Lao Cai Travel Guide 2024 from A-Z: Moving, eating, visiting, specialties… latest

Lao Cai is located in the border region between the Northwest and Northeast of Vietnam, with a border of more than 180 km with Yunnan province, China. Lao Cai borders the provinces of Ha Giang, Lai Chau and Yen Bai.

Lao Cai includes Lao Cai city, Sa Pa town and 7 districts including Bat Xat, Muong Khuong, Bac Ha, Simacai, Van Ban, Bao Yen, Bao Thang. These places all have famous tourist attractions.


Lao Cai is about 300 km from Hanoi. Traveling from Hanoi by road is convenient and fast, via Hanoi – Lao Cai highway (CT05). Travel time is from 3.5 to 4 hours.

Trains from Hanoi to Lao Cai (SP4) run daily, departing at 10pm, arriving at 6am. Ticket price from 280,000 VND per trip. Tourists then continue by service car from Lao Cai station to points in Sa Pa and vice versa (2 km radius from the Stone Church) for 55,000 VND per trip.

Tourists from other provinces can fly or take the train or bus to Hanoi, then continue to Lao Cai. Nearby localities follow National Highway 70, National Highway 12, National Highway 4D, National Highway 4E, DT155…

Part of the highway connecting Noi Bai – Lao Cai to Sa Pa. Photo:


Lao Cai city

Lao Cai city is known for many historical and cultural relics and landscapes, spiritual tourism such as the Thuong temple relic complex, Cam temple, Quan temple, Doi Co temple, Cam Lo pagoda. Lao Cai also has an international border gate to Ha Khau town (China). Tourists can go to the border to visit for one to several days. Coc Leu Bridge and Coc Leu market are also famous destinations that mark the city.

Sa Pa

Sa Pa town is located at an altitude of 1,600 m above sea level, nearly 40 km from Lao Cai city center. Sa Pa has a cool climate so it is suitable for summer trips. In spring, Sa Pa is resplendent in peach blossoms, plum blossoms and festivals. In autumn, Sa Pa is the yellow color of terraced fields. In winter, from December to February, if you are lucky, you can hunt for ice and snow. Sa Pa has many resorts, typical dishes and rich indigenous culture.


Famous destinations in Sa Pa: stone church, Muong Hoa valley, Ta Van village, Ta Phin village, Cat Cat village, Silver waterfall, Ham Rong mountain, Fansipan peak, O Quy Ho pass…

Fansipan peak

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

There are two ways to conquer Fansipan peak: climbing and cable car. The trekking route to the top began to form in the 1990s, mainly for explorers, researchers and healthy adventurers. The time to reach the top if quick can be in just one day , departing from Tram Ton.

Fansipan cable car was inaugurated in 2016, making it easier to reach the top of Fansipan. Round-trip cable car ticket prices are 800,000 and 850,000 VND (adults, depending on the day of the week) and 550,000 VND (children). Operating hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. At the top of Fansipan, there are enough accommodation and dining services.

Fansipan peak, Lao Cai. Photo: To Ba Hieu

O Quy Ho Pass

O Quy Ho is one of the four great passes of Vietnam (along with Ma Pi Leng, Pha Din and Khau Pha), located in the border between Lai Chau and Lao Cai provinces. The pass cuts across the Hoang Lien Son range, locally known as Heaven’s Gate. With a length of more than 50 km and an altitude of nearly 2,000 m above sea level, this is one of the longest, most dangerous, and most beautiful mountain passes in Vietnam. Visitors to Lao Cai can go up the pass from Sa Pa town. O Quy Ho is located about 18 km from Sa Pa center, on the road there are sightseeing and photography spots for tourists.


Bat Xat

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

Lung Po intersection

Lung Po is the name of a stream in A Mu Sung commune, Bat Xat district. Lung Po Stream flows out to meet the Red River at border marker 92, which is “where the Red River flows into Vietnam”. At the river junction, the blue water color of Lung Po stream and the red color of the Red River blend together.


