One of my favorite spots in Vietnam, Dalat is a fantastic place to chill out both metaphorically and literally. Set 1500 meters above sea level in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, Dalat benefits from a temperate climate with the cool mountain air a refreshing break from the stifling heat of Hoh Chi Minh city.
The city encompasses a man made lake, with small streets, concrete buildings and red tile roofs, looking out over the city you wouldn’t be too far off mistaking it for a ski resort without the snow. Interestingly enough during the Vietnamese war both the Americans and Vietnamese refrained from bombing the city, so much of the city is exactly as it was half a century or more ago. It also means it hasn’t gone through the modern revival that other parts of Vietnam have had.
People come to Dalat for the mountain air, beautiful scenery and breathtaking waterfalls. Easiest explored on two wheels, you’ll be able to drive the country roads breathing in the fresh pine scented air while breathing in the picturesque scenery. If you already have a motorbike and are driving through Vietnam then this is a perfect two day stop over as you enter into the central highlands; and if you’ve arrived by bus you can easily rent a motorbike for the day.
Where to Stay
There’s a host of cheap accommodation in Dalat but I’d highly recommend Dalat Backpackers Hostel. The place is run by Mr. Vu, an incredibly friendly, helpful and generous guy, he may be a bit frosty to begin with but he warms up! A dorm bed is 100,000 VND, private rooms are 250,000 VND: both include breakfast, quite often dinner and free beers every evening. Location is perfect, with a great roof top view and anything you need Mr. Vu can organize for you! Staying here made Dalat all the more memorable!
Other hostels to look out for that I’ve heard good things about are Cozy Nook and Tiny Tigers Hostel.
Where to Eat
Dalat is a coffee drinkers paradise. Vietnam has become the world’s second largest coffee producer and Dalat has some of the best places for a good cup of Joe. Whether you want a trendy cafe or to sit on the street with the locals drinking freshly brewed coffee you can find everything here. The coffee is rich, chocolatey and sweetened with condensed milk which makes it absolutely delicious.
At night there is a pretty sizeable market within a few minutes walk from the lake where you can find all manner of tasty treats. Dalat is particularly well known for Banh Trang Nuong, (Vietnamese pizza) which local vendors will grill over hot coals and put an assortment of toppings on for 10,000 VND; it’s an incredibly cheap and tasty snack. It’s easy to find local restaurants where a main dish will be 20,000 – 40,000 VND, the cheaper places generally have small red or blue plastic stools and will cook right in front of you. The pricier restaurants tend to have A/C and look like a western restaurant, if you are on a tight budget head for the cheaper eats and make sure to pick one where the locals are already eating there, a sure sign that the food is good!
Things to Do
Datanla Waterfall – Personally my favorite of the waterfalls in Dalat, not necessarily because the waterfall is that much more impressive but because you can take a self controlled alpine roller coaster to the bottom which you control the speed for. Entrance for the falls is 30,000 VND and to ride the alpine coaster is another 50,000 VND
Pongour Waterfall – This is the most impressive waterfall near Dalat. Due to the distance not as many tourists venture here and it’s free from all the terrible touristy stalls you get at a lot of attractions across SE Asia. The falls are made up of natural rock ledges meaning walking amongst the falls is possible or just admire from afar. Entrance fee is 10,000 VND.
Crazy House- This place lives up to its name. Constructed between 1990 to 2010 this house is mental, it’s like walking into Alice in Wonderland crossed with Salvador Dali. You can freely explore the house which was designed with nature in mind, the walls melt, pillars grow like tree roots and there’s a natural feel to the place. Entrance fee is 40,000 VND.
Easy Rider Tours – If you haven’t bought a motorbike or don’t have experience riding one this is a great way to experience Vietnam by motorbike. You can ride shotgun with an experienced rider and watch the world go by, or ride on your own motorbike. You can do one day tours out of Dalat taking in the countryside for $25 or multi-day tours to other cities such as Hoi An for around $70 a day.
Canyoning- With Dalat being in the mountains it affords a lot of opportunity to do some extreme activities. Navigating your way down canyons, abseiling down waterfalls, swimming, jumping and ziplining are what makes up canyoning. Day trips aren’t cheap at around $30 and from what I saw the groups are large so you spend a lot of time waiting around to take your turn ziplining. If you’re looking for something a bit more extreme then this is an ideal activity for you.