Lao Cai is a frontier province located in the Northwest of the country, 350km from Hanoi. Lao Cai is squeezed right next to the Vietnam–China border in the north and shares the border with Lai Chau province on the west, Ha Giang province on the east and Yen Bai province on the south.
Lao Cai is endowed with the special climate, dramatic natural landscapes, especially the rich of 25 different ethnic minority groups (such as H’mong, Tay, Dao and Day people....) living together. Therefore, Lao Cai’s tourist attractions have been recognized and marked in the tourism map not only in the country but also internationally.
Lao Cai has long been known as a place endowed with nature for many beautiful landscapes. So what does Lao Cai have? Let's explore together!
1. Sapa Town
Sapa is a small town of Lao Cai Province, 38 km from Lao Cai city or 350km from Hanoi. Located at 1500 meters (4921 feet) above sea level in Vietnam's remote northwest mountains, Sapa is famous for both its fine, rugged scenery and also its cultural diversity.
2. Mount Fansipan
Mount Fansipan is local people called "Hua Xi Pan" means a giant slab of rock protruding, situated on the Hoang Lien Son Range and is the highest mountain of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia giving its name "Indochina Rooftop" with an altitude of 3,143 m above sea level.
Fansipan Peak was the most choice trekking spot by adventure seekers fit enough to make the strenuous hike, but now this mountain offers a few different experiences for all types of travelers.
Sun World Fansipan Legend’s suspended cable car system is the highest, longest and the most modern suspended cable system in the world and is the first of its kind in Asia.
Sun World Fansipan Legend station complex, including Sapa station and Fansipan station, is an architectural wonder and lies gracefully in the magnificent scenery of the mountain.
Sun World Fansipan Legend station complex help tourists have the opportunity to admire the colorful landscapes and majestic mountains on the way to the peak. Once you reach ‘the roof of Indochina’, you will have the great and enjoyable feelings among thhe open sky, strong wind and white cloud right in front of your eyes.
3. Cat cat Village
Cat Cat Village is far 2km from Sapa town, is Mong people’s old village where many traditional handcrafts have been preserved such as planting cotton-plants, flaxes, weaving,... Coming to this village, tourists will have the opportunity to participate in these activities as well as to be able to find the suitable and nice gifts.
4. Y Linh Ho Village
Y Linh Ho Village is located about 7km southwest of Sapa town. It's alongside of Muong Hoa valley. Y Linh Ho is a little commune composed by a dozen of little hamlets scattering on the severe mountain terrain with high and steep hills. It is a known destination for visitors who are looking for serene locations and get a first hand experience of interacting with hill tribes, specifically the Black H’mong who inhabit the area.
5. Ta Van village
Ta Van village is hidden in the foggy cloud, far away from Sapa busy streets. All its natural beauty are well reserved by over 110 households living in this village. Though you can definitely to get there and back in a day, many choose to stay overnight at the homestay in Ta Van village to fully experience a day with the minorities groups culture other than H’mong, one of the most popular minorities group in Sapa region.
6. Ta Phin village
Ta Phin village has beautiful natural scenery and the ethnic cultural identities of the Red Dao people with brocading handcrafts, specially a traditional Red Dao people's herbal bath . At Ta Phin village, you can visit the nearby Ta Phin Cave in which there are many interesting stalacites in the forms of the fairies dancing and sitting, the distant rice paddy fields, the sparkling forests, etc...
7. O Quy Ho mountain pass
O Quy Ho mountain pass is a mountain pass in the most beautiful and longest of Vietnam. Tourists should go to O Quy Ho mountain pass to watch the sunset. This mountain pass is about 15km away from the centre of Sa Pa town and is known as one othe four famous mountain passes in the Nortwest region. Tourists will have the opportunity to watch the clouds moving around the mountain in Lao Cai province’s area and particularly the late afternoon sunlight fully gleaming the Northwest sunset at Lai Chau province’s side.
8. Ham Rong Mountain
Located 3km away from the centre of Sapa town, behind Sapa stone church, Ham Rong Mountain is an attractive destination. Standing at the top of Ham Rong mountain, you will have the chance to see the panorama of the entire Sa pa town, Muong Hoa valley, Ta Phin village…hidden in the smog. There are many kinds of fruits planted in here such as peaches, plums, pears… that you will enjoy all the time.
