At the end of the week the H'mong, Dao and other ethnic minorities trek into town from the surrounding countryside to trade goods at the weekend markets in Sapa, Bac Ha and other small towns. Here they sell silver jewellery, traditional embroidered fabrics and authentic articles of hill tribe clothing at the markets.
Sapa and its environs has some of the best trekking in Vietnam and there are many ethnic minority villages that can be reached in day treks from Sapa or for a real hill tribe experience it is possible to stay overnight in local villages along the way. The scenery is spectacular, especially in spring and autumn when the skies are clear and blue, and the people are welcoming. Dominating the Sapa skyline is the peak of Vietnam's highest mountain, Mount Fan Si Pan, rising to 3,143m above sea level.
Hill-tribe markets in Sapa area
Nothing can prepare you for the riot of color and activity at the regional minority markets that can be found dotted around the Sapa region. Make sure you've brought enough film or your camera's batteries are fully charged, as they are a photographer's delight!
Pha Long Market - Saturday
From 6 am to midday
Very rural market, ethnic groups include, the H'mong, Tou Zi, Pa Zi and Tou Lao. Along the road can be found several Nung and Mong villages, often consisting of traditional houses constructed with baked earth tiled roofs.
Can Cau Market - Saturday
Saturday morning 6 am to midday
In the middle of paddy and corn fields. Visitors are generally H'mong groups from highland villages. The local H'mong are the famous variegated or Flower H'mong due to the intricate and colourful nature of their costumes. Travel is often made by horseback as a way of carrying the heavy loads to and from market.
Muong Hum Market - Sunday
Every Sunday from 6 am to 1 pm.
This market is the biggest cardamom market in the region, pre-dating the French and serves as a meeting point for the ethnic groups living in the mountains; including the Giay, Dao, White H'mong and Ha Nhi. Those who live in the upper reaches of the mountains such as the Mong or Red Dao come down to sell specific products such as cardamom and mountain plants. In Muong Hum, it's worth taking a sip of the local brew - here it's paddy rice brandy from the Dao village of San Lung. It's become quite a famous tipple.
Muong Khuong - Sunday
Every Sunday from 6 am to 1 pm.
Big market with a variety of ethnic groups, Mong, Dao, Nung and others, including visitors from as far away as China come to sell their products. Pa Zi women can be found selling traditional incense made from bark and resin of scented trees.
Bac Ha Market - Sunday
From 8 am to lunchtime
The biggest ethnic market in Lao Cai province. Here you will be able to find, buffaloes, horses, blacksmiths, saddlers, traditional medicine doctors, clothing and local artifacts. Frequented by H'mong, Dao, Tay, Nung and Phu La. Be sure to arrive by 9am as the market finished around lunchtime.
Binh Lu & Tam Duong Market - Sunday
Every Sunday from 8 am to 1 pm.
Binh Lu and Tam Duong market is located on the other side of Sapa, passing the 1900 meter Tram Ton pass, Viet Nam's highest mountain pass and considered the most beautiful stretch of road in the country. The town is bustling with activity as the local hill tribes gather for their weekly market day, amazing tribal markets in Binh Lu where thousand of Thai Kadai language groups such as Tai Lu, Tai Laos, White Tai, and H'mong - Yao group (black Yao, Yao Lantien..), Giay, Khomu.. comes to buy and sell their own produces.
Coc Ly Market - Tuesday
From 7 am to lunchtime
Off the beaten track. Several groups of Mong, Dao, Tay, Nung and Phu La groups can be found in this secluded mountain market. Return back by boat down the river Chay and marvel at the untouched natural beauty of the region.