Lung Po flagpole is a famous check-in location in the region. The structure is 31.43 m high, symbolizing Fansipan peak (3,143 m high). On top is a flag with an area of ​​25 m2 symbolizing 25 ethnic groups in Lao Cai. The path to the top of the flagpole has 125 spiral steps.

To get to Lung Po, visitors have to go through many winding passes and mountains, so they need to be careful when moving.

Y Ty

Y Ty is a border commune in Bat Xat district, at an altitude of over 2,000 m above sea level. This is one of the most beautiful rattan hunting spots in Vietnam, from October to March and from September to October is the most beautiful golden rice season.

Y Ty is about 90 km from Lao Cai city, along the Bat Xat – Trinh Tuong – Lung Po – A Mu Sung – A Lu – Ngai Thau route. Visitors can also go to Y Ty from Sa Pa via the route Ban Khoang – Ta Giang Phin – Ban Xeo – Muong Hum – Sang Ma Sao, a distance of 70 km. Both of these roads are difficult to travel, bad roads, many potholes and muddy if it rains. Typical activities at Y Ty: Muong Hum market opens only on Sunday mornings. Walking and viewing rice in Choan Then village is also an ideal choice.

A corner in Choan Then village, Y Ty.

Ngai Thau

Ngai Thau village consists of hills ranging from high to gentle, located close to each other, located in Na Hoi commune. Along the way to Ngai Thau, the scenery is valleys of corn, rice and wildflowers. In spring, peach blossoms and medlar flowers bloom brilliantly, in autumn there are golden rice fields. Visitors can drive to Ngai Thau by car, stop about 2 km from the peak, then climb or ride a motorbike straight to the top. The hilltop stretches, the space is wide, the view is clear. Watching the sunset and welcoming the sunrise on Ngai Thau peak is one of the experiences that should not be missed.

Bac Ha

Bac Ha district is located in the northeast of Lao Cai province, at an altitude of about 1,000 to 1,500 m above sea level, with a mild climate. Bac Ha has many historical and cultural relics and tourist attractions, including the San san festival (down to the fields) of the H’mong and Tay people, Hoang A Tuong palace, Bac Ha temple, and Bac Ha temple. only Trung Do ancient citadel, brocade craft villages, and specialty corn wine making of the Mong people. Ethnic markets such as Lung Phin buffalo market, Bac Ha market, Coc Ly market, Ban Lien market are also famous destinations.

Hoang A Tuong Palace


The mansion was built from 1919 to 1921. Local people still call this place “King of Cats”. The house belongs to a Tay ethnic person named Hoang Yen Chao (after his son replaced him, his name was Hoang A Tuong). The house was designed by the French, following the architecture of ancient castles in Europe, and is currently kept relatively intact. The Cat King still retains memorabilia such as a set of sofas (antique tables and chairs) and a Chinese mirror (Chinese wall mirror), in addition to three osmanthus trees, which are as old as the house itself. .

Bac Ha market

Bac Ha Market is located 65 km from Lao Cai city, famous for retaining its pristine appearance and bearing the characteristics of Vietnam’s highland ethnic groups. The market opens once a week on Sunday, and is a place to exchange goods and meet local ethnic groups. When going down the mountain, people often wear new colorful dresses to go to the market, viewing this as a festival. Bac Ha market is divided into small areas with typical exchange characteristics such as brocade, cuisine, horse market, poultry market, and food market. Each market is rich in diversity and imbued with local ethnic identity.



Simacai is a border district, covered by many rocky mountain ranges. Simacai is about 30 km from Bac Ha, the road is wide and convenient to travel. Simacai is famous for its forests and valleys filled with wind and clouds. Coming here, visitors can visit the buckwheat flower fields in Lu Than commune, San Chai gray stone forest, terraced fields in Sin Cheng commune, and see pear flowers in Quan Ho Than commune every March. Can Cau market (every Saturday) and Sin Cheng market (every Wednesday) are destinations that help visitors learn deeply about local culture. These markets are also open on Tet holidays.