9. Sa Pa church
Sa Pa church, built in 1985 is considered to be one of the most ancient surviving French architectual site. The church has been embellished and preserved, becoming an indispensable image when referring to the foggy Sa Pa.
10. Muong Hoa Valley - sapa ancient rock field
Muong Hoa Valley is located 14km from the centre and is one of the most famous destinations of Sapa. It is considered one of the most beautiful valleys in the Northwest and Northeast of Vietnam. Coming to Muong Hoa valley, tourists will be impressed with the beautiful streams of cool water, the charming terraced fields or the unique old carved stones areas.
11. Silver waterfalls
It’s 12km away from Sa Pa town centre to the West, on the way to Lai Chau province, you will see the Silver Waterfall fierely flowing down from the height of 200m into the streams in O Quy Ho valley, making the impressive sounds of mountains and forests. However, in spring, tourists should take into consideration before coming to see the Silver Waterfall because the flows of water falling down are very small.
12. Hoang A Tuong Palace
Hoang A Tuong Palace had built in 1914 and was completed in 1921 by Hoang Yen Chao who was the crownless king of the old Bac Ha. The classic architecture and its interesting and mysterious stories have proved clearly the remarkable history of this land.
13. Terraced fields at Y Ty and Ngai Thau communes
Admiring the beauty of the terraced fields is a must-do-experience that the tourists should take notice of when coming to Bat Xat. All the rice paddy fields are fertile with the unique and eye-catching structure: they are covered by the green color showing full of energy in some seasons, and they are then covered by the bright yellow waiting for the harvest in other seasons.
14. Lao Chai Village
Lao Chai is home to the black Ha Nhi. It is a good place to watch the entire village covered by the rocky mountains and grassy hills engulfed in mist. In addition, coming to Lao Chai, tourists will have the chance to immerser themselves, experience and participate in the friendly and idyllic daily lives of the local.
15. Den Sang Village
Den Sang commune is home to the Red Dao people with their strongly preserved cultural identities. Many old and traditional customs have still been preserved such as special ‘lễ cấp sắc’ (a kind of adult ceremony of the Dao men), fire dancing (jumping over the fire), processing the herbal medicine from the leaves collected in the forests.
16. Hang Da Village
Hang Da Village is home to the Black H’mong people, is some of the most beautiful locations in the Lao Cai Mountain Range. Visiting three Black H’mong villages is perfect for travelers who want to learn more about Vietnam’s indigenous cultures while spending half a day venturing into the countryside.
17. Ban Ho Village
Ban Ho Village is far from Sapa town about 20 kilometers. It is divided into three areas: Ta Trung Ho, Xeo Trung Ho and Hoang Lien, which is place of the Mong, Dao, Tay. Ban Ho village is the center of Ban Den village, where the two streams meet Muong Hoa and La Ve. To go to Ban Ho village on your trip to Vietnam, you have to hike through the mountains and the bandaged hills.
Lao Cai is not only famous for its amazing natural beauty with white peach blossom & plum forest flowers like a floating white cloud on the ground or the dim beauty of Lao Cai in the mist either the ripe golden rice fields stretching out as far as the eye can see, but Lao Cai also attracts tourists to discover the unique but different cultural beauty of the ethnic people through colorful upland markets. Arrive in Lao Cai on any day of the week, visitors also have the opportunity to participate in the fair.
Below are schedule of fairs in Lao Cai during the week for visitors to reference and plan the trip.
1. Monday - Ban Phiet market
Ban Phiet fair is located in Ban Phiet commune, Bao Thang border district. The market meets on Monday every week right next to the National Highway 4D. Compared to Lao Cai markets, Ban Phiet market is quite small and not too crowded but a place for trading and trading of ethnic minorities in the region. The majority of people who go to the Phiet version are white Mong people. The market starts early when the cold is still mingled with mist. In the mountains always, the most beautiful and colorful clothes are always chosen to wear on the day of shopping or going to the festival.
2. Tuesday - Coc Ly market
Coc Ly is a highland market in Bac Ha district, meeting every Tuesday. The market is divided into separate areas: the brocade-selling area, the area for selling mountain products, the cattle-selling area, and the food court. The people involved in the trade were mainly Hoa Hoa, Dao khac (Dao Den) and Nung. Coc Ly is not only famous for the "barter" market but because it is located right next to the suspension bridge spanning the Chay River, this place is also an attractive tourist destination.
