With the height of 3,143m, Sapa has the pride to have Mount Fansipan – the highest peak in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
Famous to be Indochina’s roof, conquering the Fansipan peak is an amazing experience that travelers should not miss.
The Fansipan Mountain is 9km from the center of Sapa Town, Lao Cai Province, Vietnam. It has a height of 3,147m (according to the new statistic in June 2019) and costs about 2 days to be conquered by hiking.
Prior to 2016, Fansipan used to attract at least 1,000 trekkers daily thanks to the magnificent view from the summit and the beautiful, not too tricky path climbing up. However, there is a cable car built to take you from the mountain’s foot to a station near the summit from February 2016, which expands tourism to the sky-high attraction.
Fansipan Mountain belongs to Hoang Lien Son Range has the highest peak not only in Vietnam but also in Indochina which helps it got the nickname “The Roof of Indochina”. The geologic history of Fansipan started from about 250 million years ago when it was formed naturally between the Permian and Triassic which belongs to the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras.
The ecosystem on Fansipan Mountain is quite rich and the flora here is impressively diverse with about 1680 types of trees and some belong to the rare group. While a few popular types are ling at the foot of the mountain, from the height of 700m, there are primitive rainforests with tangled vines and valuable trees, many of them have the age of a few hundred years old. From about 2800m high to the top, the most popular trees here are dwarf bamboo with plenty of bushes spread around the top area. In addition, you can also find some familiar trees growing alternately here such as rose, rush, etc.
As to get to Fansipan Mountain, you have to arrive at Sapa Town first. Most tourists come to Sapa from Hanoi by train or bus. It takes only about 5-6 hours by bus. But the paths are quite stiff, narrow, and slippery, which can break your heart when drivers driving upwards. For a safer option, travelers may choose to travel by an 8-hour overnight train to the Lao Cai train station. The train route between Hanoi and Sapa offers relatively comfortable sleeper cabins for you to relax before the rough journey (if you are climbing up). From Lao Cai train station, it takes an hour to drive to Sapa town. Travelers can take a taxi to the town or reach right away to the Mount Fansipan starting point of the climb or cable car station. The foot of Mount Fansipan is only 2km away from Sapa town, but you would need 30 minutes or more as the roads are narrow and packed with cars or other heavy vehicles sharing the roads.
Despite being only 9km away from Sapa town, it takes at least 2 to 3 days to complete the journey to the Peak of Fansipan without cable car tourism. All trekkers need to be assisted by a local guide, who can be found conveniently at Hanoi or Sapa travel agencies. The starting point of the climb is already 1,800m above sea level, to which you will be probably introduced to the guide. The guides mostly come from the hillside tribes, who are true locals with many years of climbing experience. He will help travelers register with security posts before embarking on the climb.
Fortunately, climbing Fansipan is basic, there is no rough condition that requires ropes or technical climbing skills. Walking through the forest at this point (when you just started the climb) is kind of joyful. The first few kilometers offer a fair amount of descending and a few river crossings, with beautiful landscapes and comfortable weather. Lunch stop at Camp No. 1 will be your first target. Aside from the first stop, there are no designated rest stops along the way until trekkers reach the second camp, not to mention the climb increases in steepness and technicality after Camp No. 1. Hence, try to pack yourself with enough energy. During the second path, you will have to climb ladders, balance on small footrests, and handgrips while traversing across rock faces. There would be a few tricky situations to conquer. But there is always the magnificent view of nature for your soul, as you keep climbing higher, it gets a better view and your goal appears slowly to your eyes. Reaching Camp No.2, you can rest through the night, spending quality time setting a bonfire with new friends who are climbing too. Camp No. 2 had the same 10 rooms sharing a tin roof. Sleeping bags are provided inside each room. However, toilets are communal, there is no electricity and only a few taps. Early in the next morning, about 3 a.m., you may start heading to the summit for sunrise at about 5.15 a.m.
Simply being spectacular, sunrise over Nothern Vietnam appears to your eyes at its most beautiful. After taking your time to feel all the paid-off effort at the famous summit, you can check out two temples located in the area. Restrooms with hot water faucets are there for you to freshen up.
