Da Lat Travel Guide
Da Lat, located on the Langbiang Plateau in the southern part of the Central Highlands region, is the capital city of Lam Dong Province. It was established as a hill resort in the early 20th century by French colonials who were attracted to its cool, spring-like weather, pine-covered hills, evergreen forests, waterfalls and lakes. Many reminders of the city’s colonial period can be found in myriad European style villas and building all around.
Situated on an altitude of 1,500m, the city is long well-known for pine forests with twisting roads and tree marigold (or Mexican sunflower), an unofficial symbol of Da Lat.
When to go
Da Lat boasts a year-round cool weather, leading it to be nicknamed “the City of Eternal Spring” with pleasantly warm temperatures during the day and quite cool at night. Thanks to its favorable weather, the city is a supplier of temperate produce for all over Vietnam, such as cabbage and cauliflower. The average temperature is 14 °C with the highest recorded temperature being 31.5 °C, and the lowest was -0.6 °C. Mist covers the adjoining valleys almost year-round. There are two distinct seasons here. The rainy season lasts from May to October, and the dry season is from November to April.
How to get there
Da Lat is served by Lien Khuong Airport, 30km south of the city. There are only domestic flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Flight time from Hanoi is 1h40 and 45 minutes from Ho Chi Minh.
Bus services are available in Da Lat. From Ho Chi Minh, Mui Ne or Nha Trang, you can book bus ticket to the city from bus companies such as Mai Linh and Phuong Trang, or from travel agents with open-tour bus.
The Valley of Love
The Valley of Love sits around 6km northeast of the city center and encom-passes Da Thien Lake. Gentle hills dotted with photo opportunities follow the path that leads down to the lake’s edge, lined with souvenir stalls. Hire a ca-noe, try horseback riding, or watch the locals taking photos of themselves on mushroom shaped benches.
Lang Biang Mountain
Also called Lam Vien Mountain, this spot has five volcanic peaks ranging in al-titude from 2100m to 2400m. Of the two highest peaks, the eastern one is known by the woman’s name K’Lang, while the western one bears a man’s name, K’Biang. Only the upper reaches of the mountain remain forested, whereas just half a century ago the foothills had lush foliage that sheltered many wild animals. The hike up to the top’s spectacular views takes three to four hours from the ticket booth. Lang Bian Mountain is about 13km north of Dalat. Follow Ð Xo Viet Nghe Tinh until you reach Tung Lam Hamlet. Continue straight on (northwest) rather than to the left. On bicycle it takes about 45 minutes. Adventure activities on offer here include paragliding.
Da Lat Flower Park
These gardens were established in 1966 and include hydrangeas, fuchsias and orchids, the latter in shaded buildings to the left of the entrance. Like any good Vietnamese park, the gardens have been embellished with topiary.
Bao Dai Palace
A faded art-deco-influenced villa, this was one of three palaces Bao Dai kept in Dalat. The building’s design is striking, though it’s in need of restoration and the once-modern interior shows it wear and age.
Xuan Huong Lake
Created by a dam in 1919, this banana-shaped lake was named after an anti-authoritarian 17th-century Vietnamese poet. The lake can be circumnavigated along a scenic 7km sealed path that passes the flower gardens, golf club and the Dalat Palace Hotel. Swan paddle boats are available for rent, which is a very popular pastime for visiting Vietnamese.
Tuyen Lam Lake & Truc Lam Temple
Tuyen Lam Lake, also known as Paradise Lake, is actually an artificial reservoir surrounded by green hills. Truc Lam Temple is a Zen Buddhist monastery located on the Phuong Hoang Hill near the Tuyen Lam Lake, about 6km from the city center. Built in 1994, it features a cast bronze bell, a pagoda and many Buddha images. Despite its popularity, the sprawling grounds and temple don’t feel crowded, and the views of the lake are wonderful. If you’d like a little spiritual re-charge, enquire about the sessions at the meditation center. Truc Lam temple can be accessed by cable car.
Da Lat Cathedral (Chicken Church)
The gingerbread-style Da Lat Cathedral was built between 1931 and 1942 for use of French residents and holiday-makers. The cross on the spire is topped by a weathercock, 47m above the ground. The church itself is rarely open outside of Mass times.
Da Lat Central Market
Right at the center of the city is the multi-storey building of Da Lat market. This is a great place to explore if you’re looking to find local products such as artichokes, dried fruits, vegetables, flower to clothing and souvenirs. At night, let’s come to enjoy many street foods selling here such as grilled chicken, grilled corn, and heated soymilk.
The fall is located about 45km south of Da Lat. Its cascades from a height of nearly 40m, spread over 100m in the rainy season via seven separate levels of terraced stones, that’s the reason why it is also known as seven-storey waterfall. Visitors can hear the echo of the water falling from a long way away. Pongour is surrounded by pristine forests covering 2.5ha with a diverse plant system. It is also the only fall that has a festival which takes place on the full moon of the first lunar month.
Food in Da Lat is all about fresh produce. Blessed with cool highland climate, many exotic kinds of fruits and vegetable can be grown here like strawberry, asparagus, artichoke, grapes, tea and coffee. A must try snack is baguette with strawberry jam. The best place to find a good variety of elegant restaurants and cafés is along Nguyen Chi Thanh Street and around Xuan Huong Lake, while street foods are best served at the night market.
Banh trang Da Lat
Also called Vietnamese pizza, the dish includes rice paper with a mixture of egg, chopped spring onions, dried baby prawns, spicy and sweet sauce barbecued over small charcoal braziers. Best to enjoy in the evening and the price is very reasonable at around 10,000 – 20,000 VND each.
Banh can is a mini pancake topped with quail egg, served with pork meatball and sweet fish sauce. Try some at 118 Bui Thi Xuan Street.
The famous Da Lat vegetables make it a great place for vegetarians.