Sapa is located in Lao Cai province, 350 km from Hanoi, close to the border with China. Sapa is home to a great diversity of ethnic minority people. It is likely that, Sapa was first inhabited by highland minorities of H’mong and Dzao group and later came the Tay, Zay, and a small number of Xa Pho to form the 5 main ethnic groups which takes about 85% of the district’s population today and a very small number of them live in Sapa town, most of them live in small villages and hamlets scattering in valleys and hamlets scattering in valleys and mountains throughout the district.
If you would like to have a trekking tour to Sapa, you will need to come to Hanoi first. Then take the overnight train to Lao Cai province. There are many Hanoi Laocai train such as Fansipan Express, Victoria Carriage, Tulico Express, Et Pumpkin train, Ratraco train, Livitrans… Except the Victoria Express is the most luxury train is only available for those who book the Victoria Sapa hotel (for in-house guest only). Other train are of quite the same standard which departs around 8 or 9pm every night.
Upon your arrival in Laocai train station, you will need to hire a private car or take a public bus to go uphill to Sapa, 40-minutes drive away.
Most of trekking tours are organized from Sapa town. If you take a half day trekking tour or a day walking trip, you can sleep in Sapa town. But if you take an overnight hiking trip or a multi-day trekking tour, you should stay in a homestay in a local tribal village. A guided trekking tour is highly recommended for any trek in Sapa. Because you will trek through local hilltribe villages where peoples have different customs and traditions. Moreover these areas are closed to the border where you will need to have special permits to visit.