For much of the year a swirling fog engulfs the town of Sapa, giving its spectacular mountains, rice terraces and lakes a dreamy, mystical quality. The dream continues as the brightly dressed people of Sapa's ethnic hill tribes converge on the town to buy, sell and trade at local markets.
The Hmong and Red Dzao tribes are believed to be the original inhabitants of Sapa, and it's a surreal sight as they weave their way through the crowds in elaborate traditional dress. Their presence provides a stark contrast to the more modern aspects of life that have started to appear in Sapa, such as high-rise hotels and reliable electricity.
The Hmong are one of the largest hill tribes in the Mekong region, and inhabit much of northern Laos, northern Vietnam, Thailand and Yúnnán. The Red Dzao is one of the largest and most colourful ethnic groups in Vietnam.One of the highlights of any visit to Sapa is a trip to the buzzing local markets, where the canny traders of these surrounding hill tribes ply their wares. The colourful, joyful markets attract hundreds of visitors, as locals not only showcase their exquisite handicrafts but also the unique customs of their tribe.
Sapa is home to many hundreds of flowers, and when they blossom the town is filled with a heady mix of colour and perfume. At the time of Tet, the Lunar New Year, Sapa is blanketed in pink thanks to the vast forests of peach orchards that dot the landscape. Often referred to as "Kingdom of the Orchids", you'll be mesmerised by several hundred varieties of orchids as you hike through in and around Sapa. Delight in the many colours and shapes, as well as exotic names like, "Orchid Princess" and "My Fair Lady's Shoe".