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Where is Lao Cai? Travel Guide to Lao Cai Province: Discovering the Hidden Gems

Ultimate Travel Guide to Lao Cai Province

Lao Cai Province is situated in the border region between Northwest and Northeast Vietnam, sharing a border of over 180 km with Yunnan Province, China. It is adjacent to the provinces of Ha Giang, Lai Chau, and Yen Bai.

Comprising the city of Lao Cai, the town of Sa Pa, and 7 districts including Bat Xat, Muong Khuong, Bac Ha, Simacai, Van Ban, Bao Yen, and Bao Thang, Lao Cai boasts numerous famous tourist destinations.

Getting Around

Lao Cai is approximately 300 km away from Hanoi. Traveling from Hanoi by road is convenient and fast, via the Hanoi - Lao Cai expressway (CT05), with a travel time of about 3.5 to 4 hours.

The Hanoi to Lao Cai train (SP4) operates daily, departing at 22:00 and arriving at 06:00. Ticket prices start from 280,000 VND for one-way. Afterward, travelers can proceed by shuttle bus from Lao Cai station to various points in Sa Pa and vice versa (within a 2 km radius from the Stone Church), with a fare of 55,000 VND for one-way.

Travelers from other provinces can fly or take a train or bus to Hanoi, then continue to Lao Cai. Nearby areas are accessible via roads such as QL70, QL12, QL4D, QL4E, and DT155.

Sightseeing Lao Cai City

Lao Cai City is renowned for its numerous historical and cultural relics, spiritual tourism sites such as the complex of Upper Temple, Forbidden Temple, Quan Temple, Doi Co Temple, and Cam Lo Pagoda.

Lao Cai also has an international border gate to Hekou Town (China), where visitors can spend a day or more across the border. Coc Leu Bridge and Coc Leu Market are also famous landmarks in the city.

Sa Pa

The town of Sa Pa is located at an altitude of 1,600 meters above sea level, about 40 km from the center of Lao Cai City. Sa Pa enjoys a cool climate, making it suitable for summer tourism.

In spring, Sa Pa is vibrant with cherry blossoms, plum blossoms, and festivals. In autumn, Sa Pa is adorned with golden terraced fields. During winter, from December to February, lucky tourists may even encounter snow. Sa Pa boasts numerous resorts, distinctive cuisine, and rich indigenous culture.

Famous attractions in Sa Pa include Stone Church, Muong Hoa Valley, Ta Van Village, Ta Phin Village, Cat Cat Village, Silver Waterfall, Ham Rong Mountain, Fansipan Peak, O Quy Ho Pass, etc.

Fansipan Peak

Fansipan, part of the Hoang Lien Son mountain range, lies between Lao Cai and Lai Chau provinces, about 9 km from Sa Pa town. According to the latest data from the Department of Surveying and Mapping of Vietnam in June 2019, the peak is 3,147.3 meters high, considered the highest in Indochina.

Conquering Fansipan can be done by trekking or cable car. The trekking route to the summit began to develop in the 1990s, mainly for adventurers, researchers, and adventurous individuals with good health. The ascent to the peak can take just one day if expedited, starting from Tram Ton Station.

The Fansipan cable car was inaugurated in 2016, making it easier to reach the summit. The round-trip cable car ticket prices range from 800,000 to 850,000 VND (adults, depending on the day of the week) and 550,000 VND (children). Operating hours are from 7:30 to 18:00. At the summit of Fansipan, there are sufficient accommodation and dining services.

O Quy Ho Pass

O Quy Ho Pass is one of the four great mountain passes of Vietnam (along with Ma Pi Leng, Pha Din, and Khau Pha), located on the border between Lai Chau and Lao Cai provinces. The pass traverses the Hoang Lien Son range and is locally known as the Heaven's Gate.

With a length of over 50 km and an altitude of nearly 2,000 meters above sea level, it is one of the longest, most challenging, and most beautiful mountain passes in Vietnam.

Travelers to Lao Cai can ascend the pass from Sa Pa town. O Quy Ho Pass is about 18 km from the center of Sa Pa, with scenic viewpoints and photo opportunities along the way.

Bat Xat

Bat Xat District is located in the northwest of Lao Cai, about 12 km from the city center. Bat Xat is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Lao Cai province.


Lao Cai City boasts a wide range of hotels, from budget to luxury, with double room prices ranging from 200,000 to over one million VND per night. Major hotels include Muong Thanh, Sojo Hotel, Duc Huy, Lao Cai Diamond, Cao Minh, Song Hong View, and Liberty Lao Cai.

Y Ty only offers homestays without solid hotels. However, these homestays have recently been well-invested in, offering good quality, enclosed, clean spaces with beautiful views.

Some popular homestays include Y Ty Clouds, Y Ty Dai Ngan, Xa Ha Nhi Y Ty, Co Si Y Ty, and Thao Nguyen Xanh. The double room prices range from around 500,000 VND per night, while communal rooms start from 50,000 VND per person.


- Hong Pho (Red Noodle Soup) from Bac Ha: Made from red glutinous rice, a specialty only found in Bac Ha region. The noodles are soft, smooth, and not sticky, typically served in sour soup. A bowl usually contains noodles, pork, raw vegetables, pickled mustard greens, crushed peanuts, and a little sour water accompanied by special condiments like soybean, sesame, coriander, ginger, and chili.

- Ban Pho Corn Wine: A signature drink often associated with Lao Cai, especially Bac Ha. Corn wine embodies the flavor of the "white highland plateau" brought to travelers far and wide.

The corn used for making wine is glutinous corn, yellow in color, not very productive but aromatic and firm. The corn is harvested, sun-dried, then stored and gradually brewed into wine.

- Thang Co: A famous and distinctive dish of the H'mong people, with a history of nearly 200 years. Thang Co is made from horse meat and various local spices for cooking.

Nowadays, Thang Co has been diversified with various ingredients to suit everyone's taste. Thang Co pots emitting smoke in a corner of the Bac Ha market are a characteristic feature attracting tourists to this highland market, especially on cold days. A bowl of Thang Co costs around 30,000 VND.

Source Vnexpress

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