Fansipan Mountain in Sapa, Vietnam

Mount Fansipan With an elevation of 3,143 meters, Sapa proudly boasts Mount Fansipan – the highest peak in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

Renowned as the “Roof of Indochina,” conquering the summit of Fansipan is an incredible experience that travelers should not miss.

Fansipan Mountain in Sapa, Vietnam
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Introduction to Fansipan Peak, Where is Mount Fansipan?

Mount Fansipan, or Phanxipan, is located 9 kilometers from the center of Sa Pa town, Lao Cai province, Vietnam. It stands at an elevation of 3,147 meters (according to updated statistics as of June 2019) and takes approximately 2 days to conquer by trekking along a long trail.

Before 2016, Fansipan attracted at least 1,000 trekking enthusiasts daily due to its breathtaking views from the summit and the relatively moderate difficulty of the ascent. However, a cable car route was constructed to transport visitors from the base of the mountain to a station near the summit in February 2016, expanding tourism opportunities to new heights.

Fansipan Peak
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Geography and Geology:

Mount Fansipan, situated in the Hoang Lien Son mountain range, boasts the highest peak not only in Vietnam but also in the entire Indochina region, earning it the nickname “Roof of Indochina.” The geological history of Fansipan dates back approximately 250 million years, forming naturally during the Permian and Triassic periods of the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras.

Ecosystem:

The ecosystem on Mount Fansipan is remarkably diverse, featuring an impressive variety of plant life, with around 1680 plant species, including some rare and valuable ones. While some common species are concealed at the mountain’s base, at an elevation of 700 meters, there are pristine primary tropical forests with tangled vines and valuable trees, including several hundred-year-old specimens. From an elevation of approximately 2800 meters to the summit, the most favored vegetation is dwarf bamboo, covering the peak area with lush bushes. Additionally, familiar plants such as roses and ferns can be found interspersed.

Ascending Fansipan:

To reach the summit of Fansipan, your first destination is the town of Sapa. Most tourists traveling to Sapa from Hanoi use trains or buses, with a journey of about 5-6 hours by bus. However, the road is challenging, narrow, and slippery, making the uphill drive arduous. For a safer option, travelers can opt for an 8-hour overnight train to Lao Cai. The train service between Hanoi and Sapa offers cabins with relatively comfortable sleeping arrangements, allowing relaxation before the rugged journey ahead (if you are trekking). From Lao Cai, it takes about an hour to drive to Sapa town. Travelers can take a taxi to the town or head directly to the starting point for climbing Fansipan or the cable car station. Although Fansipan’s base is only 2 km from Sapa town, the journey takes 30 minutes or more due to the narrow and steep road shared with cars and other heavy vehicles.

Activities at the Summit of Fansipan:

Conquering the Summit of Fansipan

Trekking and Hiking

Although the distance from Sapa town is only 9 km, it takes at least 2 to 3 days to complete the journey to the summit of Fansipan without using the cable car. All trekkers need assistance from a local guide, who can be conveniently found at travel companies in Hanoi or Sapa. The trek begins at an altitude of 1,800 meters above sea level, where trekkers may be introduced to their guide. Guides mostly come from the hillside tribes, experienced locals with years of mountain climbing expertise. Your guide will assist you in registering with security checkpoints before embarking on the trek.

Fortunately, climbing Fansipan is basic, requiring no technical mountain climbing skills or ropes. Walking through the forest at this stage (at the beginning of the trek) is a joy. The initial kilometers involve descents and river crossings, with beautiful landscapes and comfortable weather. The first stopping point for lunch is Trại số 1. Beyond the first stop, there are no designated resting points until trekkers reach the second camp, not to mention that the mountain climbing becomes steeper and more technical after Trại số 1. Therefore, make sure to prepare enough energy for yourself. In the second leg of the journey, you’ll have to climb ladders, maintaining balance on narrow footholds and gripping rocks. There will be some challenging situations to overcome, but the breathtaking natural scenery awaits your soul. As you climb higher, the views become clearer, and your goal gradually reveals itself. Upon reaching Trại số 2, you can rest overnight, spending quality time around the campfire with fellow trekkers. Trại số 2 also has 10 shared rooms with metal roofs, and sleeping bags are provided in each room. However, the restroom is communal, there is no electricity, and only a few water taps are available. Early the next morning, around 3 a.m., you can ascend to the summit to witness the sunrise around 5:15 a.m.

Simply put, it’s spectacular, with the most beautiful sunrise unfolding before your eyes over Northern Vietnam. After taking the time to appreciate all the efforts rewarded at the famous mountain peak, you can visit two temples in the area. Restrooms with hot water are available for bathing.

