Fansipan, Vietnam – not recommended

World → Asia → Vietnam → Fansipan

No longer one of the best hikes in the world


  •  Vietnamese: Phan Xi Păng

“the Roof of Indochina”

A cable car will open September 2015 or sooner, degrading the hiking experience. The Sapa area is great, but trek elsewhere in the region. This summit will soon be flooded with suitcase tourists. 😦

Below is our old information page, no longer being updated.

Update (this is an exception 🙂) from patriciaoprea March 2017:

I paid about 60 USD the night before (I’m so last minute) for a tour from Sa Pa
It was 2 days,1 night.

The good thing about this? We arrived at the summit at 7:00 in the morning.
The cable car is built, but NOBODY is there at that hour, because it hasn’t opened yet!

I loved this hike, go for it 🙂



  • map Fansipan3,143 meters (10,312ft), it’s the highest in Indochina
  • Northwest region of Vietnam, near the Chinese border
  • 9km southwest of Sapa (Sa Pa), a gorgeous hill station developed by the French
  • 1-3 days hiking
  • pine forests, bamboo thickets and jungle
  • best months October through April. Some say April and May are best as it’s warmer. And the flowers are in bloom.
  • avoid the wet season from June to September, with heaviest rainfall occurring in July and August
  • record for scaling Fansipan is one hour and thirty-five minutes, in case you want to better that time. 🙂

Panoramic views of the mountain ranges of northwest Vietnam, if you get any views at all. The summit is famously shrouded in cloud.:-(

Why We Like This Hike

  • about 2,024 floral varieties and 327 fauna species (sadly many of the larger animals have been hunted out)
  • no ropes or technical climbing skills are needed
  • plaque at the peak placed February 2007
  • colourful minority ethnic people, especially on market days
  • ridge walk sections were our favourite



  • malarial mosquitoes can be a danger some months of the year
  • bring warm clothes. Temperatures below freezing are frequent.
  • snow is possible
  • climb is rough, wet, muddy and cold. Some bring rubber boots.
  • gloves with good grips recommended for ladders and rock scramble
  • scramble ladders and tree roots
  • you may be clutching bamboo at points
  • we’ve seen warnings about poisonous snakes, leeches, rodents, perhaps exaggerated
  • dogs are a worry, both in Sapa and on the trail. Even if you don’t carry a trekking pole, you might want to carry a stick
  • Sapa is a tourist trap. Touts are a pest.


Guided trips are no longer as inexpensive as they once were. Seems the government got stricter with guide requirements.

We paid $95 for a one day, up-and-down for 1 person October 2014.

A two day trek costs $180 for 1 person October 2014. You can negotiate on price with some agencies.

Shop around. The official government tourist information office quoted $120 for the $95 tour. Assume the difference is commission.


There are a number of options, including a 1 day guided up-and-down.

It’s possible to do independently. But we wouldn’t recommend it unless you are familiar with the route.

click for larger version
click for larger version

There are three routes to the mountain. One is from Tram Ton, the others from the villages of Sin Chai and Cat Cat.

The first route is a more gradual climb because it has been selected for tourists. The trip can be made in a day.

The route from Sin Chai is shorter but more adventurous, requiring climbers to sometimes use ropes or other special facilities for climbing.

The route from Cat Cat is the longest, but mixes some challenging climbs with great scenery. After one day of climbing, there’s a break at 2,200m above sea level. Climbers can have a meal cooked by a Mong porter and camp, followed by a second camp at 2,700m before reaching the peak on the third day.

Most climbers chose a tour from Sa Pa at a cost of about VND1.5 million excluding train fare from Ha Noi, and tours should be booked a month in advance.

Climb Sipan
  • many hikers arrive by overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, then bus from Lao Cai to Sapa. Those tickets sell out during high season, especially during holidays, as Sapa is super popular with Vietnamese.
  • even better, some feel, is the night sleep bus direct from Hanoi
  • we stayed at the Sapa Unique Hotel for about $35 / night. It gets rave reviews.

Trekking Guides


We recommend you hire a guide. Let them do the logistics. You simply enjoy the journey.

  • on the most popular route up from the Ranger Station Camp 1 is located at around 1,500m (4,920ft). Simple accommodation and food are offered.
  • at 2,800m (9,190ft) is Camp 2. Sleeping is communal in a very poorly maintained ‘hut’. Might have rodents. Have your agency bring tents, instead. Camp 2 is trashed and unsanitary.

Local Information

  • none aside from hotels and lodges

Best Trekking Guidebooks

  • none that we know of

Best Travel Guidebooks

Best Web Pages

Best Trip Reports


Click PLAY or watch Leonard Boey’s 2013 trip highlights on YouTube.

Questions? Suggestions? Leave a comment on this page. Our editors will reply.

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

ramblin’ boy:

To walk down from the Gateway of the Sun (Inti Punku) to the site of Machu Picchu is one incredible experience.  …

MPThe nice thing about getting to Machu Picchu via the so-called Inca Trail is that walking past a number of other remarkable Inca ruins provides a context as well as a build-up for the ruins of  Machu Picchu.  Here is a graphic that I’ve “borrowed” from the SAS Travel site because it very neatly and quickly encapsulates the entirety of the trek.  …

inca-trail-breakdownWalking The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Click through for his excellent trip report.

