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. Part of the Hoang Lien Son mountain range, Fansipan mountain is actually 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 only accessible by intrepid mountaineers and hardy adventurers. In doing so, the summit was also transformed into a mystical skyline of temples and pagodas announcing the feats of men to the gods. 

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

Fansipan Cable Car: A Technological Marvel

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

Vietnam has a lot of firsts when it comes to amazing cable rides, and 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 as it takes you up 1 410 meters. 

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, in Phu Quoc Island, you can also ride the world’s longest sea cable (7.9 km). 

There are two cable stations on Fansipan mountain with about 600 steps between them. The second station will get you closest to the summit, which is 603 steps from the terminal. If the weather is bad, or the walk uncomfortable, there’s the Đỗ Quyên train that will shuttle you to the summit for an additional 100 000 VND per single trip.

Tickets and Pricing for Fansipan Cable Car

Cable car tickets are only valid for the day of purchase, so you cannot get tickets in advance online or from any other seller. A one-way ride 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 down after camping the night at one of the 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, or maybe your hotel 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 there too and save on lining up at the other side, and if you do so, you 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 necessary items for the trip up that you may have forgotten. 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, and a restaurant that serves local delicacies and Hong Kong favorites seating around 1 200 people. It’s open 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, but it’s also an engineering and architectural masterpiece with some of the most remarkable and beautiful landscapes in Vietnam.

Bich Van Zen Monastery

Bich Van Zen Monastery
[ 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 Mount Fansipan through the Thanh Van Dac Lo gate (Thanh Vân Đắc Lộ). It’s 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, which 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. The Goddesses of the Three Realms are Mother Lieu Hanh (Mẫu Liễu Hạnh) of the sky and heavens, Mother Thuong Ngan (Mẫu Thượng Ngàn) of the forests and mountains, and 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 and is 21.5 meters high. As you walk up between the two staircases, there’s a cascading waterfall which has 9 levels. 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 tower 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 cast from an original Tran Dynasty bell dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries. The Tran Dynasty successfully defended Vietnam from Genghis Khan and the Mongolian evaders 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 with the presence and blessings of the Lady Buddha, or mother Quan Am. She is an enlightened Bodhisattva who embodies mercy and compassion otherwise known as Guanyin, Avolokteshvara, or Kannon. 

This 12-meter high statue is also cast from 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 the 11-story stupa with the surface clad in stone. This stupa mimics designs typically found in the northern delta regions of southern Vietnam such as the 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 who 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. 

The Grand Fansipan Summit 

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

From the upper cable station, there are 603 steps to the summit viewing platform. It takes about 30 minutes to climb up, but for those who are challenged in some way or other, there’s the additional tram you can take. For those who reach the summit by foot after a day or two of climbing, it’s an unforgettable sensation.

Facilities and Conveniences on Mount Fansipan

At the cable car station, you will find the Hai Cang Cafe (Hải Cảng) which seats around 370 people, and there are 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 some 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 in order not to strain 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 up on Fansipan, 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 can be extra special at this time of year. November and February are the best winter months.

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16 Things To Do in Sapa on The Rooftop of Vietnam

Sapa used to be a hidden backwater favored by backpackers and hikers. Trekking its gorgeous mountain valleys is still the best thing to do with homestays in local ethnic villages. You can browse handicraft markets, ride the Fansipan cableway, or just rent a bike for the day.

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