Mai Chau, Vietnam

Avana Retreat

Price per night from$234.05

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 60 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (VND5,956,363.64), via, using today’s exchange rate.


High-tier cultural hotpot


Mai Chau mountain valley

Vietnam’s Avana Retreat is an otherworldly stay in the greener – and maybe more fantastical – Emerald City, a lush rural region of Mai Chau: all deep leafy valleys, flower-dotted peaks and the kind of picturesque clouds you’d expect angelic hosts to hang out on. It’s luxurious, with a three-tiered pool, happy hours that lose track of time, a whole enclave dedicated to spa healing, and flavoursome bowls of pho. But it also has more layers than its terraced paddies, celebrating Thai, Hmong and Muong cultures with a museum in a traditional stilted hut, village visits and free craft sessions. A richly immersive stay all round. 

Smith Extra

Get this when you book through us:

Two cocktails a room for each stay (doesn’t apply for guests in extra beds)


Photos Avana Retreat facilities

Need to know


36, including 31 suites and villas.


11am, but flexible, subject to availability and a charge of 50% of the room rate if checking out between noon and 6pm. Earliest check-in, 2pm.


Double rooms from £202.64 (VND6,552,000), including tax at 10 per cent.

More details

Rates include breakfast, fresh fruit in your villa and afternoon snacks at the Cloud Pool Bar.


The winding walkways and hillside setting make this stay unsuitable for guests with mobility issues.

At the hotel

Lush gardens and terraced paddies; stilted-house museum; spring-fed lagoon; waterfall; spa with a herbal room and koi pond; yoga and meditation pavilion; fitness centre; open-air cinema (in season); boutique; chicken farm; fishing pond; kids’ club; charged laundry service; and free WiFi. In rooms: iPad (for room service, buggies, the concierge and more); minibar; coffee- and tea-making kit; and air-conditioning.

Our favourite rooms

This corner of Mai Chau has very few – if any – bad angles it seems, so whether your hideaway’s set on-high or tucked away into the trees, you’re guaranteed a soul-stirring slice of greenery, mountainside, trickling stream, or a valley overhung with a heavenly under-lit layer of cloud (if you’re visiting in autumn). The Senna Villas are the stand-outs for having the handful of the property’s private pools. There are two-bedroom hideaways for families and groups, too.


Built to resemble the terraced rice fields it overlooks, the three-tiered Cloud Pool might offer the most spectacular swim you ever take, with far-reaching views across Mai Chau valley from all aspects. Water is filtered in from the waterfall. The top two decks are for lazy soaking and gentle paddles, and the 50-metre lower deck is for athletic laps. While you dry off, order drinks from the bar and admire the scenery from a lounger. And, while you can’t frolic in the waterfall, you can enjoy more intimate swims at the Hidden Spring Lagoon.


Forget plinky-plonky muzak and token houseplants – at Avana Retreat’s Orchid Spa you get the real deal, with streams burbling tranquilly by, the distant rush of the waterfall, chatty birds, and profuse plant life springing up around the stilted thatched huts of its tucked-away enclave arranged around a koi pond you can meditate beside. Therapists have a knack for herbology and traditional healing methods, and fragrant natural oils are prepared in the dedicated herbal room; all this comes together in detoxifying scrubs and wraps, brightening facials, soothing massages and signature journeys mixing and matching all – or a rose-scattered couple’s treatment. And, for some mind and soul massaging, with singing-bowl meditation, daily hatha and yin yoga morning sessions, breathwork, and sound baths, the Hmong Cottage is a pavilion hidden in the trees. (Meditation sessions must be booked two hours in advance, yoga 10 hours and private classes 24 hours.) A fitness centre has motivating leafy views, too.

Packing tips

Bring yoga gear and shoes that won’t get shredded while trekking. But otherwise, save room for pieu scarves, brocade and batik hangings, rattan baskets, scented candles and local silverware (which is highly symbolic and said to have protective properties), made either by a local village person or by you onsite.


Avana Retreat’s uniforms are inspired by the costumes of the Blue Hmong – an ethnic minority residing in Mai Chau – with ornamental blue batik fabrics, which are embellished with appliqué, cross-stitching and patchwork.


Younger guests will feel like they’ve been plonked into The Jungle Book with all the run-wild fun involved; a free kids’ club offers local arts and crafts and movie nights, and there’s a dedicated menu in the restaurant.

Best for

Avana Retreat’s kids’ club is for ages three to 12, which is a good indicator of who’ll make the most of their stay here.

