Trekking in Sapa with Sapa O’Chau

Most people who come to Sapa are here to join a trek and maybe even a homestay for a night or two. But how do you pick a trek from one of the hundreds that are available? Not to mention the very convincing ladies that meet buses as they arrive in town. Well, why not pick a company that not only offers fantastic trekking in Sapa and homestays but is also a social enterprise that helps the local indigenous communities?

Why choose Sapa O’Chau?

trekking in Sapa

Sapa O’Chau is a social enterprise and Vietnam’s first minority-run tour operator. The organisation has different opportunities for trekking in Sapa, homestays, a cafe and a Hmong handicraft store.

These projects raise the funds needed to give a home to 35 high school aged children from ethnic minority families in the surrounding area. Before Sapa O’Chau, these children had to walk 10 km each way to school each day.

But, thanks to Sapa O’Chau, these children now have accommodation close to the local school as well as language lessons. As these kids are not native Vietnamese speakers, Sapa O’Chau also provides language tutors to ensure they don’t fall behind in school.

Plus, news just in: Sapa O’Chau is a finalist for the World Tourism Tomorrow Awards 2016, and has been longlisted for the World Responsible Tourism Award 2015.

What is trekking in Sapa and a homestay actually like?

trekking in Sapa

I can tell you first hand that these treks are great! I did the 2 days, 1 night Red Dao Homestay Trek that combines about 24 km of medium difficulty trekking in Sapa with a local homestay. You pass through local villages, where you can watch farmers planting and harvesting rice as well as pigs, ducks and chickens all playing in the mud. There are a few steep hills that feel a lot steeper in the hot sun but the views from the top are truly spectacular – rice terraces and villages as far as the eye can see.

That evening we stayed with a local Red Dao family. Sapa O’Chau has worked with the local community to help them convert their homes into homestays for guests. The Red Dao are known for their expertise with herbal medicines and remedies and we were lucky enough to soak our weary bodies in a hot herbal bath before falling soundly asleep.

trekking in Sapa

One of the things that I never get used to when trekking is the ever-present rooster wake up call as dawn strikes. I’m so glad I don’t have a rooster at home! We then did some off-path trekking through some wild undergrowth that needed to be trimmed with a machete as we walked. This was one of my favourite parts of the hike – with ferns hitting us from all angles and mud sloshing up our legs, I really felt like I was exploring the great outdoors. All too soon we arrived at Trung Chai where we were met by a shuttle to take us back to Sapa.

Unlike many other tours, Sapa O’Chau does just let you experience communities, they actually ARE the local community.

I love it! How do I book?

Booking could not be easier, simply follow this link to the Visit.Org website where you can search for travel experiences around the world, including this trek with Sapa O’Chau. There you can request trek add-on’s if you would like to extend your hike to four days, or find out more about how to get to Sapa.

Who are Visit.Org?

Based in NYC and founded in early 2015, visit.org is a technology platform for curated travel experiences offered by nonprofits around the globe. They offer nonprofits an innovative, sustainable way to raise funds and awareness for their causes while helping thousands of users to register and book tours through their platform.

Visit.orgAmbassadorBadge (1)I have been a Visit.Org Ambassador since late-2015 and it was in this role that I came across Sapa O’Chau. Whenever I travel I always want to get involved with the local community as much as I can, however, sometimes this can be hard, especially if I’m short on time. Visit.org helps you quickly find tours and activities that benefit local communities and allow you to participate in unique experiences.

Planning a trip to Vietnam? Don’t forget to pin!

Trekking and hiking in Sapa Vietnam is an incredible experience. Have a local guide and support the community with this eco-tourism guide at www.grassrootsnomad.com

 

Please note that if you book through the link above, I will receive a small commission from the sale. This will not increase or alter your trek price in any way. If you would not like this to happen, please contact me for additional information. My affiliation with Visit.Org in no way has impacted my representation of the organisation in this article. It is only because I found them to be so amazing that I decided to be an Ambassador for their organisation and include them on Grassroots Nomad. Thank you! :)

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75 Comments
Angela

A delightful story! For genuinely authentic experience you just have to get off the beaten path.

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Chris

I have a few friends that´s currently traveling around Vietnam and that´s planning to visit Sapa during their trip, I gone send them the link to this post and recommend them to use Sapa O’Chau

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Grassroots Nomad

Thanks Chris! There are a lot of options for people wanting to hike but I did a lot of research and this seemed like the best organisation to make a positive impact of the local community 🙂

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Marita

Great read! I was thinking about doing an article about conscious/purpose traveling and might include this. We’re going to Vietnam next year and will definitely save this to read before we go 🙂

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Grassroots Nomad

Thanks Marita, that’s great! When you are in Hanoi, you should also try to visit KOTO restaurant or cooking school. I have an article about them as well. They are a wonderful organisation that trains disadvantaged youth as chefs, waiters, bartenders and baristas through their extensive training program.

