When to Go to Sapa
The dry season is from January to June with March to May the best time to visit. Temperatures in January and February are regularly around 0ÂºC. The rainy season falls in June and August. September marks the end of the rainy season which is a good time to visit then by mid-December temperatures start to fall significantly making this September to mid-December period the best time to be there.
Getting to Sapa
Sapa is 380km from Hanoi and various options exist to get there. The most popular is to sign up for one of the overnight trips which includes a train journey to Lao Cai followed by minibus transfer up to Sapa.
Weather in Sapa
The region of Sapa has two seasons, summer and winter. The summer season goes from April to November -- July and August are the hottest. If you are visiting Sapa during this season, bring t-shirts and a pullover for the day, and a jacket for the nights.
In winter it gets really cold here, sometimes (December-January-February) it freezes. Snow is not a common phenomenon.
If you are going to do some trekkings, bring all kind of clothes. I was told that not far from Sapa is the coldest place in Vietnam, and not far from there the hottest. And do not forget your hiking boots!
Sapa lies in the very north west of Vietnam near the Chinese border. Along with Halong Bay it is the "other" major excursion from Hanoi. Time permitting you can do a circuit around the northwest highlands which takes in Mai Chau, Son La, Dien Bien Phu, Lai Chau and finally Sapa before heading back to Hanoi. This would take at least a week by private vehicle and longer on local buses. During the wet season roads can be treacherous with landslides common. The best time to visit is from March to May and from September to mid-December.
In reality the vast majority of visitors arrive in Sapa from Hanoi via Mai Chau and don't go on to discover the spectacular scenery of the Tonkinese Alps where Montagnard hill tribes have lived for centuries. In Sapa these people have quickly adapted to the incursion of tourism and it's a common sight to see local women from the hill tribes pursuing foreigners down the main street bartering over colourful clothing and souvenirs. You might find this over the top in Sapa and would benefit from a trip out into the more remote villages where tourism had such a nasty social impact. The Montagnards aren't complaining though as many of them have grown relatively wealthy on the back of the new found cash economy.
H`mong Ethnic People in Sapa
In this picture you can see a group of local girls trying to sell something to a tourist.
When I saw these young girls harassing the visitors, I had a mixed feeling. Tourism is bringing money to these people. This money will change the life of the local people. Quality of life of the future generations will be much better, but at the same time many traditions will be lost. I guess this is the price they will have to pay. The same happens with the Sapa landscapes. In order to accommodate the tourists, new hotels are being built in and around Sapa. Some of these hotels respect the local building techniques, but most of them don't. I wonder what will locals sell to the visitors, once part of their scenic views are not here anymore.