… Now the downside. The Inca Trail is packed. Up to 500 hikers start each day. REI charges $3,399 and up for 9 days….

That’s $375 / day! 😦

You could do a lot of better adventuring in Peru for $375.

my wool shirt has a HOLE

I was really enjoying my first wool shirt for hiking and travel. But I found a hole in it after only a few months in rotation.

Is wool not durable?

Let’s try it again.

I first bought an inexpensive MEC Merino crew (US$54)

And will also carry an Icebreaker Tech T Lite SS Mt. Blanc. (US$70)

Perfect for travel, this versatile tee is made from our thin, light 150gm merino wool to keep you cool in the heat–and takes up next to no room in the suitcase.

Wish me luck.

personal BEST hikes

Brandon Esparza of Florida Outdoors RV polled experts in the outdoors to put together a list of their FAVE hikes:

El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, Sonora, Mexico

Shining Rock Wilderness in Pisgah National Forest of Western North Carolina

Little-Big Econ State Forest in Geneva, Florida

Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario

Gasterntal Valley, Switzerland

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Florida Trail, Ocala National Forest, Florida

High Atlas Mountains, Morocco


Blue Ridge Mountains

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Smoky Mountain National Park, North Carolina

West Coast Trail, BC

High Country Pathway, Michigan

Swiftcurrent Pass, Glacier National Park, Montana

Hallett Peak, Colorado

Cottonwood Lakes, Eastern Sierra, California

Rainbow Springs, Ocala National Forest

Wheeler Geologic Area, La Garita Wilderness, Colorado

Experts Weigh in on Their Favorite Camping/Hiking Spots!

Click through for details.

Murder in the High Himalaya – a review

Popular and a prize winner, I’d been looking forward to listening to this book on my recent trip to the Himalaya.

AudibleMurder in the High Himalaya: Loyalty, Tragedy, and Escape from Tibet (2010)

It’s based around the Nangpa La shooting incident of 2006 near Cho Oyo:

… A group of unarmed Tibetan pilgrims attempting to leave Tibet via the Nangpa La pass were fired upon by Chinese border guards. Kelsang Namtso, a 17-year-old nun, was killed and a number were injured. …

The Chinese government initially denied the charges, but Kelsang’s murder was graphically filmed by a Romanian photographer, who was nearby as part of a climbing expedition.

After Romanian photographer Sergiu Matei smuggled the video out of Tibet, it became headline news around the world, drawing attention to the plight of Tibetans under Chinese rule/occupation. …

A documentary called Tibet: Murder in the Snow, based on this incident, was released in 2008 by 360 Degree Films, an Australian production company, working in collaboration with the BBC. …

It’s an awful story.

There’s no need for the author to demonize the Chinese. Their crime speaks for itself.

Click PLAY or watch a book trailer on YouTube. The video includes the shooting of Kelsang Namtso.

Quickly I lost confidence in first time author, investigative journalist Jonathan Green.

The telling is very cliche. Everything China BAD. Everything Tibetan GOOD.

It was as balanced a portrayal of the situation as the film Seven Years in Tibet. Biased.

He keeps making the statement: “oxygen level is half what it is at sea level“.

Of course the percentage of oxygen in the air does not change significantly with altitude, but absolute O2 content decreases as air pressure decreases.

Is that investigative journalist clear on the difference?

I’m not sure he knows what he’s talking about.

One character in the book when questioned states that Annapurna is in Tibet. It’s entirely within Nepal.

Apparently Jonathan Green spent a lot of time the Himalaya.

It’s not apparent in this book.

This is a disappointing read.

donating to Washington State National Parks

Money is tight.

Downsides of budget cuts at Olympic National Park were obvious to me when I was there.

State residents have this option. A vanity mountain license plate.


… The sale of each plate results in a $28 contribution to support Mount Rainier, North Cascades, and Olympic National Parks. Last year, more than $120,000 was donated to the parks …


Of course you can make a straight donation to the Washington’s National Park Fund, if you prefer.

Long term we need to move management and funding of Parks from government to users.

Friends of Olympic National Park needs to do more as the taxpayers cut funding.

Gros Morne National Park – what the frack?

The UNESCO world heritage committee says a monitoring mission should be sent to Gros Morne National Park to assess fracking risks.

… it’s seriously concerned about plans for potential oil exploration near the site. …

Gros Morne

CTV – Fracking risks in Gros Morne should be assessed, UNESCO says

State of Canada’s Parks:

Among the good news: a huge new park in Québec which is now eastern North America’s largest protected area and Canada’s largest provincial park!

The bad news? We’ve identified numerous emerging threats to some of our most iconic parks. The threat of oil fracking metres from Gros Morne National Park heads the list, along with ongoing concerns about federal budget cuts and inappropriate commercial developments in our national parks. Also, some provincial and territorial governments are backtracking on promises to create new parks and protected areas. …

read more from CPAWS – One step forward, two steps back for Canada’s parks: CPAWS’ 2013 State of Canada’s Parks Report