Known by a variety of nicknames—from Queen of the Mountains to the Tonkinese Alps—and located in the northwest region of Vietnam, Sapa is a frontier town that is a major market district for the surrounding province, and is arguably one of the most beautiful locations in the world. From the rugged, mountainous scenery with its lush undergrowth and flowing rivers to the cultural diversity of the people itself, this is a major hub for eco tourism. In fact, while in the past Sapa was something of a hidden treasure for the truly adventurous wanderer, in modern times it is transforming into a popular tourist hotspot for mountain hikers. Keep in mind that despite its transformation, it has not been instantaneous, and the infrastructure is in no way completely modern. This is a destination for the intrepid adventurer who doesn’t mind getting a little dirt under their fingernails in order to experience some of the most wonderful scenery that Earth has to offer.
Situated on the side of a mountain overlooking the valley below, and surrounded by forested mountains in all directions, the village itself combines with the cascading terraces of rice fields to create a tapestry of beauty that unfolds its way down the valley walls like some ancient map being unrolled. This is a quiet mountain community, home to a diverse group of ethnic minorities, and while tourism has become a prominent factor in the local industry, it is still worthwhile to remember that local customs are extremely important to these people, and you should do everything in your power to avoid offending. Taking pictures of certain ethnic minorities is considered offensive, so you should always ask prior to snapping a shot of locals. Beyond that, however, the Hoang Lien Mountains await, and Hoang Lien Nature Reserve just south of Sapa offers you the perfect opportunity to explore this beautiful region.