The peaks

Sea of ​​clouds on top of Lao Than. Photo: Vang A Ho

Tourists who love trekking often call Lao Cai the land of mountain peaks. In addition to Fansipan, the highest in Vietnam, Lao Cai also has nearly 10 other mountain peaks, attracting backpackers every trekking season, from around October to April every year. We can mention Lao Than peak, considered the roof of Y Ty, with an altitude of 2,860 m. This is a “fit” climbing arc, with a fairly high success rate for cloud hunting such as Nhiu Co San, Ngu Chi Son, Bach Moc Luong Tu, Co Tien mountain, Voi mountain, and Pu Luong mountain.



Lao Cai City has a large network of hotels, from affordable to high-end, with double room prices per night ranging from 200,000-300,000 VND to more than one million VND. Major hotels include Muong Thanh, Sojo Hotel, Duc Huy, Lao Cai Diamond, Cao Minh, Song Hong View, Liberty Lao Cai.

Y Ty only has homestays, no solid hotels. However, these homestays have recently been invested in so they are of good quality, self-contained, clean, with space and beautiful views. Some popular homestays: Y Ty Clouds, Y Ty Dai Ngan, Xa Ha Nhi Y Ty, Co Si Y Ty, Thao Nguyen Xanh. Double room price is about 500,000 VND per night, community room from 50,000 VND per person.


Like Y Ty, accommodations in Bac Ha are mainly homestays, stilt houses or small hotels such as Bac Ha Lodge Retreat, La Beaute Bac Ha, Lagom Bac Ha Farmstay, prices range from 200,000 VND to 500,000 VND one double room per night.


Bac Ha pink pho

Pink pho is made from pink upland brown rice, a specialty only found in the Bac Ha region. People have to soak rice for 5 to 10 hours depending on the season, then grind it, filter it into water, rinse and then cut it into fibers. Every step is done manually. Pink pho is soft, smooth, and does not contain borax, so it should only be used during the day. The most popular dish using pink pho noodles is sour pho (mixed). A bowl usually contains pho noodles, char siu pork, raw vegetables, chopped salted mustard greens, crushed peanuts, a little sour water and special spices from soybeans, doi seeds, cardamom, ginger, and chili. stir-fry, chili sauce.


Ban Pho corn wine

Ban Pho corn wine is a drink often associated with Lao Cai, especially Bac Ha. People often remind visitors: “When entering, remember Trung Do slope, when leaving, remember Bac Ha corn wine.” Corn wine is a drink that brings the flavors of the mountains and forests of the “white highlands” to tourists from near and far. Corn for making wine is sticky corn, yellow grains, not high yield but fragrant and firm. Corn is harvested and dried in the sun, then stored in the kitchen to preserve and gradually make wine.

Jars of corn wine in Bac Ha market. Photo: Huong Chi

Thang co

The famous and typical dish of the H’Mong people is thang co, which is nearly 200 years old. Thang co root is cooked from horse meat and uses many local spices to prepare. Currently, Thang Co dish has been varied with a variety of ingredients to suit everyone’s taste. The smoking Thang Co pans in a corner of Bac Ha market are a feature that attracts tourists to this highland market, especially during winter days. A bowl of Thang Co costs about 30,000 VND.

Thang co pan in Bac Ha market. Photo: Huong Chi

Five coloured sticky rice

When coming to Lao Cai and many northern mountainous provinces, you should not miss the five-color sticky rice dish. The strange sticky rice is not only sticky and fragrant, but the color is also very eye-catching with five main colors of green, red, purple, yellow, white – the color of forest leaves, a specialty only found in the highlands.

Muong Khuong chili sauce

Muong Khuong chili sauce.

Chili sauce specialties are created by highland ethnic people in Muong Khuong district from fresh chili grown in the area, small fruits, often called rice chili. Initially, this was a dish made by people for the purpose of serving family meals, but after tourism developed, Muong Khuong chili sauce has become a specialty known to many tourists inside and outside the province because of its spicy taste. and fragrant.

($1~24,000 VND)
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