Dalat Travel Guide – Intro to Da Lat, Vietnam
Find out why the quaint mountain town of Dalat draws many types of visitors for many different reasons in our Dalat Travel Guide.
Dalat Travel Guide – Why Visit?
Dalat is one of the prettiest and most surprising regions of Vietnam. Dalat city is a former hill station from the days of French colonialism. The city and surrounding countryside resemble a French village in the Alps, but Dalat is also an authentic Vietnamese experience.
For example, you can spend your morning in a French colonial villa and your afternoon in a Zen monastery. And all around you will be the gorgeous, central highlands of Vietnam.
Enjoying the natural beauty of Dalat is the biggest reason to visit. Spend some time in the little city. It has some good food and interesting activities, but spend most of your time in the countryside.
Dalat is surrounded by scenic highlands filled with fragrant pine forests, vast lakes, picturesque waterfalls, and green rolling hills for as far as you can see. With an elevation of around 1500m, the climate is much cooler and more pleasant than most of Vietnam.
The temperate climate and natural beauty make it a perfect playground for relaxation or romance or adventure or mixture of these. Dalat is good for everything from sightseeing, romantic strolls, and family picnics to various adventure sports and natural thrills.
The Dalat area is great for singles, couples, and families. There is enough to see and do here to fill weeks, but a 3-day stay will let you sample the best of Dalat.
Dalat Travel Guide – Contents
Top Attractions and Activities in Dalat City
- Crazy House
The Crazy House is the most unique and original building in Vietnam. It’s a wild on-going art project, a public exhibit, and a functioning hotel. This surreal place is a like a Dr. Seuss building come to life. You can explore every nook and cranny like the wacky animal-themed guestrooms. It’s a definite must-see for everyone. Entry is 40,000VND ($2USD).
- Valley of Love
Dalat is the honeymoon capital of Vietnam, and the Valley of Love is designed to appeal to lovers. It’s probably the most scenic spot in the city. It’s a huge, sprawling park that spans several square miles. The center of the park is a pretty lake surrounded by sloping hills covered in pine trees – perfect for long romantic strolls. There are also massive gardens with elaborate flower sculptures, numerous statues, and a tram ride that circles the whole area. Entry is 40,000VDN ($2USD).
- Robin Hill / Cable Car Ride
Robin Hill is the highest points in Dalat city and has some of the best views. A beautiful relief sculpture adorns the steps leading up the hill. It depicts idyllic scenes of the indigenous mountain tribes. At the top, there is cable car ride that stretches for 1.6 miles (2.6 km) over the gorgeous countryside and ends at the hilltop Zen Monastery of Truc Lam. The cable car ride is 50,000VND ($2.5USD) for a one-way ticket and 70,000VND ($3.5USD) for a round trip.
- Truc Lam Zen Monastery
Truc Lam Monastery is the largest Zen Monastery in all of Vietnam. Its hilltop location above Tuyen Lam Lake provides some amazing views. The many temples and other buildings have an elegant and refined beauty. The grounds also contain several beautiful gardens. And this is an active monastery where you can meet the hundreds of monks that live here. Free Entry.
- Old Railway Station
Built in 1932, Dalat’s old train station is a top site of historical and architectural interest. There are some old steam trains on exhibit that visitors can climb into and explore. The best aspect of the station is a scenic 4.5 mile (7km) vintage train ride to nearby Trai Mat village, where you can visit Linh Phuoc Temple. This ride takes you through some beautiful landscapes. Free entry to the station. Round trip ticket to Trai Mat is 150,000VND ($6.5USD)
Attractions & Activities in the Countryside
No visit to Dalat is complete without seeing at least one waterfall. Cam Ly falls is the only one is the city, but it should be avoided due to urban pollution. There are a dozen waterfalls near Dalat. We think the 4 best are Datanla, Elephant, Pongour, and Prenn. Each has special features that make it attractive.
