Sapa

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.

Sapa
The Hoang Lien Mountains near Sapa

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.

Sapa’s most wanted