Looking to experience an authentic homestay in Sapa, Vietnam? Indigo Snail Boutique Hmong Homestay in Ta Van village is an ideal getaway from Sapa town. Featuring boutique accommodation, trekking, and home-cooked meals.

If I believed everything I read online, then I had no hope of finding an authentic homestay in Sapa.

Over-tourism, I was told, has ruined the former French summer retreat and trekking mecca. For the 12 months I’ve been based in Hanoi, I’ve avoided travelling to Sapa, choosing to visit more remote locations like Pu Luong, Ha Giang and Hoa Binh instead.

When I recently had a chance to go to Lao Cai City as part of a work trip, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to add on a few nights in Sapa as well.

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To be sure, Sapa town is extremely touristy – there’s no denying it. But just 8km away in Ta Van, a small-ish Hmong village, I found a homestay experience to rival any other in Northern Vietnam.

Essential reading: How to get to Sapa from Hanoi by bus, train or VIP van.

I’m still processing my trip, but my overall impression is that Sapa really isn’t that bad, especially if you get out of town and choose a more remote village to base your stay.

Here is my review of Indigo Snail Boutique Hmong Homestay in Ta Van village, conveniently located less than 45 minutes’ drive from Sapa town.

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Ta Van village in Sapa

Ta Van is not a remote village: It’s pretty well built up and as a result, draws a fair number of tourists down from nearby Sapa town.

There are grocery shops, cafes, bars, homestays and other accommodations throughout the village, most of them set in the bottom levels of the 100 or so wooden houses that make up the hamlet.

Looking to experience an authentic Hmong homestay in Sapa, Vietnam? Indigo Snail Boutique Hmong Homestay in Ta Van village is a wonderful getaway from Sapa town. Featuring boutique accommodation, trekking, textiles, and home-cooked meals.
Green rice terraces and mountains in Ta Van village, Lao Cai Province.

I was a bit taken aback when I first arrived in the village. I suppose I was expecting something a little more secluded. Still, it’s much quieter than Cat Cat village, which is even closer to Sapa.

Thankfully, Indigo Snail Homestay has a great position above the centre of Ta Van, away from the action. Next to Ha Giang, the views are some of the most spectacular I’ve seen in Vietnam.

Keep reading: Homestays and trekking in Ha Giang, Vietnam.

The house is skirted by a large patio and upstairs balcony, with views out to the rice terraces and mountains beyond. It’s quiet and very relaxed – a welcome contrast to the chaos of Sapa town.

Looking to experience an authentic Hmong homestay in Sapa, Vietnam? Indigo Snail Boutique Hmong Homestay in Ta Van village is a wonderful getaway from Sapa town. Featuring boutique accommodation, trekking, textiles, and home-cooked meals.

Indigo Snail has lots of indoor and outdoor communal spaces, including nooks perfect for curling up with a book. It rained lightly for almost the whole duration of my stay, which added to the homestay’s cozy atmosphere.

The hosts

Indigo Snail Homestay is owned and operated by Sue, a former street hawker who later found a job as a guide for local tour company Sapa O’Chau before starting her own business. She and her family of six – including her husband, mother and mother-in-law – all pitch in to manage the homestay.

Indigo Snail is one of very few businesses in the area that is owned by a Hmong family (most tourist services, by contrast, are owned by businesspeople who come to Lao Cai Province from elsewhere in Vietnam looking to invest). With the homestay, Sue is able to make a sustainable income and support her extended family.

Sue speaks excellent English and is more than happy to share information about Hmong culture and traditions with her guests. As a textile lover, I was particularly interested in hearing about the Hmong brocade and batik that decorates every room.

In fact, I first found out about Indigo Snail through Lucy Patterson, a New Zealand-based textile researcher and author who I was lucky enough to meet in Hanoi. Lucy has been working with Sue for many years to document textile traditions in the area.

Textiles are clearly one of Sue’s life passions. She has a vision to develop a museum at the homestay where she can showcase Hmong designs made by her family and sourced from the local community.

For now, there is a small display of local textiles and traditional costumes inside the main house.

Looking to experience an authentic Hmong homestay in Sapa, Vietnam? Indigo Snail Boutique Hmong Homestay in Ta Van village is a wonderful getaway from Sapa town. Featuring boutique accommodation, trekking, textiles, and home-cooked meals.
Sue’s mother-in-law stitching a Hmong design.

A highlight of my time at Indigo Snail Homestay in Sapa was getting to spend some time with Sue’s mother-in-law, Yi-Yi.

