Translated as “stream of the Lat people”, Dà Lat is a city in Southern Vietnam about 6.5 hours away from Ho Chi Minh City. Located at an altitude of 1,500 m (4,921 ft) about sea level, mist frequently covers the valley throughout the year.
Dà Lat, a popular stop for motorbike riders and the capital city of Lam Dong Province, has a climate is filled with wintertime marigolds and cherry blossoms. The abundance of pine forests has earned Dà Lat the nickname of “City of Thousand Pine Trees”. Though, another nickname, “City of Eternal Springs” is sometimes used because of Dà Lat’s scenic display of orchids and roses.
Close to nature, the city has become a tourist destination where travelers can marvel at the area’s rich floriculture. Ideal for weekend retreats, Dà Lat is the gateway for those that want to experience life in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
Provincial Capital in Central Vietnam
Dà Lat is in a scenic area of Central Vietnam and the city is renowned for its hills, lakes, pine forests, and waterfalls. The heart of the city is centered around a golf course and lake, which have become focal points for tourists. With elevated views of the valley, Dà Lat has been a holiday destination since the days of French colonialism.
Cau Dat, Da Lat. Photo: Minh Quân Trần
While Dà Lat is officially a part of Vietnam’s Central Region, the city sits further south, which makes it accessible from Ho Chi Minh City. Transportation options between Ho Chi Minh City and Dà Lat include private cars, public buses, trains, and planes. Travelers who take a car or bus should expect to be on the road for about 6.5 – 9 hours.
The vast differences in times would be down to how frequently a bus has to stop for other travelers and the local traffic. Trains take about the same time. The fastest way to get to Dà Lat is by plane and it takes about 1 hour.
Since the 1890s, when French explorers came to the area, Dà Lat has been a hub for tourist activity. French colonialists living in the lower coastal areas often traveled to Dà Lat to get a break from the high temperatures. By the late 1890s, the development of Dà Lat has continually expanded. The first hotel was built in 1907 and by 1925, the city had become a decent-sized hill station.
During the Vietnam War, Dà Lat became the Federation of Indochina and later the national training grounds for the Vietnamese Scout Association. While the area mostly remained unscathed by battles, the city was affected by the Tet Offensive. A major clash between the US and South Vietnamese against the Viêt Công, the battle occurred in January of 1968.
View of the valley in Dà Lat, Vietnam. Photo by: manhhai.
By the end, the South Vietnamese regained control over the area including the city of Dà Lat. While Dà Lat has had its ups and downs, much of the city’s charm is because of the French architecture. Today, many of the original villas and boulevards from the days of French colonialism are stills standing and in use as structures have been converted to serve modern-day tourists.
- A regional favorite in Dà Lat is the avocado ice cream
- Dà Lat is the only city in Vietnam that is researching nuclear physics
- Dà Lat is visited by about 1.8 million local and foreign tourists each year
Nature-loving tourists will enjoy the picturesque scenery that Da Lat has to offer as well as the numerous nearby attractions. Aside from the landscapes and architecture of the city, the diversity of cultural life also draws the attention of travelers. Ethnic minority people in the outskirts of Da Lat host cultural festivals and are always worth a visit.
The Thien Phuc Duc Hill has often been called “dreamlike” because of its exceptional beauty. Situated above the city, the hill overlooks all of Dà Lat. Relatively unknown, most visitors head to Cu Hill and Park. Rather than sitting amongst the crowds, Thien Phuc Duc Hill gives travelers a quiet place where they can watch the sunset as the clouds roll through the valley.
Xuan Huong Lake
Xuan Huong Lake, Da Lat. Photo: manhhai
Surprisingly, the city’s biggest feature is not natural. The Xuan Huong Lake, which Dà Lat is built around, was constructed by the French during their colonization of the area. Banana-shaped, the lake was created in 1919 after the French decided to dam the river. Named after a 17th-century Vietnamese poet, Xuan Huong Lake is now a popular place to hike, picnic, and boat.
Nicknamed the “Roof of Dà Lat”, Langbiang Peak sits on the Lang Biang Plateau and it is one of the highest mountains in the area. With amazing views of the city, the peak has become a popular hiking destination, which takes about 4 hours. Additionally, the mountain has become a hotspot for nature lovers and campers who want to spend the night under the stars.
Read about more hiking in Da Lat.
Preserved within a local forested area and flowing over large basalt rock, Prenn Waterfall cascades down from a height of 30 feet (9 meters). Surrounded by temples, visitors can take an easy walk to see the falls and while they are in the area, visit the local zoo. You will have to pay a small entrance fee to visit because it has been incorporated into a greater eco-tourism complex.
Read about the other best waterfalls near Da Lat.
Valley of Love
Translated from the French “Vallêe d’Amour”, the Valley of Love is a unique hybrid of gardens and an attraction park. Love-themed statues and colorful garden beds create a romantic setting for park guests. The abundance of heart symbology has also made the Valley of Love a popular destination for honeymooning couples.
