Fansipan (Fan Si Pan)

vietnam

Vietnam’s highest point is a stunning hike above the clouds in the far North’s vibrant Sapa region.

Mount Fansipan in Vietnam is a popular 2-day hike that can be challenging addition to an already stimulating walking tour through an ethnically, biologically, and scenically rich part of our world.

Country
vietnam
Height
3,143m (10,312 ft)
Climbing Height
1,613 m (5,291 ft)
Rank
  • #1 highest in Vietnam

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Natural Form and History

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - History

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Geological history

Fansipan, often referred to as the ‘Roof of Indochina’ is part of the Hoang Lien Son mountain range that covers the northwest-southwest direction from the Vietnam-China border to the catchment area of the River Da and lies 9 kms from the town of Sapa in Vietnam. It is said to have emerged in the mountains in the Neozoic period. This mountain zone has a block structure with different blocks having been formed by different faults in a high grade. The Fansipan structural zone has rocks belonging to the Cha Pa formation and is composed of quartz feldspar – muscovite schist embedded with layers of several other types of rocks including thin bedded dolomite marble.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Modern climbing history

Being a relatively easy – though long – climb, Mount Fansipan has been a favorite for visitors from the colonial times. In 1905, a French expedition climbed the mountain and installed a metal pyramid marking the name and height of the mountain, adding a unique dimension to the dramatic mountainscape. In the war years that followed, there was very little activity on the mountain and the trail was lost to growth and underbrush. The first subsequent officially acknowledged expedition to the summit was by a local army man named Nguyen Thien Hung in 1991. He is said to have ascended with the help of local goat herd and reached the summit after 13 attempts.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Current popularity as a climbing destination

Mount Fansipan is a popular trekking destination with several tour companies arranging two or three day climbs to the summit. In 2013, a cable car service was thrown open and many now opt to take the breathtaking 15 minute ride to the top rather than trudge up the scenic mountain trails. The summit is a firm fixture on tourist itineraries to this part of the world and sees a large number of tourists, especially since the opening of the cable car service.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Overview of the Trail

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Overall Assessment

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Summary of trail accessibility

Mount Fansipan is a well-marked tourist spot, offering trails with different opions for climbers of different fitness. In he most popular trail, there are steps and ladders laid out to ease the climb.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Trail options

Number of options
3
Summary

There are 3 distinct trails to the base camps each offering unique experiences but differing in levels of difficulty and time needed to ascend. Depending on whether you are looking at accomplishing the trek in a day or would rather savour the sights and spend a night or two in the mountains, each trail offers different possibilities to make the ascend memorable.

This is the easiest and the most tourist-friendly route with several sections having paved stone paths and hand railings. It also offers some scenic streams and jungles on the way. While it has its share of scrambling and adventurous sheer rock stretches, it is also the preferred path for visitors who opt for a single day trek. Most tourists though will make it a two day affair with an overnight stay at the base camp. "

This is a more strenuous trail that will definitely require an overnight stay at base camp. This trail demands a bit of technical climbing at some points.

This is the longest of the three trails and usually requires two nights of overnight halt in the mountains, but you will be blessed with the most scenic routes and the best experience of the myriad flora and fauna of the tropical forests."

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Most popular trail

Tram Ton Trail

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Standard itinerary

Number of days
2
Summary

The 2-day Tram Ton Trail remains the most popular route for tourists (although some aim to complete it in a single day). The journey starts with a short drive from Sapa village to the starting point itself offers several dramatic views. The first day of the trek takes you to the base camp at 2,800 m and is a 7 to 10 hour trek depending on how many rest stop you want to take. The second day starts early and if you ascend the summit by dawn, you can expect to reach back to the Sapa village in time for a late lunch. The hiking trail is just hard enough to give you the sense of adventure without tiring you out. Enjoy pine forests, magnificent flower blooms and majestic bamboo thickets on the way.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Day 1
  • 09:00: Start the journey to the beginning of the Tram Ton trail from Sapa village. This is a short 15 kilometer drive which takes you through Tram Ton Pass, also called Heaven Gate Pass, the highest mountain passage in Vietnam. The entire Mount Fansipan range is visible around you on this ride, as also the magnificent Silver waterfall.
  • 09:30: Start the hike from the entrance of the trail.
  • 12.30: Get your picnic lunch in the hills while catching your breath.
  • 13:30: Resume your hike, which will become steeper and slightly more strenuous from this point.
  • 18:00: By late evening, reach the base camp at 2,800 m and settle in for a good night’s sleep after an early dinner.
Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Day 2
  • 03:30: Wake up early to start the ascent to the summit.
  • 05:00: Aim to arrive at the summit before the dawn breaks over the astounding sea of clouds that surround the peaks. Spend an hour or two at the summit.
  • 07:00: Descend to base camp to get breakfast and pack up. Start walking back down to the Sapa village by 10am.
  • 14:00: Arrive back at the trail entrance, and catch your return ride to the Sapa village.
  • 14:30: Get back to the Sapa village. Lunch and rest.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Climbing Difficulty

