If you’re looking for a tourist destination near Hanoi that combines many aspects of Vietnamese culture, then Mai Chau is perhaps the ideal place. Here, you’ll find not only majestic mountains with winding roads, picturesque rice fields, but also ethnic minority villages, where many of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities reside, and where traditional cultures have been preserved for a long time. Let’s explore Mai Chau and the things to do when you come here with SVietnam Travel.
Overview of Mai Chau
Mai Chau is a highland district located in the northwest of Hoa Binh province, about 150km from the center of Hanoi. Despite its highland location, Mai Chau is a valley surrounded by vast limestone mountain ranges. The area boasts a serene natural landscape with lush forests, golden rice fields, and numerous meandering streams.
In addition to its romantic scenery, Mai Chau is also home to many historical and cultural relics, including five prominent caves: Hang Khoai cave, Chieu cave, Nhat cave, Lang cave, and Mo Luong cave. All these elements have made Mai Chau one of the most famous tourist destinations in northern Vietnam.
Best Time to Visit Mai Chau
Mai Chau experiences four seasons throughout the year: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. However, due to its location in a valley surrounded by forested mountains, the climate here is mild and pleasant, even when northern Vietnam is experiencing scorching temperatures of 40°C. Mai Chau maintains temperatures above 30°C.
February to April: During this period, Mai Chau enjoys cool and dry weather, with blooming flowers creating a romantic setting and various festivals taking place. This is the best time to visit and explore Mai Chau.
May to September: Mai Chau enters its summer season, ideal for those who appreciate golden rice fields and the taste of ripe plums. This is also the peak domestic tourist season, so it can be quite crowded.
October to January: During the autumn and winter months, the climate becomes cooler and can drop to around 10°C in the coldest days. This is also when international tourists start visiting Mai Chau.
Transportation to Mai Chau
Mai Chau does not have an airport, so travelers typically depart from Hanoi, which is approximately 150km away. The primary mode of transportation chosen is by car, while some adventurous travelers opt to rent motorcycles for a more immersive experience. The journey from Hanoi to Mai Chau takes about 3 hours, involving a combination of expressways and mountain roads. Sometimes, there can be fog, so you need to drive carefully, especially if you lack experience.
Best 9 Things to do in Mai Chau
1. Thung Khe Pass
This is a stunning winding mountain road on the way to the center of Mai Chau. Most tourists visiting Mai Chau enjoy taking pictures here to capture beautiful moments. This place is often shrouded in mist, creating a dreamy landscape. Thung Khe Pass also has stalls selling local specialties, food, and drinks to cater to tourists for a rest stop.
2. Mo Luong Cave
Not far from the center of Mai Chau, Mo Luong Cave is located in the Pu Kha mountain range. Here, there are four main caves, with depths of up to 500 meters, adorned with countless unique limestone formations, creating a wild and mystical atmosphere for tourists. During the resistance war, Mo Luong Cave was used as a base by the Vietnamese army. When visiting Mo Luong Cave, it’s advisable to wear comfortable shoes and clothing to avoid slipping and not to touch the stalactites to preserve the cave’s pristine condition.
3. Hang Kia – Pa Co
Located about 30km from Mai Chau town, Hang Kia – Pa Co is situated at an elevation of 1,200 – 1,500 meters above sea level. Clouds cover the area almost year-round. In the past, this area was a drug trafficking route from Laos to Vietnam, but now it has returned to its peaceful way of life. Families here have started developing tourism to secure a stable income, mainly by offering homestay services that attract a diverse range of domestic and international tourists.
4. Go Lao Waterfall
Also known as Go Mu Waterfall, it is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Mai Chau. The waterfall is about 20 meters high, with large rocks beneath the pool. Water cascades from the top to create a pristine white column of water and emits impressive sounds.
5. Lac Village
Among the villages in Mai Chau, Lac Village is the most well-known and the best place to learn about the local culture in Mai Chau. It is home to hundreds of stilt houses that are up to 700 years old, extensive rice fields, and friendly people skilled in weaving brocade. Staying in a homestay here allows you to experience the interesting life of the locals.
6. Pom Coong Village
Pom Coong, which means “hillside village on a big drum,” is rich in imagery and meaning. It is known as a cultural village and a tourist destination that attracts visitors. This is a wonderful place to buy unique handmade items.
7. Mai Chau Flagpole
After passing through Thung Khe Pass, you will reach the Mai Chau flagpole. From here, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the entire Mai Chau valley from a high vantage point and capture beautiful photos.
8. Trekking and Biking in Mai Chau
If you want to explore the landscapes and the daily life of the local people in Mai Chau in detail, biking is the best option. With a bicycle, you can leisurely ride around the village, enjoy the peaceful scenery, visit craft villages, or go shopping. You can rent a bike from your hotel or homestay.
Trekking is also a popular activity in Mai Chau, but it requires good physical fitness. You can also explore the area around your accommodation, taking in the fresh air and enjoying the interesting scenery.
9. Watch Xoe and Sap Dancing
The most distinctive traditional cultural activities of the ethnic groups in Mai Chau are the Xoe and Sap dances. These activities typically take place during festivals, holidays, or large gatherings. People dance and celebrate enthusiastically to the sounds of drums, gongs, and clashing wooden sticks. It creates a vibrant, joyful atmosphere with unique and thrilling rhythms.
Mai Chau Cuisine
Mai Chau’s cuisine is rustic but very enticing, originating from daily dishes created by the local ethnic people living here. Some of the distinctive dishes of Mai Chau that you should try are:
- Xoi nep nuong (Grilled Sticky Rice)
- Thit lon Man (Man Pork)
- Ca suoi nuong (Grilled Stream Fish)
- Ga doi nuong (Grilled Hill Chicken)
- Thit trau (Buffalo Meat)
Accommodation in Mai Chau
Mai Chau offers a diverse range of accommodation options for you to choose from. If you prefer tranquility and seek unique experiences, you can opt for homestays such as A Pao Homestay, Y Mua, Y Sao, A Do, and more. In Ban Lac, Mai Chau, you’ll also find numerous homestays, including Little Mai Chau, which is located away from the tourist area, offering a peaceful environment. All of these homestays are very affordable, typically costing less than $10 per night.
For a more luxurious stay, you can choose from resorts like Mai Chau Ecolodge, Mai Chau Mountain View Resort, or Mai Chau Rustic Home, which are also quite popular in the area and usually priced around $40-60 per night.
If you’re looking for a high-end resort experience in Mai Chau at a relatively higher cost, consider Avana Retreat.
Where to Buy Souvenirs When Traveling to Mai Chau?
You can find charming little souvenirs to gift to your loved ones in Ban Lac or Ban Pom Coọng. These are tourist destinations where you can discover a wide variety of distinctive Mai Chau products such as brocade dresses, rice wine, and items used by the Thai ethnic people.
Notes When Visiting Mai Chau
If you’re driving a motorcycle, be extremely cautious because the mountain roads have many trucks and buses that can move quite fast. Sometimes, fog may reduce your visibility.
You should carefully check prices and be prepared to haggle before making a purchase to get the best deals.
Choose clothing suitable for the weather conditions. If you’re biking, it’s a good idea to wear sneakers, a T-shirt, and shorts.
With the tourist spots we’ve just introduced in Mai Chau, you can plan to spend 2-4 days exploring the entire town. There are many luxury resorts in Mai Chau to choose from, but spending a night at a Mai Chau homestay is also an exciting experience that you should try for the most memorable trip. Please refer to our Mai Chau Biking tour itinerary or consult with our travel experts to plan your Mai Chau visit.