Sapa-Sin Ho Scenic Motorbike Loop

Last updated December 2017 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle

INTRODUCTION | GUIDE | MAP | RELATED POSTS

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.

Scenery on the road to Sin HoMajestic: the Sapa-Sin Ho Loop takes you through some of the grandest landscape in Southeast Asia

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GUIDE: SAPA-SIN HO SCENIC LOOP


ROAD TRIP DETAILS:

  • 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

ROAD TRIP CONTENTS:

  • 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

ABOUT THIS ROUTE:

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.

The road to Sin Ho, Lai Chau, northern VietnamThreading through the mountains between Sapa & Sin Ho in Vietnam’s stunning northwest region


ROUTE MAP:

Sapa-Sin Ho Scenic Loop | 320km


View in a LARGER MAP

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SECTION 1:

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 passThe 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.

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….


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Terraced rice fields near Lai ChauScenes 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 VietnamLai Chau is a fairly soulless town, especially in bad weather, but it’ll do for a night

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SECTION 2:

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, VietnamRoad 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 hoJaw-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 HoTiny 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 plateauSin 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 VietnamA 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 HoTown in the clouds: Sin Ho sits on a plateau surrounded by high peaks

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SECTION 3:

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

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173 Responses to Sapa-Sin Ho Scenic Motorbike Loop

  1. Pat says:

    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?
    Thanks
    Pat

    • 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,

      Tom

  2. Renato says:

    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

    Renato

    • 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,

      Tom

      • Renato says:

        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.

        Renato

  3. Lydia says:

    Hi!

    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

    • 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,

      Tom

      • Lydia says:

        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,

        Lydia

  4. Sam says:

    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.

    Cheers
    Sam

    • 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.

      Tom

  5. Luis says:

    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.

  6. Bill Levey says:

    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.

    • 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.

      Tom

  7. Gadi Amitai says:

    Tanks alot Tom.

    you have been very helpfull.

    gadi.

  8. Gadi Amitai says:

    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.

    thanks

    Gadi.

    • 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,

      Tom

      • Gadi Amitai says:

        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.

        Gadi.

        • 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.

          Tom

          • gadi amitai says:

            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.

            Gadi.

            • 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.

              Tom

  9. Adele says:

    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! 🙂

    • 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.

      Tom

  10. Karen & Roland says:

    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

    • 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!

      Tom

  11. Wilai says:

    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:)

    • 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,

      Tom

  12. […] to write up my guide to the scenic motorbike loop from Sapa to Sin Ho and back, which you can read HERE. As much as I enjoy the comforts of the Victoria Sapa Spa Resort I can’t say it compares […]

  13. Shena Mah says:

    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

    • 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.
      Tom

  14. Alex Gibson says:

    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.

    • 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.

      Tom

  15. Chao Zhou says:

    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!
    Thanks

  16. jrwoon says:

    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.

    • Hi,
      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.
      Tom

  17. 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 ?

    • 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.
      Tom

  18. Jim Carlson says:

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

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