DaLat is a mountain resort town in Vietnam’s central highlands. It’s surrounded by mountain peaks, waterfalls, flower conservatories and coffee farms. The town actually has something of a ski resort vibe, with street vendors selling ear muffs and puffer jackets, and cosy coffee shops lining the streets in every direction.
For a small town tucked away in the mountains, Da Lat has a surprising number of quirky and unusual attractions. Here are 10 of the best things to do in DaLat along with some tips on where to stay, how to get around and day trip ideas.
A Guest Post by Maire Bonheim from Temples & Treehouses
Top Dalat Travel Tips Before You Go
Where to Stay in Dalat
Dalat is a small mountain town and as such, accommodation can be a little bit on the basic side, but if we could pick anywhere – and depending on your budget – it would be these guest houses and hotels in Dalat:
- Luxury: Splash out in style at the Dalat Palace Heritage Hotel. For between $120-160 per night you get a giant beautifully decorated room, with free breakfast and free wifi.
- Mid-Range: Ngoc Phat Da lat Hotel – one of the top rated hotels in the town and all rates inclues breakfast. (between $35-55 a night)
- Budget: Star Hill Hotel – A 3* hotel for less than $20 a night. What more could you want?!
How To Get To Dalat
Da Lat Vietnam is well connected to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City by daily flights. Lien Khuong Airport lies about 30 km away from Dalat city center and is served by a range of taxis or shuttle buses for your airport transfer (taxi is around $10 one way, and the shuttle bus $2).
How to Get around Da Lat
As Dalat is a small town you can easily explore most of the city centre attractions on foot or by bicycle, or jump in an extremely affordably priced taxi. There are also motorcycle taxis on every corner. If you decide to take a taxi, make sure you negotiate a reasonable fare before you get in/on, or things could get awkward.
For attractions further afield, you’ll need to rent a car or motorbike, or take a back-of-the-bike Easy Rider tour and ask to customize the tour to include the attractions that most appeal to you.
The Best Time To Go To Dalat
There’s isn’t really a bad time to visit Dalat Vietnam as the average daytime temperature hovers between 20-25 degrees celsius throughout the year. Thanks to this cool, temperate climate it’s a popular retreat for Vietnamese tourists, as well as those from further afield.
The Top Things To Do In Da Lat
Visit the Crazy House
The Crazy House, also known as Hằng Nga guest house, is one of the weirdest places I’ve ever been. It’s made up of several bizarrely shaped buildings connected by spiralling, sometimes terrifying staircases. It has a surreal vibe that has been compared to Gaudí’s famous architecture in Barcelona, and to the work of Salvador Dali. Also reminiscent of Gaudi’s work is that fact that it’s still not completed! Parts of the Crazy House are still being built and added to almost 30 years after construction began.
The Crazy House is one of Da Lat’s most famous attractions, and you can pay a small entrance fee to have a look around (currently 50,000 dong, which is around £1.50 / $2.20 USD). But you can also actually stay here! It gets booked up well in advance and unfortunately I didn’t plan far enough ahead to snap up a room. But a couple of the bedrooms were on display when I visited and they are incredibly unusual little hobbit holes. I loved visiting the Crazy House so much that I’m planning to visit again in 2020 (when it’s supposed to be completed) and actually stay this time.
Soar between peaks on the Da Lat cable car
Da Lat’s cable car ride connects Robin Hill and the Truc Lam Pagoda (Vietnamese: thiền viện trúc lâm). The cable car to Truc Lam ride is around 3km long, with stunning panoramic views of the city’s surrounding mountains and lakes. Truc Lam Pagoda is a Buddhist temple, monastery and meditation centre with beautiful, serene gardens and grounds. It’s definitely worth a look.
Experience an Easy Rider motorbike tour
Da Lat is one of Vietnam’s most famous destinations for back-of-the-bike Easy rider motorbike tours. There are a huge number of tours available, and it’s common for tourists to be approached and offered tours on the streets of DaLat, but it’s probably best to go with a reputable company with good reviews (like this one!).
The Easy rider tour I did in Da Lat was one of the best experiences I had on my entire 6-week Vietnam trip. It felt like being on a slightly dangerous road trip with a new local friend, who told me about local life in Vietnam and took me to so many fun places.
The hills and mountains around Da Lat are particularly amazing for zooming around on the back of a motorbike, and there are definitely enough attractions in Da Lat and the neighboring valleys and villages to keep you entertained.
