Sapa to Sin Ho Scenic Motorbike Loop, Vietnam

Sapa-Sin Ho Scenic Motorbike Loop

Last updated December 2017 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle

This post was last updated 6 years ago. Please check the comments section for possible updates, or read more on my Updates & Accuracy page.


Sapa and Sin Ho are two towns high up on the slopes of the Hoàng Liên Sơn Mountain Range, known in French colonial times as the Tonkinese Alps. Sapa is a famous mountain retreat, enormously popular with Vietnamese and foreign tourists. Sin Ho, on the other hand, is hardly ever visited by travellers. These two highland towns are connected by lofty mountain passes, affording spectacular views over a landscape on a scale not found anywhere else in Vietnam. Rent a motorbike from Sapa and spend a couple of days on the Sapa-Sin Ho Scenic Loop; you’ll be rewarded with some of the grandest alpine scenery in Southeast Asia.

Sapa to Sin Ho Scenic Motorbike Loop, Vietnam

Majestic: the Sapa-Sin Ho Loop takes you through some of the grandest landscape in Southeast Asia

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  • Total Distance: 320km
  • Duration: 2-4 days
  • Route: a round-trip between Sapa & Sin Ho on mountain passes [MAP]
  • Road Conditions: good mountain highways & back-roads, some rough patches
  • Scenery: the Tonkinese Alps: valleys, mountains & rivers on the roof of Indochina


  • SECTION 1: Sapa to Lai Chau (via road QL4D): 70km
  • SECTION 2: Lai Chau to Sin Ho (via Phong Tho): 115km
  • SECTION 3: Sin Ho to Sapa (via road 4D cũ): 135km


I’ve written this guide in 3 sections, going anti-clockwise on the loop, but you can drive it in either direction. The total distance is 320km, but I’ve also included an optional side loop which would add another 80km to the total distance. Note that each section doesn’t necessarily correspond to one day on the road. You could ride the entire loop in 2 days. However, the roads are steep and windy so progress is slower than in the lowlands, and the scenery is superb so you’ll want to stop regularly to admire the views. 3-4 days is perfect. Weather and time of year are important considerations on this loop. Landslides are a common occurrence after wet weather and can block roads for hours or even days. Unfortunately, weather is very hard to predict in this area and conditions can change very suddenly all year round. The good news is that most of the roads on this loop are now either in excellent condition or in the process of being upgraded. April-May and September-October are the best months to go: the weather is warm(-er) and the terraced rice fields are a good colour. Below is my full guide to the Sapa-Sin Ho Loop, including a description of the route, suggestions of places to stay, eat and see, and my annotated map.

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The road to Sin Ho, Lai Chau, northern Vietnam

Threading through the mountains between Sapa & Sin Ho in Vietnam’s stunning northwest region


Sapa-Sin Ho Scenic Loop | 320km

View in a LARGER MAP

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Route: Sapa to Lai Chau (via road QL4D) | Distance: 70km [MAP]

Head west on Road QL4D from the mist-shrouded town of Sapa. The first few kilometres getting out of Sapa can be pretty grim these days, because of potholed, mud-streaked, traffic-clogged, and construction-choked roads. Eventually, however, the road clears and passes a couple of pretty waterfalls (Silver Falls [Thác Bạc] & Love Falls [Thác Tình Yêu]) before reaching the top of the Tram Ton Pass (also known as O Quy Ho or Heaven’s Gate), Vietnam’s highest mountain road at 1,900m (6,230ft). You’ll know when you get here because, if the weather is clear, you’ll see the pass snaking around the mountains below you. Even in misty conditions you’ll know you’ve arrived because it’s significantly warmer on the pass than in Sapa: the pass is both a climatic divide and a provincial one, marking the border of Lao Cai and Lai Chau provinces. There are a few makeshift, rickety-looking viewing platforms by the roadside offering stupendous vistas.

Tram Ton, Vietnam's highest pass

The spectacular Tram Ton Pass is the highest road in Vietnam: it’s a wonderful ride

The impressive, crenelated ridge to the south is Mount Fansipan, Indochina’s highest peak at 3,143m (10,312ft). Its looming presence bears down on the pass, casting a cold shadow over the road. Deep down in the valley indigo rivers forge paths over large boulders. Fansipan is so big that it dominates the scenery all the way to Lai Chau.

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The Tram Ton Pass winds down through more pristine alpine scenery and past the Dong Tien Son caves to Tam Duong town. It’s not much of a town – although its new multi-lane high-street would suggest otherwise – but if you need a rest there are a couple of good accommodation options and food stalls along the main road. Putaleng Hotel has excellent rooms for about $20, or cheaper digs can be found at Tan Sinh Guest House. Continue northwest on Road QL4D for 40km to Lai Chau (perhaps detouring to take a quick look at the impressive Tac Tinh Falls, just behind Tam Duong town). If you’re visiting during September or October look out for some absurdly pretty valleys of terraced rice fields about 10km before descending into Lai Chau. This is the kind of scenery that brochures promise Sapa will offer, but in reality you have to travel a little further afield to find sights like this….

Terraced rice fields near Lai Chau

Scenes like this await you on the road to Lai Chau if you visit in late summer to early autumn

Lai Chau city is a brand new concrete creation in a remote valley surrounded by pyramidal peaks. It consists largely of grandiose government buildings, wide empty boulevards and depressingly vacant public spaces. On a wet, cold day Lai Chau is a painfully soulless place to be, but on a bright day it can be quite appealing. The scale of infrastructure and architecture are not in proportion to the population or significance of the city, but over the last couple of years local life has started to inject some character to this somber provincial capital. Thus, Lai Chau makes a convenient overnight stop. There are decent-value guest houses (‘nhà nghỉ‘ in Vietnamese) and hotels on the main road (30 Tháng 4 Street). Try Binh Long Hotel (2 Tháng 8 Street | tel: 0213 2488 488) or Hà Nhi Hotel (30 Tháng 4 Street | tel: 0213 6250 999) for cheap, clean rooms. Or you could ‘splash out’ ($30) on the Muong Thanh Lai Chau Hotel, which has balconies with views over the town and tea plantations as well as a (often dirty) pool. The area around the lake has some good bánh xèo (Vietnamese savoury pancakes) and ốc (snails and shells) joints in the late afternoon/evening. Or meat lovers should try the roast suckling pig (lợn quay) at Quán 25 (62, 30 Tháng 4 Street). For good coffee head to Gateway Cafe (305 Tran Hung Dao Street).

Lai Chau City, northern Vietnam

Lai Chau is a fairly soulless town, especially in bad weather, but it’ll do for a night

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Route: Lai Chau to Sin Ho (via Phong Tho) | Distance: 115km [MAP]

From Lai Chau continue northwest on Road QL4D toward the town of Phong Tho. This section of road is in very good condition and passes over high mountains before dropping down into a valley. Eight kilometres before reaching Phong Tho, there’s a turning due north for Muong So. This is the beginning of an optional and scenic side loop. The total distance of this detour is around 70-80km. The scenery is very mountainous, heavily farmed with terraces of rice and corn, and dotted with minority hamlets. There are a couple of local guest houses in Muong So, including the clean, simple and friendly Gia Bao (0976 677 999). Alternatively, continue on QL4D to Phong Tho, where there are more hotels and plenty of local rice eateries. By far the most atmospheric of the places to stay in Phong Tho is the Lan Anh Hotel (0989 673 888), a timber, tile and concrete structure built around a verdant courtyard. After Phong Tho the road turns back on itself, becoming QL12 and heading southwest along the Nam Na River valley. The road is in good condition, and it’s a quiet, easy stretch of riding through a pleasant valley all the way to the Nam Cay/Chan Nua junction.

Road QL12 from Phong Tho, Lai Chau Province, Vietnam

Road QL12 from Phong Tho is a pleasant, riverside ride on a good, quiet highway

Nam Cay/Chan Nua is less of a town and more of a country junction. There’s a guest house (nhà nghỉ) here called Hưng Tâm (Tel: 0948 943 643) if you feel like staying the night, and some local food is also available. At the junction turn left (due east) on Road TL128 for the impossibly scenic and steep ride to Sin Ho. In good weather this route is exceptional. Cutting a path in the mountainside, the single-lane road zig-zags up for 40km to the isolated mountaintop town of Sin Ho. The views over ridges, farmland, ethnic minority villages and clear rivers are superb. Every time I ride up here I have a grin on my face the whole way, constantly stopping and gazing in disbelief at the landscape. The road conditions are pretty good for most of the climb, but landslides are a regular occurrence, so expect some extended patches of earth, mud and potholes. If it’s been raining a lot, it may become quite slippery.

wonderful scenery around sin ho

Jaw-dropping: the scenery on the road to Sin Ho is simply staggering

Just when you think it can’t possibly get any better, the road snakes through a series of switchbacks until it bears northwards, thus opening up astonishing views down to the Nam Na river valley and far beyond to the distant mountain ranges straddling the border with China. It’s a breathtaking ride.

Big landscape, road to Sin Ho

Tiny hamlets cling to mountainsides outside Sin Ho, blue ridges disappearing into the distance

Like Sapa, Sin Ho is often engulfed in mist and drizzling rain. The town is a bit scruffy and feels very remote. But, as with every town and city in Vietnam, upgrades to public spaces are beginning to make Sin Ho feel more welcoming with each year. Built on a small plateau, at an altitude of over 1,000m (3,300ft), Sin Ho is very cool, especially in the evenings. Ringed by limestone pinnacles and surrounded by minority villages scattered over the mountainside, this town has huge tourist potential, but as yet very few travellers make the trip.

Showers pass across Sin Ho plateau

Sin Ho is subject to very changeable weather, making the landscape mysterious and brooding

Try to time your visit to catch the Sunday market. Busiest between 8am-11am, Sin Ho market receives hundreds of minority women dressed in their various colourful clothing. They make the journey by foot (sometimes starting before dawn) in order to buy (not sell) supplies for the week ahead. Unlike Sapa market and the horrendously touristy Bac Ha Market, where minority people are more likely to be seen selling to foreign and Vietnamese tourists, Sin Ho market is the real deal. This means there’s no hassling to buy trinkets and garments: most of what’s for sale is fresh meat, vegetables, fruit and practical equipment for use in the villages. Sin Ho market is noticeably calm and unhurried compared to other, more famous, minority markets in the region.

Ethnic minority girl, Sin Ho Market, northern Vietnam

A girl from one of Vietnam’s many ethnic minorities shops at Sin Ho’s Sunday market

Sin Ho has a smattering of local cơm phở (rice and noodles) joints, particularly around the main square, and there’s a new bakery opened, called Thanh Nam. The town has an increasing number of budget places to stay, mostly in the form of nhà nghỉ (guest houses). However, by far my favourite place to stay is the Phuc Tho Hotel (0213 3870 186). Just a 30 second walk from the market, this is a relatively large hotel run by a sweet older couple. Rooms have balconies looking over town and the main square. Rooms are basic but clean, including hot water showers: 200,000-600,000vnđ for 2-6 people sharing. If, for some reason, you don’t like the Phuc Tho Hotel, there are several other decent accommodation options, including the Hong Hoa Guest House (o1687 271 123) and the Thai Binh Hotel (02313 870 366). But perhaps the most interesting (and certainly the cheapest) option is Ba Sanh Homestay (01649 434 628). On the southern edge of town, Ba Sanh offers dirt-cheap digs (a couple of dollars) sleeping in a communal room, but the real attraction is the Dao minority-style hot herbal baths. Costing just a few dollars (for staying or outside guests) these medicinal baths might be just what you need after a long, wet, cold day riding the mountain passes.

Unusually sunny, Sin Ho

Town in the clouds: Sin Ho sits on a plateau surrounded by high peaks

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Route: Sin Ho to Sapa (via road 4D cũ) | Distance: 135km [MAP]

The 60km descent on Road TL128 from Sin Ho back down to Lai Chau is just as beautiful as the ride up. As the road emerges from the mist, which on most days engulfs the town of Sin Ho, a vast landscape opens up beneath you: endless mountains stretching into the distance and craterous valleys dotted with stilt-home villages clustered around clear streams. However, there are some short but treacherous sections for the first 10km out of Sin Ho, where maintenance work is ongoing and landslides cause the surface to be muddy and slick. Take your time and take care on this section, especially in wet or damp conditions.

About a third of the way down to Lai Chau, there’s a junction with a turn off to the right (due south) to Nam Tam. Although this looks like an appealing road to take, I was told that road conditions were bad. (If you want to go to Nam Tam, approach from the north via Lai Chau instead, as this road is good and scenic.). As road DT128 drops further, through very dense jungle, with the city of Lai Chau visible in the valley, take a short break from riding in order to visit the caves of Pu Sam Cap.

Descent, Sin Ho to Lai Chau

More wonderful and expansive views on the pass down from Sin Ho to Lai Chau

Back in Lai Chau take the alternative route (road 4D cũ) to Tam Duong. To get there turn right (due southeast) at the Ha Nhi Hotel on Dang Van Ngu Street. This is a pretty, quiet route through limestone karsts and extensive tea plantations. It’s almost exactly the same length as taking the main road (QL4D). From Tam Duong, rejoin QL4D and retrace your route back to Sapa via the Tram Ton Pass.

Road 4D cũ, Lai Chau to Tam Duong, Vietnam

Road 4D cũ (the alternative route from Lai Chau to Tam Duong) is a lush, quiet route through farmland

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Leave a Comment

Questions, updates and trip reports are all welcome. However, please keep comments polite and on-topic. See commenting etiquette for details.