One morning, she came to the door of my bungalow carrying a huge basket overflowing with embroidery and batik. She carefully unloaded it, pointing out the details of each piece, before sitting down on little plastic chair and showing me how to stitch a few lines.

I couldn’t resist – I had to buy a few of her pieces! I can’t wait to find a home for them once I’m back in Australia. I highly recommend bringing some extra cash with you in case you’d like to buy a souvenir, too.

The accommodation

Indigo Snail offers everything you could need from a homestay in Sapa. The property is newly renovated, so everything is spick and span. A lot of care and thought has gone into the design, especially the furnishings. Unsurprisingly, Hmong textiles feature heavily throughout.

Since this was my only chance to stay at a homestay in Sapa, I decided to treat myself and rent out one of Indigo Snail’s two private bungalows. Alongside a very comfortable double bedroom, the bungalows feature new bathrooms complete with hot-water showers. Fresh towels and bed linens are also provided.

Since there are only two private bungalows, if you’re travelling to Sapa during a busy period (say October through January), I would recommend booking as far in advance as possible. I was able to reserve a bungalow with just a few day’s notice in July, but I was lucky – the homestay was almost full!

Textiles at Indigo Snail Sapa Homestay in Sapa, Vietnam.
My bungalow at Indigo Snail Hmong homestay in Sapa.

For a budget option, Indigo Snail has a shared ‘dorm room’ that takes up the entire top floor of the main stilted house. The open-plan room sleeps up to 10 people, and there are a few separate double rooms partitioned off to the side.

The shared bathroom is also newly renovated and located on the top level (handy if you don’t want to be going up and down stairs in the middle of the night). The big room is spacious and light-filled, with incredible views of the rice paddies from the balcony.

Beds at Indigo Snail Homestay in Ta Van, Vietnam.
Shared accommodation at Indigo Snail Homestay in Sapa.

There is reliable WiFi throughout the property. Another traveller I met was working remotely and had chosen to base herself at Indigo Snail for an entire week while she finished a project online.

Read next: An authentic homestay experience in Hoa Binh, Vietnam.

A home-cooked dinner and traditional breakfast is included in the room rate. The evening meal wasn’t the same big spread I’ve grown used to at homestays in Vietnam, but everything was fresh and delicious. Vegetarian options are also available.

As is customary, Sue and her family joined us for dinner and many rounds of toasts with plum-flavoured rice wine (or plum juice for those who don’t drink).

For breakfast, we had crepes with banana and honey. Outside of meal times, tea, coffee, beer and drinking water are available.

Trekking with Indigo Snail

Sue and other family members also organise and lead treks. For the standard trekking itinerary, Sue will meet you in Sapa town and take you on an off-road hike through rice terraces and small villages before arriving at the homestay at around 3pm.

The next day, you can continue trekking – this time via waterfalls and Red Dao villages – before heading back to Sapa by car. There’s also an option to customise a trekking itinerary if you prefer.

There were two groups trekking at the time of my visit, and they both rated the walk highly.

Ta Han village, ricefields from a guesthouse balcony.
Up into the hills.

How to get to Ta Van village from Sapa

If you’d prefer not to trek, you can travel directly to Ta Van from Sapa by taxi or motorcycle. I chose this option. The village is only 8km outside of Sapa, but the roads are very rough, so you should allow at least 40 minutes for the journey.

The road passes right through the Muong Hoa valley and is incredibly scenic! Give Sue a call on your day of travel and she’ll be able to help with finding a driver.

I ended up organising a taxi on my own through my hotel in Sapa. I was a bit annoyed when the driver asked for a flat fare of 250K VND – but in the end, the taxi metre ended on 200K VND, so I was happy to pay a bit extra.

When we arrived in Ta Van, the driver called ahead to Indigo Snail for directions. He dropped me right at the front door, where So, Sue’s nephew, was waiting to show me inside.

On my final day, Sue’s husband drove me back to Sapa on his bike. A motorbike ride between Sapa and Ta Van costs between 50K and 100K VND depending on the time of day and weather conditions.

Indigo Snail Homestay in Sapa: Info

Indigo Snail Boutique Hmong Homestay
Ta Van Village, Lao Cai Province, Vietnam

Check prices and availability on Airbnb.

What about you? Have you ever stayed at a homestay in Sapa or elsewhere in Vietnam? I’d love to hear about your experience!

Vietnam essentials

Here are the booking sites and services I personally use whenever I travel to Vietnam.

FLIGHTS: Find affordable flights to Vietnam using Skyscanner.

VIETNAM VISA: Use iVisa to check if you need a tourist visa for Vietnam and apply for an expedited e-visa online. Use OneWayFly to obtain proof of onward travel/hotel reservation if required.