Recommended rooms

All rooms can fit at least two adults and two kids (charges apply for over-sixes); bigger broods should bag one of the two-bedroom villas (the Senna category has a private pool, too).


The colourful free kids’ club is a hub of fun – and some learning (under-fours must be accompanied by an adult), from 7am to 10pm each day. Here they’ll try their hand at local crafts (rattan weaving, kite-making, clay sculpting, origami) and eco-friendly play, such as turning trash into souvenirs. Treasure hunts are arranged on the property too and each day ends in a movie night.

Swimming pool

Little ones are welcome to splash about in the Cloud Pool, but there's no lifeguard so keep an eye on fledgling swimmers.


The kids’ menu sticks with the classics: chicken fingers, burgers, bolognese, pizza, grilled cheese… But, there’s also sea-bass and chips or rice soup if they want a gentle intro to local cuisine.


Babysitting must be booked four hours in advance, and costs VND150,000 an hour per child from 6am to 6pm (increasing to VND200,000 from 6pm to 6am).

No need to pack

If you’re bringing a babe in arms, pack any essential kit, and don’t forget the carrier – prams may not fare too well over the wild, sloped terrain.

Sustainability efforts

Nature played a large part in designing Avana Retreat, where raised wooden pathways twist and turn harmlessly through trees, past waterfalls and over streams and lagoons; 25 acres of woodland have been planted; and buildings use the traditional rammed-earth construction method of the Hmong and Thai peoples, which requires no machinery – they’re then accentuated with bamboo window-frames and rattan-lined palm-thatch roofs. Farmers from the region’s indigenous tribes live near the site and farm the terraced paddies, and 90 per cent of hires are local people who provide insightful tours and visits to neighbouring villages. Staff are provided with English and hospitality training and are offered fair wages and health benefits. Water is purified onsite, and powers the hotel’s turbines; single-use plastics have been banned; and there are LED bulbs and light-sensors throughout.

Food and Drink

Photos Avana Retreat food and drink

Top Table

Have a table for two set up for a seven-course meal at the Hidden Spring Lagoon or beside the Pung waterfall cascades; flowers abound and lanterns hang from tree branches and dot the decks.

Dress Code

The bolder the batik, the better.

Hotel restaurant

With a waterfall cascading nearby, duck pond by the door and fragrant breezes floating in from the paddies, Green Chilli Restaurant is a peaceful thatch-roofed dining spot. Within there’s a ring of green, thanks to the 360-degree windows, sofas with batik and brocade cushions, and woven-rattan light fixtures. The beef pho is the signature dish a warming bowl of pungent broth, flavoured with fish sauce, coriander, star-anise, cinnamon, pepper, grilled onions and ginger, with an eyebrow-raising splash of Muong Khuong chilli sauce, which rings true to northwestern cuisine. But other authentic eats include duck grilled with spices, lemongrass and shallots; goat ribs with chrysanthemum and pineapple; green carp and bamboo-broth hotpot; lobster with seaweed and pickled ginger; or banana-flower salad with dried buffalo meat. And, there are the less authentic, but still delicious, pastas, pizzas and fusion dishes (truffled rack of lamb, cognac-flambéed prawns) too. But, you’re pulled right back into the locale on Saturday nights when indigenous Xòe dancers arrive. Afternoon tea (2pm to 5pm) adopts Vietnamese flavours, with tiger prawn and mango spring rolls and fried-pork ‘pillow cakes’, piña-colada sponge and sticky-leaf panna-cotta; and fragrant leaf teas and tropical juices. Have it served privately in the Hmong Cottage or by the lagoon for an extra charge.

Hotel bar

The Cloud Pool Bar is set beside the hotel’s three-tiered swimming spot and shares the sweeping views of mist-swathed Mai Chau Valley. Exotic cocktails are a speciality – especially the potent Fingers of the Dragon, with apricot brandy, vodka, fermented hibiscus flower and passionfruit – alongside all the classics and there’s a lengthy wine list, too. Happy hour is extended here, with free snacks served between 4pm and 5.30pm, and buy-one-get-one-free drinks from 3pm to 6pm. For abstainers, there’s a long and enticing lassi list as well.

Last orders

The Cloud Pool Bar serves its last pour at 10pm.

Room service

Mealtimes seem just that bit more magical taken on your terrace overlooking the valley – use your room’s iPad to order breakfast between 7am and 10am, then all-day dining till 9pm.


