This post was last updated on February 20th, 2020 at 05:18 pm
Located in a valley about 140 kilometers southwest of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, Mai Chau is easy to reach. However, a one-day trip often means you don’t see much of the beautiful nature and that you spend a long time on the bus.
Most tourists come here to enjoy the impressive nature and a visit to this beautiful place is often used as a replacement for the landscape of Sapa.
Mai Chau itself is no more than a town with little to do, but it is the nearby villages of the “white Thai” where tourists stay (mainly in homestays). The homestays are relatively luxurious and the food is excellent.
Here you can enjoy walking and cycling among the rice fields and in the nearby Pu Luong National Park you have a view over the beautiful rice terraces Vietnam is known for.
Although the rice terraces are not as impressive as in the area of Sapa, you can still enjoy this landscape without having to travel for a long time from Hanoi.
This is also the best place for a homestay experience in a stilt house. The population is known as the white Thai and they come from the areas of Thailand, Laos and China. These friendly people are known for their weaving which they offer for sale at the local market. A good place for handmade souvenirs.
Because of its location close to Hanoi, this village has become a very popular destination nowadays, especially with people from Hanoi who come to spend the weekend here. The weekdays are a good time to visit Mai Chau, but you can read more on the best time to visit later!
Mai Chau Geography
Located around plenty of rice fields in a particularly quiet area, this is the largest city in the region, although Mai Chau can hardly be called a city. In the area, you will find much smaller traditional villages. Mai Chau is located near the Pu Luong National Park and is a great destination to combine with a visit to the beautiful nature in Ninh Binh or Tam Coc.
TIP – Book a trip to one of the traditional villages with the White Thai people.
Unlike in Sapa, they no longer wear traditional clothing, but the Thai women are amazing weavers and make numerous products; from traditional clothing to souvenirs. The market where these products are sold is one of the many highlights you can find here. Various mountain tribes sell their wares here such as meat, fruit, nuts and clothing. Just like in the rest of Asia, negotiating prices is common here.
Our view from the hotel we stayed at, not bad!
Fun Things to Do in Mai Chau
The main attraction in Mai Chau is, without a doubt, the beautiful surroundings and this is also the reason why people come here. The beautiful rice fields and the flat terrain make it a great destination for walking and cycling. The area around the villages can easily be viewed in one day.
The real beauty of the area will come out if you also spend at least a day in the Pu Luong National Park. We’ll tell you exactly what you can see and do during your visit to Mai Chau.
Walk Through the Thung Khe Pass
Thung Khe pass is an impressive mountain pass near Mai Chau with a number of incredibly beautiful panoramic viewpoints. The most famous place is at Mai Chau flagpole, where you have a view over the entire Mai Chau valley.
Visit Pu Luong Nature Reserve
A highlight of a visit to this region is undoubtedly a trek through the Pu Luong National park. Here you see rice terraces, beautiful mountain ranges and you experience serene tranquility. If you want to do this as a day trip, book it at your homestay. They take you to the top of the park after which you make a beautiful descent along the rice terraces.
If you mainly come for nature, the Pu Luong National Park is more impressive than Mai Chau itself. You’ll find a pristine environment that hasn’t been found by mass tourism yet. Explore jungles, rivers, beautiful riding terraces, local villages and water wheels.
Visit a Bamboo Factory
Along the way to the Pu Luong National Park you can stop to visit a bamboo factory. This is a nice stop where you can see which products are made from bamboo in this region (lots of chopsticks).
Go Lao Waterfall
The Go Lao waterfall is beautiful and unspoiled. You have to make a small trek to get there, but the route is impressive. It is approximately 15 kilometers from the city of Mai Chau.
Visit Lac Village
Lac Village is a remote village nestled between mountainous passes, and the home of the ethnic Thai minority, living in traditional Thai stilt houses. Villagers sometimes organize traditional song and dance shows in the evenings.
Pom Coong Village
Although it’s a short distance from Lac Village, Pom Coong Village is a very special sight and it is recommended to get a taste of the local life.
Van Village is further afield than the popular tourist spots Lac Village and Pom Coong Village, and lies off the beaten track amidst the beautiful North Vietnamese mountain landscape. Van Village is known for its authenticity and peaceful beauty.
Climb to Chieu Cave
To get to Chieu Cave, you have to climb an impressive 1200 steps made of stone, but as soon as you arrive at the entrance you will be glad that you have put in the effort.
Mo Luong Cave
Mo Luong Cave is 2 kilometers from Lac village. The cave consists of 4 rooms, approximately 500 meters deep, with numerous spectacular stalactites.
Visit the Mai Chau Market
Particularly active on Sundays, the local market is definitely worth a look. From your homestay you walk to the main road where the market is located. The locals sell their woven products here and you also see the most exotic types of fruit and vegetables, cattle, and many other interesting things.
