Originally the playground of the French, when you arrive in Dalat it feels more like the European Alps than South East Asia.
Located in the Southern Central Highlands of Vietnam, Dalat is a mid-sized city surrounded by pine-covered peaks and beautiful countryside offering lakes, waterfalls and evergreen forests to explore.
Aside from the very centre of the city, Dalat has a relaxed feel and is quite different from anywhere else in Vietnam. Temperatures are pleasantly warm in the day but can get quite cool at night; sometimes dropping to 10 degrees Celsius.
The land in Dalat is incredibly fertile and consequently Dalat produce is revered throughout Vietnam. It is particularly renowned for its flowers, strawberries, coffee and avocados.
Most people arrive in Dalat by bus as it is served by several daily services from Nha Trang, Mui Ne and HCMC.
If you can, try and book with Phuong Trang buses, otherwise known as Futa buses, as they provide safe, comfortable coaches. From Nha Trang bus station the journey to Dalat is around 3 – 4 hours, including a 30 minute rest stop about an hour out of Nha Trang. From HCMC you can take one of Phuong Trang’s semi sleepers. The bus ride takes around 7 hours, however it can take up to 9 if the traffic is bad leaving HCMC.
Phuong Trang buses do not run from Mui Ne to Dalat, however you can still book tickets at their Mui Ne office for this journey on a different service. Try to book a large bus or coach, or sit near to the front, as the road to Dalat isn’t the best.
Daily flights to Dalat are also available from HCMC, Danang and Hanoi with Vietnam Airlines and Vietjet Air. The airport is 30km south of the city and is linked by a modern highway. City shuttle buses are available just outside the airport and tickets can be purchased from the counter next to the baggage collection area. Be aware that some hotels may try to charge extortionate fees for airport transfers. Never pay more than 250,000 VND as this is the price most airport taxi’s will charge.
If you stay in the centre of Dalat then most places will be in walking distance. Dalat isn’t a huge place so even homestays a little further out are generally in walking distance of the town centre. Although traffic can get a little hectic it is quite a calm place to explore by foot with plenty of pavements.
You can catch motorbike taxis from most corners, so if you’re going somewhere farther out of town, you have a quick, low cost way to get there. Taxis are also easy to find and generally reasonable in price. If you are taking a longer journey it may be worth arranging a fee upfront rather than using the meter.
Easily available to rent however we have been informed that tourists should only ride motorbikes in the town centre and not venture into the countryside where the police are said to clamp down on foreign riders more than anywhere else in Vietnam. If you want to explore the countryside by bike but don’t want to risk a hefty fine consider an Easy Rider tour instead – there’s an abundance of them in Da Lat.
Easy rider services are hugely popular in Dalat with several companies offering the service. It can be a great way to explore the stunning countryside this area has to offer without the risk of getting in trouble with the police. When you’re not driving it also allows you to soak up the scenery even more. Expect to pay around $25 for a full day easy rider tour of the Dalat countryside with your own dedicated bike and rider.
We can reccommend Motorbike Trip Vietnam run by Bao who is super friendly and helpful.
Not to miss
Due to its beautiful rugged landscape and concentration of waterfalls, Dalat is the perfect place to go Canyoning and it has become one of the most popular activities in the area. Choose the company you use carefully and ensure they are using safety equipment that meets international standards. It is also worth checking to see if insurance is provided or if your travel insurance covers this type of activity.
We can recommend booking with Tri, who runs the Cam Ly Homestay just out of town. The programme here is $35 and includes a full day of abseiling, trekking, water sliding and swimming in Dalat’s picture perfect countryside.
30km south west of Dalat are the stunning Elephant Falls. To visit you need to be fairly steady on your feet, although a hand rail is provided for some of the descent, the way to bottom of the falls is a little precarious to say the least.
Making your way to the foot of the falls is more than worth it. Stop half way for a great photo op next to the tumbling water and once you reach the bottom, climb through a narrow parting in the rocks to get right up close to the falls. Here you can truly appreciate the volume of water and the power of the falls as the spray soaks you even if you’re standing metres away.
