As you move north from Hanoi, flatter plains give way to vast swathes of soaring mountains and vibrant terraces of paddy fields before meeting with China and Laos at its borders. This is where slim Vietnam is at its widest but also where it becomes its wildest; few get to experience its pristine corners and only the most hardened hill-tribes remain in the remotest corners.
Established as a hill station by the French in the 1920s, Sapa is the most well-known destination. Nicknamed ‘The Tonkinese Alps’, this is the most accessible option and is a firm favorite with trekkers. There are some comfortable accommodation options, and it’s possible to get there by overnight train (Hanoi to Lao Cai), which is an experience in itself. Sapa can feel a little touristy, but you are not there for the town. Head out to the countryside to enjoy luminous scenery and if time permits ask your guide about one of the weekly hill-tribe markets. You’ll be rewarded for your efforts getting there and we feel it’s a must for the more adventurous couples and families.