From spectacular mountain views to colorful hill tribe markets, Northern Vietnam has got it all. Sapa has been long known for the charming beauty of a mountainous town which attracts millions of tourists every year. Just 12 kilometers from Sapa, you can find Ta Van, a small village that hasn’t lost its charm. The village is home to verdant rice terraces and different local tribes.
Last week I spent 2 nights in Ta Van and in this article I would like to tell you more about the beautiful village, how you can reach it, what you can do in Ta Van and where to stay overnight. I hope this Ta Van guide helps you to better plan your trip to Northern Vietnam.
The Ta Van Village
Ta Van is located in the Muong Hoa valley about 12 kilometers from Sapa and is the perfect place to unwind. Sapa can sometimes be overwhelming, while Ta Van is still quiet and extremely peaceful. The village is surrounded by beautiful paddy fields on hill slopes and narrow dirt roads with colorful flowers on the two sides.
A visit to Ta Van is a journey back to the past, where people and nature live together in harmony. With plenty of traditional stilt houses, simple wooden houses, homestays and ethnic minorities like the Hmong, Red Dao and Giay, the village becomes an attraction for those who love traveling. All the things combined draw a stunning picture in a mountainous area. Ta Van is a place you don’t want to miss during your trip to Northern Vietnam.
How to travel to Sapa?
Sapa is easily accessible by train or sleeper bus.
The sleeper bus from Hanoi to Sapa takes about 6 to 7 hours and costs about 250,000 – 300,000 VND ($12 more or less). You can set off any time of the day. Most buses have 1-person seats that are in a reclining position. Some buses offer curtains around the seats and the ability to charge your phone. All buses offer a blanket. From most other cities in Vietnam you can also take a sleeper bus to Sapa. Some travel via Hanoi. I took the sleeper bus from Ninh Binh to Sapa and this took 7,5 to 8 hours.
The train takes a bit longer (6-7 hours) and arrives at the Lao Cai train station. From here you still need to travel 1-1.5 hours by minibus to Sapa. The train provides a flat bed and thin blanket, so you are able to sleep pretty comfortably.
I recommend using the locally-based travel website 12go.asia to find the most convenient way for you to travel to Sapa. I used this website to book most of my journeys in Vietnam. Best of all, you can show your ticket on your phone when boarding your bus or train. Try their site via the search box below.
How to travel from Sapa to Ta Van?
When you arrive in Sapa, you have different options to travel to Ta Van.
The easiest and most comfortable way is to take a taxi from Sapa to Ta Van or to arrange a pick-up from your hotel. This is the best option if you arrive in the early morning. Luckydaisy Buffalo House was so kind to pick us up from the bus station at 06 AM when we arrived with the sleeper bus from Ninh Binh. This was really comfortable, because we didn’t have to search for a taxi. Most pick-ups costs between 200,000 VND ($9) and 250,000 VND ($11)
In case you’re planning on taking a taxi, you will find them lined up outside the stone cathedral in central Sapa. The taxi fare to Ta Van is around 200,000 VND ($9). Before getting a taxi, it’s a good idea to pin your homestay on Google Maps or Maps.me, so you can track where you’re going and help the driver locate your accommodation.
You can also rent a motorcycle and drive to Ta Van yourself. There are several places in Sapa where you can rent a motorcycle for about 100,000 VND per day. The road to the village is beautiful, with rice fields on either side, but you have to drive carefully because the road is quite rugged. You will pass sinuous paths and contemplate the grandiose mountains and deep valleys along the roads. Make sure you rent a scooter with a luggage rack so you can store your backpack or suitcase while you drive.
A third option is to walk to Ta Van village. You can leave your main luggage in town and trek through the smaller trails through the rice fields to the village. There are also several treks available that go through Ta Van or even with an overnight stay here.