The market is a good place for photography enthusiasts and you are guaranteed to come back with amazing photos.
TIP – Do you want to go hiking? Try walking the trail from Lac Village to Xa Linh Village. A beautiful and popular tour.
Traditional Stilt Houses
If you come to Mai Chau then staying the night in a traditional stilt house is an absolute must. Most tours will take you to Ban Lac and Pom Coong. You can also walk there yourself which is not very far and a very nice route. You can sleep among the locals, eat under the stilt houses with friendly locals, and spend the night in a traditional stilt house.
During the day you can enjoy the amazing views that are presented to you by Mother Nature and the markets where you can buy scarves, bags, dresses, and other accessories.
TIP – You can also sleep in one of the stilt houses by yourself. A truly unique experience!
Locals selling various fruits
Activities in Mai Chau
Besides visiting the highlights there are also plenty of activities you can do yourself, without the need of an organized tour. Here some of the best activities to do in Mai Chau.
Riding a Bike
The best way to explore the Mai Chau valley is by bike. Most hotels and guesthouses have bicycles available for free. Cycle yourself through the beautiful rice fields and through local villages or hire a guide who can take you off the beaten track.
The best views of the Mai Chau valley can be seen from higher up and the best way to get there is by climbing the rocks. With multiple possible routes to choose from, everyone can enjoy rock climbing regardless of age, athletic ability or level of experience.
Walking or Hiking
The best walking tours can be made in Pu Luong. You can opt for a half day, a full day or a multi-day trek. With a multi-day trek you stay with local people in a homestay. The best weather for trekking in Pu Luong is from the end of September to the beginning of May with temperatures of 15°C to 30°C (59°F to 86°F).
Rafting and kayaking
Find your way through the beautiful river landscape, past stilt houses, striking water wheels and the green farmland. The rainy season is the best time for kayaking and rafting in the Cham River.
Mai Chau or Sapa
In most cases, locals in Mai Chau no longer live off agriculture but tourism. Of course, this is a pity, but it is less commercial in Mai Chau than in the mountain village Sapa. And as said; the environment here is so overwhelmingly beautiful that you quickly forget the commercialization.
Those who have been to both cities often indicate that everything is slightly more authentic in Mai Chau. You can also attend various dance performances in the evening. During this dance, the women portray the peasant life in the valley in a graceful way. After the performance, the audience is invited to dance with them.
Some beautiful rice fields and mountains in the distance
How to Get to Mai Chau
The easiest way to reach the village is to book a tour in Hanoi at your hotel or a travel agency. If you want to go on your own then there is the possibility to use the local bus from the My Dinh Bus Station in Hanoi.
For more comfort you can also use a shuttle bus from one of the many homestays. The price is around US$10 for a round trip ticket. The distance is approximately 140 kilometers and takes between 3 and 4 hours.
From Ninh Binh
Like everywhere in Vietnam, it is always easiest if you arrange transportation at your hotel or guesthouse. You will be picked up and put on the right bus. Similarly in the city of Ninh Binh. The distance between Ninh Binh and Mai Chau is around 145 kilometers and takes around 3.5 to 4 hours.
TIP – Sometimes 5,000 Dong (US$0.20) entrance fees are requested for Mai Chau. This is not always the case, but keep it in mind.
Mai Chau Hotel & Homestay Guide
The most popular type of accommodation in Mai Chau are homestays. Spending the night in these authentic villages is an amazing experience. Don’t worry, you’ll have electricity, Western style toilets, hot showers and mosquito net mattresses. It’s all extremely comfortable, so don’t expect to meet a rustic hill tribe. Despite – or perhaps because of – the modern amenities, it is an unforgettable experience.
The area is beautifully lush, the Thai villages are attractive and tidy, and the locals are exceptionally friendly.
The villages of Lac and Pom Coong are typical Thai communities. The houses are built on stilts, 1.5 meters above the ground, with bamboo floors and roofs made of leaves. The place under the traditional house is usually reserved for cattle. Nowadays, these are decorated as a souvenir shop at some houses.
Best Budget Hotels & Hostels in Mai Chau
- Little Mai Chau Home Stay – US $6
- Mai Chau Backpackers House – US $4
- Lim’s House – US $16
- Eco Homestay – US $16
Best Hotels in Mai Chau
Best High End Hotels & Resorts in Mai Chau
Food and Drinks in Mai Chau
Good news, the food is excellent. You eat and drink at your homestay and the dinner is usually concluded with a traditional Thai dance. Expect a wide selection of delicious Vietnamese dishes. Breakfast and dinner usually also include some Western dishes such as pancakes, eggs, fries, and bread.
ATMs and Internet
There are a number of ATM machines along the main road. If they don’t work then you are out of luck so take enough cash with you. Most homestays nowadays have Wi-Fi, but it happens often that it does not work properly. A cheap option can be to buy a Vietnamese SIM card and use 3G.