Sapa

Fansipan Mountain Guide — Where Heaven Meets Earth in the Clouds

Mount Fansipan (Vietnamese spelling: đỉnh Phan Xi Păng) towers majestically over the Muong Hoa Valley of Sapa, one of the most picturesque places in Vietnam. Fansipan is part of the Hoang Lien Son mountain range. It’s also the last of the great peaks tapering down the south-eastern extent of the Himalaya.

In 2016, The Fansipan Legend Cable Way opened up the heights of Vietnam’s tallest mountain to the world. Previously, Fansipan Mountain was only accessible to hardy adventurers. Now the summit is a mystical skyline of temples and pagodas announcing the feats of men to the gods.

Fansipan Mountain rises to a height of 3 147.3 meters. It’s also the highest peak of the Indochinese peninsula comprising Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Hence, it’s often called the Rooftop of Indochina, although a word not used so often these days.

Fansipan Mountain Cable Car — A Technological Marvel

Fansipan Cable Car: A Technological Marvel
[ hiephoang by from Pixabay ]

Vietnam has a lot of firsts when it comes to amazing cable car rides. Fansipan Mountain is no exception. It’s the world’s longest 3-wire cable car traveling 6 292 meters to an elevation of 2 700 meters. That’s also the world’s highest elevation between two cable points.

The world’s longest single-track cable ride (5.8 km) is the one that takes up to the Bana Hills Resort in Danang. And, you can also ride the world’s longest sea cable (7.9 km) on Phu Quoc Island.

Fansipan Cable Car Pricing and Ticket

There are two cable car stations on Fansipan mountain with about 600 steps between them. The second station will get you closest to the summit, which is a further 603 steps away. If the weather is bad, or the walk uncomfortable, don’t despair. The Đỗ Quyên train can shuttle you to the summit for an additional 100 000 VND per single trip.

Fansipan cable car tickets are only valid for the day of purchase. Also, you cannot buy tickets in advance online. A one-way ride on the Fansipan cable car takes about 15 minutes. You can purchase a return or single ticket.

Not many people walk down the mountain, and you should never attempt to do so by yourself. Mountain climbers often take the cable car down after camping the night at one of the Fansipan mountain stations.

  • Single Adult Return: 700 000 VND (30 USD)
  • Single Child Return: 500 000 VND (22 USD)
  • Children below 1.1 meters : Free

How to Get to the Fansipan Cable Car Station

Muong Hoa Suspended Monorail
Muong Hoa Suspended Monorail
[ by Wphoto from Pixabay ]

You can get to Fansipan Cable Station via all the usual ways. It’s a 3 km taxi ride from Sapa central lake area. Many hotels will have a shuttle service.

If you want to walk or cycle, it’s only 40 minutes and clearly signposted from the cathedral. However, the road is narrow and often congested with heavy tourist vehicles. 

To get warmed up to elevated sightseeing thrills, the best way to get to Fansipan Cable station is the suspended monorail from the Muong Hoa Terminal (ga Mường Hoa). The station is just across the way from the cathedral in the Sun Plaza building.

The return ticket is  200 000 VND / Adult and 150 000 VND / Child. You can purchase your Fansipan cable ticket at the same time. This will save you on lining up at the other side, and you also get a 50 000 VND discount.

Fansipan Ground Cable Station 

There’s quite a lot of development around the Fansipan Hoang Lien Terminal ground cable station. There’s a shop where you can buy useful items for the trip. Additionally, there are also two large souvenir shops.

Apart from an outdoor cafe with a fantastic vista of the valley below, there’s an indoor coffee shop that seats 300 people. Additionally, the restaurant serves local delicacies and Hong Kong favorites. It seats around 1 200 people and opens from 7:30 am to 9 pm.

Just opposite the ground station terminal is the Trinh Pagoda (chùa Trình) which houses the Bao An Zen Monastery (Bảo An Thiền tự). Spiritual pilgrims will often stop here before going up the mountain.

Attractions on Fansipan Mountain

Fansipan is designed as a spiritual oasis. However, it’s also an engineering and architectural masterpiece. From the ‘roof of Vietnam’ you can witness some of the most remarkable and beautiful landscapes.

Bich Van Zen Monastery

Temples of Mount Fansipan
[ by ThinhLa from Pixabay ]

Bich Van Pagoda (chùa Bích Vân) is the first place you’ll encounter as you venture up to the summit of Fansipan Mountain. You will first pass through the Thanh Van Dac Lo gate (Thanh Vân Đắc Lộ). Its elevation is 3 037 meters.

The complex is modeled after Tran Dynasty architecture, including the ornate decorative carvings. In the center is the main pagoda building. This is flanked by two smaller buildings.

One is the Temple of Trần Hưng Đạo — the legendary general who defeated the Mongolians.  The other is a temple to the Three Holy Mothers (đền thờ Tam Thánh Mẫu) of Vietnamese folklore and foundational mythology.

