Topas Ecolodge in Sapa
A National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World
Go to Sapa in North Vietnam to discover the incredible mountainous region and stay at Topas Ecolodge or Topas Riverside Lodge.
Sapa is a major tourist destination in North Vietnam and a natural starting point for discovering the unique mountainous area – the Hoang Lien Son mountain range. The region is also home to five different hill-tribes, each with its own distinct language, dress and cultural values.
18km away from the town is the Topas Ecolodge, set on its own hilltop with a backdrop of lofty mountain peaks. Postcard perfect rice terraces within the property grounds are still cultivated by the Red Dao farmers whose villages lie close by. A heated saltwater infinity pool with panoramic mountain vistas adds to the allure of this bucket-list mountain retreat.
Visit the web site of Topas Ecolodge
Topas Riverside Lodge
A remote paradise located deep within Sapa Valley
Explore this hidden and adventurous area of the Hoang Lien National Park and the northern mountains of Vietnam. Join our unique package tours to Sapa and discover the wonderful landscapes and culture of the far north west.
Here, far away from mass tourism, you will experience endless rice fields, meet friendly, colourfully dressed minority people, and stay in a rustic lodge close to the jungle on the banks of a scenic river.
Visit the web site of Topas Riverside Lodge.
When you visit Sapa and stay at Topas Ecolodge and Topas Riverside Lodge, we suggest you hike part of the way between the two lodges. When hiking you can enjoy the surroundings in full view, and stop to learn more about local life and history. We always provide local guides with great knowledge about the area.
“The main attraction of trekking in this area
is to visit the villages of the hill tribes and as
there was no organized accommodation,
this meant either sleeping in local houses, or
in tents outside the village. Neither of these
was ideal, as sleeping in the village meant
the family moving out, however willing they
seemed to be to do this, and camping outside
the villages was not easy on the rough terrain“
Topas tour leader and later
head of construction.
– George Meldrum
THE HISTORY OF TOPAS ECOLODGE
It all started in 1992. Topas Travel, an adventure travel agency from Denmark founded in 1973, started organizing tours to the Sapa area. We were one of the first foreign agencies to do so.
We received great feedback from our clients, and forged strong relationships with a local partner family. With assistance from Danish Development funds we formed a shared company with our local partners in 1995, and together we conceived the idea of the Ecolodge in 1999.
Our first priority when building the lodge was to create a base near minority villages that offered a comfortable stay for our guests but was close to the local life.
“…I don’t know who to credit, but two hilltops
were found with stunning views over deep
valleys and of the surrounding mountains…”
Jørgen Sølvsten Nielsen – Owner of Topas Explorer Group.
A full-service five star hotel would not be possible in this location. Our aim was to build luxury accommodation that had the least impact on the natural surroundings. So we applied for permission to lease the land and build 50 stone
bungalows, our reception and the restaurant.
DANIDA (Denmark’s development cooperation, under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) supported the project as part of their private sector programme. The aim was for the lodge to be a showcase for sustainable tourism in remote areas and provide an opportunity for locals to get an education and job. The building project began in June 2003.
When we started construction we had no electricity, no mobile phone coverage and no internet. It took seven hours to drive from Lao Cai, on what was then an almost non-existent road.
Our materials and workers were all sourced locally. We hired construction workers from the surrounding area and a local architect.
The timber in the bungalows is all from certified sustainable sources. The white granite stone, from a nearby mountain, was carved and finished by masons on-site. Even the building style was locally inspired – by the church in Sapa.
The main building and the two houses by the entrance are old Tay houses. They were bought from the locals in nearby villages, taken down and brought here via rivers and road to
be reassembled by hand.
“ I remember huge lengths of wood up to 12
meters long being floated by barge on the river
to get to a road. Once they were on site on the
count of three these heavy beams would be
hauled into position. It took just four and a half
hours for the roof beams to be slotted into place.
Then, there stood a two storey house of 256 sqm
in area ready to be covered. I recall thinking, the
pyramids, the Great Wall of China – now I know
how they did it!” – George Meldrum.
Once the buildings were complete, the gardens were landscaped with over 1000 trees.
And finally after hiring staff from local minority villages, Topas Ecolodge welcomed its first guests in April 2005.
There were some early challenges – the first heavy storm tore off all the bungalow roofs. This was an early indication that the combination of our remote location and traditional buildings would keep our future lodge managers busy.
We have learnt through the development of the project. There are members of staff here that started out cutting stone for the bungalows and have progressed into management. Hundreds of others have gained skills and education from their work here. We have shown thousands of visitors a beautiful area and culture. We are proud of what we have built and achieved, we hope you enjoy it.