Ride a self-propelled roller-coaster to the foot of a waterfall
This may be a gimmicky tourist attraction depending on your outlook, but in my opinion it’s a brilliant one. To get to the foot of the Datanla waterfall near DaLat, you climb into a roller coaster, and use a lever to control how fast or slowly you rocket down the hill to the falls. The roller coaster system twists and turns on the way down, over a distance of around 1km. I drove my roller coaster embarrassingly slowly, but I enjoyed every minute of the ride down to Datanla Falls
And climb into a cave behind the Elephant falls
The Elephant Waterfalls don’t have their own rollercoaster, but they’re seriously impressive. Something not everyone knows is that you can actually climb down right alongside the waterfall, scrambling over jagged rocks and clinging onto very slippery railings, and squeeze into a cave behind the waterfall. It’s muddy, wet and the sound of the water against the rocks are deafening. You can’t really safely take photos unless you have an action camera, because there is so much spray in the air it’s like you’re in a monsoon. But inside the cave, you can pick your way to another opening on the other side, so you’re standing behind the waterfall, and watch the water cascading in front of you. I wouldn’t have known it was possible to do this without my Easy Rider tour guide (other travellers I spoke to visited the falls and simply watched it from a viewing platform). But although it was slightly terrifying, slipping and sliding into the belly of that cave was one of the best experiences I had in Vietnam.
Explore Da Lat train station
Da Lat’s buttercup-yellow art deco train station was built by the French in the 1930s. It’s a really striking period building and a tourist attraction in its own right. At the station, apart from some souvenir shops and a coffee shop, there are vintage wooden trains from the 30s, and a restaurant that’s actually housed in one of these trains.
You can’t actually arrive in Da Lat by train because the station is out of use except for one short route, which is…
Take a vintage train to Linh Phuoc Pagoda
From Da Lat train station, you can take one of the retro wooden trains to the nearby town of Trai Mat. It’s a 30-minute ride through scenic mountain countryside. When you get there, the town’s main attraction is Linh Phu quoc pagoda.
Linh Phuoc Pagoda is a quirky, surreal temple that fits right in with Da Lat’s other unusual attractions. Think giant usual sculptures covered in mosaic, crystals and glitter.
Stroll by Da Lat’s flower gardens, lake and night market
The town of Da Lat itself has several fun attractions to keep you entertained. There are beautifully laid out flower gardens, a scenic pleasure lake with pedalos and paddle boats in the shape of swans, and a central night market where you can buy delicious Vietnamese snacks. One of the most popular street foods on offer at the night market is Bánh tráng kẹp, which looks like a Vietnamese pizza. It’s a round rice paper base with egg, minced pork, vegetables and hot sauce, barbecued over coals, then rolled up into a wrap to eat. Other foods to try in DaLat market include steamed snails, and beef rice noodle soup for breakfast.
Indulge in Da Lat’s coffee scene
I was totally unprepared for the coffee scene in Da Lat. The locals take their coffee extremely seriously, and the town is peppered with quaint coffee shops where people sit for hours, reading a newspaper and savouring their brew. Iced coffee, even if you ask to have it with milk, is a lot stronger, thicker and darker than the coffee I tried anywhere else in Vietnam, with rich chocolatey hints. There were several unassuming hole-in-the-wall cafes I visited in Da Lat where the coffee was absolutely incredible..
And perhaps give civet coffee a try
Civet coffee is a polite way of saying “coffee made from the poo of weasels”. I was astonished when I first discovered this was a popular, and very expensive, delicacy produced in Vietnam and in Da Lat particularly. You also find it in Indonesia, where it’s called kopi luwak.
Everywhere you go in Da Lat you see civet coffee for sale, and I visited a beautiful green civet coffee farm where I tasted weasel coffee (there were several different brews to sample, with different tasting notes). Civet coffee is made by feeding civets coffee cherries, which are fermented when the civets digest the beans, apparently bringing out the flavour. The beans are then made into coffee. Coffee connoisseurs I’ve spoken to have all insisted that civet coffee tastes far superior to regular coffee, but to be totally honest I couldn’t taste the difference.
Something I didn’t know when I visited the civet coffee farm and tasted my first weasel poo coffee is that some producers these days are unfortunately unethical, with battery farming and force feeding the civets becoming a problem. (Traditionally, farmers simply picked up the coffee beans after wild civets had enjoyed them). So if you choose to taste civet coffee in Da Lat, investigate the farm before you do so.
The Best Day Trips from Dalat
- Near Da lat there are beautiful gardens, a flower park, tea plantations and lakes; smell the flowers, drink tea and visit a silk weaving factory on this Countryside Day Tour.
- Go Canyoning for a day at Datanla Waterfalls – try rappelling, cliff diving, water sliding, hiking, and more
- Can you take on the challenge of Da Lat’s Da Don River? Raft through the rapids in 3 hours through 10 kilometers on this half day White Water Rafting Tour.
So there you have it – hopefully we’ve given you enough travel inspiration and Dalat travel tips to kickstart your Vietnamese travels – and given you a great list of Things To Do in Dalat to make sure you get the most from your visit. Don’t forget to let me know your own highlights once you’re back!
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