3. Wednesday - Cao Son market
Cao Son Market is located in Cao Son commune, Muong Khuong district. This is the fair of ethnic people of Mong, Phu La, Dao and Han black living in the 4 largest villages of Muong Khuong district. Cao Son Market is divided into many areas: the area selling fruits and vegetables, the area selling cattle and poultry, and especially the area selling famous specialties of the ethnic people such as: buoi win, maize wine. Coc Dam. At the fair, all over the road, each group of people draped on their clothes to create a vivid picture for the mountainous areas here.
4. Thursday - Lung Khau Nhin market
Lung Khau Nhin Market in Muong Khuong district meets every Thursday morning, is one of the famous markets in Lao Cai province and the vast Northwest region. Like other highland markets, Lung Khau Nhin was filled with the brilliant colors of dresses, blankets, green cabbage, yellow tangerines ... From the top of the slope, a distance from the market, fresh colors he has manifested and prominently kept the mountains. The buyers here are ethnic H'Mong, Nung, Man, Kinh ...
5. Friday - Chau market
From the 19th century, Muong Khuong district had highland markets to exchange goods. Besides famous markets such as Muong Khuong, Cao Son, Pha Long, Ban Lau ..., Chau Market in Lung Vai Commune has long become a famous trading center in the Eastern part of Thuy Vi. The market is not only a place to buy and sell but also a place to meet and exchange confidences of intimate friends, dating places for men and women of villages. Coming to the market, visitors can also discover the majestic Muong Khuong with many traditional and rich cultural traditions that still exist today.
6. Saturday - Can Cau market, Pha Long market
Can Cau fair (Si Ma Cai district) meets right along 153 road, the only red dirt road linking Bac Ha town with border town of Si Ma Cai. Can Cau fair is a market of H'Mong, Chinese and Giay people but following the trading style of Dao people. This is considered the largest buffalo market in the Northern mountainous provinces.
Pha Long Market (Muong Khuong district) is a shopping center for people in Pha Long, Din Chin, Ta Ngai Cho and Ta Gia Khau communes of the district. When the market came into session, the Mong, Lo Lo, Tay, Nung, Giay ethnic groups ... gathered here to make the market scene bustling and crowded. In particular, bustling, noisy and eye-catching is the brocade sales area. Pha Long fair is also famous for Gau Tao festival whenever Tet comes in spring. If you go on a Saturday, you can visit Y Ty Market located on the Vietnam - China border.
7. Sunday - Bac Ha market, Sapa market and Muong Hum market
Among the Sunday fair markets in Lao Cai, the most prominent is the Bac Ha fair, voted as one of the 10 most unique markets in Southeast Asia. Bac Ha Market is also the only fair in the country that has a section de icated to horse trade with hundreds of horses traded per session.
8. Sapa fair is located in the center of town. On Sundays, it is possible to buy rare and precious medicines, forest products and traditional products of ethnic minorities such as handicraft handw
Sapa is not only famous for its beautiful landscapes, but also for its numerous delicious dishes that attract tourists here.
1. Stolen Armpit Pig (Lon Cap Nach)
Stolen armpit pig (or Pork theft armpit, Lợn cắp nách, Lợn bản) is a very famous specialty food of Sapa, Lao Cai. Not similar to pigs in other regions, this kind of pig is about 10-15 kg so that it can be carried under armpits and easily stolen by theft. That is the reason why they call it Stolen armpit pig. What makes the pig special? Stolen armpit pigs are grazed in forests, eat wild vegetables so that its taste is unique. It has is firm, tender, sweet-tasty meat, tender, a little crunchy skin, and a thin layer of fat. There are many cooking methods for Stolen armpit pig: steaming, grilling, stir-frying, roasting. Dishes from Stolen armpit pig go well with a special dip made from green chili pepper, bishopwood leaf (lá nhội), cape yellowwood seed (hạt mắc khén), Michelia tonkinensis seed (hạt dổi)..
2. Stewed Horse Meat And Horse Organs (Thang Co)
This is a traditional dish of Mong people. Is the second Sapa specialty that you should try. "Thắng Cố" cooked meat is made from beef, buffalo, horse and pork. Parts such as: heart, heart, liver, blood, meat, bones are put into a pan of boiling water, can add more vegetables. The taste of victory will be people who really like to eat and find interesting to be able to eat it. Indulge in winning together and have a cup of aromatic corn wine even more fond of unforgettable.