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Chantell

This sounds like such a worthwhile way to experience Sapa. I haven’t been to Vietnam yet but had heard that Sapa is gorgeous. Thanks for sharing!

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Grassroots Nomad

I hope you get the chance to visit soon, it really is worth it! I would love to go again and spend a few more days hiking to some of the more remote areas. Although we didn’t see any other hikers on this trip!

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Grassroots Nomad

Hey Amanda, I really loved it! You should have a look at Visit.org, I think you would really like some of the initiatives they offer 🙂

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Pinay Flying High

Sounds like a trip to take! Love this! On a totally different note, I laughed about the rooster wake-up call. I grew up in the Philippines and roosters in the morning doesn’t wake me up anymore. Lol.

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Grassroots Nomad

Haha, I don’t think I will ever get used to it! At my house in Xela I was woken up by dogs and at my new house in Guatemala City, I am woken up by the noisiest birds I’ve ever heard! I do quite like it though… 🙂

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MarieAnne

Such a lovely story. I am a volunteer as well and I always like reading about people that want to do more for the world they live in. I have never been to Vietnam yet, but it’s on my list!

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Grassroots Nomad

Thank you Marie Anne. Where are you volunteering? I would love to hear more about your experiences!

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Grassroots Nomad

You are so close! Next time there is a flight sale you should try to visit. There are so many great places in Vietnam and the people are so friendly… and the food! MMMMMMMM!!!!

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Marteen

This is a brilliant initiative! Knowledge is power and education is so important to help children progress in life. If Vietnamese isn’t the children’s first language, what language do they speak?

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Grassroots Nomad

Hey Marteen, great question! The kids are from the nearby Indigenous communities so they are brought up speaking in their native, Indigenous languages.

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Joe

What a fantastic enterprise! Ticks so many boxes – the great scenery/snapshots of rural life you get from the trek, the chance to immerse yourself in the local community AND the opportunity to do something to support a very worthy cause. A win-win all round 🙂

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Grassroots Nomad

Hey Joe – I completely agree! I have found that writing this blog has opened my eyes to so many more community initiatives that I probably would never have found. It usually requires a lot more research which I didn’t used to do quite as much. I’m so glad I found these guys though! 🙂

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Grassroots Nomad

I hope you enjoy your hike! They have a lot of different ones to choose from AND a cafe on site 🙂

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Dang Travelers

Sounds like a great few days! Love that you combine a cool experience with helping a community! How much does something like that cost?

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Grassroots Nomad

From memory it was about USD75 but it depends how many days you choose to do 🙂

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Grassroots Nomad

They are great Melissa! They have partnered with organisations all over the world so there are some great projects out there 🙂

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vacationcoffee

Wow, this is such a cool way to travel! How interesting – thanks for providing this information and thorough description of your experience.

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Grassroots Nomad

Thank you! I had a great time and I would love to do another one 🙂

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Patricia Steffy (@PLSteffy)

What a fascinating experience! I’ve never done a trekking holiday, but I think my boyfriend would love it. I’m rehabbing ankle right now, so the most I can do is about 3 miles at the moment, but now I have a goal to work up to! I love how much you get to see of the local communities — not just with the hiking, but with the homestay. Talk about getting a real look into life in Sapa!

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Grassroots Nomad

Oh no Patricia, I hope your ankle recovers soon! I only recently got into hiking and now I just love it! Wandering through the local communities is my favourite part. Not only are you able to talk with the locals that you pass by, but you also get a glimpse into normal everyday life. You can see people working the land and how important farming is to their livelihoods. I highly recommend them!

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thetravelpockets

I’ve never heard of trekking in Sapa O’Chau. What an interesting experience to actually be among the local community. How loud and how early do the roosters call?

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Grassroots Nomad

When I was there it was about 5am and it depends how close they are to the house! I know that you get used to it quite quickly but for me, it really did wake me up! It was nice to be up early and to see the farm waking up – all the animals and the farmers 🙂

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Stefan

Sapa looks stunning! We skipped it when we reached North Vietnam as we ran out of time (and had done similar treks in South China). But boy does it look incredible. Pinned our pic to our favourite South East Asia board.

