The former French hill resort and now popular tourist destination of Sapa is located in the far north-west of Vietnam bordering China’s Yunnan Province. The town sits in the shadow of Mount Fan Si Pan, at 3,143 m asl, Vietnam’s highest peak and part of the Hoang Lien Mountain Range. Nearly all the original forest has been cleared below 1,000 m to be replaced by cultivation and secondary scrub. From 1,000 to 1,800 m lower montane evergreen forest dominates giving way to upper montane evergreen between 1,800 and 2,500 m. Above 2,500 m sub-alpine forest takes over with dwarf bamboos and stunted trees at the highest points.
The proximity to China is reflected in Sapa’s avifauna and makes it a great place to look for species that can’t be found elsewhere in Vietnam. Reaching the best birding areas can involve long treks and overnight stays, but a few more accessible localities can be visited in a day trip from Sapa. Sapa’s star attractions include several species of laughingthrush and parrotbill, Sickle-billed Scimitar-babbler, Golden-breasted Fulvetta and the recently split Pale-throated Wren-babbler amongst others. Sapa is a long 380 km drive from Hanoi and is best reached by overnight train to Lao Cai.
Sapa’s most wanted
Chestnut-bellied Rock-thrush, Gould’s Shortwing, White-browed Bush-robin, Small Niltava, Little Forktail, Daurian Redstart, Blue-fronted Redstart, Beautiful Nuthatch, White-tailed Nuthatch, Crested Finchbill, Collared Finchbill, Buff-barred Warbler, White-browed Laugingthrush, Scaly Laughingthrush, Black-faced Laughingthrush, Silver-eared Laughingthrush, Red-winged Laughingthrush, Scarlet-faced Liocichla, Black-streaked Scimitar-babbler, Streak-breasted Scimitar-babbler, Sickle-billed Scimitar-babbler, Pale-throated Wren-babbler, White-throated Wren-babbler, Red-tailed Minla, Red-billed Leiothrix, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Spectacled Barwing, White-collared Yuhina, Spot-breasted Parrotbill, Vinous-throated Parrotbill, Ashy-throated Parrotbill, Golden Parrotbill, Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker, Black-headed Greenfinch, Common Rosefinch.