Our story

Behind Vietnam's iconic bird's eye view

When Danish travel firm Topas Travel first began exploring the remote regions of northern Vietnam with the help of a local Vietnamese family in 1993, they fell in love with the area’s wild nature and incredible mountain passes. Little did they know that one piece of land in Hoang Lien National Park would start the adventure of a lifetime.

They asked themselves if they could create a comfortable base near enough to the surrounding ethnic minority villages yet far enough from any population to be a true retreat into nature. Somehow, a fully serviced 5-star brand name hotel did not seem appropriate for the area, hence construction began on a simple lodge founded on principles of sustainability in June of 2003.

Just short of two years later, in April 2005, Topas Ecolodge opened its doors for the first time, with no electricity, wi-fi, or mobile reception. How much has changed since then…

Building the stilt house

Vision meets reality

After years of wonderful adventures in Sapa’s mountains, our team envisioned a hiker’s dream – an eco-friendly mountain lodge with basic comforts close to community life. At first, we considered building all structures from wood, but it was made apparent that wood houses might only last 10 years due to the hard climate made up of humid summers, cold wet winters, and strong downpours at a moment’s notice.

So we looked to Sapa’s history, more specifically, Notre Dame Cathedral, which has been standing since 1902 in the town square. Built from beautiful, white granite and held together with a mixture of sand, lime, and molasses, the stunning structure had stood the test of time for more than 100 years. The stones were so beautiful, how could we not use the same?

Then, the process began of bringing in the materials, using 4-wheel drive Lada’s and wheelbarrows to carry each granite piece to our chosen location, and then building solid stone wall structures. You won’t find any concrete or fake stone walls here! We hope our bungalows will stand the test of time, just as Notre Dame Cathedral has done in Sapa town.

Did you know?

Our company started as a partnership between a local Sapa family and Topas in Denmark via DANIDA charity funds. The son of the family – Thien – found the iconic destination. The detailed design was developed first from ideas in Denmark and then finalized in Vietnam by a drawing from local Lao Cai architect Mr. Duc.

10 years later, in 2015, we got the first-ever drone footage.

You can bet all of our jaws dropped to the floor!

Nordic style meets Vietnamese flair

Nordic design is a very popular kind of interior design style known for its ability to make any space cozy yet functional. Although in direct contrast to the richness and ornate detail favored by Vietnamese design, there’s something very special about the marriage of these two contrasting ideals at Topas Ecolodge.

There are at least 7 principles used in Danish minimalism which you will see when visiting us, whether in your bungalow, the main lounge, or while dining. They include a neutral-heavy color palette, natural lighting, sleek modern furniture with gentle lines and subtle curves, decluttered spaces, warm toned wooden features, greenery for accents, and objects that are simple yet practical.

Combining this with the great materials found throughout Vietnam, you’ll find a certain “luxury” in our attention to detail, putting great importance on locally sourced genuine materials rather than quick fixes.

Sustainability 101

Sustainability is in our DNA. Learn more about our favorite projects and initiatives by clicking the button below!