  1. Frank says:
    April 8, 2024 at 1:06 AM

    A highly recommended hotel in Sin Ho is the Khach San Hong Ho. 300,000 VND for a spacious room with a new bathroom.

    1. Tom says:
      April 8, 2024 at 10:46 AM

      Hi Frank,

      Thanks for the recommendation.



  2. Flo says:
    March 17, 2024 at 3:39 AM


    We are currently in Sapa and reconsidering whether to do this loop or not. We came from Dien Bien Phu and we saw a lot of smoke due to burning season which seriously impedes visibility. Did any of the previous posters do this loop in March? How was the experience for you?


    1. Tom says:
      March 19, 2024 at 1:46 AM

      Hi Flo,

      Personally, I would do this route if the weather is good – it’s worth it.



      1. Flo says:
        March 28, 2024 at 2:08 PM

        Hello Tom,

        Thanks for the advice. We went for it and were not disappointed. We spent 4 days on the loop. First night, we stayed in Lai Châu, Pa Tan (Thao Trang hotel, cool little hotel overlooking the river) and Sin Hô in Bùi Sang Homestay where they offer herbal baths and dinner. We felt very welcome there.

        We didn’t feel the smoke was too much of an issue although it definitely limited the visibility. We had wonderful weather for 3 days so we really can’t complain.

        Roads are in very good state generally.
        Two sections are bad at the moment, where you need to be careful.
        – the road between Dao San and Nam Cay in the optional loop. Lots of potholes, some small sections with pointy rocks, reduced visibility due to vegetation and sharp turns.
        – the second half of the way up to Sin Hô. Lots of construction works at the moment, so expect sand, gravel and potholes.

        My favorite parts were the optional loop, the way up to Sin Ho and the part between Lai Châu and the intersection (great road, great views).

        So glad we went for it instead of the Hà Giang loop! We were the only tourists the whole way through.

        1. Tom says:
          March 31, 2024 at 4:03 AM

          Hi Flo,

          Thank you for your trip report and updates on road conditions – it’s great that you enjoyed this route and your updates are very helpful to me and to other travellers.



  3. Ross says:
    November 6, 2023 at 1:46 PM

    Hi all,
    On the loop now, had to find accommodation (Nhà nghỉ Quân Chớn -250k per night) after sin ho to the south as a thunderstorm rolled through.
    Road DT128 out of sin ho (traveling clockwise) to QL12 is in a bad state for the most part but the views are still amazing. Timing this ride for an evening created heavenly scenes of god rays glistening through the brooding clouds into the valleys below. This along with the bridge over nam nah river looked like something out of Harry Potter.
    If driving with a partner I suggest allowing extra time for photos and bum rests! As for Sin ho my partner and I felt like we had gone to the wrong town in relation to the descriptions above. After crusing around the town we stopped for maybe half an hour at the stagnant “lake” to have a beer and snacks. Found that the stay in Lai chau (Khách Sạn Minh Sơn Lai Châu-250k one night) with a view over the many mountain peaks to be more pleasant.
    Thinking of extending our trip to a 4 day by either heading south and going along dt127 which follows the river and loops back north. Or head north and fit the loop on the border to China (if we don’t get turned back).
    After ending in Sapa we plan to head east to ha giang to do the loop, but concerned as to how busy it might be.
    PS the beds at both the nha nghi’s listed have felt like sleeping on floors.

    1. Tom says:
      November 7, 2023 at 9:36 AM

      Hi Ross,

      Thank you for the road updates. Glad you’re enjoying the ride. Good to know the scenery is still good, even though parts of the road aren’t in good condition at the moment.

      Sorry you didn’t like Sin Ho, most people find it quite interesting and in a great location high up in the mountains.

      Haha! I love hard beds – they’re great for sleep and much better for your body 🙂



  4. StressLessTravel says:
    October 18, 2023 at 9:31 AM

    Hello Tom,

    Just back in Sapa after 4 days of amazing Loop. Thanks for your post!

    To update the roads status, all roads are perfect!

    We modified a bit the loop with your intel and I would like to share it with all the people here if someone is thinking to do something similar.

    In the second section, we wanted to drive as close to China as posible, so we went from Lai Chau to Dao San making the detour you suggest in the post. The roads here were pefect, clean asphalt all the way to Dao San.

    Here, instead of going direction Ta Phin, we keept driving north (with perfect clean asphalt) following the road DT132 (trough Den thang A, Ho meo, Pa Vay Su, Si Choang) until Si Choang.

    In Si Choang, in the petrol station, instead of following the DT132 that seems to enter China at some point, we turn left in a road called “Tuan Bien” that leads you until the border with China in “JinshuiHezen”. The road is semi asphalt semi offroad road. It’s not complicated if you drive slowly. We have no offroad experience and we did it with no problems. It’s a 33km road that follows the river that separates Vietnam and China. You drive parallel to a wall China has built to block vietnamese people to enter China. For us, a really cool experience.

    In the section three, although you mentioned that someone told you the road was not good when you did it, we decided to drive from Sin Ho to Lai Chau via Nam Trang. Nowadays, the road is perfect, clean asphalt and the landscape is amazing! Rice fields, small villages, pagodas,… really amazing.

    That’s all 😊

    1. Tom says:
      October 19, 2023 at 12:29 AM


      Thanks for the trip report. The ‘tuan bien’ road is a border zone, so technically foreign travellers aren’t allowed to ride without a permit. Hopefully, the rules will be relaxed a bit in the future.



  5. Marie-France says:
    October 18, 2023 at 4:16 AM


    I just finish to ride the loop clockwise. The road south of Sin Ho (the road DT128 until the junction with the QL12) is in bad condition at the moment. There were many landslides, but it was still possible to pass. All this area is full of holes, dirty patch, and rocks. I doubt that there was a full km that was fully pave, it has been in the past, but it’s not anymore… The driving was fine as it was a sunny day, I had to drive very slowly, but I would not recommend if it’s wet or foggy, especially if you drive it in that direction as you will go down from the mountain.

    I stayed at Nhà Nghi Duyên Hai in Sin Ho, I paid 150k, and it was clean and alright for a night.
    The Coffee Hoàng Gia and the restaurant Jumong Quàn are really good options for coffee and food!

    Enjoy the loop, the sceneries are stunning!

    1. Tom says:
      October 19, 2023 at 12:20 AM

      Hi Marie-France,

      Thank you for the trip report and useful road updates. And I’m glad you enjoyed the scenery on this loop.



    2. Mark Binstadt says:
      November 1, 2023 at 10:24 AM

      Thank you for the information. I plan to ride from Muong Lay to Sin Ho via the DT128, and then from Sin Ho on to Sapa. I am on a Honda 110 Wave. I am wondering what kind of bike you were on and how you think a semi automatic would handle the conditions you describe? Thank you for any feedback you or Tom may have.

      1. Tom says:
        November 1, 2023 at 12:51 PM

        Hi Mark,

        In dry conditions, you should be fine riding on a Honda 110 on that route (I’ve ridden all the routes on my website on a Yamaha automatic). If it is very wet, then landslides are possible and parts of the road may be muddy and difficult. Just go by the weather conditions when you are there: worst case scenario is that you ride up as far as you can and then either have to way for the road to be cleared or go back down to the main road.



  6. Alberto & Beatrice says:
    August 6, 2023 at 5:10 PM

    Hi Tom,

    We’d like to thank you very much for this awesome tour you created.
    We completed it in three days and it made us experience the “real” Vietnam. 🇻🇳

    ✨Best highlight: we felt like the only travellers on those roads with locals waving hello to us while we were riding!

    🏍️ We rented a 135cc automatic Yamaha at Thuê xe máy uy tín giá rẻ Sapa, very fair price compared to others. The motorbike did the job well, up and down mountains and hills. If you know how to drive a motorbike, you will be fine.

    🛣️ Roads were mostly in good condition apart from the way up to Sin Ho which was a bit bumpy – nothing to worry about, you just need to be a bit more careful.

    🏩 Accommodations were easy to find, you can also book them on the spot or find a homestay. Villa De La Roseraie in Sin Ho told us one night would be 800K, so we decided instead to stay at the the Nhà nghỉ Duyên Hải, not fancy at all but way cheaper (around 150k dong).

    🍽️ Must try in Lai Chau is the bahn xeo from Bánh Xèo Kim Ngân, highly recommended!
    As for Sin Ho, try the fried tofu and the veggie noodles at Jumong Quán – Ẩm Thực Tây Bắc: big portions and tasty food.

    Enjoy the ride and thank you again Tom! 😊

    Albi & Bea

    1. Tom says:
      August 10, 2023 at 4:27 AM

      Hi Alberto & Beatrice,

      Thanks for your trip report and updates. I’m very happy to hear you enjoyed your road trip.



  7. Brendon Lim says:
    June 5, 2023 at 12:32 PM

    The name of the bakery I mentioned is Hoang Gia Bakery. They are not listed on Google Maps.

  8. Brendon Lim says:
    June 5, 2023 at 10:11 AM

    Wanted to try the hot herbal bath based on your recommendation. Ba Sanh Homestay seems to be closed as the garden gate was locked. Pity though as I’ve never tried the herbal bath.
    Thanh Nam bakery did not have any cake or buns. But there was another bakery which I forgot the name about 15 meters away. If you are coming from Phuc To Hotel, Thanh Nam will be on your right hand side. This bakery will be on the left hand side and is before Thanh Nam.

  9. Brendon Lim says:
    June 5, 2023 at 7:05 AM

    Last night I tried the roast pork you mentioned and it was nice but pricey in my opinion. A small plate of roast pork with rice and a coke cost 130k. Luckily I did not order anything else as it was very filling. The roast pork made up for the lousy lunch I had. LOL.

    This morning 5/6 left Lai Chau at 0630 for Phong Tho via QL4D/QL100/DT132/QL12.
    Decided to press on to Sin Ho taking the longer route QL12/DT128.
    Staying at Khach San Phuc Tho for 200k per night. A bit haggard and old but it will do. The elderly couple were very happy to get a guest and I did not bother to go elsewhere to check out the room.
    Road conditions are all right but I got caught in the rain for an hour.

  10. Brendon Lim says:
    June 4, 2023 at 6:28 AM

    Left Lao Cai this morning 4/6 to Lai Chau. I took part of the Y Ty road and it was quite scenic. Originally planned to stay overnight at Y Ty and do the whole loop but due to the issues of foreigners not allowed to stay without a permit I decided to do part of the loop.
    It was a pleasant ride and am now at Lai Chau for the night.
    Lai Chau is exactly like you described big buildings but seems soulless. Lol.

    Staying at the Binh Long Hotel 2 for 300k. The hotel looks fancy.
    When riding around the area looking for food o saw the Binh Long Hotel 1 nearby which doesn’t look as new as V2.
    Due to the intense humidity I try to leave the hotel by 0630 and arrive my next destination before 1200.

    1. Tom says:
      June 5, 2023 at 6:22 AM

      Hi Brendon,

      Good to hear you’re enjoying the ride. Yes, it’s a pity foreigners can’t just turn up and stay overnight in Y Ty, but at least there are other options for an overnight stay in the region. Lai Chau makes a lot of sense.



  11. StressLess Travel says:
    May 22, 2023 at 3:52 PM

    Hi Tom!
    Amazing post! We used you Ha Ging Loop post a couple of years ago and it was also amazing!

    I would like to ask if you know any detour or sport to see the border with China as in the “North pole” in Ha Giang. I loved it that time and I would like to feel close to China also this time.

    There are a couple of detours from Nam Cay (using QL12) or An Tan using sideroads. Any suggestion?


    1. Tom says:
      May 23, 2023 at 8:02 AM


      Yes, you could follow those routes to the Chinese border. However, ever since the pandemic, border areas have become much more ‘sensitive’ and patrolled by border police: it’s quite common for foreign riders to be stopped and turned back, especially near remote borders. So bear that in mind if you do decide to take a detour to a border.



      1. StressLess Travel says:
        May 23, 2023 at 8:30 AM

        Good point! Thanks!

        We may try to do it from Khoa San to Nam Cay. I will post and update in October!


  12. Mark Ketzler says:
    May 17, 2023 at 8:50 AM

    I will be doing this loop soon. Sin Sui Ho would be an easy side trip. Do you recommend it?

    1. Tom says:
      May 17, 2023 at 10:17 AM

      Hi Mark,

      Yes, that’s a good idea.



  13. Marion says:
    May 12, 2023 at 5:11 AM

    We have just finished this scenic trip with a 3 days tour. We have done the small extra loop taking the road QL100 between Muong so and Nam Cay.

    Thank you for the suggestion ! The road was very scenic and varied, passing through rice fields, tea plantations and small villages !
    We absolutely loved it !

    All the road where in good conditions except the Road 4D cũ from Lai Chau. This valley is very pretty and worth a trip, however there is currently massive road works with big engines and slippery roads.

    The road to sin ho is absolutely sublime !

    1. Tom says:
      May 12, 2023 at 6:03 AM

      Hi Marion,

      Thanks for your trip report. I’m glad you enjoyed it. And it’s great to know that most of the roads are in good condition – I hope the works on 4D cũ will be finished soon.



  14. Marieke says:
    May 9, 2023 at 6:17 AM


    We did this loop at the beginning of May 2023 and it was amazing! Beautiful scenery, interesting villages and perfect roads almost all the way through.

    I will go through some practical information and personal experience.