3. Buffalo Meat Upstairs Kitchen (Thit trau gac bep)
Black Thai people have made this food in order to bring buffalo meat to the forest in a few days and reserve buffalo meat for rainy days and flooding days. To make this food, they season buffalo meat, then squeeze upstairs kitchen. It has a special taste and smell thanks to spices including cape yellowwood seed, salt, pepper, garlic, and ginger. Buffalo meat upstairs kitchen is black and hard outside, pink and tender inside. This special buffalo meat is used to prepare many great dishes such as cooked, fried, soups, stew, etc. The most popular way to eat the buffalo meat is shredding the meat, dipping in spicy lemon pepper salt while sipping Sapa aromatic wine from Táo mèo (Docynia indica).
4. Salmon And Sturgeon (Ca Hoi/Ca Tam)
You may be surprised to hear that they farm salmon and sturgeon in Sapa with majestic mountainous areas and green forests. The subtropical and milder climate is suitable to farm salmon and sturgeon which have firm, tender, sweet-tasty, and greasy. Although there are hundreds of salmon and sturgeon recipes in the world, you should not miss Hot pot with salmon, Salmon salad, Grilled salmon, Hot pot with sturgeon in Sapa.
5. Bamboo Sprout Roll (Nem mang dang)
Bamboo sprout roll is a specialty food of Tay people in Sapa. The soul of this food – bamboo sprouts are harvested in forests, they are abundant and the most delicious in rainy season. To make the roll, they boil bamboo sprouts in order to make them clean and less bitter. Then get tender outer layer to wrap the filling, which is made from minced chicken, minced scallion heads, black pepper, fish sauce, into rolls. After that, fry the rolls until crispy and yellow. Bamboo sprout roll is usually served with Muong Khuong chili sauce or a traditional sauce of Thai people which is made from fish sauce, chili pepper, black pepper, cape yellowwood seed, lime juice, and some spices of Tay people. The perfect mix of lightly bitter, crispy bamboo shoot wrapper, crunchy filling and the sauce can satisfy most of the diners, even with strict gourmets.
6. Docynia Indica Wine (Ruou Tao Meo)
Docynia Indica wine (Rượu táo mèo) is a very famous wine in Vietnam for charming taste and smell as well as its benefits. Plumpy Docynia Indica fruits are chosen, put into a jar with sugar in layer and store for 2 weeks. After that, soak the fruits in high-quality wine which is made by local, Docynia Indica wine will be ready after 2 weeks. The longer the fruits are soaked in the wine, the greater the Docynia Indica wine is.
7. Bac Ha Corn Wine (Ruou Ngo Bac Ha)
Bac Ha corn wine is a specialty of H’Mong and Dao people in Ban Pho, Bac Ha highland, Lao Cai province. This corn wine is as transparent as stream water. It is sweet and smelling and but not sour and tangy. It can make you drunk but relaxing. The corn for this wine is grown in high mountains, especially in Lung Phinh commune. The corn seeds are firm, tender, buttery, and rich in nutrition. A special yeast from “hong mi” seeds (hạt hồng mi) makes the wine unique. Boil corn, cool it down, ferment it with the yeast for 5-7 days, distill the wine from it.
8. Cat Mustard Green (Rau Cai Meo)
Rau cải mèo literally means Cat mustard green in English. Local people sow the seeds in the fields, on the hills and let the vegetables grow up themselves. Coming to Ta Van, Cat Cat villages in Sapa, you can see abundant Rau cải mèo. Friendly M’Nong people can serve you steamed rice and Stir-fried Rau cải mèo with fat and ginger.
9. Sapa stream fish (Ca Suoi Sapa)
Sa Pa is a land not only with beautiful natural scenery, cool and fresh climate but also a place with many Sapa specialties with a mountain flavor that are especially popular with many tourists. Among them are Sapa stream fish – a must-try dish there. Gourmet dishes are crafted from this protein. There are many kinds of fish like goby or hemiculter. One thing that lures even the most picking guests is non – sickly smell but very sweet and fragrant.
10. Sapa Shiitake mushrooms (Nam Huong Sapa)
This fungus thrives thanks to this place’s mild nature. Rains in the beginning of summertime are the intimate token of shitake season. This kind of mushroom is highly appreciated growing far-flung in Fansipan Mount. Besides the marvelous taste, the big size of this place’s outstanding wild mushroom also makes it outshine the others of its own kind. No wonder that mushroom is one of the best food for humans.
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