Dalat Vietnam – How to Spend 3 Glorious Days
We love Dalat Vietnam. We offer this itinerary to show how fun, interesting, and beautiful Dalat can be – if you have a good plan.
Our purpose for this itinerary is to balance out some misunderstandings (and bad reviews) we’ve found online and in travel literature. Type “is Dalat” in a search engine, and the auto-complete is “worth visiting?” Many say no, but we think it is.
Admittedly Dalat Vietnam is NOT the easiest place to visit. It requires more research and planning than normal and a combination of independent travel and tours.
If you try to do it all independently, it will be too hard, and you’ll miss some of the best things.
If you just take cookie-cutter tours, you’ll have to suffer through some mediocre tourist traps and be subjected to larger groups than necessary.
With a good itinerary, you can customize an experience that’s right for you. You’ll get the best of Dalat Vietnam and still have an affordable visit.
Resources to Customize Your Itinerary for Dalat Vietnam
Below is only one suggested itinerary. You can find more information in our Dalat Travel Guide and in the embedded links below to customize for yourself.
Getting to Dalat (Day 1) – You’ll take an early flight and arrive in Dalat by 7:30 AM. In the past, a 4+ hour bus ride from Nha Trang city was the best way into Dalat. Today, there are several daily flights from major cities in Vietnam. These are fast flights and typically cost around $20USD.
The shuttle from the airport to city center is only 40,000VND ($2USD). Check in early at your hotel or just drop off your bags and check-in later. Then you’re ready to explore Dalat.
Day 1 – Sky Gondolas, Mountaintop Monastery, Vintage Train Ride and More
Today you’ll amaze yourself with an independent tour of Dalat Vietnam. Since Day 1 is a DIY tour, we included more detailed instructions than for the other days.
The activities and attractions are accessible on foot or by a short (and cheap) taxi ride. The focus is “Only in Dalat.” Today’s plan includes unique experiences that combine scenic natural beauty with the history and culture of Dalat.
You’ll visit some great sites, AND you’ll get there in some fun, cool, and extraordinary ways.
Sky Gondola Ride From Robin Hill to Truc Lam Zen Monastery
You’ll begin the day with an uber-cool, mountaintop experience at Vietnam’s largest Zen monastery. The trip there is one of the coolest parts. You’ll take a sky gondola from one mountaintop to another. The views are spectacular!
The cable car station is atop Robin Hill. A taxi ride from the city center to Robin Hill should be about $3USD. The Sky Gondola ride spans 1.6 miles (2.6km) from Robin Hill to Phoenix Mountain, the location of Truc Lam Zen Monastery.
A round-trip ticket costs 70,000VND ($3.5USD). The Sky Gondola ride lasts for about 20 minutes. You’ll see some beautiful highland landscapes and arrive at the front gate to Truc Lam Zen Monastery.
Truc Lam Zen Monastery – Scenic and Serene
After arriving in style, spend the next hour or two exploring Truc Lam Zen monastery. Truc Lam is the largest Zen monastery in Vietnam and has one of the most scenic locations. This gorgeous monastery is home to several beautiful temples, gardens, and quarters for the hundreds of monks who live here.
Truc Lam also has sprawling grounds with paths through pine-covered forests. Visiting the Truc Lam monastery is an experience of cultural and natural serenity.
Enjoy a DIY picnic lunch on the idyllic monastery grounds. There are a million spots with gorgeous surroundings, stunning views, and pine-scented air. As long as you clean up after yourself, the monks welcome this practice. Picnicking is actually very common for the local Vietnamese families who visit, so you’ll fit right in.
There are a number of food/drink vendors outside the main gate. We recommend getting the classic Vietnamese sandwich called the “Banh Mi.” It’s surprisingly delicious, cheap, and an easy picnic food.
When you’re ready to go, just hop back on the Sky Gondola back to Robin Hill for another fun, scenic ride. It runs constantly, almost like a ski lift.
Visit Crazy House – The Most Unique Building in Vietnam
From Robin Hill, take another short taxi ride to the Crazy House ($3USD). Dalat is known as the most whimsical city in Vietnam. And the Crazy House is the most whimsical attraction in Dalat. It is also the most famous Vietnamese work of art in the world, and a must see when in Dalat.
It’s an actual building (and even a working hotel), but it looks like a Dr. Seuss story come to life. Entrance is 40,000VND ($2USD). Spend 30-60 minutes exploring the wacky themed rooms, rooftop walkways, and bizarre garden. Then grab a taxi to the Dalat Railway Station ($4USD).
Dalat Train Station – More Than Sightseeing
The Old Train Station is a prime example of Dalat’s French architecture, but it’s more than a sightseeing attraction. You can ride a vintage train through Dalat’s beautiful countryside! The Old Train Station is cool to see but only requires a quick visit to appreciate.
