Fansipan peak – roof of Indochina

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Fansipan Mountain – The Roof of Indochina. At the height of 3143m, Fansipan is the highest mountain in Vietnam and also known as “the Roof of Indochina”.

Surrounding Sapa are the Hoang Lien Mountains, dubbed the Tonkinese Alps by the French.

These mountains include the often cloud-obscured Fansipan (3143m), Vietnam’s highest peak. Fansipan is accessible year-round to sensibly equipped trekkers in good shape, but don’t underestimate the challenge. It is very wet, and can be perilously slippery and generally cold.

The summit of Fansipan is 19km by foot from sapa. The terrain is rough and adverse weather is frequent. The round trip usually takes three days; some experienced hikers do it in two days, but you’ll need to be fit. After walking through hill-tribe villages on the first morning, it’s just forest, mountain vistas and occasional wildlife, including monkeys, mountain goats and birds. Weather-wise the best time is from mid-October to mid-December, and in March, when wildflowers are in bloom. Don’t attempt an ascent if Sapa’s weather is poor, as limited visibility on Fansipan can be treacherous.

No ropes or technical climbing skills are needed, just endurance. There are a few rudimentary shelters at a couple of base camps en route, but it’s better to be self-sufficient with sleeping bag, waterproof tent, food, stove, raincoat, compass and other miscellaneous survival gear. It’s important to carry out all your garbage, as some of the camps are now impacted by trash. Hiring a reputable guide is vital, and porters are also recommended.

Through local operators, count on an all-inclusive rate of around US$150 per person for a couple, US$125 per person for a group of four, and US$100 per person for the sensible maximum group size of six.

Fansipan’s wild, lonesome beauty is soon to be somewhat shattered as a cable car was being built up the side of the mountain during our last Sapa visit. The good news is that the cable car isn’t proposed to go all the way to the summit. The bad news is that a luxury hotel may be built on the mountain slope where the cable car ends.

Read more: Top vietnam things to do, plus suggested routes. Travel tips and advice for backpackers and independent travelers.