Most of Fansipan is covered by dense, humid forests during the day, but the temperature drops significantly after sunset. Before the trip, careful packing is essential for “surviving” in both situations. Food supply is limited throughout the journey, so you might want to bring some lightweight canned food for additional options. There are two camps for resting during the trip; however, a good guide will allow you to rest for 10-15 minutes after 1-2 hours of mountain climbing at a scenic spot, ensuring your rest time is not wasted. There is no electricity during the trip, so remember to bring a power bank if you want to capture beautiful mountain peak photos with your phone.

Cable Car:

If you’re not a fan of trekking but still want to enjoy the panoramic view from the Roof of Indochina, there is a modern cable car route that helps you conquer the summit of Phan Xi Păng. A 2-3 day journey is transformed into a 15-minute trip to the summit. However, using the cable car will only provide you with a convenient experience amid tons of other tourists instead of the serene and peaceful scenery from the mountain peak during the sunrise, especially for those trekking.

Cable Car to Fansipan
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Cable Car Ticket Prices for Fansipan:

– Adults (Round Trip): 750,000 VND/person (approximately 32 USD)
– Children (Round Trip): 550,000 VND/child (approximately 25 USD), applicable for children with a height between 1m and 1.4m
– FREE: Children under 1m in height

Explore Sunworld Fansipan Legend

Most travelers know Sunworld Fansipan Legend as the place where they can take a cable car to the summit of Fansipan. However, not many people realize that there is much to explore and experience in this entertainment complex.

Enjoy the Mountain Railway

In addition to the impressive modern cable car, Sunworld Fansipan Legend offers a mountain railway with two exciting routes: a journey around the beautiful Muong Hoa Valley and an ascent to the summit of Phan-Xi-Pang!

Muong Hoa Mountain Railway

If you want to admire the natural beauty of Muong Hoa Valley, a train journey through this charming location seems like a good choice. The starting point is right next to the luxurious Hotel De La Coupole – MGallery Sapa, with a small and colorful French-style train station. After boarding the train, it takes you through Muong Hoa Valley with picturesque landscapes, and after a short 6-minute ride, you’ll reach the cable car station at Sunworld Fansipan Legend for a new journey to conquer the mountain top.

Muong-Hoa-Valley-trekking
Muong-Hoa-Valley-trekking

Price: 100,000 VND/person/round trip (approximately 4.5 USD)

Fansipan Mountain Railway

This is one of the most popular activities at the summit of Phan-Xi-Pang (after cable car and trekking), especially for children. If you are traveling to Sapa with small children, don’t forget to try the mountain train to the top of Phan-Xi-Pang.

In fact, this cable car tour is an alternative option to trekking. From the cable car station (at the mountain destination), there are 600 steps to reach the Summit. If you or your child cannot overcome this challenging journey, using the cable car is the best, very convenient, comfortable, and exciting solution.

Upward route price: 70,000 VND/person
Downward route price: 80,000 VND/person

Spiritual Sightseeing at Various Points

From an altitude of 1,600m to over 3,000m on the summit of Phan-Xi-Pang, there is a complex of spiritual landmarks with pagodas, monasteries, a giant statue of Guanyin Bodhisattva, and a tower.

Chua Trinh – Bao An Monastery

Bao An Monastery or Chua Trinh is located at an altitude of 1,604m, part of the cable car station complex – the starting point of the cable car tour. To start the spiritual journey on Fansipan, take some time to visit this pagoda and wish for a smooth day of mountain travel.

Thanh Van Enlightenment Path – Starting the Spiritual Journey on Phan Xi Păng

After reaching the Fansipan cable car station, you will see the Thanh Van Enlightenment Path – the gateway to the spiritual world on the mountain. This structure is built in the architectural style of the Ly dynasty – a powerful dynasty over 1000 years ago when Buddhism became the national religion in Vietnam.

Bich Van Zen Monastery

Passing through the Enlightenment Path, you will visit Bich Van Zen Monastery – an architectural complex located at an altitude of 3,037m on the mountain. This religious infrastructure combines three temples, with the main one being Bich Van Zen Monastery and two others – one is the Tam Thanh Temple, and the other is the Thanh Tran Hung Dao Temple. The most special feature of this complex is that it was built in the Tran dynasty’s architectural style immediately after the Ly period, a time when Buddhism in Vietnam was very popular.

Large Bell Tower

Right across from Bich Van Zen Monastery is the Large Bell Tower. This 5-story structure is a 35m tall bell tower, each floor having a bell identical to the original bells from the 13th – 14th centuries. These bells are rung at specific times every day.