Most of Fansipan is covered by dense forests, which get hot and humid during the day but significantly drop temperature after sunset. Before the trip, you should need to pack your back carefully to “survive” in both situations. The food supply is limited during the journey, you may want to bring some light canned food for more options. There are 2 camps for your rest during the trips, however, a good guide will let you rest for 10-15 minutes after 1-2 hour climbing at an eye catchy spot, so your rest is not a waste of time. Electricity is not available during the whole trip, hence, remember to bring your power bank if you wish to take nice pictures from the summit by your phone.
If you are not that much of a trekker but still want to expose your eyes to the view from the top of Indochina, there is now a modern cable car to help you conquer Fansipan Mountain. The 2-3 days trip would change into a 15 minutes ride up to the summit. However, using the cable car will just give you a superficial experience with tons of other tourists instead of the clear, peaceful views from the summit at the sunrise hour, which especially given to trekkers.
Cable Car to Fansipan
Fansipan cable car ticket price:
Most of the tourists would know that Sunworld Fansipan Legend is where they can get the cable car to Fansipan Peak, but not so many of them notice that there are many things to explore and experience with this entertainment complex.
Besides the impressive modern cable car, Sunworld Fansipan Legend also offers the funicular with 2 interesting itineraries: around the stunning Muong Hoa Valley and get to the Fansipan Peak!
If you would love to admire the natural beauty of Muong Hoa Valley, a trip with the funicular throughout this lovely place seems like a good choice. The starting point is right next to the splendid Hotel De La Coupole – MGallery Sapa with a small lovely station in a colorful version of the French colonial style. After boarding, the funicular will take you through the Muong Hoa Valley with picturesque natural scenery and after a 6-minute short trip, you will arrive at the cable car station in Sunworld Fansipan Legend for a new journey to conquer the mountain.
This is one of the top favorite things to do in Fansipan Mountain (only after the cable car and hiking trip), especially with children, therefore, if you travel with kids to Sapa, don’t forget to try the funicular to Fansipan Peak.
Actually, this funicular travel route is an optional choice instead of climbing by yourself. From the cable car station (at arrival point on the mountain), there are 600 steps to the Peak and if you or your kids cannot manage that difficult journey, using funicular is the best solution which is absolutely convenient, comfortable, and interesting.
From the height of 1,600m to more than 3000m on Fansipan Mountain is a complex of spiritual attractions with pagodas, monasteries, huge Guanyin and Buddha statues, and stupas
Bao An Monastery or Chua Trinh is located at the height of 1,604m and belongs to the Hoang Lien cable car station complex – the starting point of the cable travel route. As a beginning of your spiritual journey on Mount Fansipan, you should spend a little time visiting this pagoda and wish for a smooth travel day on the mountain.
After arriving at the arrival spot of Fansipan cable car station, you will see the Enlightenment Path of Thanh Van – a gate to the spiritual world on the mountain. This construction was built followed the religious architecture in the Ly Dynasty – a strong dynasty from more than 1000 years ago when Buddhism was the national religion in Vietnam.
Going through the Enlightenment Path, you will visit the Bich Van Zen Monastery – an architectural complex staying at the height of 3,037m on the mountain. This religious infrastructure combines 3 shrines with the main one is Bich Van Zen Monastery and the two others – one is the Three Holy Mother Temple and one is the Saint Tran Hung Dao Temple. The most special feature of this complex is that it was built followed Tran Dynasty’s architecture which is right after the Ly Dynasty and also the time that Buddhism in Vietnam was extremely popular.
Right on the opposite side of Bich Van Zen Monastery is the grave Grand Belfry. This 5 floors construction is a 35m high bell tower in which has 1 bell on each floor which was made identically like the original one in the 13th – 14th century. These bells are tolled at fixed times every day.