    We rented a motorbike (automatic, not sure how many cc’s) from our hotel in Sapa for 140k/day. This was on the higher side but we didn’t want to risk renting it at some random place. Not sure if this is normal, but they wanted a passport as a deposit. We agreed, but after we left we found it a bit stupid of ourselves. For most hotels around the loop you need to show your passport and visa stamp at check-in and we were warned that you can get fined by the police if they find out that you don’t have it (next to that, its just not very nice to travel without a passport). We had no problems and the copy of my passport and evisa were enough for the hotels, but I still do not recommend it. We had only one encounter with the police which was in Sapa (I think they were doing alcohol checks), but as soon as they saw we were tourists, they let us through.

    On our last day in Sapa we stayed at Cloud House Sapa at the north-east side of Sapa (highly recommend, super nice hostess, breakfast and room) where they had good looking motorcycles for only 110k/day.

    My partner drove the whole thing and his only experience was a few days in the mountains of Myanmar. If you drive carefully and not too fast it should be fine. There wasn’t a lot of traffic except for Sapa. Some locals can drive like crazy everywhere though, so you still have to be very attentive while driving. But in general the locals were pretty carefull as well. The roads were perfect except for the DT128, south of Sin Ho. It was doable, but quite bumpy and a lot of holes. I have to note that during our trip it was completely sunny, no rain or fog. Only for the last 30 km we had fog, which made it more difficult, a bit slippery and slower.

    We did the trip in 3 days, with a detour which made it a little under 4 days. We only encountered other tourists on the first 30 km to Lai Chau. On day one we went from Sapa to Lai Chau with a stop at the Tac Tinh Waterfall. This was a beautiful waterfall with natural swimming pool where we took a much needed dip as we did the trip during a heatwave (and you also have to walk to the waterfall which is a ~600m uphill walk). It took us around 6 hours (incl. ~2 hours at the waterfall). Lai Chau itself was a funny village/city, and we actually enjoyed it because of its weirdness. The owner of the hotel (Minh Son Hotel) was super nice and in the evening there was a talent show and lots of people chilling at the main square. On day two we went from Lai Chau to Sin Ho, this was the longest ride for us and was quite intense, probably also because it was 40 degrees celsius. We didn’t really stop anywhere except for food and the occasional stop to admire the views (which were amazing). It took us around 5 hours. Sin Ho and especially our homestay (Bui Sanh Homestay) was quite an experience, but you will have to see that for yourself. The only thing I will spoil is that we were woken up by the town radio at 6 am, so make sure you go to bed early ;). On day 3 we went from Sin Ho to Tan Uyen (not part of the loop). We did a short stop at the Dong Tien Son cave which was quite nice, you can explore it on your own for 20k per person, it was pretty much deserted. After the cave, instead of going left, back to Sapa, we went right to Tan Uyen. This was a super relaxed town and the people were really nice there and we had a great cheap hotel (Hoang Lien Plaza) with swimming pool, which made it a nice end of our little trip. On day 4 we went back to Sapa from Tan Uyen, which was only a 2 hour drive.

    If you like going of the beaten track, this trip is definitely for you. Thanks a lot Tom for your guide! Otherwise we wouldn’t have had this amazing experience.


    1. Tom says:
      May 10, 2023 at 4:55 AM

      Hi Marieke,

      Thank you for your trip report on this route, particularly road conditions. I’m very happy to hear that you had a good time. It’s a wonderful loop with some fabulous scenery.



  15. Erin says:
    March 24, 2023 at 4:26 AM

    Hey there! I hope this doesn’t come off as a silly question… but do you think I’d be able to do this on a motorbike if I don’t have prior experience? I’m a fairly seasoned traveler and a savvy one, pretty adventurous and quite resourceful. This looks like an absolute dream and I really want to try it. Would it be reckless? Thanks for your opinion!

    1. Tom says:
      March 26, 2023 at 8:38 AM

      Hi Erin,

      The main loop is almost all paved, but you should check the comments for other people’s recent experience of road conditions on this route.

      In good conditions you could ride the main loop without much experience, but, of course, you would need to be extremely careful: the roads are very mountainous, steep and windy, and traffic culture in Vietnam is likely to be very different from your home country. There is always a risk in motorbike road trips, especially in a country you’re not familiar with, and without previous riding experience. You can also see this article for a bit more information about safety etc.



    2. Marjos Verbeek says:
      April 3, 2023 at 12:37 PM

      As a fellow seasoned traveller, and motorcyclist, and both of those combined : i wouldnt do it without some proper training: cornering, mountainriding, ( especially downhill ) , unpredictable traffic. Vietnam is a beautiful country for motorcycling, your urge is fully understandable. But just one corner swung too wide could land you in a local hospital and worse. First get some experience so you can control a motorbike in most situations, and then come back?

  16. Anders says:
    January 11, 2023 at 12:48 PM

    We did the route the 9th and 10th of January 2023. The southern route between Lai Chau and Tam Duong had quite heavy roadwork at many parts of it at the time of travel. Unsure if I would recommend it at the moment, a lot of dust and bumps. The eastern route up to sin ho was in excellent condition just a tiny bit of roadwork one place. The Eastern road from sin ho was in decent condition. Asphalt all the way, but the first 30 or so km had a lot of potholes and was petty bumpy to be asphalt. Not difficult to ride, but slow going, especially with all the nice views to stop an look at. Due to the weather we did it in two days. Managable, but 3 is probably better paced. The second day (on which we took the west road from sin ho) was pretty long. All in all a magnificent ride. My expections where high and still it was even better than imagined. Even the traffic in Sa Pa is a bit more relaxed and less intense then the other places in Vietnam we rode.

    1. Tom says:
      January 11, 2023 at 2:39 PM

      Hi Anders,

      Thank you for your trip report and valuable road updates – I really appreciate it and I’m sure it’s also helpful to other readers.

      Great to hear you enjoyed this route. I can’t wait to get back up there, too.



  17. Anders says:
    January 7, 2023 at 3:13 PM

    Hello. We are in Vietnam now and are planning to take this route. We were planning to use 3 days, but weather looks incredible the first 2 days and a bit so-so the third. I was wondering if the Google travel times are more or less realistic up in the mountains? (pure travel time). It suggestes about 3 hours from sa pa taking the southern route.

    Furthermore I wondered if there is a good place to get traffic information for Vietnam, Google seems to indicate the road between Lao Cai and Sapa is closed, but so far on our trip Google maps hasn’t been 100% reliable.

    1. Tom says:
      January 8, 2023 at 1:18 PM

      Hi Anders,

      I wouldn’t rely too heavily on Google for things like routes, roads, traffic and travel times – it’s got much better over the last few years (and will continue to get better the more data it acquires), but there are so many variables in Vietnam that Google is nowhere near as accurate here as it is in Europe and America.

      In reality, travel times for this route depend entirely on your riding experience, how comfortable you are on a motorbike, how familiar you are with Vietnam’s road rules and traffic, weather conditions, and unforeseen circumstances such as road blocks due to landslides.

      An experienced rider in good conditions can easily ride between Sapa and Sin Ho within half a day, but really you should allow a full day because the ride is beautiful and there are places to stop and see along the way. 2 days for this loop would be a bit too rushed in my opinion. 3-4 days is perfect.



  18. Anders says:
    December 13, 2022 at 8:12 PM

    Hello, I am going to Vietnam this January, and I want to take this trip. I am a quite experienced motorcyclist, however mainly on paved roads, not much on gravel. I have done some research on rental, and a lot of it is scooters, maybe 125cc or similar. For flat road I think that is fine, if not the most exciting, you can drive over 100 kmh usually, but how hilly is this route? Will a scooter be a bit weak for something like this? My wife will be riding as a passenger.

    1. Tom says:
      December 14, 2022 at 11:03 AM

      Hi Anders,

      Almost all of the main route on this loop is now fully paved.

      Most people ride this route on semi-auto or fully auto scooters, so you should be fine as long as the bike is in good condition.

      However, you can rent a variety of bikes – from scooters to motorcycles. Try contacting some of the rental companies I recommend on this page.



  19. Pat says:
    September 14, 2022 at 4:44 PM

    WOW. Simply incredible.
    I think Brice covered the roads before and after Sin Ho, and I got caught at a landslide for a hour north of Sin Ho.
    But boy what a ride Sin Ho – Lai Chau is! Spectacular. And the O Quy Ho pass and climb towards SaPa to cap it off. A simply MUST DO if in the North.

    Thanks for your work Tom

    1. Tom says:
      September 15, 2022 at 7:01 AM

      Hi Pat,

      Great that you enjoyed this route. Yes, it is stunning – more so than ever now that the roads are in good condition. (Landslides are always an issues in these mountains.)



  20. Lawrence says:
    September 9, 2022 at 12:18 PM

    Thanks so much Tom for this guide. This is one of the best roadtrips I’ve ever done and the scenery is probably some of the best I’ve ever seen, in Vietnam or otherwise!

    Me and 2 friends went over the Independence Day holiday in early September 2022 and didn’t see a single other tourist the entire time. This route feels like Ha Giang about 5 years ago, so I loved it.

    Here’s a few comments from me:

    1. Like Brice said below, the vast majority of the roads are in pretty much perfect condition. The only exceptions are parts of the mountain road up to Sin Ho and parts of the road down from the optional side loop, where you might have to take it easy.

    2. Also like Brice, we had insane fog and rain when leaving Sin Ho even though we had excellent weather otherwise. Seems to be a feature of that stretch of road, so you might have to take this part quite slowly.

    3. The optional side loop is 100% worth it. It’s absolutely stunning and probably had the best scenery of the route. For anyone doing it, I’d encourage you to be SUPER careful when it comes to the top of that part of that route; you have to turn left down what seems like a side road, but that’s actually the main road back down to the main part of the route. We continued down the road we were on and ended up driving 30 minutes on the way to China by accident.

    4. I have to disagree with you here Tom about the town of Lai Chau! We decided to stay there because it has some genuinely nice parks and lakes, incredible surrounding scenery and a decent selection of bia hoi. We got lucky with the weather and finding a nice nha nghi, so that definitely helped.

    Thanks again Tom. I’m now on a mission to try all of your northern Vietnam routes!

    1. Tom says:
      September 11, 2022 at 6:01 AM

      Hi Lawrence,

      Thanks for your updates and trip reports. I’m glad you enjoyed the ride and found the scenery good.

      Great to hear the roads are in good condition and that the optional side route was worth your while.

      Yes, I agree that Lai Chau is much better now than in the past: food, cafes, accommodation. Vietnamese dining and street life have a way of making even the most modern and soulless town planning attractive, human, and livable.

      Again, your updates are much appreciated.



  21. Brice says:
    August 9, 2022 at 12:20 AM

    Just did the loop 3 days ago (August 2022, 2 beautiful days & 1 rainy day), a few comments:
    1. All the main roads mentioned for the loop in this article are in perfect conditions. A few landslides on DT128 from Muong Lay to Sin Ho but nothing really complex (it’s like 20 to 30 meters maximum, limited mut despite heavy rains)
    2. The DT128 Sin Ho to Lai Chau is perfect too, there is litteraly 20 meters of bad road due to a landslide, else it’s perfect.
    3. No issues at all with authorities or locals including at Sin Ho market on Sunday
    4. Extremely foggy and rainy while leaving Sin Ho for probably a good 30′, don’t underestimate if you go there during the rainy season, it can be quite overwhelming if you have rarely used a bike in Vietnam
    5. As mentioned in the comment below the most dangerous part is by far the pass from Sapa, a lot of minivans, trucks and cars makes it more difficult than others.

    1. Tom says:
      August 9, 2022 at 9:18 AM

      Hi Brice,

      Thank you for the road updates. It is really great to hear that road conditions are all good on the loop now. Such as spectacular area!



  22. Paul says:
    July 29, 2022 at 1:26 PM

    Hi Tom,

    i will be in Vietnam in September with my girlfriend and we got really hooked on this motorbike tour thing. Initially we wanted to do the Ha Giang loop but we read everywhere that it is dangerous and not suited for unexperienced drivers. Also we are only allowed to drive 50cc and are a bit anxious about getting the bike confiscated, as some people have reported. We both never sat on a bike before but would plan to in preparation for the trip. Would you recommend this Sapa Loop for beginners or can you recommend any other routes more suited for noobs? I guess we would take the risk with a 125cc if necessary.

    Thanks alot and best wishes from Germany!

    1. Tom says:
      August 2, 2022 at 6:44 AM

      Hi Paul,

      Firstly, you would, of course, need to be extremely careful if you choose to go on a self-drive road trip in Vietnam without any experience. But many people do this successfully and have a great time.

      Yes, the Sapa-Sin Ho route would be a decent option. The only problem is that Sapa, although a small town, is quite busy because it’s such a tourist hotspot, and the roads are very steep. However, once you’re out of the town, most of the roads are wide, well-made and quiet.

      But the roads are very mountainous, so you’d need to ride very carefully, indeed. If you choose this route, you’d need to rent a 100cc+ bike. This should be fine. I’d also suggest forgoing the loop and just taking the direct route (QL14D and DT128) from Sapa to Sin Ho and back again, because a short section of the road south of Sin Ho still has road works. The landscape is fabulous. But the weather is often cloudy and wet around Sapa.

      You might try contacting Flamingo Travel for bike hire. But I’m sure there are lots of other options in Sapa.



  23. Matthew says:
    July 26, 2022 at 12:22 PM

    Mid-2022 update – The road North of Sin Ho is finally completed.

    We just finished the standard loop 2d1n with a stay in Sin Ho. Gorgeous dry weather and friendly faces all through the trip. Road was quality all the way through except for 10km or so South of Sin Ho. Nothing too treacherous, just your average dips and rocks to swerve through. The road between Sin Ho and Lai Chau is now a luxurious 2 lane blacktop and was the nicest road of the trip. Had a heartfelt dinner with the owner at the cafe on the corner of Bo Ho. Then had to turn down the offered VIP room at hotel Thanh Binh for 500k, settling for a standard room for 300k.