TRAVEL INSURANCE: Insure your trip with HeyMondo, my preferred provider for single-trip and annual travel insurance.

AIRPORT TRANSFERS: Pre-book a private hotel transfer from Hanoi Airport or Ho Chi Minh City Airport via Get Your Guide.

SIM CARD: Buy an eSIM and data package for Vietnam online before you go. My top choice is the Asia Link Regional eSIM by Airalo (10 GB for 30 days).

ACCOMMODATION: Find the best hotel deals in Vietnam on Agoda or book a Vietnam hostel.

TRAIN TICKETS: Reserve your Vietnam Rail tickets for the train to Sapa, Da Nang, Hue or Saigon via 12GoAsia.

BUS TICKETS: Buy your domestic bus or plane tickets in advance using 12GoAsia or Bookaway.

FOODIE EXPERIENCES: Find the best cooking classes and foodie experiences in Vietnam on Cookly. Here are my top 15 Vietnam food experiences to help you decide.

DAY TOURS: Find the best city tours and day excursions in Vietnam on Get Your Guide. Check out my top 10 best Vietnam day trips for more inspiration.

HALONG BAY: Consult my comprehensive Halong Bay guide to find the best cruises & tours.

VIETNAM GUIDEBOOK: Pick up a copy of the latest Lonely Planet guidebook for Vietnam.


  1. Hi Emily,
    We are staying with Sue at the moment. Her home and trekking have been amazing. We told her that we found her home stay from your post. She wanted us to say thank you very much and she and her family will never forget your post. She says please come back again! She’s extremely appreciative.

    Matt and Grace

  2. How do I make a reservation for the bungalow at Indigo Snail Boutique, Sapa.

    How do I reach your place? I am coming from Singapore. After landing in Hanoi, how do I get to your place

    1. Hi there,

      There is a link to book through Agoda in the post. From Hanoi, you’ll need to take a minivan or train to Lao Cai, then transfer to Sapa. You can make arrangements with Indigo Snail to transfer from the town to the homestay.

      Hope that helps!

  3. Thank you so much for taking the time to reply and answer all my questions.. I have booked with Sue via Air B&B and I even spoke to her on the phone last night once her number came through. I am very excited and I like knowing all our money is going directly to her (less Air B&B fee) instead of through a middle man. I ended up booking the main Sapa Express bus. I looked at lots of reviews of the smaller luxury minivan buses and they were not so good – mainly about the drivers driving too fast, taking risks, weaving in and out of traffic, overtaking on windy road. A lot described it as terrifying! I can’t put my children at risk so will play it safer with the bigger bus. I do like how it travels through the morning so we can see the scenery and arrive directly into Sapa.

    I am also Australian and I travelled & backpacked a lot in my 20’s. When we go overseas it is important for me to do this sort of travel with the kids and immerse them in local culture – no point spending all that money to go overseas and sit in large hotels with other Westerners!

    I have enjoyed reading your blog. Wishing you well for the rest of your journey..

    Megan x

    1. Hi Megan,

      So pleased to hear that! Thanks for the information about the bus—I wasn’t aware of that myself. Very helpful for other travellers to know.

      Enjoy your time in Vietnam! I’m sure it will be a wonderful trip. I love your outlook—I’m looking forward to travelling back to these places that are so special to me with my own kids… One day!


  4. Thanks so much for your reply. I have contacted Sue via the Air B&B link so will wait for her reply. Is this the best way to contact her? Did you pay via Air B&B or while you were there? 2 quick questions – did you catch the bus or train from Hanoi to Sapa? Again, because we are a family of 5 we can’t fit in a 4 berth cabin train so are thinking of taking the Express bus. Just wondering how safe this is. And lastly, is it easy to organise a taxi/car from Sapa to Sue’s place. Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Megan,

      Great! I think that’s the best way to contact her, yes. Let me know if you don’t hear back as I have her direct email and I can give it to you. I paid via Airbnb.

      I caught the train, but generally the bus is better. Go for one of the ‘luxury’ minibus companies that do door-to-door service. Much easier, especially with kids. The train is an experience but honestly you don’t see much.

      Another advantage to the bus is that it will take you all the way to Sapa town, which is 45 mins-1 hour further than Lao Cai where the train terminates. From Sapa town, Sue can organise for someone to pick you up. Just tell her a time and she’ll organise a car. I was already in Sapa and didn’t have a fixed schedule so I just ended up taking a taxi. The homestay is on Google Maps and drivers are familiar with the village, so it’s easy enough. I don’t remember exactly how much I paid but it was a reasonable fee, pre-negotiated before I got in.