You can read more about the 4 best Dalat waterfalls here. If you’re interested in adventure sports, Datanla falls offers canyoning and abseiling. Note these are very dangerous (3 people died in 2016), and should only be pursued with a licensed tour company. Currently, Phat Tire Ventures is the only licensed company, and they have a good safety record.
The Dalat area has many beautiful temples and pagodas that highlight the diversity of Buddhist culture and temperament in Vietnam. The entry to all these are free, but they do accept donations. Be sure to check out:
- Lihn Phuoc Temple and the Big Glass Dragon
Linh Phuoc is famous for intricate and massive mosaics that cover the temples and pagoda.
- Linh An Temple and the Huge Happy Buddha
Lihn An has some gorgeous Buddhist art and Vietnamese wood carvings, but it’s 50 ft (15m) tall Happy Buddha is the cheerful star of the show.
- Van Hanh Temple and the Giant Golden Buddha
No to be outdone, Van Hanh has 80 ft (25m) tall golden Buddha that gleams in the warm sunlight of Dalat.
Beautiful scenery is everywhere and is easy to enjoy on your own. Many tour companies also offer organized hikes and activities in different areas. 2 of the best locations are:
- Tuyen Lam Lake
Tuyen Lam is a picturesque and enormous lake that covers 800 acres (320ha). Activities here include walks around the lake, treks into the surrounding forests, paddle boat rides, and kayaking. Full day tours including hotel pickup, trekking, lunch, kayaking, and drop off start around $40USD.
- Lang Biang Mountain
At 7117 ft. (2169m) tall, Lang Biang Mountain is the highest peak in the region and has the best panoramic views. You can climb this mountain on your own without need of guide. But it’s 12km from Dalat city, so you’ll need transportation to it. Often tours are the same price as a round trip taxi. There is a well-marked trail through the forest and up to the top. The hike is 3 hours for the person of average fitness. Entry is 20,000VND($1USD).
Adventure Sports – The countryside of Dalat is ripe for outdoorsy adventures including white water rafting, canyoning, mountain biking, jungle treks, and more. We love adventure sports, but advise caution here. The safety standards in Dalat are not the same as those in other places. You must take full responsibility for your own safety here, even if on a tour. In 2016, 3 tourists died at Datanla falls. Their adventure guide was not licensed. There are a few companies that offer “budget” adventure tours, but we only recommend Phat Tire Ventures. They are licensed and emphasize training and safety. Package prices for different activities range from $25-$80USD pax (often including lunch).
Did you know that Vietnam is the second largest coffee producer in the world behind Brazil? It is, and the Dalat area is home to the biggest coffee plantations in Vietnam. You can enjoy some fresh and delicious Vietnamese coffee while you gaze at some stunning Vietnamese scenery. Free entry for viewing. A basic cup of coffee is less than $1. Specialty coffee can be $3-$4 per cup. And you can buy large bags to bring home.
Top Places to Sleep in Dalat
SwissBel Resort – Dalat is a great place to splurge on a 5 star, mountain resort – at shockingly low prices. The SwissBel Resort is one of the newest and best resorts in Dalat’s countryside. It has all the luxurious amenities and spectacular views. For around $60-$70USD per night, you can indulge in lavish luxury that would be astronomically more expensive elsewhere.
Check out our review of the SwissBel Resort for one amazing example.
Crazy House Hotel – Dalat also has one of the most unique hotels in the world, The Crazy House mentioned above. The stay would be more for the novelty of the experience than for comfort or luxury, but what an experience. One night is enough. Then switch to a more comfortable hotel. Prices range from $20-$40USD.
Du Parc Hotel – The Du Parc Hotel Dalat is another great choice for high-end experiences at affordable prices. Du Parc was built in 1932 and has a classic art-deco style. Prices range from $40-$50USD.
