On the outer reaches northwest of Sapa city you’ll come across a silver dragon. Not exactly a dragon, but Thác Bạc, or Silver Waterfall, is so named for the glimmering white cascades that pour down from Lo Sui Tong mountain peak. It’s a three-tiered waterfall about 200 m high with views casting back over rice fields towards Sapa city. Silver Waterfall is a key attraction, amongst others, on the way to the Tram Ton Ranger Station where mountaineers gather to take on Mount Fansipan.
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Destination Silver Waterfall
Silver Waterfall is not just about the destination, because there are a lot of fun things you can pack into the journey there and beyond. But just in case you need to know where you are going, here are a few pointers to Thac Bac Waterfall.
Thac Bac Essentials
- Entry: 20 000 VND
- 12 km or 30 min by vehicle from Sapa
- 300 steps to the top viewing bridge
- Good shoes and a windbreaker or jacket
- No swimming
On a clear day, you can see Silver Waterfall glinting in the sun from the top of Mount Ham Rong (núi Hàm Rồng) in Sapa city, and from Heaven’s Gate (Cổng Trời) along the Tram Ton Pass (đèo Trạm Tôn).
At the waterfall, you can pull up onto the shoulder of the road where there’s a viewing curb. If you decide to climb up, there are some great vantage points for excellent photo ops and views of Sapa and rice fields below.
It’s about 300 fairly steep steps to the highest viewing bridge, which means you can’t climb right to the very top. Steps can be slippery, so wear good shoes, and even in the summer have at least a light windbreaker. In winter, Silver Waterfall is about the coldest place in Sapa. The strongest water flow is from June to September.
Along the roadside by the waterfall you’ll find numerous souvenir stalls and ad hoc restaurants. Vendors here sell some really nice fruits in the season, and make sure to try some baked eggs (trứng nướng). They’re cooked on the grill at a low temperature and are soft and fluffy inside like an egg cooked sous vide style.
Best Ways to Get to Silver Waterfall
One way you really don’t want to get to Silver Waterfall is walking. It’s a long hike along a concrete road with vehicles buzzing by, and there are better hikes to do.
Most people go by tour bus, a car/taxi, or rental motorbike. A motorbike allows you more freedom to enjoy other things along the way, and the road is pretty okay most of the way, except for some occasional potholed sections.
Alternatively, you can always join a cycling tour group. One type of cycle tour will pedal all the way from Sapa to Silver Waterfall, to Heaven’s Gate, and then backtrack. The other option, you start biking from Silver Waterfall, past Heaven’s Gate, to ethnic villages down below.
With Love From Silver Waterfall to Heaven’s Gate
Not many people just go to Silver Waterfall. Afterall, there’s a little bit of hokey pokey down the road waiting at Love Waterfall (thác Tình Yêu), and then there’s the ride to Heaven’s Gate.
Love Waterfall can be really crowded in the season, so it may be best to get there as early as possible. Heaven’s Gate always looks better into the afternoon as the sun sets over the western valleys. The distance between Love and Silver Waterfalls is minimal, so you may want to back track there, and then go to Heaven’s Gate later on.
Love Waterfall in Sapa
- Adults: 70 000 VND
- Children: 30 000 VND
- 1.6 km hike
Love Waterfall is a different experience from Silverwaterfall. You have to trek 1.6 km through lush forest greenery and up a stone stairway to the waterfall. Like Silver Waterfall, you still need a good pair of shoes.
From Love Waterfall, the path splits in two and one will take you to the top of Mount Fansipan (núi Phan Xi Păng)— so make sure you take the right one! Love Waterfall actually descends from Fansipan Peak, so you can get a taste of heaven without climbing up.
Love Waterfall is only 100 meters high. If there hasn’t been much rain, it’s not that spectacular. However, the walk there is nice and you can come across water buffalo wandering around, rhododendrons, orchids, and cinnamon trees.
You can swim here, and the water is really cold and refreshing. It’s a nice place for kids to splash around in the stream, the pools, and at the waterfall. Bear in mind there are a lot of mosquitos here, so make sure you have some repellent.
There are toilet facilities here, although not always so clean, and there’s a camping ground nearby.
Heaven’s Gate on Tram Ton Pass
Heaven’s gate is a popular viewpoint and on the opposite side to Silver Waterfall. This is Vietnam’s highest mountain pass with stunning views here of the Hoang Lien Son mountain range and the valleys below.
You’ll probably see motorbikes or some vans parked along the roadside. There is a wooden viewing platform and sometimes you may have to pay some fee. You can easily find your own quieter viewing spot along the road.
Stop-Offs Along the Way to Silver Waterfall
To get the most out of your day to Silver Waterfall, there are a few nice foodie stops and places of interest along the way. If you’re booking a tour, you may want to ask if any of these are included.
Hung Orchard – A nice quiet place to pick and pay for plums and other fruits. There’s a wild flower meadow ( 10 000 VND) which is really nice after Tet.
Mộng Mơ Garden Restaurant – Scenic views, a pretty rose garden, and fresh fish you can pick out from their pond. The food is okay, but better as a coffee stop.
Farm View Restaurant – One of a number of fish farms around along a turn-off just before Silver Waterfall. You can view the Salmon and Sturgeon raising process, the food is really good, not pricey, and there’s a small shop.
Núi Xẻ Ranger Station Trạm Tôn – The meeting point for mountaineer groups getting ready to conquer Mt. Fansipan. Some okay views here and sometimes a stall selling grilled skewers.
O Quy Ho Pass (đèo Ô Quy Hồ)- A view point halfway to Heaven’s Gate. It’s a new tourist development, featuring a tasteless imposing restaurant, and some irrelevant structures. Some views are for free, but it’s really not worth paying for what they offer.