The Grand Belfry in Sunworld Fansipan Legend
Getting out of the Bich Van Zen Monastery area, you will see the giant Buddha statue – a remarkable construction that became the typical image of Fansipan Mountain beside the summit. This statue is a bronze masterpiece located at about 3000m on the mountain and has a height of 21.5m. The Buddha statue was cast in modern technology from more than 50 tons of copper and has 3 floors. While the statue stays on the top with a huge lotus pedestal which is 8m high to carry the masterpiece, the 2nd floor is a small lecture hall and the 1st one is a rest area for tourists to sit down and enjoy tea with vegan food.
The giant Buddha statue on Mount Fansipan
Staying on 2 sides of the giant Buddha statue is the stupa and 9-storey waterfall. These 2 interesting attractions carry important Buddhist meanings and exist as religious symbols. The stupa is where is an 11th floors tower which represents the typical Northern Vietnam tower architecture and is modeled like some popular ancient stupa such as Binh Son (Vinh Phuc), Pho Minh (Nam Dinh), etc. On the other side, the 9-storey waterfall is a special construction that the kind face of Buddha statue facing directly to it. This waterfall is 30m long and has a column sculptured Buddhist scripture inside while the two sides of it have 150 stoned steps.
From the giant Buddha statue, you will find the Alahat Path which leads to the huge Guanyin Statue and Kim Son Bao Thang Pagoda. This road is 800m long with 18 Alahat statues described specifically each Buddhist Alahat. These statues are 2.5m tall and weigh 500 – 600kg. All the path is covered by Azalea tree, therefore, if you are plan to visit Fansipan Mountain, you should consider coming here in the period from the middle of December until June and wander on Alahat Path, under blossom Azalea flowers.
After wandering on Alahat Path, you should spend a little time at the huge Guanyin statue right at the opposite side of Kim Son Bao Thang Pagoda. The statue is made of bronze, 12m high, and weighs 18 tons. It is placed in an extremely good position which is high with a magnificent view and Guanyin’s eyes are watching the mountain’s side. Guanyin is like a God or a Buddha of kindness and benevolence; you may stop by to admiring her statue and the majestic scenery around and wish to Guanyin for the peace and health that may come to you and your family.
You can find the tiny Mountain God shrine staying behind the giant Guanyin statue. In ancient Vietnamese spiritual belief, each mountain has its own god and should be worship in his or her shrine in that mountain. The Mount Fansipan God shrine was built in the Tran dynasty’s architecture and is where you should come and wish for a nice and safe trip to this destination as the God here will answer and protect you.
At the height of 3,091m on Fansipan, there is a big temple called Kim Son Bao Thang pagoda or Van Phong Zen Monastery built in Tran dynasty’s architectural style modeled after some most ancient pagodas in Northern Vietnam such as Boi Khe pagoda (Thanh Oai, Hanoi), Thai Lac pagoda (Van Lam, Hung Yen) and Thay pagoda (Hanoi). This is the biggest pagoda on the mountain with 2 main shrines followed strictly the arrangement way in Northern religious belief as the Buddha shrine is much bigger and stays in front of the God shrine. In the 1st and 15th of the lunar calendar each month, a huge number of Buddhists gather here to show homage to the Buddha and the Gods and pray for wealth, peace, and health.
On the peak of Fansipan Mountain, there are 2 places for the best selfie: the flagstaff and the summit.
At the top of Mount Fansipan, there is the tallest flagstaff in Indochina. The flagstaff is 25m tall and was create meticulously from the best materials found in Vietnam such as marbles from Thanh Hoa, timbers and flag fabric are ordered exclusively. In addition, the flagstaff’s pedestal was carved with the typical images of Vietnamese culture like the Cham Tower, tall houses in Central Highlands, Northwest stilt houses, Halong Bay, etc. which were designed by the world-known architect – Mr. Bill Bensley who always has an endless passion for Vietnamese culture. If Fansipan Mountain is in your travel plan, you may consider coming and visit it on a Monday to join the flag hoisting ceremony here, film a short video and take a selfie after that.
Selfie with the summit point is a must-do when you reach the Peak. As this is the most crowded area on the mountain and quite narrow, you should wake up soon and come here early in the morning to enjoy the sunrise and also have much time and space to take the best selfie. If you come here after 9 a.m., you may have to wait for a long time to take a picture with the summit and also cannot get the best shot that you want as there are too many tourist gatherings there and everyone takes so much time for their selfie here.