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Grassroots Nomad

Hey Stefan, thanks for sharing! I can imagine that the terrain is pretty similar in South China – I have only been to Beijing, but I would love to explore more of China one day 🙂

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Ann

This looks really cool and what an awesome organization that you ambassador for. I’ve never heard of Sapa, but the pictures immediately remind me of the area of the Philippines my mom is from.

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Grassroots Nomad

It is really similar to the Philippines actually – reminds me of the rice terraces up North. Where is your Mum from? Visit.Org is great and they have projects all over the world 🙂

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Sally E

This sounds like a truly unique and amazing experience! How great that you get to be a true part of the community and what an amazing organization to support as well! I’d never heard of Sapa before this but I’d love to check this out!

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Grassroots Nomad

I agree, Sally! It is what I liked most about the trek and I was so glad that I did it! Hopefully you are able to visit Sapa soon and try it out for yourself 🙂

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Live Learn Venture

Wow — what a unique experience. I love that this organization is making a difference! I think I need to head back to Vietnam. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

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Grassroots Nomad

Haha, I’m sure sure about once a week I start thinking… hmm maybe I need to visit Vietnam again! 🙂

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Jo

I have read about Sapa before as well – Vietnam is a country I am yet to visit so, Sapa is def on my list. The greenery and beauty of Sapa is mesmerizing. I can see why you loved trekking there. Looking forward to doing some community services myself sometime soon.

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Grassroots Nomad

You will love it, Jo! Let me know if you have any questions when you are planning. There is an amazing restaurant in Hanoi that I also wrote about – KOTO. They train disadvantaged youth to be chefs and their food is delicious!

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Bailey K.

I love that they are a part of the responsible tourism movement! I have yet to visit Vietnam, but it looks so intriguing. One day!

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Grassroots Nomad

Thanks Bailey – You should try to visit if you can, Vietnam is amazing!

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Kevin Wagar

Awesome tip! It’s so important to go with local tour operators when you visit a new place, and this seems like a great organization to try!

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Vyjay Rao

This sounds like a great option, a good trek and at the same time you are helping the local community, which is indeed like the icing on the cake.

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Anne

Sounds like a great trip, I enjoy home stays as it gives you a better idea about how the local community live.

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Grassroots Nomad

I love them as well! I stayed for about 2 months with a family in Guatemala and it was amazing!!

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Grassroots Nomad

It’s great – I think the kids would love it too. All of the villages have kids to play with and there were a few kids at our homestay as well.

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Erin

This is really amazing! Local experiences like this are the most memorable for me too. It gives you such an intimate view of culture that you would NEVER see otherwise. And the fact that you’re supporting such a good cause – it doesn’t get better! You also had me at “hot herbal bath” – that must have been the most relaxing thing of all time!

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Grassroots Nomad

Hey Erin, it really was relaxing, just what you want after hiking all day!!! 🙂

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Hung Thai [Up Up and a Bear]

I am going back to my motherland in November. That’s right – it’s Vietnam! And Sapa has always been a dream of mine to visit. I’m curious as to the “herbal bath” you’re referring to. I remember whenever we got sick, my mom would boil a hot bath with branches and leaves all over the place (not comfortable in the least) but it does the trick every time! Now I’m getting anxious to go back!

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Grassroots Nomad

Wow that sounds pretty similar – more herbs though but they weren’t powders or anything but little branches of different herbs. Where in Vietnam will you be going?

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Lauren

It sounds like such a fun experience! I’d like to experience trekking in different countries and it looks so beautiful there 🙂

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Grassroots Nomad

It is stunning, Lauren, you should try to check it out for yourself if you have the chance!

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Mar Pages

I love organisations that go beyond entertaining travellers with a social cause. Sapa is on my list! Thank you for an easy to read guide 🙂

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Sarah Kim

I love eco-tourism and want to go to Vietnam so this is really a great combination for both. I’d be really intrigued watching people tend to their animals and planting rice!

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Grassroots Nomad

It was wonderful to walk through little villages and just see all the animals running about and the kids playing while their parents are working in the fields. I loved it!

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shobha42016

I would completely do this. I had no idea the Hmong didn’t speak Vietnamese. And, supporting an organisation that helps kids is so worthwhile. No way should a child have to walk 10 km each way to get to school. Poor things would be exhausted getting there and back.

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Grassroots Nomad

I know! I didn’t know anything really about the Hmong before I arrived so this was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about them and the challenges they are facing in Vietnam.

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Grassroots Nomad

Some parts were so hard, especially in the sun! I’m not super fit so I was so happy when we had the relaxing traditional hot bath!

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