    Tips: Make sure to check your bikes thoroughly when renting. My wife’s had no working front brake or speedometer and mine had no headlights. For gas, our full tanks out of Sapa were just a little short to make it to Sin Ho. Make sure you fuel up before the turn off up the hill, though there are a few household gas stands on the way in an emergency.

    All in all a wonderful 2-3 day trek with easy roads, great scenery, and kind locals. Thanks so much for the guide!

    1. Tom says:
      July 27, 2022 at 4:27 AM

      Hi Matthew,

      Thank you for your trip report and updates on road conditions. It’s great to hear that the road between Sin Ho and Lai Chau is now finally completely finished. I look forward to riding it again some time soon.

      Glad you enjoyed this road trip.



  24. Eugene says:
    December 1, 2019 at 5:35 PM

    Just finished the whole loop, with the long detour to the north. Again, great write-up and guide, really appreciate the time you put in it. A few notes. I should have taken your advice and spent the night in Lai Chau, but I thought it was early enough and continued to Muong So. The 3 guesthouses in that village are perhaps the worst accommodation values I’ve seen in Vietnam so far. Yes, they are cheap-ish (200-250K), but for rooms with no windows or really, really basic. Nobody speaks a word of English or even really bothers with tourists at all – it’s not a village that cares for tourism. Moreover, there are hardly any food options after 8pm, so just something to keep in mind for anyone deciding to stay here.

    Continuing on the northern detour from Muong So, it is actually really really easy to miss the turn off from DT132 to the secondary route to complete the loop. There is no signage of any kind, so you really have to keep checking your map every 5-10 minutes or so. I carried on DT132 for about 40 minutes towards China until I finally realized I veered way off the loop. Is it worth doing the detour? I thought so – some decent views there (although nothing like on the Y-Ty loop or south of Sin Ho), and you are not going to see any other tourists at all. But if you are strapped for time, it’s OK to skip it.

    The best section of the whole Sapa-Sin Ho loop is the 30km or so before you reach Sin Ho from the south. The road condition is decent despite the occasional construction patches. But yes, north of Sin Ho is another story – the road is as bad as it was when this guide was written. Passable, but utterly unenjoyable.

    Sin Ho market is a nice place to watch the different minority people. It’s a really small market, actually, and no farm animals except an odd chicken or a puppy, unlike the others, but on the plus side, you are likely to be the only foreigner there. Sin Ho is an agreeable town to spend the night, and I concur, the Dao baths at Ba Sanh are the highlight of the whole trip and well worth the 100K they charge for them nowadays. Watch out for the little boy peeking in your bath room though!

    Doing this loop in early winter means you are going to pass through bright sunny skies warranting a t-shirt and bone-chilling, foggy, drizzly conditions (usually closer to Sapa), so my advice – bring layers! And something reasonably waterproof for the outer layer. Otherwise, a great motorcycle trip easily doable in 3 days total. Thanks!

    1. Tom says:
      December 2, 2019 at 10:54 AM

      Hi Eugene,

      Glad you enjoyed the route – I think it’s one of the most spectacular in the north.

      Thanks for the road updates – it’s a shame they haven’t made any progress with that section of the road north of Sin Ho – they’ve been repairing it for years now.



      1. Young Lee says:
        December 4, 2019 at 1:42 PM

        Just went past the road north of Sin Ho today- no construction vehicles in sight at all, guess they gave up repairing it already…

        1. Tom says:
          December 5, 2019 at 4:32 AM

          Strange. I’m sure they’ll be back 🙂

          1. María Rios says:
            December 12, 2019 at 3:26 AM

            Hi Tom!
            I am planning on doing this two day loop in a couple days. Do you know where the best place to rent a bike in Sapa is? Also, what is the approximate end time of the loop on the second day? Trying to see if I would make it to the overnight train. Thank you!!!

            1. Tom says:
              December 12, 2019 at 8:26 AM

              Hi Maria,

              Try contacting Flamingo Travel – they have recently opened a new shop in Lao Cai/Sapa.

              I think you probably could make the overnight train, but it’s best not to rush this route, because bad road conditions or bad weather can slow you down. So I wouldn’t commit yourself to catching the train on the same night.

              I hope this helps,


  25. Ignotas says:
    September 29, 2019 at 8:00 AM

    Hello, thank you for an awesome guide. Maybe someone knows if the road works north of Sin Ho are complete? Thank you

    1. Tom says:
      September 30, 2019 at 5:17 AM


      I had reports from last month that the road conditions coming from the north to Sin Ho on road DT128 are still quite bad for the last 10km. And going due south from Sin Ho on road DT128 there are still some rough patches caused by landslides and road works.


  26. Roberto says:
    November 18, 2018 at 5:04 AM

    Great guide as usual.

    What route would you suggest for the trip from Hanoi to Sapa?

    1. Tom says:
      November 18, 2018 at 3:41 PM

      Hi Roberto,

      It’s a fairly long ride from Hanoi to Sapa and the first couple of hours involve getting out of the capital and industrial suburbs, which isn’t very fun. After that, you can either take QL70 along the east side of the Red River or head through the mountains on QL32. The former is faster, but the latter is more scenic, including Mu Cang Chai.

      However, it’s also a good option to put your bike on the train from Hanoi to Lao Cai instead.

      I hope this helps,


  27. Hugo says:
    November 15, 2018 at 7:47 AM

    November 2018 update : Just finished the loop. Did Lai Chau – Nam Tam – Sin Ho with a night in Sin Ho.

    1/ The road between Lai Chau and Nam Tam is in excellent shape with really nice vistas.

    2/ Once in Nam Tam we chose to take a completely offroad option : instead of the regular road between Nam Tam and Sin Ho. This isn’t a road, it’s a dirt and gravel track, which takes a long time. The scenery is incredible and there is absolutely no one around. Easily passable in dry months, just a very slow ride. There’s a shop/place to eat in the middle of the road at some point. The last 10km of that road are incredible. A small paved road snaking up through thick vegetation, absolutely beautiful.

    3/ The road south of Sin Ho is in good state. Bui Sanh Homestay in Sin Ho is the perfect place to stay. The family is very welcoming, food is good, herbal baths are awesome and you can even get a massage at the homestay. Definitely recommend it.

    4/ North of Sin Ho, the road is being rebuilt and is in terrible state in many places. They are in the process of widening the road but that will take some time. Again, no problem in the dry season, might more complicated with rain.

    1. Tom says:
      November 17, 2018 at 1:21 PM

      Hi Hugo,

      Thanks for the updates and information.

      I did half of the that off road track, but didn’t realize it continued all the way to Nam Tam – sounds great, if a bit slow.


  28. Lulu says:
    July 9, 2018 at 12:46 PM

    UPDATE JULY 2018

    Hello Tom,
    We just finished the loop, did the whole side loop also, didn’t take the side road past Nam Tam though, since it looked pretty bad still.

    I wanted to make an update on the road DT128 heading to Sin Ho from the South; it has been raining a bit in the past few weeks, so there’s been alot of landslides, and the road is bad and horribly muddy. Parts of the road were broken down the valley, and we had to walk some of the mud sections, or you would fall down from the bike. There were also construction work cars blocking the way, so it takes quite long to get up the mountain.

    The road down to Lai Chau is still in work and partly muddy, but not half as bad.

    1. Tom says:
      July 9, 2018 at 1:16 PM

      Hi Lulu,

      Thanks for the road updates. Yes, I’m sure those roads suffer major landslides during the heavy rains. On the bigger roads they’re usually cleared within days, but on the smaller ones it can take a long time.


    2. Peter Link says:
      August 14, 2018 at 11:59 AM

      I cycled this road from Lai Chau to Sin Ho today but at one point a Vietnamese lady pointed out to me that the road was not passable due to landslide. I didn’t want to get stuck in this remote area so I took an alternative route. One of the reasons for my decision was that there seems to have been massive landslides at the end of June near Sin Ho. Is the road passable?

      1. Tom says:
        August 14, 2018 at 12:07 PM

        Hi Peter,

        Yes, there have been big landslides in Lai Chau this summer, including most recently in early August. But it’s highly likely that any landslides affecting road QL4D will have been cleared as soon as possible because it’s a major transport road, but landslides on the smaller road from Lai Chau to Sin Ho are likely to take more time to clear.

        Good luck,


        1. Laith says:
          August 24, 2018 at 2:41 PM

          Hello all, Tom man, your site is awesome, thanks a lot, I have been referring to your routes quite often throughout my trip. Just wanted to update you and readers that I was on DT128 today from Lai Chau to Sin Ho and 35 kms out from Sin Ho the road is closed due to landslides and road repair. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise the “closed road” notice and read it as you exit Lai Chau because it was all in Vietnamese 🙁 However, while driving the same way back to spend the night in Lai Chau, I saw a huge truck transporting a huge tractor so work is beginning to clear the road but I don’t know about the timeframe.

          1. Tom says:
            August 24, 2018 at 3:49 PM

            Hi Laith,

            Thanks for the update, that’s really useful information. There’s been some pretty heavy rain in Lai Chau this year so I expect the landslides will take a while to clear, but it’s usually possible for motorbikes to get through pretty soon after the tractors and earth movers arrive.


  29. Baptiste says:
    April 30, 2018 at 11:39 AM

    Hi Tom,

    We have just finished The Ha Giang northern loop, and thanks for all your tips and yoir map.

    Now we are planning The Sapa- SinHo loop, and we would like some advice about the best shop to rent a 125cc manual motorbike, Yamaha or Suzuki.

    Thanks a lot.

    Baptiste & Solène

    1. Tom says:
      April 30, 2018 at 12:39 PM

      Hi Baptiste & Solène,

      Do you mean a place to rent bikes in Sapa? If so, I can’t recommend a specific place there, but you will find lots of rental outlets in Sapa.

      Good luck,


      1. maria paz rios says:
        December 12, 2019 at 5:13 AM

        Hi Tom,

        I am planning on doing this two day loop, and was wondering where is the best place for a manual motorbike rental in Sapa. Also, on the second day, around what time would one be back in Sapa? Trying to figure out whether I’d make the overnight train. Thanks!

        1. Tom says:
          December 12, 2019 at 8:25 AM

          Hi Maria,

          Try contacting Flamingo Travel – they have recently opened a new shop in Lao Cai/Sapa.

          I think you probably could make the overnight train, but it’s best not to rush this route, because bad road conditions or bad weather can slow you down. So I wouldn’t commit yourself to catching the train on the same night.

          I hope this helps,


          1. Maria says:
            December 13, 2019 at 11:24 AM

            Thank you! I’m planning on doing it tomorrow and finishing it in two days. Do you think doing Sapa-Lai Chau-Sin Ho , and sleeping in Sin Ho is too ambitious? / how long do you think it would take? If it is too ambitious, where do you recommend I stay overnight? Thanks!

            1. Tom says:
              December 13, 2019 at 12:04 PM

              Hi Maria,

              If you leave early and road and weather conditions are good then you can make it all the way to Sin Ho in one day, but it would be a full day’s ride. You can stay in Sin Ho or in Lai Chau or Phong Tho. See the information on this page for accommodation recommendations in all those places.


  30. Rachel T says:
    March 28, 2018 at 8:50 AM

    Hi, we are deciding between this loop and the Ha Giang loop. Any thoughts?

    1. Tom says:
      March 28, 2018 at 10:08 AM

      Hi Rachel,

      It depends on your time and onward travel plans, really. The Sapa-Sin Ho loop is shorter and onward travel from Sapa is pretty easy. The Ha Giang Loop is longer and Ha Giang city isn’t as well connected as Sapa. They are both great rides.


      1. Rachel T says:
        March 30, 2018 at 5:16 AM

        Hi Tom,

        Thanks very much for the reply! We will probably do the Sapa-Sin Ho loop because Sapa is better connected than Ha Giang.


  31. Matej says:
    March 9, 2018 at 10:24 AM

    Hi Tom!
    My girlfriend and I are considering taking this loop when we will be in Sapa at the end of April. Since only I can ride a motorbike, we will be both riding on one. In this case is it still possible to do it on an automatic?
    Also we are planing to spend 3 days in the region, so we wont stay overnight in Sapa. Is there any option where we can leave our luggage for those 3 days?

    1. Tom says:
      March 9, 2018 at 2:47 PM

      Hi Matej,

      Yes, an automatic will be able to do this loop with two people on it, as long as it is in good condition (I just did it a few months ago with two people on an automatic).

      I’m not sure about luggage storage: perhaps in the train station at Lao Cai. But, if possible, staying one night in Sapa at the beginning would mean that your hotel would then allow you to leave your bags there until the end of the ride.

      I hope this helps,


  32. Jeff Church says:
    February 15, 2018 at 3:23 AM

    Excellent motorbike ride. A big highlight of our trip to North Vietnam. My fiancee and I did this loop over xmas.
    Thanks for all of the tips on towns, landscapes, and food!
    We rode from Sapa straight through strange, government-engineered Lai Chau and ended up staying the first night in Phong Tho, which was a charming little river town. We liked Lai Chau on the way back on the loop when we discovered the bustling backroads.
    Amazing ride. Great hikes on cow trails that were linked up to rice patty farms. Loved Sin Ho too.
    Drive a gear bike for the uphills and downhills.
    Jeff & Rushna

    1. Tom says:
      February 15, 2018 at 3:28 AM

      Hi Jeff,

      Good to hear you enjoyed this ride. Yes, I felt the same way about Lai Chau until I wandered down those back streets where the life is.