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Terrain

Number of distinct sections
3
Summary

The climbing terrain comprises of 3 sections. Fabulous vistas of lush forest, rambling brooks, slippery slopes and rugged rocks all form part of this enchanting climb.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Entrance to Tram Ton to lunch stop at 2,200 m
Right from the entrance, you get to sneak a peek at the summit that awaits, shrouded in clouds. A couple of minutes into the climb you encounter a shallow stream rushing past over rugged stones but you won’t have to get your feet wet as there are stone paved paths laid out for trekkers. For about two hours you step over gigantic roots, trudge on slippery soil and climb up rock boulders – all of it through dense jungle. "
Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Rest stop to base camp at 2,800 m
Soon after the rest stop is one of the best parts of the trail – the ridge walk along the spine of the lower hills. It is an undulating path that will require you to constantly ascend and descend as you get closer to the base camp. But you are rewarded with amazing views of flower strewn valleys on the way. There are also stretches of brutal vertical climbs but most often you will find hand railings for support."
Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Base Camp to Summit
The final stretch to the summit tests your climbing skills to the utmost. After ascending an almost vertical rock surface from 2800 m to 2900 m, there is a dramatic descend back to 2800 m and then a seemingly endless stairway to the summit where a wooden platform allows you to take in the sea of clouds and the golden sunshine on the metal pyramid before you start your descend."

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Weather

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Overview of climate

Mount Fansipan is accessible at any time of the year but avoiding the rainy season and the extreme colds will make the climb easier and provide more fantastic views on the ascend as well as the summit.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Best time to climb

The best climate is considered to be mid-October to mid-November and again between February and April. Day temperatures in these two periods range between 15 to 28C and night temperatures between 10 to 18C. February also sees the start of the flowering season in the mountains and visitors are treated to a dazzling array of violets, orchids and rhododendrons.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Common weather challenges
  • Rain: The rainy season from June to August can make climbing extremely difficult as there are several muddy stretches on the trail. The rock surfaces can also get slippery.
  • Cold: December and January are extremely cold in Sapa and on the mountains especially the temperature can fall below 0C. Unless you are game for the extreme weather, the climb is best not attempted in this season. The fog and drizzle can make the climb difficult and also deprive you of the best views from the mountain top.
  • Heat: The dry season between May and August, when the temperature can go as high as 35C is also not great to plan the trek and the extreme heat can really sap you of energy on the challenging vertical trails.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Safety tips

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Climbing safety
  • Slips and falls: Wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots and also be sure to wear gloves as there are scramble ladders at points and also tree roots and rock surfaces that you may need to grip.
  • Weather: Be dressed for the climate but also factor in some amount of rain and cold weather.
  • Mosquitos, leeches, snakes: There are many warning about these dangers in the mountains though not many have reported actually seeing a snake. Even so, it is best to be prepared for the mosquitos and leeches.
Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Personal safety

Mount Fansipan is a crowded tourist destination but the hiking trails may not see too many people at once. It is still advisable to take basic precautions and keep personal items secure to avoid any possibility of theft.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Safety for women travelers

Many solo women as well as women’s groups hike to Mount Fansipan and it is an accessible and safe trek. Ensure you travel with guides though. Women guides are also available if you prefer to travel with women.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Recommended equipment

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Footwear
  • Waterproof hiking boots. Be sure to use a well-worn pair that you are comfortable with rather than a new pair that may cause unexpected blisters or pain.
  • Hiking socks
  • Sandals for evening wear at the base camp.
Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Clothing
  • Lightweight waterproof clothing. At least two pairs recommended if you’re traveling in the rainy season – one that you are wearing and one packed into the backpack for the next day or in case one gets wet.
  • Waterproof windbreaker
  • Scarf: for protection against cold and wind
  • Gloves: for protection against cold, rain, and to facilitate holding on the guide ropes
  • Warm cap: for protection against cold
  • Warm inner clothing, for the overnight stay at the base camp tent if you are planning to trek up in the middle of winter
Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Bags
  • Waterproof backpack
Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Weather protection
  • Rain coat / poncho
  • Waterproof cover for backpack
  • Waterproof cover for camera
  • Sunscreen lotion
  • Sun glasses
Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Climbing support
  • Hiking poles (optional)
Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Navigation tools
  • Headlamp or flashlight (optional)
Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Medical equipment
  • Basic first-aid kid, for cuts and bruises
  • Medicines for altitude sickness, headache
  • Insect repellent
  • Knee/ankle supports (optional)
  • Muscle-ache relief creams / sprays
Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Food
  • Drinking water
  • High-calorie dry food items – chocolates, energy bars, etc.
Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Hygene sanitation
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toilet paper
  • Wet and dry tissues
  • Toothpaste + toothbrush
  • Personal toiletries
  • Disposable plastic bags for waste collection
Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Connectivity
  • Mobile phone(s)
  • Portable battery charger
Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Documents
  • Passport (and other IDs): for registration and emergencies

