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Popular highland towns to bask in Tet travel rush

By Lan Huong   January 24, 2021 | 05:30 pm PT
Popular highland towns to bask in Tet travel rush
Da Lat is covered in smog, November 2020. Photo by Tran Ngoc Anh.
Hotels across Sa Pa and Da Lat, Vietnam’s most famous highlands resort towns, are already booked up one month before Tet, the country's biggest holiday.

Vietnam's Lunar New Year festival, or Tet, that peaks on Feb. 12 this year, is no longer just about house parties. The seven-day holiday has become a good time to travel, with bookings in Da Lat in the Central Highlands and Sa Pa in the northern mountains soaring between Feb. 14 and 16, the third until the fifth day of the first lunar month.

In Sa Pa, most three to five-star hotels are fully booked. Occupancy rates on the first day of the Year of Buffalo hit 20 percent and 60 to 70 percent on the second, with no rooms left after, according to the Sa Pa Tourism Association.

Pham Cao Vy, head of the association, said the town has seen a surge in bookings, recommending visitors to book early to avoid cut-throat prices due to speculation by intermediaries when demand is high.

Room rates are slowly increasing, leaving many tourists with little option.

Nguyen Cac Nhu Ngoc from Ho Chi Minh City, who is set for a trip to Sa Pa, said: "I just had to accept the new rate because all other hotels had sold out. I did not want to cancel my vacation."

Perched at 1,600 meters above sea level, Sa Pa is considered a great place for travelers looking for a challenging mountain trek or a terraced rice field tour.

Tourists tour Sa Pa at night, November 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngan Duong.

Tourists stroll around Sa Pa at night, November 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngan Duong.

A representative of high-end resort Topas Ecolodge in Sa Pa said all rooms at the resort between Feb. 14 and 15 have been booked and there are only a few left from Feb. 16-18. "Many guests booked their rooms a month ahead."

In the previous years, the resort was usually only fully occupied during Christmas and New Year holidays thanks to a surge in international visitors. But this year, rooms during Lunar New Year are full because more Vietnamese tourists flock to domestic destinations due to travel restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Da Lat, a popular town in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong, is experiencing the same holiday rush. Between Feb. 14 and 16, the occupancy rate at three to five-star hotels reached over 70 percent, with bookings made through online platforms like Agoda and

Many hotels near Tuyen Lam Lake and Da Lat Railway Station have only a few rooms left while high-end hotels like Hotel Colline and Da Lat Palace Heritage were fully booked from Feb. 14-15.

Mid-range hotels in tourist destinations like Ha Long, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue and Phu Quoc still have plenty of available rooms for Tet. However, many resorts and high-end hotels have almost run out of space.

The Tet holiday usually sees millions of Vietnamese from within and outside their country return home to welcome in Lunar New Year with traditional rituals but in recent years, more Vietnamese prefer to travel thanks to increased disposable income.

Vietnam has well controlled the Covid-19 outbreak, having gone over 53 days without local transmission, with 1,548 infections and 35 deaths.

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