  33. Andrea Fiori says:
    January 21, 2018 at 3:53 PM

    Just wanted to thank you for the wonderful post. I have just completed the loop to Sin Ho and back to Sapa in two days, no rain in the past couple days so all roads were dry. Please be all aware that just out of Sin Ho to Lao Chau works are now increasing in pace and extent. Would avoid that road if it’s raining or still wet from previous rains. Otherwise all roads are clean enough and some are even really nice to ride fast.
    Thanks again, will always remember the road up to SinHo with incredible view just before sunset.

    Andrea from Italy

    1. Tom says:
      January 21, 2018 at 4:32 PM

      Hi Andrea,

      It’s great to hear that you enjoyed the ride. And thank you for the road updates – I hope they finish the work soon.


    2. Sophie says:
      April 11, 2018 at 4:24 AM

      Hi Andrea, how did you split the two days driving? Where did you spend the first night and how long were you driving for per days?

      Tom, amy tips on doing this route in 2 days?


      1. Tom says:
        April 11, 2018 at 12:11 PM

        Hi Sophie,

        Yes, you can do the main loop in two days if you like; you’d need to make sure you leave in the morning to give yourself enough time. You can stay at Sin Ho for the night at then ride back the next day, or if you run out of time you can stay in Lai Chau – I’ve included accommodation recommendations in the relevant sections of this guide.

        In generally, because the roads are so mountains and the landscape so scenic, you’re average speed will probably only be between 30-40km per hour.

        I hope this helps,


  34. c garton says:
    December 17, 2017 at 8:18 AM

    Did the loop this week (Dec 2017), was awesome, thanks for the info, also decided to take the road to Nam Tam. I can confirm it is riddled with landslides and road works, how ever this was by far my favorite road in vietnam, with a nice 20km rhythm section and plenty of muddy,boggy hill climbs. Awesome fun for playing in the mud. Did it on an automatic would recommend gears for more fun.

    1. Tom says:
      December 17, 2017 at 10:45 AM

      Hi Garton,

      Great to hear you enjoyed the loop. And thanks for the updates about road conditions on the Nam Tam road – sounds like a lot of fun.


  35. Ken Wilson says:
    December 17, 2017 at 5:09 AM

    Hi Tom,
    I have travelled every province in Vietnam since I began living here in 2011. My first tour was in early 2011. A tour of Sa Pa and the whole of the North along the Chinese border. Speaking no Vietnamese I went through a travel agency for a 10 day tour beginning in Hanoi across to Dien Bein to Sapa etc. I had all meals and accommodation paid for and an English speaking tour guide plus driver. What was supposed to be 10 days turned into nearly a month. I totally loved it so much. I love the simplicity of the locals everywhere.
    It was there that I decided this beautiful country would be for me to retirement.
    So here I am. Married to a lovely lady and family, and still going to towns and places we have not seen. Absolutely love every minute of it. Intending to do that Northern tour again next year to see the changes.
    Best regards

    1. Tom says:
      December 17, 2017 at 7:16 AM

      Hi Ken,

      Great to hear you love Vietnam so much and that you’re still travelling around and discovering new and interesting places.


  36. Billi Deraspe Gagné says:
    November 17, 2017 at 9:22 AM

    Hi Tom,
    Me and my girlfriend are starting this loop tomorrow for 3 days and we were wondering, is there some places that we can stop for a swim on the loop ?

    Thanks a lot ☺

    1. Tom says:
      November 17, 2017 at 10:22 AM

      Hi Billi,

      Yes, as long as the weather isn’t too bad, you could swim in the river near Muong Ham. But if you do be very careful because the last time I was there it was very fast flowing and dangerous.

      I hope you enjoy the loop,


      1. Billi Deraspe Gagné says:
        November 17, 2017 at 12:15 PM

        Thanks a lot !

  37. Damien Bloodworth says:
    October 12, 2017 at 5:10 AM

    Sorry just saw your reply… Thanks a-lot for that looking forward to exploring!

  38. jane westfall says:
    October 11, 2017 at 5:27 AM

    Hi Tom Love your articles and advice.


    1. Tom says:
      October 12, 2017 at 7:00 AM

      Hi Jane,

      Yes, the north can be quite cold and wet at that time of year, but lots of riders still do it during that time and love it.

      However, the best weather at that time of year is in the southern provinces, particularly south of Nha Trang.

      For more about weather conditions all over Vietnam and where best to go and what time of year, take a look at my Weather Guide.

      If you decide to stay in the south try browsing my Southern Routes Archive for ideas. Or for the north, try my Northern Routes Archive.

      I hope this helps,


  39. Damien says:
    September 20, 2017 at 11:07 AM


    We came across your blog, really like the route you have taken, and has inspired us to do this next month on a trip to Sapa- thanks! Looking to go the opposite direction and stay at Sin Ho the first night, followed by Phong Tho the second perhaps- doesnt seem to be much online for booking accommodation in these areas, and didnt have much luck with English ringing some! Do you think it’s necessary to book in advance or are there generally plenty of walk-up options available? or do you have a reference for booking some online? Thanks again- really looking forward to getting on a bike to explore this area- looks amazing!

    1. Tom says:
      September 20, 2017 at 1:22 PM

      Hi Damien,

      Walk-in bookings should be fine in the guest houses (nhà nghỉ) and hotels in those areas, unless you are visiting on a Saturday, because there might be more people staying on Saturday night for the markets on the Sunday morning. I am also travelling there next week in order to update this guide, so I’m sure there’s been a few changes.

      I hope you enjoy the trip,


  40. Marcelo Basile says:
    August 18, 2017 at 12:10 AM

    Ola,maravilhoso blog

    estou indo em dezembro 2017.
    vc acha que sera dificil fazer o looping nesta data por causa do tempo??

    o que vc diria??

    1. Tom says:
      August 18, 2017 at 1:40 AM

      Hi Marcelo,

      December might be cold but it should still be fine to do this loop at that time of year.


  41. Sarah says:
    August 5, 2017 at 11:23 AM

    Hi Tom,
    Thanks for this wonderful website – you’ve done some great trips.
    I’m hoping you can answer a couple of questions that I’ve been trying to research, but not having much luck. My husband and I are visiting in September and wanted to travel by motorbike from Sapa to Ha Giang and then do the extreme north motorbike loop that you suggest. Do you know if it’s possible to hire a motorbike in Sapa and leave it at Ha Giang? Also my husband can ride a motorbike, but I can’t. Probably a stupid question, but would any of the automatic or semi-automatic motorbikes handle the route? I’m guessing not.
    Thanks, Sarah

    1. Tom says:
      August 7, 2017 at 12:44 AM

      Hi Sarah,

      I don’t think any of the rental companies offer that service yet. But you can try contacting Rent a Bike Vietnam and asking them – I think they have or will be opening a rental shop in Ha Giang, so maybe they can arrange something. If not, you could just rent your motorbike from Hanoi and put your bike on the train to Lao Cai (Sapa).

      Yes, the automatics and semi-autos can do that trip. I ride an auto and it’s fine. The only problem is that those mountainous road suffer from landslides which can make the road surface muddy and occasionally bumpy and autos aren’t very good at that.

      I hope this helps,


  42. Giuseppe says:
    July 4, 2017 at 4:49 PM

    Hi Tom, hi all,
    in september i’ll do this trip with my girlfriend. Could you suggest me where to rent a manual motorbike in Lao Cai or Sapa? I’ll not have a hotel because i’ll be there in the morning and i want to start immeditly for the trip.

    Second question, what’s the best homestay in Sin Ho?

    Thanks Beppe

    1. Tom says:
      July 5, 2017 at 1:26 AM

      Hi Giuseppe,

      I can’t recommend a specific place to rent motorbikes in Sapa but most hotels, guest houses, and travel agents in Sapa will have motorbikes to rent, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding one. You could try contacting Sapa O’Chau and asking them.

      In Sin Ho there are a few guest houses (nhà nghỉ in Vietnamese) that cost around 200,000vnd a night, but I don’t know about homestays in Sin Ho.

      I hope this helps,


  43. Nick says:
    June 24, 2017 at 5:20 AM

    Hi Tom,

    I’m planning to get started on this loop tomorrow, and am trying to work out the timing of a bus back to Hanoi on the final day. How long would you say the Sin Ho-Sapa leg takes, compared to the Sapa-Lai Chau leg? I’m wondering if a 4pm bus from Sapa would be doable after biking down from Sin Ho, or if it would make more sense to do this loop in reverse (head to Sin Ho first from Sapa).

    Thanks in advance for your help!


    1. Tom says:
      June 24, 2017 at 12:08 PM

      Hi Nick,

      Well, it depends on quite a lot of things, like how the weather is, what condition the road is in, what speed you might ride at etc. I would say that the extra bit up the hill from Lai Chau to Sin Ho takes between 1 hour and 90 minutes. In general, on these mountainous roads you can expect to keep an average speed of between 30-40km an hour. Also, you’ll have a much better idea of how long it will take after you’ve ridden the first day.

      I hope this helps,


      1. Nick says:
        June 24, 2017 at 1:14 PM

        Thanks Tom — appreciate the quick response.


  44. Vladimir says:
    June 13, 2017 at 12:05 PM

    Hi Tom,
    and thanks for your blog. We did 2 loops (this one and Central Golden loop) – they were wonderfull.

    Just as add on to your existed route want to advise travellers visiting Xã Bản Bo. 11 km away from the main route of 1st section this place is worth to be visited. Dozen of 5-6m handmade wooden wheels standing on a little river are used by locals for irrigation of their rice fields. Here is the picture
    GPS coordinates 22.23744359,103.68104478

    1. Tom says:
      June 13, 2017 at 12:42 PM

      Hi Vladimir,

      Great to hear you enjoyed both those loops.

      Thanks for the suggested extension – it looks fantastic.


      1. Vladimir says:
        June 13, 2017 at 2:56 PM

        GPS coordinates posted above are near the bridge which should be crossed to see “the wheels”. So more accurate coordinates are 22.2382163,103.678261

  45. Francois says:
    May 30, 2017 at 9:44 AM

    Hey Tom,
    Did a long drive from Son La to Sin Ho today. I have to thank you, the road leading to Sin Ho from Muong Lay is just the most beautiful place i have ever seen. Cloudy all day but just as i started the ascent, sun came out. Astonishing views. Update on road conditions : QL6 between Tuan Giao and Muong Lay was really bad, took me about 3 hours to do about 90 kms. Almost fell out of my bike as surface was so rocky. After that, Ql12 is in good shape to the junction with tl128, and this last road is pretty good too, some rough parts but you can avoid easily. Thanks again for all your information, havibg the time of my life and i feel like i get to see the real Vietnam !

    1. Tom says:
      May 31, 2017 at 1:16 AM

      Hi Francois,

      Wonderful to hear you enjoyed the Sin Ho road – what a spectacular area that is! Thank you for the road updates, too – that’s very helpful for me and other readers also.

      Enjoy the rest of your trip,


      1. Francois says:
        May 31, 2017 at 4:18 AM

        Small other update. The first 15 to 20 kms out of Sin Ho are quite rough. Lots of la dsl des and constructions. But then the 40 or so last towards Lai Chau are new and in excellent shape ! Have a good day

        1. Tom says:
          May 31, 2017 at 10:25 AM

          Thank you! 🙂

  46. Laura says:
    April 11, 2017 at 7:46 AM

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for the great post, really helpful!
    My boyfriend and I are hoping to do this trip from 1st may this year for 3 days. Neither of us have ever riden a motorbike and I’m not keen on doing so, so was hoping to go on the back of his. He is doing his CBT this weekend to get a bit of practice before we go!
    I wondered what kind of bike you think we need? For two people and a very small bag? I’ve heard that riding a bike over 50cc without a Vietnamese licence is illegal, is this true? Could we do it on a 50cc bike?!
    Any advice very much appreciated 🙂

    1. Tom says:
      April 11, 2017 at 8:32 AM

      Hi Laura,

      You will need a bike with more than 50cc because this is a mountainous route. Most rental bikes with be 110-150cc are these are fine for doing this ride.

      Technically you need to have a local license to ride in Vietnam, but in reality the majority of foreigners riding here do not have a local license. You will not have a problem renting a motorbike in Sapa. If you get stopped by the traffic police you will most likely just have to pay a standard fine of about $10-20 and then be allowed to continue.

      I hope this helps,


      1. Laura says:
        April 19, 2017 at 6:48 AM

        Hi Tom,

        Thanks that’s really helpful.

        Are there places in sapa to rent decent motorbike helmets? Or would we need to get them from Hanoi and take with us?!


        1. Tom says:
          April 19, 2017 at 8:13 AM

          Hi Laura,

          Yes, you can rent motorbikes in Sapa but I can’t vouch for any specific place. The most reputable motorbike rental companies are in Hanoi.


  47. Paul Nelson says:
    April 3, 2017 at 12:40 AM

    hi tom,

    loving the blog and all the great info. if we didn’t have a full 3 days to dedicate to the entire loop… is it still worth/doable to head directly toward Sin Ho rather than doing the loop, and then come back the same way? or is it better to try and squeeze the whole ride into 2 days?

    many thanks.

    1. Tom says:
      April 3, 2017 at 1:40 AM

      Hi Paul,

      Yes, it’s still worth going direct to Sin Ho and back again – it’s still an amazing ride even if you don’t have time to do the whole loop.