One of the Goddesses of the Three Realms is Mother Lieu Hanh (Mẫu Liễu Hạnh) of the sky and heavens. The other is Mother Thuong Ngan (Mẫu Thượng Ngàn) of the forests and mountains. Lastly, there is Mother Thoai (Mẫu Thoải) of the rivers and oceans.

Fansipan Giant Buddha and 9-Storey Waterfall

Fansipan Giant Buddha and 9-Storey Waterfall
[ by Cha già José from Flickr ]

The Fansipan giant Buddha statue was cast from 50 tons of copper. It’s also 21.5 meters high. As you walk up between the two staircases, there’s a 9-level cascading waterfall. The 8-meter tall pedestal has a lecture hall on the second level. And, on the ground floor, you can get some tea and vegan foods.

 Dai Hong Chung Grand Belfry Tower

Dai Hong Chung Grand Belfry Tower
[ by athree23 from Pixabay ]

This 32.8-meter high rock fortress commands an imposing presence across the valleys below. There are 4 levels below the bell tower. The upper pavilion has a traditional design of two compartments and 8 supporting roof pillars.

The bell is symbolically molded from an original Tran Dynasty bell dating to the 13th and 14th centuries. The Tran Dynasty successfully defended Vietnam from Genghis Khan and the Mongolian invaders that ravaged as far as Europe. This dynasty also initiated the annexation of Southern Vietnam from the declining Cham Empire.

The Statue of Quan Am

The Statue of Quan Am
[ by athree23 from Pixabay ]

No spiritual paradise would be complete without the presence and blessings of the Lady Buddha, or mother Quan Am. She is an enlightened Bodhisattva who embodies mercy and compassion. She is also known as Guanyin, Avolokteshvara, or Kannon.

This 12-meter high statue is bronze and weighs about 18 tons. She looks towards the east and the rising sun which brings light unto the world. Although usually associated with the four-armed Avalokteshvara, you can recite the prayer Auṃ maṇi padme hūṃ to her.

Kim Son Bao Thang Pagoda and 11-Storey Stupa

Kim Son Bao Thang Pagoda and 11-Storey Stupa
[ by Christopher95 from CC ]

Standing before the Kim Son Bao Thang Pagoda (Kim Sơn Bảo Tắng Tự) is an 11-story stone stupa. This stupa mimics designs typically found in the south of the Red River delta regions of Vietnam. You can see similar pagodas in Pho Minh Stupa (Nam Dinh) or Binh Son Stupa (Vinh Phuc).

The pagoda has Three Treasure Halls (Tam Bảo) for the worship of Buddha, as well as an Ancestral Hall (Nhà Tổ). In the grounds you will also come across 18 bronze Arhat statues each 2.5 meters high.

The 18 Arhats are the original disciples of Gautama Buddha. They attained the four stages of enlightenment by following the noble eightfold path. They also function as the protectors of the faith until the arrival of the future Buddha Maitraya.

Fansipan Mountain Summit

The Grand Fansipan Summit
[ by Viwikipedia.org from CC ]

From the upper cable station, there are 603 steps to Fansipan Mountain summit platform. It takes about 30 minutes to climb up. Don’t forget there’s also a shuttle train to the summit. For intrepid mountaineers, reaching this point is an unforgettable sensation.

Facilities and Conveniences on Mount Fansipan

At the Fansipan cable car station, you will find the Hai Cang Cafe (Hải Cảng) which seats around 370 people. There are also a few souvenir kiosks. The cafe serves snacks and fast foods such as pizza, hamburgers, chicken wings, and rice dishes. It’s open from 8 am to 5 pm.

There are also clean washroom facilities, but take some tissues just in case. You can also get refreshments and vegan food in the base building of the big seated Amitabha Statue.

If you take drinks and snacks with you, have the courtesy to take your garbage back with you. This will lessen environmental strain on the facilities and environment on the mountain top.

Fansipan Weather and the Best Times to Visit

Fansipan Weather and the Best Times to Visit
[ by nguyendangkhoa24111978 from Pixabay ]
  • Spring: March to May

One of the best times to visit Sapa. Visitor numbers are low. March and April are relatively dry, but May can be quite wet. It gets cold and cloudy on Fansipan Mountain, so you’ll need to dress up.

  • Summer: June to August

This is the rainy season and it’s quite hot and humid. There are lots of visitors at this time, so it’s best to get up Fansipan mountain as early as possible. July is the wettest month.

  • Fall: September to October

Another perfect time to visit Sapa and to enjoy the golden hues of rice fields. There is little rain especially during October, but the weather is not as ideal as springtime. September is the most humid month.

  • Winter: November to February

It is often foggy and damp with snow, especially on the mountains. If winter is your kind of season, Fansipan Mountain can be extra special at this time of year. November and February are the best winter months.

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