A mountainous market town 350 km northwest of Hanoi, Sapa sits in the heart of a scenic, rugged landscape of towering peaks and cascading rice terraces. Equally famed for its diverse ethnic makeup, the town is located 1,500 meters above sea level and is your perfect starting point for trekking excursions into the surrounding hills, valleys, and villages.

Originally a French hill station established in 1922, a century later Sapa is the region’s international tourist hotspot with a chaotic, rapidly expanding skyline. Tiny hill-tribe villages, on the other hand, are scattered around the hills nearby but they are a world apart from Sapa, still largely untouched by modern development. A visit to an ethnic minority market is an unmissable experience, with local people clad in a riot of colours and haggling excitedly.

Assuming fog doesn’t steal the show, you’ll be in for a treat as soon as you hit the mountain trail. The views around Sapa are second to none on a clear day, especially if you’re game enough to brave Mount Fansipan, the country’s highest peak – an arduous two-day hike or a 15-minute cable car journey.