      I hope you enjoy it,


  48. Jenny says:
    March 8, 2017 at 7:32 AM

    Hi Tom,

    I’m in Sapa with my boyfriend right now and are considering the sapa to sin-ho loop when the weather clears up in a few days. As this is outside of your recommended time frame above and it is not harvest season, do you still think the loop is worth doing? Also is there a place in Sapa you can recommend getting a motorbike at? We would love to spend a few days motor biking while we are in the north hoping to see some beautiful views but are not really sure if this time of year is worth it? Or if there is a different northern loop that will be better?

    1. Tom says:
      March 8, 2017 at 12:54 PM

      Hi Jenny,

      Yes, it’s definitely worth doing it! It will still look fantastic 🙂

      I can’t recommend any specific place to rent motorbikes in Sapa but you shouldn’t have a problem finding one. Ask at your hotel first, or perhaps try contacting Sapa O’Chau and asking them.

      I hope you enjoy the ride,


  49. Dan at Budget Jetsetter says:
    January 12, 2017 at 6:14 PM

    How populated is the route? Would it be a big issue if your bike broke down along this route?

    1. Tom says:
      January 13, 2017 at 1:44 AM

      Hi Dan,

      This route is quite sparsely populated but there will always be at least some passing traffic so you can always find help if you break down.


    2. Alan Hodgson says:
      March 5, 2017 at 10:48 AM

      Hi Tom

      I’ve just completed the Lai Chau ,Sin Ho loop from Sapa today. I spotted a 4 day window of good weather for the area and went for it. Weather forecasts are pretty unreliable at the best of times and more so in mountainous areas. Happily the forecasters got it right this time. Apart from thick mist on the top of the Tram Ton pass on the way out it was sunshine all the way. So even got to see the stunning views on the return leg over the pass.

      A great ride – thanks for providing the route info. Incidentally I stopped at the Phuc Tho hotel in Sin Ho as you recommended. Only 200000 VND for a room to myself. I guess a lot of the upgrades on the road down from Sin Ho to Lao Chau have been completed since you rode there. A few short sections still being worked on but 90% of road was in good condition and there was a long central section (presumably recently resurfaced) which was absolutely fabulous. Best bit of road I’ve seen in my 3 months in Vietnam. It’s the only bit of road where I wished I had race leathers and a sports bike (but even on a 125, going down hill it was possible to get up a decent turn of speed). Sight lines are good too so easy enough to spot the occasional truck. Just watch out for where the good tarmac ends !

      Thanks again


      1. Tom says:
        March 5, 2017 at 3:30 PM

        Hi Alan,

        Great to hear you enjoyed the ride and that the weather stayed good for you! Thanks a lot for sharing the updates on road conditions there – it’s good to know that the surface is now is better condition. I’d like to get up there again this autumn and try it out 🙂


  50. Mark says:
    December 2, 2016 at 1:44 AM

    Hello. I’m in Sa Pa now. The fog is thick and so there isn’t much in the way of views. Would the Sapa-Sin Ho loop be worth it at this time of year? Is there fog cover throughout the route/area? Would hate to do all that riding and have most of the views obscured by fog. Maybe head to Ha Giang instead?


    1. Tom says:
      December 2, 2016 at 4:57 AM

      Hi Mark,

      Yes, it’s often foggy in Sapa, at any time of year. It’s very difficult to know what it will be like on the Sin Ho Loop. Obviously, that is a very mountainous area and December is the winter time, so I would certainly expect cold temperatures and at least some cloud and mist. However, the first mountain pass on that loop is famous for being a climatic divide between provinces: often the weather on the other side of the pass is better than in Sapa. So it might be worth at least riding up to that pass to see what it looks like – it’s only about half an hour from Sapa: the Tram Ton Pass.

      I hope it clears up for you,


      1. Mark says:
        December 2, 2016 at 9:03 AM

        Thanks for the response. I think I’ll stick around and give it a try. Finished The Classic recently and this resource has been indispensable. Appreciate your work.

        1. muaythaismallhands says:
          October 27, 2017 at 1:12 PM

          It would have been great to hear what this route was like in December time.

          I was thinking of doing some of the very northern bike routes (I would be in the area around early December but i’m not sure the risk of black ice is overly appealing on some of the sheer drop roads.

          1. Tom says:
            October 28, 2017 at 12:11 AM


            Yes, it will be cold in December, but ice and snow are quite rare. However, you would need to ride very carefully in those conditions and make sure you have appropriate cold weather clothing.


  51. Math says:
    October 15, 2016 at 8:51 AM

    I did the loop last weekend, was my first time in Vietnam (from Montreal). I followed mostly your guide and it was an insane trip! I rent a Sufat 100 in Sapa because I didn’t wanted an automatic bike. Was hard to find a manual bike in Sapa but it was worth, even if I had some issues with the bike. It didn’t had good weather, last part from Sin Ho to Sapa was all in the fog, sometimes I couldn’t see farther than 20 m in front of me but it was still a lot of fun ! The roads were mostly in good conditions. They are currently working on a big part of the road from Sin Ho to Sapa, probably that next summer there will be more concrete part in this section.

    If you want to take a look at what is waiting you, I made a video of my experience in Vietnam, first part is one day in Hanoi and the second one is the scenic loop of Sapa – Lai Chau – Sin Ho.

    Thanks for posting this trip with that much informations, it was really easy to follow and such a great time ! I would recommend this trip to anyone who likes landscapes, motorbike and curves on a motorbike haha !

    I would maybe not recommend this trip to someone who has never ride a motorbike before. Sometimes, the cars are taking both sides of the roads in curves and you need good reflex to avoid them.

    1. Tom says:
      October 17, 2016 at 1:58 AM

      Hi Math,

      Thanks for sharing your experience of the route. Great to hear that you enjoyed it (even if the weather wasn’t great). Good fun watching the video too 🙂


  52. Matt wileman says:
    September 20, 2016 at 8:47 PM

    I did this route back in July and hands down this was the most epic thing I did in 4 months of travelling, topping climbing mount Rinjani and mount Fuji.

    I have made a youtube video of it here:
    along with a Sapa homestay:

    I couldnt get over the fact that there is a different, utterly incredible view around every corner.
    Ended up spending too much time taking way too many videos and photos on my phone.
    It really does feel like you are in the middle of nowhere. The locals wave and the children run out of shyness purely because you are white.
    From the top of the mountain it is possible to see China and Laos with the sun setting over Laos at sunset.
    We came down from the mountian, when it was dark, not knowing where to stay (nothing on and having gone anticlockwise around the route. But we turned left when we met the main road and stayed in Trạm Y tế xã Chăn Nưa in a homestay where all the locals who had never left their village turned up and played pool with us. Only they were abit too keen to offer out ‘Happy Water’.
    I recommend going further down the road QL12 to the Ban Cheng Nuoi lake after staying the night in the place above before carrying on the anticlockwise loop.
    We did this route in 1.5 days, it was a push but goes to prove the route is easily do-able in 2 days.

    Thanks so much for recommending this route Tom.

    Would it be possible to add a link of my youtube video to your page?

    1. Tom says:
      September 21, 2016 at 2:31 AM

      Hi Matt,

      Great to hear that you had such a good time on the loop. The video looks good.

      Yes, it’s a wonderful part of Vietnam – so isolated, alpine and majestic, and still not so many travellers go there.

      Just talking about it makes me want to go back there right now.


      1. Joe Berresford says:
        September 27, 2016 at 9:47 PM

        Hiya Tom.

        Me and my Girlfriend are planning on doing this route next weekend. It sounds amazing. Can you suggest a couple of waterfalls on the way that are worth a visit? We plan on taking our time so a swim here and there would be brilliant.

        Thanks for taking the time to share the loop.


        1. Tom says:
          September 28, 2016 at 1:30 AM

          Hi Joe,

          There are lots of waterfalls and rivers along the way that are good to look at and for a quick swim. But, apart from Thác Bạc (Silver Waterfall) not far out of Sapa, I don’t know the local names. But that doesn’t matter because you’ll see they from the road (most of them are right by the road).

          I hope you have good weather. If there are any road updates, please let me know.



          1. Joe Berresford says:
            October 3, 2016 at 9:40 PM

            Cool, Thanks!

            We plan to set of on the bike tour Around 1pm as we are finishing a trek in the morning. Will that leave us enough time to complete the first part of the journey before dark? Also What’s the best way to navigate, is there a good gps App I can use incase I get lost?

            Thanks again


            1. Tom says:
              October 4, 2016 at 12:12 AM

              Hi Joe,

              You can use Google Maps on your phone with 3G. Or is good too.

              Yes, you could ride from Sapa to Lai Chau (Section 1) before dark – it probably gets dark around 6pm, so that gives you 5 hours, and the distance is only 75km. However, it’s a very beautiful and very winding road so it may take longer than you’d expect: partly because you will be stopping to look at the views, and partly because all the hairpin bends make riding slow. You’ll probably only average around 30km an hour on this trip. Also, if it’s been raining a lot recently there may be landslides blocking the road, but there’s nothing you can do about that.

              I hope it goes well for you.


  53. LJ says:
    August 14, 2016 at 4:46 AM

    Can this be done with an automatic?

    1. Tom says:
      August 14, 2016 at 6:14 AM


  54. Chris says:
    July 17, 2016 at 4:27 PM

    Sinho to Lai Chau had a 10km stretch of gravel road today just near Lai Chau. Definitely passable but worrisome for my tires.

    Funny, I never saw turn off to Phong Tho, was expecting a t junction but never saw one.

    Sorry wrote better post earlier by Wi-Fi timed out…

    1. Tom says:
      July 17, 2016 at 4:40 PM

      Thanks for the update, Chris. It’s good to know that the roads up and down are in decent shape.


  55. Chris says:
    July 16, 2016 at 2:42 PM

    By the way, if anyone is considering continuing south on 6 after Sin Ho, allow 3.5 hours from Muong Lay to Tuan Giao. It is a windy road, but pleasant.

    1. Tom says:
      July 17, 2016 at 6:24 AM

      Good tip. Thanks, Chris.


  56. Chris says:
    July 16, 2016 at 2:38 PM

    I rode 128 from Chan Nua to Sin Ho today and the road was fine. Had some areas of holes and missing asphalt you had to slow down for but no long stretches of damage.

    1. Tom says:
      July 17, 2016 at 6:24 AM

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for that update on road conditions – that’s great to hear. Let us know how you find it going down the other way to Lai Chau, please.


  57. Chris says:
    July 15, 2016 at 1:33 PM

    I’m sorry if I missed it, but do you have a recommended guest house in Sapa?

    I’m in Tuan Giao right now at a hidden boutique hotel named Hong Ky Hotel. It is directly across from the Honda shop, down an alley. 300000. There is a small impromptu street market a minute away. Very interesting scene.

    Heading up to Sinho tomorrow which just happens to be Sunday so that worked out well.

    1. Tom says:
      July 15, 2016 at 2:20 PM

      Hi Chris,

      There are so many hotels and guesthouses in Sapa that I haven’t listed a particular one. Just make sure you get a room with a mountain view – in my opinion that is what Sapa is all about, because the town itself is a bit of a tourist trap these days 🙁


  58. Mattia says:
    May 29, 2016 at 4:46 AM

    We are a couple thinking of going to Sapa the next few days and after reading your blog we would like to do this loop in 2 or 3 days. Any suggestions where we can rent a motorbike without a vietnamese driving license?
    Any others advices on where to stay overnight or anything you have in mind?
    Thanks a lot for your help,
    Have a good day,

    1. Tom says:
      May 29, 2016 at 6:13 AM

      Hi Deborah,

      You should be able to rent motorbikes without a license pretty much anywhere in Sapa – ask at your guesthouse or hotel for a start.

      Personally, I like to stay away from Sapa’s centre, which is around the main square, because it is very touristy these days and overcharging is common. But, accommodation in Sapa is all about the views over the mountains – so wherever you stay just make sure you ask for a good mountain view 🙂

      I list some accommodation options for the route in my guide on this page. Also, please read the comments on this page, because many readers have written with important updates on this route.

      I hope you enjoy the ride,


  59. Antek M. says:
    May 8, 2016 at 4:37 PM

    I’ll be actually doing it from the other direction :). I’ll check this 128, especially that it seems like the more scenic one

  60. Antek M. says:
    May 8, 2016 at 1:22 PM

    Hi Tom, which section would you recommend if I can do it only one-way (coming from Mu Cang Chai side, so I can’t complete the whole loop)?

    1. Tom says:
      May 8, 2016 at 1:28 PM

      Hi Antek,

      First of all, make sure to read the most recent comments above, because people have given important updates about road conditions.

      It sounds like, in the current conditions, it would be best to take QL4D to Lai Chau and then ride up to Sin Ho on TL128.

      Please let me know how you find road conditions on this route – it will be a great help to other readers.



      1. Antek M. says:
        May 20, 2016 at 4:16 PM

        Ok, finished few days ago.
        Conditions are ok, after Sin Ho there’s some kilometers of a new road (brilliant ride), later unfortunately you hit the construction works and you need to ride around 10 km on gravel (nothing really scary, just need to go slower). Last 10 km to Lai Chau are mostly ok again.

        Road up from the junction to Sin Ho is in good condition, just occasionally bit bumpy (as you can expect from such mountainous road)

        But in general the whole ride is so nice that it would be worth to do even if the road was in much worse shape

        I must add also that the last part (Lai Chau to Sapa) is also terrific and if someone doesn’t have time for the whole trip it’s worth to do at least this part (especially this part from Sapa to the junction with QL32 – amazing ride)

        1. Tom says:
          May 20, 2016 at 11:59 PM

          Hi Antek,

          Great. That’s good news. Thanks for the important update on road conditions on this loop. It’s good to know that it’s in decent condition and still a beautiful ride.


