Where the Vietnamese escape for a romantic getaway, in the central Where the Vietnamese escape for a romantic getaway, in the central highlands of Vietnam
Dalat is a small and lovely city in the southern part of the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Dalat has many names – City of a Thousand Pine Trees, City of Eternal Spring, Le Petit Paris Vietnam – all are dedicated to its fascinating beauty of nature, people and architecture.
I had chance to see Dalat both in dry and rainy seasons. Each season brings a distinguished beauty, and like many other Vietnamese people, I found my own way to enjoy Dalat. To feel the real Dalat and its romance, you can’t be rushed or hurried – I simply took a pleasant walk through quiet streets, enjoyed elegant European architecture of villas decorated with flowers on balconies, at the gate, hung up on fences – colorful flowers are everywhere. At the end of the walk, I stopped at an authentic coffee shop nestled in a quiet alley, ordered a Vietnamese coffee, hid myself in a corner and listened to countryside music and jazz. Dalat is home to Arabica and Robusta coffee in Vietnam. We make coffee in our own way! Coffee powder is put in a cup, pressured softly, covered by a filter, pour hot water on top and now just wait…one by one, drops of coffee drop to a glass under the cup. Mix coffee liquid with condensed milk, add some ice cubes and enjoy!
After sunset and the air was colder (maybe cold for me and just cool for you), I walked to Dalat’s night market to eat grilled street food and drank hot soya milk (you can drink Vietnamese rice wine or vodka instead!) and walked back to my comfortable bed at nearly midnight. I felt completely safe when I walked between the sleeping streets.
On a sunny day, I rode a motorbike through Dalat’s countryside, on twisting roads and between huge yellow carpets of marigold blossoms, passed by quiet flower fields and immense pinehills. I took in the amazing natural beauty of Dalat and its pure fresh air. Bring a picnic lunch and you can enjoy a relaxing meal on a secluded pinehill.
Located 1500m above sea level, Dalat features mild weather all year round. The average temperature is 14 degree Celsius. Dalat has two seasons – dry and rainy season. Dry season is November to April with the temperature up to 31 degrees Celsius and rainy season is May to October with the temperature, sometimes, down to zero Celsius. Mist covers the city’s valleys and lakes every morning that makes the city misty and more beautiful.
------Henry Nguyễn ------
Dalat is a popular travel destination for local people. We come to Dalat, mostly for its mild weather, ancient European architecture and beauty of nature. To visit Dalat’s highlights will take you a day. The must-see places are Bao Dai Summer Palace – the place for the last king of Vietnam, Bao Dai, and his family to stay when they came to Dalat for work, holiday or hunting.
It was designed by a French architect, located on a top of a hill, in a beautifuly manicured flower garden. Hang Nga Crazy House – the house and a wholelife artwork of a Vietnamese architect. The house is uncoventional and requires good imagination visitors. In my imagination, the house is a treelife with heaven, earth and hell layers. The house recently turned to a guesthouse with some rooms nestled between branches of the tree. It brings travelers a new experience, but rooms and facilities are not really at a high quality and comfortable! Truc Lam Zen Monastery – located on a top of a hill looking over picturesque Tuyen Lam Lake. It’s where monks and nuns practice Buddhism and meditation. Liang Biang Mountiain – located on Lang Biang Plateu, 2169m above sea level, 12km Dalat city centre. The journey to the mountain will pass by secluded pinehills, crystal blue lakes.
At the foot of the mountain, is Lat village of Lach hill tribe people. Lach is one of the native minority people in this area before French colonials came and turned Dalat a resort city in the early 1990s. This village is small and not very commercial, but you can take a short visit to their show room of precious Gong collections. Take a jeep to the top of mountain, and this peak, you can admire a great panoramic view of Dalat city, its lakes and green pinehills stretching non-stop behind. Back to the city center, you can see Dalat market - where various agricultural products are sold - and a Dalat flower garden.