Top Places to Eat in Dalat
Ba Hung – This restaurant serves a Dalat specialty called Nem Nuong. The dish is a fresh spring roll that you assemble yourself at the table. The restaurant is a local legend. Vietnamese visitors from other parts of the country flock to Ba Hung for this regional specialty. A big serving is only 40,000VND ($2USD). The address is: D51-D52 Khu Quy Hoach – Hoang Van Thu, Dalat
Nhat Ly – This is a good restaurant on Phan Dinh Phung street, but there are many restaurants on this street that have similar menus, quality, and prices. At Nhat Ly and the other restaurants nearby, a nice, typical meal will range from $5-$8USD. The address is: 88 Phan Dinh Phung, Dalat
Pho Hoa – Pho Hoa is another representative recommendation for a street with several nice and similar cafes. Le Dai Hanh Street is full of cafes with elevated terraces and nice city views. We like Pho Hoa, but most places on this street are similarly rewarding. An average meal is $5-$10 with drinks. The address is: 10 Le Dai Hanh Street, Dalat
Best Time to Visit Dalat
For most visitors, November – March is the best season to visit. It’s the dry season and you’ll be able to experience more of Dalat’s natural beauty. Early November is the prime time to visit. The rains are over, so you will stay dry. But the rains have just ended so the waterfalls, rivers, and lakes have plenty of water and the highlands are at their greenest and lushest. Avoid June – August, this is the rainiest time of year and you’ll miss out on much of Dalat’s magic. What good is the beautiful scenery if it’s covered in soggy, gray weather?
Getting In and Out of Dalat
The fastest and easiest way to get in or out of Dalat is via the new international airport. Domestic flights to and from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City are very cheap, often around $20-$25 USD. There are many ways to get from the airport to Dalat city.
Most hotels offer airport pickup and drop-off, although some charge a fee. There is also a regular shuttle bus service from the airport to the city center that is only 40,000VND ($2USD).
Buses are the most common way to get in or out of Dalat from other cities. These are nice, tourist buses with AC, sleeper chairs, and sometimes WIFI.
There are direct routes to and from Ho Chi Minh City (8hrs), Hue (15hrs), Nha Trang (4hrs), and other Vietnamese cities. The route from the beach city of Nha Trang is the most popular. This route costs around $12-$15USD. The three best companies are Mai Linh, Phuong Trang, and Sinh Café.
Budgeting for Dalat
This is a realistic, mid-range to high-end budget for people who flew across the world for a fun holiday. It’s NOT a rock bottom, spare-every-penny budget. You could visit Dalat for less, but you could also spend a lot more. This budget will let you experience the best of Dalat without scrimping too much or overspending.
Food and Drinks – $15-20 pax/day. Great food is very cheap in Vietnam. This is actually a high estimate for food and drinks. It includes indulgent meals, snacks, coffees, and cocktails. You could spend as little as $6 pax/day, if you stick to street food and cut out coffees and cocktails.
Accommodation – $20-$70/day for your group. Vietnam also has cheap hotels. For about $20, you could get a modest, but very nice, clean, and comfy hotel. For about $70, you could stay in a 4 or 5-star resort. There are also many great options in between.
Activities and Tours – $10-$80 pax/day. This one is tough to calculate on a daily basis. A day touring the city on your own can cost around $10 pax. A group tour of the countryside costs around $15 pax. A private tour of the countryside costs around $25-$30 pax. A day of adventure sports can cost $25-$80 pax.
3-day Expenses for a Couple – $250-$300 for 2 people over 3 days for an indulgent time including a nice hotel, big meals, cocktails, and few extras here and there. This couple’s budget also includes a DIY city tour, a full day private countryside tour, and one day of adventure sports.
Please note that we recommend a minimum of 2 full days in the Dalat area, with an emphasis on the countryside. It’s hard to enjoy in less time than this. Otherwise, skip Dalat and focus more time on other areas of Vietnam.
What interests you about the Dalat area? What would you like to see and do around Dalat?
DA LAT IS VERY AFFORDABLE!
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