  61. Janis says:
    April 24, 2016 at 5:25 PM

    Trip is over 🙂

    How it went?
    After long rain decided to go as soon as it stopped and… Didn’t see a thing in mountains after leaving Sa Pa, thick mist, fog was everywhere, so I hoped that on my way back it will be clear 🙂 as soon as I was down the hills, bright sun appeared and all long way till junction to road 128 it was perfect sun, easy ride, excellent road condition (I don’t count small bumps 20 m long). I stayed at mentioned hostel and next morning I just had some 30 smth km ahead of me. So first day, some 6 hours on a road and 170 km behind me, eaaaaasy ride, fun and I was pretty slow, smiling all way. Second day. Woke up, rain again. It stopped and I went to Sin Ho. Perfect sun, excellent road, fantastic views, easy ride. Just chilled, played soccer with locals, eat some cheap and good Pho, delicious Banh my.
    Third day. Woke up. Rained again… Of course. Stopped, went back. It was pure sun for 10 minutes and again thick fog 🙂 couldn’t see my wheel haha. After some 30km when all amazing views were behind me I guess, sun appeared 🙂 but I don’t mind, cuz road was PERFECT, fun, easy, fast! There was some 10 km without tarmac but road was smooth, still work going on, but it’s completely ideal for riding. And yes, I was rewarded on my way back from Lai Chau til Sa Pa, perfect sun and fast easy ride.

    Conclusion. Do it! Tom, it was amazing ride, thank you! roads are good quality, don’t take detour. You can do it also if u want in two days! Thanks again

    By the way, I went from Saigon to Hanoi coastline and now flying back to Saigon again. Want to rent a bike and do some tour to Dalat side 🙂 if there is some suggestion, let me know! Again, have a fun trips and rides everyone!

    1. Tom says:
      April 25, 2016 at 4:37 AM

      Hi Janis,

      Glad you had such a good road trip. Shame about the rain (again) but you did get to see some of that epic landscape in the sun after all 🙂

      Many thanks for the road updates – so good to know that the route is in good shape now.

      I can’t wait to get back up there I ride it again myself.

      Take a look at my Dalat Archive here and my southern routes here.


  62. Emily says:
    April 24, 2016 at 1:33 PM

    Best wrong turn I made was into the town of Muong So! There’s a fabulous guesthouse just past the bridge over the river, with basic as well as fancier rooms, 150,000 or 300,000 dong. The town has a lot of charm unlike most of the spots on 4D, a cute suspension bridge upriver, and also a lively local market in the daytime. It’s not far out of the way either, just 3km up Rte 100, toward the right, where 4D splits toward Phong Tho. Not much English spoken, but very welcoming.

    1. Tom says:
      April 25, 2016 at 4:30 AM

      Brilliant! I’ll have to try that ‘wrong turn’ next time I’m in the area too. Thanks for the tip.


  63. Emily says:
    April 24, 2016 at 1:09 PM

    Currently closing out Day 2 of the loop…. Wow! Fantastic thus far! On account of rain, couldn’t get an early start to the market. But that’s totally fine because I got to encounter all the market traffic on the road up to Sin Ho. Did the loop out of Phong Tho clockwise because I instinctively just followed the road sign to Sin Ho going south on Rte 12. Expected much worse conditions because of the constant rain, but nothing too bad considering this is a rural mountain road. Small mudslides, a few boulders, potholes, gravelly stretches, but still pleasantly rideable. Yes, go slow and watch the road, but not treacherous, in my opinion.
    When the rental agency in Sapa heard my plans, they refused to rent me an automatic and I’m so glad for that. Semi-auto Honda Wave is a better choice and your wrists will thank you for avoiding those pesky hand brakes, although I have to guesstimate petrol usage on account of broken gauges. Something to check before you rent.
    Would’ve liked to find out what this “light show” in Sin Ho is about? Couple of people mentioned it (lacking English for further detsils) and I think maybe it is conjunction with a festival up there April 27 – May 4.
    Don’t be an amateur like me… Bring sunscreen. It was warm and sunny (and high altitude) and I got fried.

    1. Tom says:
      April 25, 2016 at 4:29 AM

      Hi Emily,

      Sounds great so far! Shame about the rain still 🙁 Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever been to that area and NOT had rain at least some of the time!

      Thanks for your updates about road conditions – sounds like it’s still good for riding.

      I’ve never heard of the ‘light show’ but it sounds interesting.


  64. Michael Lapin says:
    April 22, 2016 at 10:24 AM

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for all the great info. Would you recommend a route from Pu Long > Sin Ho?

    Many thanks again,


    1. Michael Lapin says:
      April 22, 2016 at 10:27 AM

      Pu Luong * (or Mai Chau)

      1. Tom says:
        April 22, 2016 at 10:32 AM

        You can take Highway 6 and then Highway 12 – that’s a spectacular but long ride. Or you can go from Mai Chau to Moc Chau on Highway 6 and then take Road 43 towards Nghia Lo and stay on Highway 32 until it meets Highway 4D near Lai Chau. Either way it’s a long and scenic ride.


    2. Tom says:
      April 22, 2016 at 10:28 AM

      Hi Mike,
      From Pu Luong Nature Reserve (near Mai Chau) to Sin Ho?

      1. Michael Lapin says:
        April 22, 2016 at 10:10 PM


        Yes thats the one. Maybe I’ll re-look at my initiery, as this seems a huge ride. Would you mind taking at look at what i’ve got planned if i email it to you?

        Cheers again for all the great stuff,


        1. Tom says:
          April 23, 2016 at 1:29 AM

          Thanks, Mike. Have a good trip.

  65. Janis says:
    April 21, 2016 at 8:41 AM

    Hey, Tom, everyone 🙂

    Just sitting in Hostel, reading all the comments and I think tomorrow I’ll start my ride. Little bit concerned about road quality, but who cares, right, it will be awesome anyways!! Hope to find nice motorbike, Honda Wave I think will be fine? I rode it from Saigon to Hanoi and had just small issues during the road. I don’t have long pants and rain coat, I hope I’ll not freeze to death. Have thin sweater though 🙂 good luck for me, 🙂

    1. Tom says:
      April 21, 2016 at 8:47 AM

      Hi Janis,

      I hope you enjoy the ride and that the weather stays nice for you! Please do let me know how the road conditions are when you return – it would be a great help to me and my readers.



      1. Janis says:
        April 22, 2016 at 12:35 AM


        It’s been 12 hours just pure rain!!! I guess today I’m not going, still heavy rain outside. How do you think, if it will stop today, will I be able to go tomorrow morning other way? Want to make to sin ho Sunday market? Thanks 🙂

        1. Tom says:
          April 22, 2016 at 1:25 AM

          Oh dear, what a shame! It’s only Friday today so yes you can still get to Sin Ho for the Sunday market if it stops raining 🙂


  66. Max says:
    March 26, 2016 at 2:46 PM

    It’s the 26th and we’re in Sin Ho, having started the route backwards. I’d like to report that the condition of the road from Lai Chau to Sin Ho is in good shape. Yes, there is still construction. The last 8 or so kilometers towards Lai Chau are gravelly and there’s active work being done. Ride slow. However, it is not nearly as treacherous as the northern half of Ta Xua (a 30km, six hour ride through hell). My friend’s ’98 100cc Honda Win did fine. Don’t bother with the back road, the main road is beautiful and rideable.
    I am looking forward to the Sunday market tomorrow.
    Thanks Tom for the great guides.

    1. Tom says:
      March 27, 2016 at 6:39 AM

      Hi Max,

      Thanks for the update on road conditions – it’s good to hear that the road up to Sin Ho from Lai Chau is (slowly) getting better.

      Thanks for the information about Ta Xua – sounds like a long, arduous ride!


  67. Kurt says:
    March 22, 2016 at 9:03 AM

    Hey. Im on the Loop right now staying in Lai Châu right now. See what happens the rest of the Loop.
    One question. Is there a possibility to get some gasoline up in the Hills? I only got a Wave with max 3 Liters in the Tank and I’m not sure if this last for the whole trip back to Sapa.

    By now it’s a awfull trip even without any vietnamesian words in my mind.

    1. Tom says:
      March 22, 2016 at 10:03 AM

      Hi Kurt,

      Yes, there are gas stations in Sin Ho – you can get from Lai Chau to Sin Ho with a tank of 3 litres of gas comfortably.

      Read the most the comment above by Robert on March 20 – he gives updated details of road conditions from Lai Chau to Sin Ho.

      Why is it an awful trip?


  68. Robert says:
    March 20, 2016 at 5:12 PM

    Hey Tom, thanks for all the guides. I’m nearly at the end of my trip and followed your south to north route, just skipping a bit of the north east part because the riding combined with the Vietnamees beds are taking a toll on my back.
    Drove the sin ho- Lai Chau route a week back. Leaving the Sin Ho district the road gets horrendous, it’s all being resurfaced or is in desperate need of it. I ended up driving kilometres over rocks that are meant for the foundation. It goes on and of for a 20km stretch. I didn’t have your detour at hand and think the road was still in excellent condition when I past the turn.
    In Lai Chau I stopt at the Yamaha garage where they repaired 7 punctures on the the rear tyre and 5 on the front (some where there for longer I assume).
    So anyone doing the loop is better off taking the detour.

    1. Tom says:
      March 20, 2016 at 11:17 PM

      Hi Robert,

      Thanks for this useful update. It’s a shame it’s taking so long for this road to be resurfaced – I wish they would finish it so everyone can enjoy this scenic stretch of road.

      Wow, 12 punctures – that must be a record!

      Great to hear that you’ve ridden south to north and enjoyed it.


  69. Pat says:
    March 14, 2016 at 8:35 AM

    Hi Tom
    As we are continuing on from Sin Ho to Dien Bien we will only have time to take one route. We were thinking either the QL12 or TL128? Which would you recommend?

    1. Tom says:
      March 14, 2016 at 3:26 PM

      Hi Pat,

      TL128 is more spectacular that QL12 but slower and there may still be some roadworks on it (see the comments above). However, this is one of the most scenic rides in the region so don’t miss it if the weather is good.

      I hope this helps,


      1. Pat says:
        March 14, 2016 at 11:20 PM

        Thanks Tom. I think we will go with your recommendation.

  70. Renato says:
    March 13, 2016 at 11:00 AM

    Thanks Tom and and the people updating this post with info!
    I am planning to do the loop in 3 or 4 days with my wife in one bike next week. Sounds like a treat!
    A couple of questions I have if you can help. What bike and where could I rent? Currently thinking a 250 of some sort. Second, is it easy to find a place where we could leave our extra luggage there (either whatever guesthouse we book – suggestions welcome or the bike rental place – suggestions also welcome 🙂 )?

    Super thanks


    1. Tom says:
      March 13, 2016 at 3:48 PM

      Hi Renato,

      You should be able to leave your extra luggage at your guesthouse or hotel in Sapa, as long as you book a room at the same hotel for when you RETURN to Sapa after the road trip.

      What kind of bike you hire is up to you, but you don’t need anything bigger than a 115 semi-automatic to ride this loop. Try Rent a Bike Vietnam (there’s a link to them in the sidebar and bottom of this page) or Flamingo Travel in Hanoi. Or in Sapa you should be able to rent bikes from most guesthouses.

      I hope this helps,


      1. Renato says:
        March 14, 2016 at 1:17 PM

        Great stuff Tom. I just say 250 because it will be me and the miss plus a backpack but let me see what I find when in sapa.
        I suppose the weather will be mild this time of year too?

        Thanks for the detailed post and site.


        1. Tom says:
          March 14, 2016 at 3:27 PM

          Hi Renato,

          Yes, the weather should be OK, but you can never tell in that region – it is very changeable.


  71. Lydia says:
    February 13, 2016 at 8:33 AM


    I am about to cycle some of this route, in a few weeks – planning for 4-5 days from Dien Bien Phu – Muong Lay – Sin Ho – Lai Chau (and on to Sapa/Lao Cai). Hoping to do the road straight from Sin Ho to Lai Chau (not the back way to Phuong To) – it sounds like the last few commenters got through okay in recent months. Can you (or anyone reading this who has recently been) comment on what the road conditions are like for a bicycle?

    I imagine the rough road might be more suitable by bicycle than by motorbike, I’m just more cautious as turning around and going the other way is a bit more of a commitment if we can’t get through!

    Thanks again – I’m really glad I found this post!

    – Lydia

    1. Tom says:
      February 14, 2016 at 8:30 AM

      Hi Lydia,

      That’s quite a bike ride to undertake – lots of very challenging hills! But the scenery is stunning and it should be all the more rewarding having cycled it 🙂

      Road conditions are fine for bicycles, providing it hasn’t been too wet recently – the rain can turn the dirt and dust to mud (very slippery) along any unmade sections of road. However, I would think the previously unmade sections and now finished, but you never know.

      The other thing to consider is your tyres – if they are thin racing tyres then you may have a problem on some of the bumpier patches of road. However, remember that you can always flag down a passing vehicle (or even motorbike) to take you and your bicycle back if the road becomes impassable at any point.

      I hope this helps,


      1. Lydia says:
        February 15, 2016 at 4:36 AM

        Thanks Tom! That’s really helpful. It does look quite challenging, but I’m excited to give it ago. Your info about nha ghi/guesthouses in some lesser known spots (e.g. Nam Cay) is also really helpful for planning backup stops in case things don’t go as expected.