If you stay two nights in Dalat, you can explore more interesting places such as Dalat Railway Station -- designed in 1932 by French architects, opened in 1938 and then abondoned during the later years of the American-Vietnam war, Linh Phuoc Pagoda – a unique and mosaic architecture made broken pieces of colorful glass beer bottles, The Domaine de Marie – part of the Romance Catholic Diocese of Dalat, built in 1940 in French & Vietnamese style of architecture, and Dalat’s numerous majestic waterfalls including Datanla waterfall, Prenn waterfalls, Dambri waterfall, Elephant Waterfall etc.
Dalat, you can proceed farther to the Centre Highlands of Vietnam to visit Buon Ma Thuot, Pleiku and Kontum, wellknown for majestic waterfalls, misty jungles, and especially local hill tribes with their authentic and typical traditions. The Central Highlands are also the land of Vietnamese coffee and many other industrial crops.
If you want to have a beach relaxation, take a bus (or private car) to Nha Trang, or Phan Thiet. You can also take a 45 minute flight or 7 hours drive Dalat to Ho Chi Minh City.
Dalat offers many interesting activities for families. You can take a 2.3km cable car Robin Hill to Tuyen Lam Lake with amazing scenery, then walk to Fairy Rock Site for a half hour of riding elephants. There are only two elephants in Dalat, so this activity is only suitable for a family with max. 5 – 6 members.
Biking to Dalat’s countryside, easy trekking with camping by the lakeside or canyoning, rafting at a waterfall and on its streams also attract many families. Those activities are like outdoor study activities that help to bring all family members closer to each other. Canyoning and rafting are designed with different levels to make sure they’re suitable for your kids and for their safety.
Datanla waterfall has many family activities including the water tray, sliding car, or go down the waterfall itself for older children.
The best hotel in Dalat is Dalat Palace, a luxury 5 hotel. I found some similarities between this hotel and Sofitel Metropole Hanoi. Built in 1922 on a pinehill overlooking Xuan Huong lake in the heart of Dalat city, the hotel offers charming French colonial architecture, well-appointed rooms in Art Deco style and exclusive amenities. Its superior room is quite simple in decoration, a little worn and small for honeymooners. If you have a high budget, my suggestion is luxury or luxury balcony room. Those room types are at 44m2 (475 sq ft) (plus a terrace at 15m2 for luxury balcony room) with elegant combination of dark wood floors, large window with city or lake view and other amenities in white color. This decoration makes the room brighter and more spacious.
Ana Mandara Dalat Resort is also a luxury 5 choice for honeymooners. The resort is the combination of 17 villas located on different pinehills, a spacious and authentically decorated spa center connecting with a large swimming pool and an open setting lobby. The resort was designed in style of a spa oasis for pure relaxation and treatment. Rooms are spacious with many big windows that allow free flow of natural sunlight.
Dalat is the hot destination of local honeymooners. I can’t promise it’s also good for every foreign taste, but let us know what you are looking for, and we will suggest if Dalat is right for you, or another destination you may enjoy more. In Dalat, couples can drive an old Citroen car around the town, visit romantic lakes, pass by colorful flower fields and green pinehills, take a picnic lunch by a lakeside under shadow of pine trees, surrounded by nice and peaceful atmosphere, or candle light romantic dinners on the hill can be arranged by the above luxury hotels to many foreign honeymooners!
The Dalat plateau and its evergreen forests were identified by BirdLife International as one of the five endemic bird areas in Vietnam. According to report of Jonathan Eames – Birdlife International Vietnam - the natural vegetation of the Da Lat Plateau has been classified as Pine Forest, Tropical Montane Evergreen Forest, and Lowland Semi-Evergreen Forest. It’s home to 212 bird species of which 11 are considered globally threatened. Eight restricted range species were recorded, including the four species which are endemic to the Da Lat Plateau. Bird watchers come to Dalat to look for Collared Laughingthrush, Black-hooded Laughingthrush, Grey-crowned Crocias, Yellow-billed Nuthatch, Vietnamese Greenfinch…endemic birds to Vietnam.
