam located about 350 km northwest of Hanoi, close to the Chinese border. We were so close to China that while my phone didn’t have service in much of Vietnam, in Sapa I could get on service from China.
How to Get to Sapa, Vietnam?
Sapa Trekking: Sapa 3 Days Itinerary
Day 1 Sapa Itinerary: Trekking from Sapa Town to the Black Hmong house
1. Arrival in Sapa and Meet my Guide
Upon my arrival in Sapa Town, Bau, my host, was waiting for me at the bus station. She was extremely warm and spoke excellent English. Her husband took my backpack on his motorbike, leaving me with less weight to carry up the mountains. I only had my photography gear and water bottle with me.
We had a hearty and much-needed breakfast at a local cafe and I was ready to start climbing. It was raining a lot and it was very cold, expected winter weather in December.
2. Started my Sapa trekking
As we ascended the hills leaving Sapa Town, we came upon a fork in the trail. Bau asked me if I wanted the Scenic Route, which was more difficult and had leeches, or the Easy Route without leeches or view. Of course, I chose the Scenic Route – leeches be damned.
The good news is that I didn’t see any leeches, but the bad news is that I didn’t have much of a scenic view because of the heavy rain and low clouds. Even with all the rain and mud along the way, Bau took very good care of me during some challenging parts of the trek, and I only fell on my butt once. These Hmong ladies are very strong!
3. Stop for lunch at one of the Villages
After hiking for a few hours in the rain and muddy terrains, we stopped for lunch at one of the villages. I was starving and soaking wet, but I was still amazed by the fact that I was really there, in a place I could not have imagined, and I was enjoying every moment. I definitely appreciated that short chance to rest and recharge my batteries with food before we continued our climb.
Just a detail about the menu, oh well….there was no menu and the only options were noodles or rice with chicken and vegetables, or the vegetarian option, without chicken. It reminded me of when I was a kid, and my mom would serve lunch and say “The meal today is whatever I serve you” ha…so I was not too shocked about only one option, and the best part? It was so tasty and delicious!
4. Arriving at my homestay in Sapa
We got to our house for 4 hours of trekking from Sapa Town. We sat by the fire pit in the middle of the kitchen and watched Bau prepare our dinner. Because they cook with fresh ingredients, it takes time to prepare.
The kids arrived from school and I had a great time interacting with them, giving the presents I had brought with me from the U.S. and trying to communicate with them.
The food was amazing and the house was very simple, and I felt so welcomed and relaxed. The experience of living with the Black H’Mong for a few days was just fascinating! I became so overwhelmed at being in such a surreal and dreamlike environment, so far from home. It almost felt like being inside a National Geographic documentary.
That was the moment that I knew this was going to be a special and unique experience that I would cherish for the rest of my life. I was fully immersed in the present, with no distractions! I was living in the moment and feeling so blessed!
Day 2 Sapa Itinerary: Trekking the misty mountains in Sapa
1. Started the Day with a homemade breakfast prepared with love!
I had one of the best nights of sleep of my life. Maybe it was the last night on the train combined with trekking in the rain. Maybe it was some magic going on at Bau’s house, I don’t know, but I slept like a baby.
I realized the kids normally do not eat this for breakfast. This food is only prepared for special guests. I reduced my portion in half and have to say I was satisfied to be able to share my meal with the kids. It made me so happy to see them enjoy it. After my amazing breakfast, it was time to go trekking in Sapa.
2. Trekking in Sapa and Learning about the locals
I started the second day of my trekking in Sapa by visiting some local villages and learning about their lifestyle.
During my Sapa hiking, besides the challenges to hike on muddy terrain and up the hills and narrow paths around the rice paddies, I was constantly rewarded with stunning views of the mountains and the villages.
I watched a family making knives and swords, visited the school in the village, crossed beautiful bridges, and saw local ladies washing clothes in the river.
Along my hiking in Sapa, I also crossed pigs, dogs, water buffalos, chickens, and cows…all animals walk freely or on private property and I loved seeing people respect animals and treat them as part of their family.
Bau is also a fantastic guide, and she showed me how they live in the villages, explaining how the Black Hmong make their own clothes, and how they plant their own food. It was a very intense day of physical challenges with the hiking, but also, a real-life education and learning about fascinating life lessons.
I would recommend you to read more about what a typical day at a homestay in Sapa looks like, where share a lot of details you will love to learn before you go trekking Sapa and do a homestay with a local hill tribe.
3. Shop at a local market for a fresh dinner
We trekked for about 5 hours and then the highlight of my day, we stopped at the village market to buy fresh ingredients for dinner. The local markets are very simple, and they only have the basics for their survival.