        Our bikes are off-road touring bikes with pretty hardy tyres, so hopefully about as good as it can get for mixed conditions of on-road/off-road riding -we will have just come through some pretty remote/hilly sections of Northern Laos as well (Houayxai – Pak Beng – Luang Prabang – Muang Khua).

        I’ll report back in a few weeks and let you know how we find the road conditions!

        Thanks again,


  72. Sam says:
    January 16, 2016 at 9:19 AM

    Hi Tom

    I just wanted to say thanks so much for the time and effort you put into this blog – it’s such a fantastic resource! Your passion for Vietnam really resonates through your writing and the meticulous descriptions and maps on each post. I’ve lived in Saigon for nearly a year now and I refer to it constantly for new ideas and places to visit – the value I have received from your blogging has been tremendous. I literally just got back from a quick bike ride to Thanh Da island after reading your Saigon River post – it’s really amazing how you suddenly feel like you’re in the countryside.

    Regarding the Sapa-Sin Ho loop, my brother and I had a great adventure doing the ride back in early October. We took screenshots onto our phones of this entire blog post so we wouldn’t have to access the internet. That said, my 3G worked most of the time and we could access sat nav when necessary. Like Bill said above, the roads are mostly fine other than a few construction sections and the odd landslide…I actually came off in one short strip of thick mud but it wasn’t a problem, I was going very slowly which was probably why I came off, come to think of it! And anyway, it only added to the fun! I highly recommend to anyone else reading this – the views are sublime and it’s a great experience riding up and down the winding mountain passes whilst receiving smiles from the locals…or just looks of utter bemusement 🙂

    Tom – thanks again for the effort you put into this blog and keep up the good work! I’d love to buy you a beer some time.


    1. Tom says:
      January 16, 2016 at 3:46 PM

      Hi Sam,

      Thanks – it’s great to hear that you’ve found my site useful for your trips.

      I was in Thanh Da the other day too – great place to escape the city. I’m jealous of your recent road trip on the Sapa-Sin Ho Loop – I can’t wait to get back up there again in 2016 – especially since the roads should all be finished by then 🙂

      I hope you continue to enjoy your exploration of the country and your time in Vietnam.


  73. Luis says:
    December 23, 2015 at 5:04 PM

    Hey, thanks for your tips on the loop! We did it in two long days in late November and it was awesome! We had very good weather so that’s a plus. The last 15km in the descent to Lai Chau are still really horrible, but the lack of rain made them bearable.

    1. Tom says:
      December 24, 2015 at 12:55 AM

      Hi Luis,

      Glad to hear you had good weather. Thanks for sharing your experience of the ride. I hope that section of road will be finished soon!


  74. Bill Levey says:
    December 13, 2015 at 2:46 PM

    Tom –
    Thank you so much for this. I’m on Day 2 of this loop right now and it’s been amazing. I really wanted to be at the Sinho Sunday market, and it was as incredible as I hoped it would be. I was the only foreigner there, and spent hours there – met as many people as I could, and using the few words I know in Vietnamese really helped break the barrier. The guesthouse you recommended was nice, too – especially the couple that runs it. After a few heavy fog days in the Sapa area, I was really happy to have had perfect weather yesterday and today.

    As for the roads – generally great, with a couple minor construction/rock slide delays. They’re still actively working on/improving the road on the way down from Sin hò, but the first half and the last third (heading into Lai Châu the way you have it) are good. It really was only “bad” in a few places, and if you don’t mind a little dirt bike/offroad action, and just take it slow and easy, it’s actually pretty fun. Of course, the bike’s odometer didn’t work so I can’t really give specifics, but wanted to give a little update and thank you for the info.

    1. Tom says:
      December 14, 2015 at 1:09 AM

      Hi Bill,

      Thanks for your update on the route.

      I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it. I love this little loop and I hope I can make it back up there soon to do it again. Good to know that the roads are continuing to get better.

      I hope you enjoy the rest of your time in Vietnam.


  75. Gadi Amitai says:
    October 24, 2015 at 6:50 AM

    Tanks alot Tom.

    you have been very helpfull.


  76. Gadi Amitai says:
    October 5, 2015 at 7:39 PM

    Hi Tom.

    we are a couple , aiming to arrive at SaPa around 15th of December.
    this route seems to suit us perfectly.
    I wonder if we can ride a scooter, 50cc , for the two of us plus luggage.
    Appreciate your advise.



    1. Tom says:
      October 6, 2015 at 12:00 AM

      Hi Gadi,

      As this route is extremely mountainous, I don’t think a 50cc bike is suitable. What kind of bike were you thinking? Any of the common bikes you find in Vietnam – Honda Wave, Yamaha Nouvo etc – are 115-125cc and they will manage it fine, as long as they are in decent working condition.

      A couple of things to consider if you’re planning on riding this loop: December can be mighty cold up in Sapa, especially once you factor in the wind chill once riding on your bike – also make sure you check in Sapa about the state of the road up to Sin Ho from Lai Chau: as I mention in this guide, it’s being upgraded, but should be finished soon – check the comments above for other people’s experience.

      I hope you have a great trip,


      1. Gadi Amitai says:
        October 13, 2015 at 3:33 PM

        Hi Tom.

        thank you for your good advices.
        Unfortunately we are limited to 50cc , since we dont have local driving license and our stay is too short for arranging for one.

        thanks again.


        1. Tom says:
          October 14, 2015 at 2:10 AM

          Hi Gadi,

          Well, technically that’s right, but in reality the vast majority of foreigners riding motorbikes in Vietnam do not have a local drivers’ license. Not having a Vietnamese license should not stop you from riding this loop. Almost all motorbike rental and tour companies in Vietnam will rent bikes to travellers who don’t have local licenses. You can check with major rental agencies, such as Flamingo Travel and Rent a Bike Vietnam for more details. My advice: do it.


          1. gadi amitai says:
            October 20, 2015 at 3:20 PM

            hi Tom.

            thanks for the practical info.

            i read several posts worning that police stops you and you must pay huge fine.
            they say that the same applies to accidents , since in this case the insurance is not valid.
            is it correct?
            rounding corners is ok, but not too much.

            thanks again.


            1. Tom says:
              October 21, 2015 at 3:48 AM

              Hi Gadi,

              The standard police fine for foreigners driving in Vietnam without a license in 200,000vnd (less than $10). To check whether or not accidents would be covered by your insurance policy I suggest that you check with the insurance company directly.

              Any decent motorbike rental agency in Vietnam will provide you with their phone number so that, if you get stopped by the police, you can call them for assistance when dealing with the situation. Perhaps you can contact Flamingo Travel or Rent a Bike Vietnam for more specifics about the police as this concerns you so much. They are both reputable rental companies and should be able to provide you with more information regarding licenses, police and fines.

              I have been driving in Vietnam for close to 10 years: on average I get stopped by the police twice a year.


  77. Adele says:
    August 28, 2015 at 3:15 AM

    Hi Tom, thank you for your great website! It helps me a lot with planning my trips 🙂

    We plan to make this loop in the end of September. However, we don’t consider ourself as experienced riders 🙂 Do you think it is possible to make it with two people and a heavy bag on one motorbike or should we rent two motorbikes?
    Thank you! 🙂

    1. Tom says:
      August 28, 2015 at 12:17 PM

      Hi Adele,

      Well most of this route is on good, paved roads so normally I’d say yes, two people on a bike plus luggage would be fine. But, the road up to Sin Ho is particularly steep and some bits are still undergoing repairs (see comments at the bottom of this page), so perhaps you’re better off renting two bikes, just to be sure. Drive carefully because the roads are windy and steep, although there’s not much traffic about. It’s a stunning ride so you’ll want to take it slowly anyway and make plenty of stops by the road on the way. I hope it works out, and you enjoy this loop as much as I do.


  78. Karen & Roland says:
    August 23, 2015 at 2:39 PM

    Hello Tom,

    Thanks for your great route suggestion. We just got back to Sapa after following your loop. We did one section a day (so 3 days total) and that worked out really well.

    The scenery is truly stunning and the Sin Ho market was incredible to see. Hard to imagine that Sapa must have been similar to Sin Ho just a few years ago.

    Unfortunately the road from Sin Ho to Lai Chau isn’t finished yet. As reported previously, there is new tarmac from kilometer 39 to 15 and now also on the last few kilometers before Lai Chau. The 10km or so in between are still very bad. It was very rough everywhere with a few muddy sections. We saw quite a lot of heavy machinery there, but it didn’t look like it had moved in a while.

    Thanks again for helping us experience this remote and tourist-free area.

    Best wishes,
    Karen & Roland

    1. Tom says:
      August 24, 2015 at 9:09 AM

      Hi Karen and Roland,

      Great to hear that you did the loop and enjoyed it. I hope you had a bit of good weather too – the views are stupendous!

      Thanks so much for the updates on road conditions – I’m sure that’ll be a huge help to anyone else considering this road trip. I hope they seal that road soon!


  79. Wilai says:
    August 21, 2015 at 2:57 AM

    Thanks for useful information.
    I would need to know is it possible to finish 1 section (75 kms) in a day.
    My plan is to hike to Fanispan (2d1n), visit Bac Ha market and I have 1 day and night left.
    ( I used to trek in Sapa Cat Cat and Lao Chai villages in 2015)
    Thanks in advance
    and looking forward to hearing from you soon:)

    1. Tom says:
      August 21, 2015 at 9:53 AM

      Hi Wilai,

      Yes, it’s definitely possible to finish one section in one day. The only way that this might be a problem is if there is a landslide blocking the road – this sometimes happens during heavy rains in the north. Also, please read the guide carefully, especially regarding the roadworks on the road up to Sin Ho – they should be finished by now, but if they aren’t take the alternative route which I suggest in this guide.

      For my take on Bac Ha Market you can take a look at this article.

      Have a great trip,


  80. Shena Mah says:
    May 6, 2015 at 1:51 PM

    The roads are rather narrow so renting a motorbike is indeed a great idea to watch the scenic views of Sapa. This is a perfect getaway guide for a solo traveler like me. By the time I visit next year, all the roads are probably upgraded already so I don’t have to take the back-road along the way from Sin Ho to Sapa. Would renting a manual motorbike more recommended than an automatic one, though? Thanks

    1. Tom says:
      May 7, 2015 at 6:49 AM

      Hi Shena,
      No, I think either an autmoatic or manual will be fine. I drove an automatic with lots of weight on the back and never had any problems.
      As for road conditions – I think you’re right that they will be finished by the time you visit. See the previous comment on this page for an update on current conditions.

  81. Alex Gibson says:
    May 6, 2015 at 11:55 AM

    Firstly thank you Tom for this amazing blog. I have just completed this loop (in two hard days!!) and absolutely loved it.

    I can confirm that the second half of the descent from Sin Ho to Lai Chau is still in bad condition.. actually terrible condition but ONLY the last 15 km. New roads have been completed and from the alternate “back road” until about 15km from Lai Chau is absolutely glorious fresh seal with road markings. After that things get very tough. I had a pillion but was blessed with excellent weather so it wasn’t too bad but certain sections required 1st gear and a dismount of my passenger.

    It’s a fantastic loop with stunning views though and I highly recommend.

    1. Tom says:
      May 7, 2015 at 6:42 AM

      Hi Alex,

      Glad you enjoyed the loop, even if it was hard going for some of it.

      Thanks for the valuable updates on the road conditions – it sounds like it won’t be too long before it’s all finished.

      I can’t wait to ride it again when the road conditions are perfect.


  82. Chao Zhou says:
    December 20, 2014 at 2:48 AM

    Thanks for share the wonderful place to us !I just want to ask that only Sunday is the market day not Saturday?The people will do business on the street or inside the market mall!

    1. Tom says:
      December 22, 2014 at 6:33 AM

      There is still buying and selling on Saturday, but it’s not as busy as Sunday. Most of the activity is inside the market space not outside.

  83. jrwoon says:
    November 16, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    Hey guys, currently resting at a hotel in the seemingly deserted town of lai chau. Attempted to go sinho but decided to head back even though I was only 20km away from it at that point, due to safety concerns. The roads are more like tracks with lots of stones and mud. Much construction is still underway. Fell down twice due to this. I consider myself to be too amateur to ride the tracks. On top of that, I was riding automatic, and not manual, thus there isn’t engine brake to lower the speed, especially for down slope which is considered extremely dangerous. Nevertheless, the views were splendid.

    1. Tom says:
      November 17, 2014 at 11:28 AM

      Yes, that’s right. As I said in my guide to this route above, the approach to Sin Ho from Lai Chau is currently under construction. You can still get to Sin Ho by taking the alternative route I suggest in the article above. Then you can go down from Sin Ho on the other side, which is still in decent condition, from there you can continue to Dien Bien Phu.
      Thanks for the update.

  84. Sylvain Bui says:
    October 6, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    Thank you for this fantastic loop, i will probably do that when i will go there.
    Just a little question, do you speak vietnamese or english with peaple who live there ?
    Is that ethnic minorities speak English ?

    1. Tom says:
      October 6, 2014 at 10:51 AM

      Hi Sylvain,
      Thanks. Some English is spoken, just like anywhere else in Vietnam. It’s better if you can speak some Vietnamese. Most ethnic minorities speak Vietnamese and their own language.

  85. Jim Carlson says:
    September 23, 2014 at 4:36 PM

    Fascinating, Tom.
    That Sa Pa loop is a prime candidate for my next trip.
    Also, there are some advantages to traveling alone.

    1. Tom says:
      September 24, 2014 at 12:34 AM

      Thanks, Jim.
      It’s a spectacular trip!