Dalat is 200km, or 4 hours drive, Cat Tien National Park in Dong Nai Province, is known for various wildlife activities: biking on grass lowlands, rowing a sampan on crocodile lake, early morning gibbon tours, or night jeep safaris. You can spend 1, 2 or even 3 nights in the serene park relaxing and trekking for wildlife. You can spend overnight at the park’s guesthouse, at a ranger’s station by Crocodile lake or upgrade yourself to more comfortable and luxurious Forest Floor Lodge.
With the same distance (200km) but up to the Northwest of Dalat, you will reach Buon Ma Thuot, Pleiku, Kon Tum in the Centre Highlights of Vietnam, home to 6 National Parks including Yok Don, Chu Yang Sin in Dak Lak), Chu Mom Ray (Kon Tum), Kon Ka Kinh; Bidoup – Nui Ba (Lam Dong); Ngoc Linh Nature Reserve Area (Kon Tum). Those parks are renowned for majestic waterfalls and stream system as well as many endangered endemic birds such as the black-hooded laughingthrush, the short-tailed scimitar babbler, the chestnut-eared laughingthrush, and threatened primates of Vietnam such as the grey-shanked douc langur, the yellow-cheeked gibbon, and especially the newly discovered species of Truong Son muntjac or Annamite muntjac. To explore the wildlife and highlights of this area, it will take you 5 days at least.
Dalat provides most adventure activities that you can expect: mountain bike, motorbike ride, easy to hard trekking with camping in pine forest or by lakeside, canyoning, kayaking, and white water rafting.
Dalat is 1,500 m (4,900 ft) above sea level and surrounded by the Da Dang and Krong Kno rivers in the north, Bi Dup mountain, Kanan mountain, Yang Kuet mountain in the east, Yam, Marong, Dronang mountains in the south and Dong Nai river in the west. This spectacular geography creates numerous waterfalls in Dalat and the biggest include Dambri, Dalanta, Bao Dai, Bo Bla, Tiger, Elephant, Pongour, and Prenn. These are ideal places to arrange adventure water sports. Challenge yourself with a half or full day of canyoning or white water rafting. Those activities are set up at different grades, comprised of hiking, rappelling, tyrolean traverse, water sliding and swimming.
Mountain biking is especially recommended in Dalat. You can try a half day moderate ride or a full day difficult ride. All go over a series of rolling hills and dirt roads, head to off-beaten trails, ride through fantastic scenery of waterfalls, rivers, primitive pine forest and broad-leaved forest.
Trekking seems the best way to explore the amazing beauty of Dalat and study about fauna and flora patterns in different altitude. You will hike through vegetable farms, pristine lakes, secluded pine forest and jungles. Shower under silver cascades of waterfall or paddle kayak, stir up the surface of a quiet lake, search for macaques or endemic birds – those are all activities coming along with trekking in Dalat. Sounds pretty nice, doesn’t it!
Just check which activities you prefer and plan a suitable length of stay in Dalat to enjoy them completely.
Street food in Dalat is various, delicious and surprisingly cheap. If you want to eat like a local, come to Dalat’s night market, sit on a low plastic stool and eat grilled seafood, grilled pork sticks or grilled roll of rice paper (rice paper topped by egg, bean sprouts, meat and shrimp), hot soya milk or beef, chicken noodle. Beef hotpot, claypot chicken or pork rice, artichoke soup with pork legs etc are also famous in Dalat.
It is these simple, local experiences that our clients have told us are their most memorable.
Besides street food, Dalat also has many good restaurants with typical decoration. You can choose a restaurant nestled in a quiet street or one located right by the side of Xuan Huong lake with nice lake view for normal dining or a special anniversary.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Dalat was discovered and built up by French colonials in Vietnam in early 1990s. The city, therefore, was affected by ancient European architecture. Dalat is compared with small towns in Europe. If you expect something pure Vietnamese, Dalat is not the place.