      If you do decide on the train, you can book a shuttle transfer from the train station to Sapa town with a company such as Sapa O’Chau. Don’t try to take a taxi from the station as you *will* get ripped off!

      I hope this helps!

  5. This looks beautiful. We are going to Sapa and I am reading so much online to try and find an authentic homestay that is not too touristy but needs to be able to accommodate our family of 5 (3 girls – 16, 14, 11). Would happily stay in the loft area but would we be the only ones in this space – not keen to sleep near another unknown guest in a bed right next to us! Or would we all fit in 2 bungalows? Also is there quite a few of the local children around to interact with?

    1. Hi Megan! Sounds lovely.

      There were a few kids around when I visited. I wasn’t there for long, but I’m sure if you had more time to explore the village you’d find plenty of people to meet. The two bungalows each have a double bed. I’m sure that if you contacted Sue, she could recommend the best arrangement—either moving a single bed into one of the bungalows, or giving you the entire top space. She’s extremely helpful and welcoming and I’m sure she’d be willing to do that for you!

      Let me know if there’s anything else I can help with!

  6. Wow! what a great place! peaceful, serenity, zen, and perfect for those who love to stay away from the busy life of the city. I would definitely stay here for weeks and just live as a local. I so love Vietnam!

  7. Such a beautiful concept of staying like a local. I have been wanting to visit Vietnam for a long time, will keep this accommodation idea in mind 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  8. What a perfect timing for me to come across this post, as my girlfriend and I are planning a trip back to Vietnam to explore the North (we traveled to South Vietnam last year). I have been wanting to visit Sapa, but have been hearing about the massive tourism takeover and feeling reluctant to go. But my friend is into textile business – particularly using batik in Indonesia – so she would LOVE this homestay. It looks like you have quite a few posts on Vietnam, so I will go check them out for references for our future trip 🙂 Thank you!

    1. Such good timing! I have some more posts coming out soon about Sapa and Bac Ha Market. I think you and your friend would really enjoy it! Sapa is definitely very touristy but honestly it wasn’t as bad I was expecting. I still recommend going—the scenery is gorgeous, and this particular homestay is just wonderful!


  9. It sounds so peaceful and a perfect one to enjoy a relaxing stay. I’m loving that red-colored cute balcony. This destination is very close to nature.

  10. I am screaming right now, this place is absolutely beautiful! I want to travel there and sleep in right now. I just love the setting and decor so much.

  11. Wow, that lush green landscape is just gorgeous! You found a true gem in this place. I’ve never done a homestay, but this post sure makes me want to soon!

  12. What charming accommodations that are surrounded by such beautiful scenery. I can imagine that this is a peaceful, relaxing place!

  13. Mrs. Sue and her family are the best! I recently spent a week in her homestay and it was my favorite part about my trip to Vietnam. This homestay is fantastic and I can’t wait to go back!

  14. This looks so lovely! My sister and I was severely out of time and booked a 2 day 1 night tour to visit Sapa – but I hope to go back and stay at a homestay so this is a great post to find!

    1. Thanks, Nam! It’s definitely worth spending a bit longer in Sapa (I didn’t have as long as I would have liked, either), especially if you can find a relaxing homestay like this! I hope you make it back soon 🙂

  15. I loved the area of Sapa and I hope to go back one day to explore it further. It’s great to see a business that’s run by the locals. The homestay looks charming. On my two day hike in the area, I too had a Hmong homestay. I marveled at the intricacy of their needle work. You’re not only in being unable to resist. I have a lovely piece hanging on my wall and is one of my prized travel souvenirs. I’ll be saving this for later for when I can get back. thanks!

    1. So glad to hear that, April! I agree, the needlework is just phenomenal! So much talent and creativity goes into every piece. I think handmade textiles make the best souvenirs.

  16. Such a lovely and interesting accommodation! I love the colors of their bedding. How far in advance did you have to book it?

    1. Great question—I booked a week in advance, but since there are only two bungalows, I think it would be wise to enquire even earlier during busy periods. I will add a note to the post for other travellers. Thanks, Teresa!

  17. This is one of the most charming places and accommodations I’ve ever seen. I’ve never stayed in a homestay but reading your post convinced me to give it a try. When would it be the best time of the year to explore Sapa?

    1. So glad to hear that, Agness! Sapa was beautiful when I visited just recently (late July), although it was a little rainy. I think any time from late March to June would be ideal! It will be nice and green (and not so busy) at that time of year.

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