The real gem is the scenic train ride to Trai Mat village. Trai Mat village is home to Linh Phuoc Pagoda, one of the most unique in Vietnam. The leisurely ride covers 4.5 miles (7km) and takes about 25 minutes. There are 5 trips per day, but on this itinerary, arrive around 1:30 PM for the 2:00 PM train.
Get your round-trip ticket for 150,000VND ($7USD). You’ll usually have an hour or so, but it can change slightly from day to day. Be sure to check with the train staff for the return time.
Linh Phuoc Pagoda – Grandiose and Gaudy
Linh Phuoc Pagoda is the wacky alter ego of Truc Lam Zen Monastery. The Pagoda is a short walk from the train station and easy to find. Truc Lam is beautiful in a serene and elegant way. Linh Phuoc is also beautiful but in a grandiose and eclectic way. It’s great to experience both sides of Vietnam’s Buddhist culture.
Linh Phuoc Pagoda blends wonderful and wacky elements into a truly Vietnamese, cultural experience. Some parts Linh Phuoc will amaze and inspire. Others will make you cringe or chuckle. Visiting Linh Phuoc is experiencing the “real Vietnam,” with its trademark contradictions.
They have a Glass Dragon made of 12,000 beer bottles. A lady Buddha made from 650,000 flowers. And the largest bell in Vietnam. Entry is free.
Then take the train back to Dalat’s Old Station.
Carriage Ride and Sunset Cocktails by the Lake
You’ll spend the late afternoon and early evening by the lake. Enjoy the views, have a few cocktails, take a horse carriage, or hop on a paddleboat.
From the Old Train Station, take a short walk to Dalat Vietnam’s main lake, Ho Xuan Huong Lake. It’s only 820 yards (750m) west of the train station. If you prefer to take a taxi, it will be a very cheap ride.
Ask the driver to take you to “Cong Vien Yersen,” which means Yersen park.
Continue walking southwest along the lake, toward the city center. The lake is very pretty, and Dalat Vietnam’s cool climate makes for pleasurable walks. You’ll easily find everything you need for a fun sunset by the lake.
The bars and restaurants along the lake are overpriced for Vietnam, but still much cheaper than most Western countries. And the view is worth the surcharge.
Dalat Vietnam Food Tour
Cap off the evening with a yummy food tour of Dalat. You’ll indulge in a mix of Vietnamese classics and local specialties. WsTF Dalat Street Food Tour is the best option.
The tour is amazingly affordable for all you get. It’s $20USD for singles or $15USD per person for a group of 2. It’s run by Binh. He’s a Dalat native, foodie, and all around good guy.
It’s a small operation. The best way to book is through the “Dalat Food Tour” facebook page. Arranging a meeting point is easy. You’ll be very close to the city center. Tours typically begin around 7:00 PM and last about 3 hours, or so.
After the Food Tour, grab a few drinks or head back to your hotel. Tomorrow, you’ll be chasing Dalat’s famous waterfalls.
Day 2 – Chasing Waterfalls in the Countryside
We recommend hiring a private driver to explore Dalat’s countryside. Many will approach you while you’re in Dalat city, or you can book one online. They’re several group tours available that will visit some of the same sites included in our itinerary, but you’ll probably want to avoid these.
Easy Riders is a back-of-a-motorcycle tour and often costs around $20USD pax. Dalat Trip is car or SUV tour and often costs around $30 pax. These prices include a driver (who is also a guide), fuel, and all entrance fees.
We designed this itinerary to diverge from the typical group tour schedule. It’s not perfect, but you’ll have to share the experiences with the least people possible. You can direct your driver to follow this itinerary or work out one yourself.
The important thing is to let the driver know that you want to avoid crowds. Otherwise, they will usually fall into the same pattern as a bus tour. If that happens, why even bother with a private tour?
Dalat Coffee Plantation – The Caffeinated Countryside
Visiting a Dalat coffee plantation is a great combination of natural beauty, agro-tourism, and delicious cups of the freshest coffee possible. Vietnam is the second largest coffee producer in the world. Brazil is number 1, but Vietnam grows more coffee than Columbia!
And “coffee culture” has been a huge part Vietnamese culture for a long time. Enjoy walking through the gorgeous fields of the Dalat Coffee Plantation. Then go up to Me Linh Coffee Garden for some special Vietnamese coffee and fantastic views.
Elephant Waterfall – Feel the Rush
Elephant Waterfall is the most powerful around Dalat Vietnam. The roar of the falls is both thunderous and soothing. Elephant Waterfall is also interactive.
To reach ground level, you must take a fun, winding path down a cliff. You can even follow this path all the way down to the Wind Cave and get right under the falls.
Huge Happy Buddha – The Biggest Smile in Dalat
Almost 50 feet tall, the giant Happy Buddha is one of the most iconic landmarks of Dalat. This towering Happy Buddha is sure to lift your spirits and put a smile your face. He lives at Linh An Pagoda, a beautiful temple to explore.
