Sa Pa is a town in the Hoàng Liên Son Mountains of northwestern Vietnam. A popular trekking base, it overlooks the terraced rice fields of the Muong Hoa Valley, and is near the 3,143m-tall Phang Xi Pang peak, which is climbable via a steep, multiday guided walk. Hill tribes, such as the Hmong, Tay and Dao, make up much of the town's local population.
Sa Pa is a frontier township and capital of Sa Pa District in Lào Cai Province in north-west Vietnam. It was first inhabited by people we know nothing about. They left in the entire valley hundreds of petroglyphs, mostly composed of lines, which experts think date from the 15th century and represent local cadastres. Then came the highland minorities of the Hmong and Yao.
The township is one of the main market ones in the area, where several ethnic minority groups such as Hmong, Dao (Yao), Giáy, Pho Lu, and Tay live. groups, as well as by smaller numbers of Tày and Giay. These are the four main minority groups still present in Sa Pa district today. The Kinh (lowland Vietnamese) never originally colonised this highest of Việt Nam’s valleys, which lies in the shadow of Phan-Xi-Pǎng (Fansipan, 3143 m), the highest peak in the country.
Most of the ethnic minority people work their land on sloping terraces since the vast majority of the land is mountainous. Their staple foods are rice and corn. Rice, by its very nature of being a labour-intensive crop, makes the daily fight for survival paramount. The unique climate in Sa Pa has a major influence on the ethnic minorities who live in the area. With sub-tropical summers, temperate winters and 160 days of mist annually, the influence on agricultural yields and health-related issues is significant
The scenery of the Sa Pa region in large part reflects the relationship between the minority people and nature. This is seen especially in the paddy fields carpeting the rolling lower slopes of the Hoàng Liên Mountains. The impressive physical landscape which underlies this has resulted from the work of the elements over thousands of years, wearing away the underlying rock. On a clear day, the imposing peak of Fan Si Pan comes into view. The last major peak in the Himalayan chain, Fan Si Pan offers a real challenge to even the keenest walker, the opportunity of staggering views, and a rare glimpse of some of the last remaining primary rain forest in Vietnam.