Photo: National Geographic
Topas Ecolodge is the first and only Vietnamese lodge on National Geographic's list.
by Le Diem
- Nat Geo rates Topas Ecolodge No. 1 in green accommodation
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Nestled high on a hilltop outside Sapa in northern Vietnam, Topas Ecolodge is an amazing mountain hideaway and has just been put on National Geographic's list of most unique lodges in the world.
The list is comprised of places where visitors can relax and explore areas that are still unknown to many people. These resorts have unique designs and architecture and are located in attractive places with beautiful landscapes. They also serve impressive cuisine and have innovative sustainable solutions. There are 60 resorts on the list.
Accordingly, Sapa can feel a world away from the Vietnam that most people imagine. Centuries removed from most destinations on Earth, you can find the bungalows of Topas Ecolodge crowning an emerald peak amid some of the region’s most remote hill tribe communities. It’s located in a secluded pocket of northern Vietnam where mountains ripple with a thousand shades of green, rice paddies cascade down the hillsides, and rural villages weave a cultural mosaic that’s vibrant and timeless.
The stilted communal buildings in the heart of Topas Ecolodge were sourced from a nearby community of ethnic Thay people. Private guest bungalows swirl along the ridgeline. All of them have spectacular views no matter which one you choose. One can “wake in the morning to the mist rising with the sun, and spend your days exploring the surrounding forests and ethnic villages—you’ll start to feel the pull of the hill tribes’ centuries-old lifestyle native to these mountains that are virtually untouched by the modern world,” as National Geographic recommended.
In addition, visitors to Sapa and the lodge can participate in a lot of activities such as trekking through rice paddies and walking deep into the forests of Hoang Lien National Park to visit a Red Dao village, one of the more remote hill tribe communities in Sapa. They can learn about the distinct languages, customs, and traditions of five ethnic minority groups that still live the same way they have for centuries on a guided mountain bike ride. Visitors can also ride the longest cable car in the world to the summit of Mount Fansipan, Indochina’s highest peak. Perusing the stalls of Bac Ha, Sapa’s largest Sunday market, then enjoy lunch in a village home; and relaxing in the lodge’s heated hilltop infinity pool to take in incredible 360-degree views of mountain peaks that house rings of rice terraces.
Earlier, National Geographic also named Topas Ecolodge number one on its list “21 Places to Stay If You Care About the Planet” in 2017.
Other lodges in Asia on the world’s Unique Lodges list are Sukau Rainforest Lodge in Malaysia, Three Camel Lodge in Mongolia, Twinkle Valley in China, and Zhiwa Ling Hotel in Bhutan.
Topas Group, the lodge’s parent company, was a fixture in northern Vietnam even before the country completely opened its doors to foreign tourists in 1997. This was long before Sapa had become a popular trekking destination. In partnership with a local Vietnamese family, the Danish company began offering tours through the region in 1993. As their connections in the valley expanded, so too did their vision for an experience that would truly immerse guests in hill tribe culture.
Topas Ecolodge opened in 2005 on a mountaintop far removed from the emerging tourist hub of Sapa town and the lodge’s vision has stood the test of time. Even with other tourism outfits popping up across Sapa, the lodge still offers one of the area’s most culturally enriching travel experiences. Here, visitors live among the hill tribe communities instead of just trekking through them for a day or two before returning to the city, and they leave with a deeper understanding of life in these rural villages.
- Topas Ecolodge
- National Geographic
- Unique Lodges