Silk Factory – From Wiggly Worm to Sensuous Silk
The Cuong Hoan Traditional Silk Factory is only 450 yards away. You can see some of Vietnam’s world-famous silk being made, from worms to finished product. To be honest, this one wouldn’t be worth visiting on its own, but since you’ll be next door, it’s worth a quick visit.
During your trip through Vietnam, you’ll definitely appreciate the traditional Vietnamese clothes and other fine silk products. This silk factory visit will add some context.
And seeing the actual worms get unraveled into fine silk threads is pretty cool and interesting. Silk starts out as an ugly worm and gets transformed into elegant beauty.
Datanla Waterfall – The Funnest Waterfall
Datanla Waterfall is the funnest waterfall around. It’s beautiful and powerful, but it is not serene like Elephant Waterfall. And that’s the charm of Datanla. It’s home to many of adventure sports tours, that have you rappel down the falls or jump off boulders.
Datanla Falls also has a small cable car ride, an archery range, many kitschy statues, and a manual roller coaster. This visit combines natural beauty and touristy fun. It’s a nice way to end a Dalat countryside tour before returning to the city center for dinner.
Avoid Time Wasters
There are a few other typical stops that even your private driver may recommend. For us, these were just time wasters. Spend more time enjoying the main attractions like the waterfalls and skip the mediocre stuff.
One example was a visit to various farms, especially “Flower Village.” The name sounds fantastic, but the reality is just meh. Yes, there is a whole village that grows millions of gorgeous flowers. But all of these are in greenhouses.
We pictured vast fields of flowers, covering the rolling hills for stunning views. Nope. Pretty flowers, but no views. For us, a greenhouse is a greenhouse. Same thing is true of most of the farms around except the coffee plantation.
Dinner in Dalat Vietnam
Choosing a spot for dinner will be easy after your food tour last night. No doubt, you’ll have some dishes or restaurants that you’ll want to try again. Or you’ll have recommendations from the tour about new places to try.
In our opinion, a sure bet is Le Chalet Dalat restaurant. They are one of the most loved eateries in Dalat. Surprisingly (based on the name), they serve Vietnamese classics and not French cuisine. The food is authentic, delicious, and reasonably priced.
It’s across from the Crazy House, so the location should be familiar.
Le Chalet Dalat
4 Huynh Thuc Khang,
Day 3 – Outdoorsy Fun on Tuyen Lam Lake
Today’s focus is sporty fun in Dalat’s beautiful surroundings. Tuyen Lam Lake is sprawling, picturesque, and very entertaining.
Begin the day hiking the trails surrounding the lake. There are a number of trails for different fitness levels.
Then spend a couple hours kayaking through the winding waterways of Tuyen Lam Lake. This lake is not circular at all. Its shape resembles a craggy, bird claw from an aerial view. This makes the lake all the more interesting to explore.
On one hand, it’s a lake, so you can’t get lost. On the other, the radical contours of the lake seem like exploring many different hidden waterways.
A DIY visit to Tuyen Lam Lake is very possible. The lake is a short taxi ride from the city center. Nice hikes and gorgeous scenery are everywhere you go. And there are various boat rental places along the lake. But booking a tour is probably the best option.
Hiking and Kayaking Tours
Hiking and kayaking tours are inexpensive and include transportation, lunch, and guides to show you all the best hiking and kayaking spots. Many reputable companies offer these tours, so shop around.
Phat Tire Ventures is Dalat’s leading company for these kinds of tours. They are a bit more expensive but they have a strong safety record and highly trained guides. Their tour is about $40USD pax.
It includes all things stated above as well as drinking water and snacks. The tour begins at 9:00 AM and drops you off at your hotel around 3:00 PM.
This is just one example of the outdoor adventures available around Dalat. Other great ones are climbing Langbiang mountain, jungle trekking, white water rafting, or canyoning.
Goodbye Dalat Vietnam
Take an evening flight to your next destination in Vietnam. There are daily flights to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City around 7:30 PM. You would have had to make some arrangements with your hotel for this to work. Check out in the morning and leave your bags at the hotel.
Just about any hotel will secure your bags when you have a late departure. And many will let you shower in an empty room (or the gym) – even after you’ve checked out. Pick a hotel that allows this. You’ll need it after a day of hiking and kayaking. Then grab a shuttle to the airport and you’re off. Goodbye Dalat.
This is just a suggested itinerary. It hits some of Dalat’s best experiences and attractions (and fits them into a schedule that works). But many options and combinations are possible.
For more information and tips, check out our Dalat Travel Guide and other posts about Dalat Vietnam.
How do you like to travel? Are you a detailed planner or a spontaneous pantser?
DA LAT IS VERY AFFORDABLE!
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