Entry to the falls should be free. Visits to the falls are frequently included in Easy Rider tours of the area.
Other Attractions & Sights
Hang Nga Crazy House
An eclectic and striking piece of architecture designed by Dr Dang Viet Nga, the daughter of an independence war hero. Although much of the house is complete, some areas are still in construction; this doesn’t necessarily detract from the experience, rather it gives some insight into how the rest of the Dr Seuss Style surroundings were created.
Definitely worth a visit if you love architecture and / or fantasy worlds. It’s a good place to spend an afternoon in Dalat. Admission is 40,000 VND or you could splash the cash and spend the evening in one of the world most unusual hotel rooms. Considering their extravagant designs the hotel rooms available at the Crazy House are reasonably priced starting at $25 per night for one person.
Find out more about the Crazy House here.
Like any good Vietnamese attraction, the Flower Park is extremely kitsch with topiary in just about every form imaginable from tea pots to guitars.
If you have a few hours to kill its worth a visit especially as it’s only 35,000 VND to enter. The place is pretty big and it’s a good walk around the entire park. The gardens were established in 1966 and there is an astonishing array of blooms that demonstrate Dalat’s reputation as the premier flower producing region of Vietnam.
Lang Bian Mountain
Around 12km north of downtown Dalat, Lang Bian is one of the most popular locations for a day out hiking. It has five volcanic peaks that range in altitude from 2100m to 2400m. The hike up to summit of the highest peak takes three to four hours from the ticket booth. When you reach the top you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.
Cathedral / Churches
As Dalat was previously predominantly Christian there are a number of religious buildings you can visit.
The gingerbread-style Dalat Cathedral continues the alpine theme. It was built between 1931 and 1942 for use by French residents and holiday-makers. Although you can walk around the outside of the Cathedral, the doors to go inside rarely open outside of mass times.
Located around 1km from the city centre is the Domain De Marie Church. Built in the European architectural style of the 17th century it would not look out of place in the French Alps. The church is located on top of a hill with great views and is surrounded by the beautiful flowers and blossoms Dalat is so famous for.
If you love architecture then the Train Station is another building you should visit whilst in Dalat. It was designed in 1932 by French architects Moncet and Reveron and boasts a unique style which incorporates an overall Art Deco theme with elements of native communal houses from the Vietnamese highlands.
Apart from the building you can also take a steam train from Dalat Station on the 7km historical line to Trai Mat and from here you can visit the Linh Phuong Pagoda.
Ho Xuan Huong Lake
Ho Xuan Huong Lake is the centrepiece of Dalat town and as such you can’t really miss it. Approximately 5km in diameter, the lake was created after two dams on the Camly River were destroyed during a storm in the 1930’s. It’s a favourite location amongst Vietnamese honeymooners who you will often see strolling the banks. If the weather is good the lake is a great place to relax and while away a few hours. Paddle boats in the shape of swans are available to hire for various prices but are usually around $3 – $5 for an hour or so.
The cable car which runs to and from the Truc Lam Monastry & Pagoda is a popular way to see Dalat and its majestic pine forests from above. The monastery is free to visit (donations accepted) and boasts magnificent views over the surrounding countryside as well as beautiful gardens full of landscaped topiary.
The cable is located just outside the city centre above Tuyen Lam Lake. When last checked the cable car cost 50,000 VND for a single journey and 70,000 VND for a return.
Food & Drink
Dalat has a great range of restaurants to serve its diverse visitor base with offerings from local provinces, Dalat food to central and southern Vietnamese dishes as well as a good variety of Western and French options.
Fresh spring rolls are a speciality here and are often served deconstructed for you to assemble and roll yourself.
Some street food is available with duck stands being particularly popular.
Dalat is famous for its farming and you’ll find an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables available to buy if you plan on staying a few days and want to cook your own meals.
There are some great value homestays available in Da Lat with dorm rooms available from $4 and private rooms from $10 including breakfast. One of our favourites is the Cam Ly homestay where you can enjoy fantastic communal dinners every evening.
If you want to splash the cash the Dalat Palace Heritage Luxury Hotel is the only 5 star option in Dalat.
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