Things to do in Ta Van
Ta Van is especially popular for trekking and experiencing local life in one of the many homestays. Of course, there are many other activities to do in Ta Van. Below you can find an overview with things to do in Ta Van:
See the terraced fields in Ta Van
In Ta Van it will never take more than one minute to walk and see a beautiful terraced field. The village is small and scattered throughout the countryside, so there’s always a terraced field nearby. In each season, the village and its fields have their own beauty. In Spring (March-May) the people start planting rice and flowers start blooming under warm sunlight. You can spot peach and plum blossoms all over the village. In Summer (June-August) the rice paddies will shine in bright green colors and in autumn (September-November) the terraced fields will turn a yellowish color. The winter (December-February) is chilly and misty and Ta Van covers itself with heavy fog hiding its mysterious beauty. Honestly, Ta Van is worth visiting all year round.
Try a Batik workshop in Ta Van
One of my highlights in Ta Van was following a Batik workshop. You sit outside in front of a fire with a bowl of hot beeswax and create your own batik with the help of a local expert. The women will choose a design for you inspired by nature and daily life. With a local tool you apply the beeswax on the fabric. Using the tool isn’t alway easy and needs some practice. The wax is a resistant medium, meaning it is a dye repellent. It will prevent the area covered with beeswax from dyeing, leaving it in the fabric’s natural tones. When the design on the fabric is finished, the fabric will be put into a barrel that’s filled with natural dye. The natural dye consists of the green leaves of the indigo plant, some limestone and water. This all turns into a blue dye. The fabric is then hung out to dry.
The workshop took me three hours to complete and I’m very happy with my piece of art. It was time well spent in the misty weather.
Learn about the customs of the ethnic minorities
Next to the beautiful nature, Ta Van is home to different ethnic minorities like the Hmong, Red Dao and Giay. Dressed in fascinating outfits embroidered with bright colors, the tribal women roam the streets of Ta Van and try to sell crafts that they keep in their woven baskets carried on their backs. If they spot you, they will most likely follow you around until you buy something. They will not take ‘no, thank you’ for an answer. I usually had a small chat with them and they showed me around the village. It was a great way to learn about the customs and traditions. In the end, I did not buy anything, because I didn’t want to take any souvenirs with me, but I just gave them 20,000 VND.
If you love learning about customs, make sure to visit a traditional stilt house or wooden house and sit by the fire while sipping a glass of corn wine and talking with the locals. I am sure you’ll never forget this experience.
Go for trekking in Ta Van
With breathtaking landscapes, Sapa and Ta Van have been attracting trekkers for more than 30 years. It’s a must-do experience in Ta Van!
My trekking experience in Ta Van
Almost every homestay offers a trek and so did Luckydaisy Buffalo House for me. The trek was an incredible experience to discover the mountainous area. I walked with May, a local guide who spoke very good English, to the Hau Thao village. Via small mountain paths and through rice fields, we descended into a deep valley and walked through a bamboo forest.
Despite the foggy winter weather, it was great to walk through the valley and bamboo forest. Meanwhile, I asked May all kinds of things and she explained to me about the customs of her family and tribe, about the village and nature. She showed me how rice is planted, what plants the locals use for the ink for the batik and even turned a plant into a beautiful piece of art for me. It was so much fun!
Then we stopped at a waterfall and a hand-made lake and crossed the Ta Van river to enter the Hau Thao village. My guide lived in this village and so we stopped at her place to have lunch. Together we prepared some dishes and had lunch in front of the cozy fireplace.
After meeting her family, we continued our trek through spectacular paddies, across vegetable gardens, and over small mountain paths back to Ta Van. Along the way we met friendly locals and saw several animals like buffalos, ducks, and pigs.
The trail sometimes was steep and slick in spots, but a bamboo stick helped me to prevent falling. The trek lasted for 5 hours, including a 1 hour lunch break, but you can make the trek as short or as long as you want. The guide gave me several options regarding distance and time along the way.
I highly recommend going trekking with a local guide. Most of them speak perfect English and can explain to you about the surroundings. They are also familiar with the weather and terrain. It will definitely save you time and helps to make your trek more safe and enjoyable. Just ask your homestay for trekking options and I am sure they can provide you with some good options.