Giant Buddha Statue

Exiting the area of Bich Van Zen Monastery, you will come across the giant Buddha statue – a remarkable architectural masterpiece that has become an iconic image of Mount Phan Xi Păng, next to its summit. This statue, made of bronze, is situated at an altitude of approximately 3,000m on the mountain and stands at a height of 21.5m. The Buddha statue is crafted using modern technology and consists of over 50 tons of bronze, towering in three levels. While the statue rests atop the mountain with a colossal lotus pedestal measuring 8m in height to showcase the masterpiece, the second level serves as a small lecture hall, and the first level provides a resting place for visitors to enjoy tea and savor vegetarian dishes.

Pagoda and 9-tiered Waterfall

Situated on both sides of the Giant Buddha statue are the pagoda and the 9-tiered waterfall. These two intriguing attractions hold significant religious meanings, serving as religious symbols. The pagoda is an 11-tiered tower, representing the distinctive architecture of Northern Vietnam and resembling some famous ancient pagodas like Binh Son (Vinh Phuc), Pho Minh (Nam Dinh), etc. The 9-tiered waterfall is a special construction with the serene face of the Buddha directly facing it. This 30m waterfall features stone carvings depicting Buddhist scriptures and is surrounded by 150 stone steps.

Alahat (Arhat) Trail

From the Giant Buddha statue, you will discover the Alahat Trail leading to the Giant Quan Am Statue and Kim Son Bao Thang Pagoda. This 800m trail features 18 detailed Alahat statues, each measuring 2.5m in height and weighing between 500 and 600kg. The entire path is covered by rhododendron trees, so if you plan to visit Mount Phan Xi Păng, consider coming here between mid-December and June, and stroll along the Alahat Trail under the blooming rhododendron flowers.

Giant Quan Am Statue

After wandering along the Alahat Trail, take some time to admire the Giant Quan Am Statue, located just opposite Kim Son Bao Thang Pagoda. This 12m-tall bronze statue, weighing 18 tons, is strategically placed at a high position with a magnificent view, and Quan Am’s eyes are gazing toward the mountain slope. Quan Am, resembling a goddess or a compassionate Buddha figure, provides an opportunity for visitors to appreciate the Buddha statue and the majestic scenery around, while seeking peace and health blessings.

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The giant Buddha statue on Mount Fansipan

Mountain Deity Shrine

Behind the Giant Quan Am Statue, you will find the small Thần Sơn Shrine. In the spiritual beliefs of ancient Vietnamese people, each mountain has its own deity and must be worshiped at a shrine on that mountain. The Phan Xi Păng Mountain Deity Shrine is constructed in the architectural style of the Tran dynasty and is a place to visit, praying for a joyful and safe journey to this sacred place.

Kim Son Bao Thang Pagoda – Van Phong Meditation Monastery

At an elevation of 3,091m on Mount Phan Xi Păng, there is a large pagoda named Kim Son Bao Thang, also known as Van Phong Meditation Monastery. It is built in the architectural style of the Tran dynasty, modeled after some of the oldest pagodas in Northern Vietnam, such as Bối Khế Pagoda (Thanh Oai, Hanoi), Thái Lạc Pagoda (Văn Lâm, Hưng Yên), and Thầy Pagoda (Hanoi). This is the largest pagoda on the mountain with two main temples arranged according to the beliefs of the northern religion, where the Buddha temple is much larger and located in front of the Deity temple. On the 1st and 15th lunar days of each month, many Buddhists gather here to show their respect to the Buddha, deities, and pray for wealth, peace, and health.

Selfies on Mount Phan Xi Păng

On the summit of Mount Phan Xi Păng, there are two prime locations for stunning selfies: the Flagpole and the mountain peak.

Flagpole on Fanxipan Summit

On the summit of Mount Phan Xi Păng stands the highest flagpole in Indochina. This 25m flagpole is meticulously crafted from the finest materials available in Vietnam, such as jade stone from Thanh Hoa, wood, and an exclusively ordered flag. Additionally, the flagpole base is adorned with engravings depicting distinctive images of Vietnamese culture, such as Chăm Towers, Tay Nguyen high houses, Northwest stilt houses, and Ha Long Bay. This design was created by the world-famous architect Bill Bensley, who has an endless passion for Vietnamese culture. If Mount Phan Xi Păng is on your travel itinerary, consider visiting on a Monday to participate in the flag-raising ceremony, record a short video, and take selfies afterward.

Sapa – Fansipan Tour 5 Days 4 Nights, departing daily
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Fanxipan Summit

Taking a selfie at the summit is a must when you reach the peak. As this area is the most crowded on the mountain and quite narrow, it’s advisable to wake up early and arrive here in the morning to witness the sunrise and have ample time and space for the best selfies. If you come after 9 a.m., you might have to wait a long time to take a photo with the mountain peak, and you won’t be able to capture the best shot you desire because of the large number of tourists congregating there, spending a considerable amount of time on their selfie journeys.