Photos Avana Retreat location
Avana Retreat
Xom Panh
Mai Chau District

Peer down at Avana Retreat from on high and you’ll see green on green with little interruption, since it’s set amid tropical forest and terraced paddies in the rural hinterland of Vietnam’s Mai Chau district.


The closest international airport is Hanoi’s Noi Bai, around a four-hour drive away; transfers can be arranged for VND500,000 a seat, one-way, with pick-ups at Hanoi Opera House (from 7.30am) and Big C Tran Duy Hung (from 8am to 8.15am). And domestic arrivals can touch down at Cat Bi, a five-hour drive away, which also has some direct connections to China.


Avana Retreat’s serene green location is largely due to it being sequestered away in Mai Chau’s mountains. Once onsite you won’t really need to leave, but wheels will be essential in ferrying you there and back. You’re a two-hour drive from Pu Luong, Thanh Hoa and Moc Chau; a four-hour drive from Hanoi or Ninh Binh; and a six-hour drive from Ha Long. There’s free parking when you arrive.

Worth getting out of bed for

For a pottering-about-in-paradise kind of stay, Avana Retreat keeps the curious and culture-seeking very busy. After all there’s the natural Pung waterfall (set at the heart of the estate) to marvel at, lush lagoons and primaeval forest to explore, and ethnic villages, each with their own traditions and rituals to discover. Many activities are included in your room rate: you can meet the chickens on the cage-free farm and collect their eggs, feed the ducks or meditate by the spa’s koi pond; craft a candle with a signature scent in free sessions at the herbal room; cast a line into the fishing pond; learn Vietnamese at the Hmong Cottage; flip through the library’s tomes; meditate, contort with different yoga styles or zone out to singing bowls; and express yourself through batik painting (Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1pm or 2.30pm). Take a tour of the onsite stilted museum (2.30pm to 3pm daily), a dwelling built in time-honoured fashion, housing jewellery, costumes, musical instruments and more from the region’s three native groups: the Thai, Muong, and Hmong peoples; followed by a brocade- and rattan-basket-weaving lesson from the lady manning the loom outside (Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 2pm to 4pm), and roasting corn and sweet potatoes over a fire (every Friday during winter). Hop in the hotel’s Jeep for a jaunt through the rice-field terraces, or give your camera something spectacular to capture, going ‘cloud hunting’ from the hotel’s viewpoint (the best time is around October). Trek through the forest to the Hmong village of Cang with a native guide or Thai village Buoc to hear resident Mr Nhieu’s tales of the past and maybe catch a Xòe dance performance; and tag along with the chef to Bao La market, where silkworms, stink bugs and ant eggs for sale let you give insect protein a go. For an extra charge, you could gently kayak through the water-lily fields of Ba Khan Lake in the foothills of the Thung Khe Pass; roam Pu Luong Nature Reserve and spy butterflies in Cuc Phuong National Park; kitesurf along the coast in Phan Rang; pay your respects at Po Long Garai’s temple complex; zip through the Ha Giang loop on motorbike; and see extinct volcano Ham Rong Lake’s coating of Da Quy blossoms throughout October and November.  


Photos Avana Retreat reviews

Anonymous review

Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this land- and lore-respecting retreat deep in Mai Chau’s tropical forest and unpacked the candles they made with a personalised blend of essential oils, a full account of their learning while luxuriating break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Avana Retreat in Vietnam’s mountainous interior…

We’ve travelled enough to know that the language of luxury only slightly changes accent as you cross borders: fine food, abundant drink, thoughtful details, soft beds, a write-home-about view… It’s hard to tire of it, exactly, but a truly great hotel – like Vietnam’s eco-friendly hideaway Avana Retreat – turns those stock phrases into full paragraphs and poems, pulling in the full context of the country you’re staying in. At Avana, it’s there in subtle ways: batik cushions and rattan weavings in your suite, a pool laid out in tiers to reflect the estate’s rice fields, tiger-king-prawn rolls with afternoon tea; a mini museum housed in a traditional stilted residence; visits to Thai, Hmong and Muong villages with local guides; free arts and crafts classes; Xòe dances at dinner; and authentic bowls of pho. Alongside its ties to the region’s ethnic communities (90 per cent of whom make up the workforce), it’s Earth-kind to the core – wooden walkways even move out of the way for reaching tree limbs, and the waterfall at its heart fills the pool; which, in turn, ensures a lushly romantic setting for intimate dinners, sundowners on your balcony and waking up to the prettiest sunrises – that luxury lingua franca rewritten in distinctive Vietnamese style.

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Price per night from $234.05