Tips for trekking in Ta Van:
- Wear comfortable hiking shoes, but not your most beautiful ones, as the trail’s rust-orange mud can permanently stain your shoes and clothes. You might cross small streams, so best is to wear waterproof hiking shoes.
- Bring a lightweight rain jacket and waterproof cover/waterproof backpack. The weather in Ta Van is unpredictable.
- Bring enough drinking water and a first aid kit with you.
- In spring and summer make sure to bring a hat, sunglasses, insect repellent and sunscreen. In autumn and winter make sure to wear enough layers of clothes as the weather can be very cold.
- Behave as if you’re walking through somebody’s backyard, because often you will be.
- Remember to first ask permission, before taking pictures of anyone you meet.
- Bring only essential items with you, so you don’t have much weight with you.
Slip into a herbal bath
Whether you’re a wellness enthusiast or just a traveler passing through, slipping into a Ta Van’s herbal bath is one of those activities you simply shouldn’t miss. The bath is not only beneficial for your body and mind, it’s also an opportunity to experience the wellness culture of Vietnam and its ethnic minorities.
The herbal baths are made from medicinal plants foraged in the forest. Each family has its own herbal bath recipe, which is held by the women in the family and passed from mothers to daughters. The baths are usually set up in a small room, so that the fragrant steam from the bath can be easily inhaled. Lime leaves, star anise and orange peels may be added just before the bath begins to heighten the aroma. The herbal baths are usually heated to around 35 degrees Celsius and the recommended bathing time is around 20 minutes.
A nice spa in Ta Van is the Charm Destination Spa. This spa is located in an authentic wooden house and offers a herbal bath and massage for a reasonable price. After the bath you can sip tea on the outside porch while enjoying the mountain views. If you’re looking for a nice experience in Sapa, Topas Riverside Lodge is the place to be. This lodge offers a herbal bath experience in tubs overlooking the Nam Cang River
Overnight in a homestay in Ta Van
Most of the accommodations in Ta Van are homestays. Some of these homestays are owned by ethnic minorities and are very basic. It is a great place to learn more about the local cultures. You often get to eat with the local families and they are happy to give you a tour of the village. Other homestays are a bit fancier, have air conditioning and provide beautiful views over the rice fields.
I stayed at Luckydaisy Buffalo House. The mountain loft was huge and the electric blanket kept me warm during the cold December nights in Ta Van.
The accommodation has a cozy bar and restaurant with a fireplace where I enjoyed a hot Dutch chocolate milk with whipped cream, a piece of homemade apple pie and a delicious dinner prepared by the kind staff. While warming up in front of the fireplace I had long conversations with the staff and learned a lot about the local customs and way of life. It was also a nice place to play some board games with other travelers. If you have the chance to stay overnight or just to visit the restaurant for a dinner, try the sizzling chicken or the satay chicken, you wont regret it!
Some other homestays worth checking out in Ta Van:
- Eco Hills Homestay – Simple and not very traditional, but the bungalow-style rooms have spectacular views of the rice fields and mountains
- Sapa Hmong Bungalow Homestay – Excellent homestay hosted by a helpful family.
- Sapa Eco Bungalows & Spa – Bungalow-style rooms with even a pool overlooking the rice fields.
Tips for visiting Ta Van
- Ta Van is worth visiting all year round, but the best time is from May till October. In May, they begin watering the rice fields, turning them into a giant mirror. In summer, the fields turn bright green and in September/October it is time for the harvest, when the fields turn golden and yellow.
- If you plan to visit Ta Van Village at the end of the year, don’t forget to prepare your winter clothes. The weather on high mountains is much colder than in the lower areas. The weather can be very foggy, giving you barely any visibility.
- You should not go to Ta Van Village on weekends. The crowded atmosphere of the tourists may prevent you from enjoying your trip. Instead, just go on weekdays.
Ta Van is a place you don’t want to miss during your trip to Northern Vietnam. Not being affected by the hustle and bustle of Sapa, Ta Van still remains its pristine beauty. There are plenty of things to do and the homestays will give you the chance to experience the real Vietnam.
Do you have other tips or advice for visiting Ta Van? Share your experience with us by commenting below, will you?
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