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Support facilities

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Resting stops and facilities

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Rest stops

At 2,100 m there is a rest stop where people on the 3 day trek spend the night. Most 2 day or 1 day trekkers make use of this stop for lunch. The stop consists of basic wooden camps. There are several picnic spots on the way to stop and rest as per your guide’s advice.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Base camp

The base camp at 2,800 m has a few cottages. These can get crowded at nights though so it is best to make prior arrangements with your guide. The cabins do not have electricity and the amenities are basic. You can also opt for separate tents if you prefer to avoid the crowded cabins.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Guides and porters

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Do you need a guide?

Guides are mandatory on this climb. A permit to climb Mount Fansipan is given only if you have a guide.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - How to find a guide?

You can look for and book guides online before you travel. If you have not made an advance booking though, there are several tour operators in Sapa, and even your hotel can help you to book a tour.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Tips while working with guides
  • Read reviews from previous climbers before confirming a guide. Make it known to the guide if appropriate how you heard about them and offer to write a review if you like the experience. This might give them the extra incentive to be attentive to your needs.
  • To reduce costs, look to join groups and share their guide. Some tour operators may also provide discounts on guides during certain months for climbers.
  • Opt for a local person as your guide since they have better understanding of all that the trek can offer. Check beforehand though if the guide can speak good English, so they can engage with you along the journey.
  • Ask for the guide’s ID proof before beginning the trek.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Porters

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Do you need a porter?

This trek can be completed without the help of a porter. But talk to your guide about whether you need a porter depending on the baggage you are carrying and your need for overnight tents and camping equipment (depending on the size of your group). Guides do not double as porters, especially for larger groups, and will already be carrying your food and their own personal belongings so try and carry as light a backpack as you can manage.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - How to find a porter?

Porters will generally arranged be arranged directly by your guides.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Tips while working with porters
  • Communicate with your guide beforehand to ensure that there are sufficient number of porters who will accompany your group to the top, depending on the amount of baggage to be carried.
  • If you need to have a porter on your team, understand their rates and conditions before embarking on the trip.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Food & water

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - At the start of the hike

On the first day of the 2 day trek, breakfast can be had at Sapa before you start for the mountains.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - During the hike, along the trail

The guide (and porters if larger groups) will generally be carrying all the food you need. These can be an array of local food, including banhs, meats and vegetables. The guides will though only provide the agreed-upon meals and water, so talk to your gudie beforehand about bringing sufficient bottles of water. Climbers may also wish to carry some high-calorie dry food items such as chocolates and energy bars along for extra nutrition.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - During the hike, at base camp

Hot dinner is cooked by the guides at the base camp and usually includes healthy serving of local dishes.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Network connectivity

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Phone and data (3G) connectivity

3G Mobile connectivity is available all the way to the summit, with internet speeds of up to 42 Mbps.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Accessibility

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Getting there

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Nearest airport
Noi Bai International airport in Hanoi is the nearest landing point for international travellers.
Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - From the airport to the starting point

From Hanoi there are two options to travel to Sapa. The first is to take the train to Lao Cai from where you will need to arrange transport to Sapa. Many travelers hire bikes and carry them on the train to Lao Cai from where they can ride it to Sapa. The overnight train journey takes 8 hours while the sleeper bus reaches in 6. The second option is to take a sleeper bus from Hanoi that will take you all the way to Sapa.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Climbing permits

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Is a permit needed?
Yes, a permit is needed for the climb. It is also mandatory to have booked a guide for the trip before trying to get the permit.
Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - How to get a permit?

If you have booked your tour in advance through an operator, their charges will include the cost of the permit and they will take care of the formalities for you. If you have not made prior arrangements though, you can book your guide in Sapa and directly get your permit from the tourism office.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Special Tips

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - For amateur climbers

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - For advanced climbers

  • Up and down in 1 day: You could attempt to complete the trek in a day. Not recommended though without extreme fitness and preparation.
  • Cat Cat trail: Take this longer and far less crowded trail for some truly amazing views and also to savour the trekking experience away from the crowds.

Climbing Fansipan (Fan Si Pan) Vietnam - Other Mountains in vietnam

Sorry no more mountains!

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