Most of the ingredients they sell come from their own farmlands or the animals they raise in their yards. Fresh vegetables, eggs, spices, and meat are organic and taste amazing. They use pig fat to cook their meals as they don’t have oil or butter – which adds an incredible taste to the food! Yummy! Read more here about the food in Sapa.
PRO-TIP: Your guide will normally use the money you pay for the trekking to pay for all the meals and ingredients. I took the opportunity to buy Bau lunch when we stopped in village cafes and also convinced her to let me pay for the ingredients that she would use to cook our meals. If you can afford it, this is a great way to help to give back to the communities during your trekking in Sapa.
4. Back to my home to play with the kids and help prepare dinner
Also, one of my favorite things to do while trekking and homestay in Sapa was to spend time with Bau’s kids.
I spent the rest of my afternoon playing with the kids and flying the drone over the beautiful misty mountains. The kids were amazed to see the little “spaceship” flying in their backyard.
The kids are so curious about us and they pay close attention to our cultural behavior. They want to interact with you and they are extremely happy to share their house and playtime. I brought crayons and coloring books for the kids, and it was amazing to watch them color. They were so appreciative and they treated all the crayons and coloring books like precious treasures. They asked me to color with them, it was so much fun.
Day 3 Sapa Itinerary: Option 1 is to hike back to the Sapa Town
If you decide to only visit the town of Sapa, there are several activities available to choose from. If you opt to explore Sapa Town independently, you can book your hotel here. Here are the best things to do in Sapa:
- Cau May Street – It is the main street, where most restaurants and cafes are located
- Sapa Market – Next to the bus station, it is a great place to visit if you are looking for shopping local products. It is open daily from 6 AM to 2 PM
- Sapa Culture Museum – It is a little museum that is worth visiting to learn more about the local story.
- Heaven’s Gate – You will have the best views of the Sapa valleys, but sometimes the fog makes it challenging as it covers the stunning view.
- Thac Bac Waterfall – Close to Heaven’s Gate, you can combine a visit to both during one trip.
Day 3 Sapa Itinerary: Option 2 is to explore your village and culture
1. I attended a Black Hmong Wedding in Sapa!
When you choose to go trekking Sapa and do an authentic homestay, be prepared for a real-life experience with the local hill tribes. They will share everything with you. I really mean, EVERYTHING! Their house, the families, their culture and even their clothes and they’re…well, partyyyyy! 😉
Bau’s cousin got married and I got invited to the wedding. So, I decided to skip the trek on my last day because I knew that probably I would never have an opportunity like this again in my lifetime.
The fun part started when I had to dress appropriately for the party, which means, I wouldn’t wear my fancy muddy trekking clothes, but instead, I had to wear one of the traditional Black Hmong homemade beautiful clothes. I am not a big girl, but still, the clothes were small for me, considering that the Black H’Mong people are smaller than me.
Arriving at the party, I was welcomed with such hospitality and warmth. I even got invited to a seat at the table with the groom and bride. What an honor!
We made many toasts with homemade rice wine, danced like no one was watching, and laughed with them even if we could not understand each other’s language (Okay, now it sounds like we had too much rice wine).
We partied for approx. 5 hours, and it was time to return to the house and pack. Bau gave me some very special gifts to remember her by, and I had many tears during my departure. But I know I will be back to visit the friends I made in Sapa and to get to explore more of the beautiful mountains of Sapa.
What to Pack for 3 days in Sapa?
Make sure that you have packed everything needed because you won’t find stores in the remote mountains if you are staying in the villages.
Pack light, comfortable and smart: a
- A travel backpack bag for a change of clothes
- Dry-fit clothes and layers are also a great idea
- Some warm clothing is needed as the mornings and nights can be quite cool
- Shoes with a good grip, and hiking boots are a great option for the wet season, they will be very muddy
- A rain jacket is a must any time of the year
- Hiking pants
- Extra socks, hat, underwear, and swimsuit if you plan to swim in the waterfall
- Toiletry, toilet paper, and mirror
- Personal items such as medication, flashlight, sunscreen, insect repellent, and wipes
- Some snacks for the hiking and a refill waterbottle
- Ideal shoes for heavy rain are rubber boots, which you can buy at a local market for approx. US$4.00
3 Days in Sapa Conclusion
I hope you found all the answers to your question about the Sapa homestay with a Black Hmong family. So, just like you, I also researched an authentic experience to go hiking and do a homestay in Sapa from a blog, that gave a very honest and helpful review.
I found this article during my searches, After Living with the Black H’ mong, I chose a lady named Bau to be my guide and to share her home, family, and lifestyle. And I became friends with the bloggers (Megan and Steve) and Bau, my guide in Sapa. So it seems that life always gifts us with people who share the same passions 😉
If you are interested to hire Bau as your guide, please leave a message here and I will share her contact information – Also, after you go on your Sapa trekking and homestay,m I would love to hear about your experience too!
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