Remember to take the best pic at the Fansipan summit
If a short trip to explore and conquer the Fansipan Mountain cannot satisfy you and fulfill your 1-day itinerary in Sapa, you can spend a little more time visiting some nearby attractions as below.
Was built in 1895, the stoned church is the only construction since the French colonial time that was preserved perfectly and is still exist up until now in Sapa. At present, this building is considered as the milestone of Sapa town center and the distance from and to all addresses in and around the town will be counted from this church. If you love old architecture and classic style, don’t miss a few shots at this old stoned church.
In the old-time, when Fansipan was a huge challenge that was too hard to be conquered, Ham Rong Mountain was so popular among tourists. Comparing with the Roof of Indochina like Mount Fansipan, Ham Rong is a short one with 1,800m tall and costs only about 1 – 2 hours to conquer. From the summit of Ham Rong Mountain, you can capture the overview of Sapa town entirely.
If a short trip in funicular throughout Muong Hoa Valley cannot satisfy you, after leaving the Fansipan, you can come here to explore deep inside it to see the wildflowers and golden terrace fields with some local stilt houses scattered in the valley, and also take some gorgeous pictures with them.
Sapa New Market is also called Sapa Market or Sapa Centre Market which is the biggest trading area in the town. You can find everything you need here as this market offers a wide range of products such as daily food, local specialties, wild herbs, brocade cloths and clothes, silver jewelry, and many types of souvenirs.
Right next to the Sapa New Market is the Night Market where is a big world of cuisine in this small town. If you finish your trip on Mount Fansipan quite late, just come here directly after leaving the mountain for a tasty and abundant dinner. There are many stalls and vendors selling food in Sapa Night Market where sells grilled dishes, hotpots, and local desserts which means you can have appetizers, main dishes, and confection in a few hours of wandering in the market.
You are hungry after conquering the Fansipan and cannot wait for a delicious meal at reasonable prices? Below are some suggestions for a restaurant nearby Fansipan Mountain.
Only more than 200m from Mount Fansipan is the best fusion food restaurant in Sapa – Viet Emotion. This is a famous restaurant and also a good coffee shop which sell delicious foods and tasty drinks which has been receiving many compliments from both international and domestic tourists,
You can find both Vietnamese food and Western food in The Lizzard. The signature dishes here are pizza and honey chicken. The only problem is that you have to eat there instead of taking away food here as the restaurant does not provide that service.
If you are willing to try local traditional food in Sapa, just come to Thang Co A Quynh which is one of the most popular local food restaurants in the town and only 400m from the mountain. Some dishes that you should try here is: Thang Co (Horse Meat Stew), Lau Ca Hoi (Salmon Hotpot), Goi Ca Hoi (Salmon Sashimi), and Lau Ca Tam (Sturgeon Hotpot).
This center is the most famous place for Red Dao herbal bath and foot massage in Sapa, If you have to walk and climb a lot while conquering the Fansipan Peak, you should spend a little time here to relax not only your feet but also your body. However, as Dao’s Center is very crowded, you should book at least 1 day before for the service here
Address: No.26, Dong Loi St., Sapa Town
Belongs to the Eden Hotel, Eden Spa is a popular address for a foot massage as it provides services at reasonable prices and is a reputable address with good infrastructure and facilities. At here, you can try both foot massage and body massage after a long day of travel the Fansipan Mountain.
Address: No.8, Thac Bac St., Sapa Town
Foot massage, body massage, Red Dao herbal bath, etc. All you can do to relax yourself can be tried in the Green Spa where has a long experience in health treatment with herbal in Sapa. You can use 1 or 2 services here or buy a full services combo for a better price in Green Spa.
Address: No.1, Hoang Lien St., Sapa Town
As the Fansipan Legend cable car station is right at the Sapa town center, the choice for hotels is diverse, you can take a look at the list below for some best Sapa hotel suggestions nearby the gate to Fansipan Mountain.
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