Crazy House. Photo: Du Tran
A landmark in Dà Lat, the Crazy House was designed by Dang Viêt Nga who was a Vietnamese architect. Often called the “fairy tale house”, the structure is reminiscent of a giant tree with various holes and knots. Elements of the design represent various forms of nature like mushrooms and spiders. Open to the public, tourists can spend the day or night inside the house.
Golden Stream Lake
To the north of Dà Lat, the Golden Stream Lake has become a popular spot for tourists who want to vacation away from the crowds. Also called Dan Kia, the lake is 10.5 miles (17 kilometers) to the north of Dà Lat. Visitors can take a tour of the valley and lake, as well as visit the nearby Ankroet Waterfall.
Read about the top things to do in Da Lat.
Read about the golf courses near Da Lat.
Hotels and lodging:
Dà Lat has an upscale atmosphere, but what most travelers don’t know is that the city is actually an affordable destination. While the best rated and more expensive hotels tend to be on the lakefront, there are a few affordable options not too far from the city center too.
Capital O 585. Photo: Capital O 585 Saigon’s Book Dalat Hotel
Capital O 585 Saigon Book Da Lat Hotel – The Capital O 585 Saigon Book Da Lat Hotel is located a short walk away from the city’s Flower Gardens. Popular amongst solo travelers, the hotel does have family rooms available. Amenities at the hotel include access to private parking, a shared lounge, garden, room service, and a 24-hour front desk.
Within walking distance to the city center and various attractions, the hotel is well-rated amongst foreign guests.
Carita Hotel – Similar to the Dalamoon Hotel, the Carita Hotel is a mix between a hotel and a hostel. Rooms are private, but guests are given access to a shared kitchen. The Carita Hotel has very high ratings and is one of the top picks on booking.com. Guests at this hotel are provided with room service, a 24-hour desk, tour booking arrangements, and free Wi-Fi.
Features of the hotel that are highly rated include the various landscape views and central location.
Dalamoon Hotel – One of the highest-rated hotels in the area, the Dalamoon Hotel also has extremely affordable prices, which makes it a top choice for backpackers. Designed like a hotel, but with features like a hostel, guests will have access to a shared kitchen. Furthermore, room and concierge services are offered for additional costs.
Shared amenities in the hotel include a bar, lounge, and terrace.
Khanh Uyen 1 Hotel – Situated in the heart of it all, the Khanh Uyen 1 Hotel is within walking distance to Lam Vien Square and the shores of Xuan Huong Lake. Rooms are affordable here and each comes with a TV, wardrobe, and hairdryer. Knowledgeable staff service guests in their language and the friendly atmosphere has been well-rated by traveling couples.
Khan Uyen room. Photo: Khánh Uyên 1 Hotel
One perk of the cooler mountain climate is that Dà Lat has fertile soil, and the city is surrounded by farms and wineries. For the restaurants, their menu is the time to show visitors what makes Dà Lat shine. Using fresh and locally sourced ingredients, food in Dà Lat is delicious and affordable.
Artist Alley Restaurant Da Lat – Owned by a local artist, the Artist Alley Restaurant Da Lat specializes in local and international cuisine. Popular dishes on the menu include avocado salads, chicken curry, and beefsteak. The restaurant can’t be missed as its bright colors stand out from the crowd. Covered in abstract art, the owner sometimes holds painting demonstrations on the second floor.
Le Rabelais at Dalat Palace Heritage Hotel – Located in one of the fanciest hotels in the city, the Le Rabelais offers a fine-dining menu with colonial-era décor. Situated to overlook the lake, the restaurant has a dress code for all of its patrons. Dishes that have become local favorites are the steamed lobster and oyster chowder.
L’angfarm in Da Lat. Photo: Langfarm
L’angfarm – Serving over 50 different types of food, L’angfarm is a store/restaurant in the Da Lat City Centre. A buffet provides guests with tasty treats like gelato, herbal tea, pizza, and cakes. If guests have particularly liked something on the menu, they can likely head to the store portion of L’angfarm to purchase some to take home as a souvenir.
One More Café – Located on Hai Ba Trung Street, the One More Café is the perfect spot for breakfast or lunch. Serving affordable Aussie-style treats, options on the menu include eggs benedict, smoked salmon, and a steak sandwich. The café is cozy with simple décor, and it offers free Wi-Fi to all patrons.
K’BE Wood Fired Pizza and BBQ – Owned by an ex-pat, the K’BE Wood Fired Pizza and BBQ gives holiday goers in Dà Lat a little taste of home. Pizzas here have that traditional smoky flavor because of the wood-fired oven and the BBC is packed with flavor. All ingredients served are sourced locally. Great for traveling families, service here is top-rated with waiters described as quick and friendly.
In addition to celebrations held during national holidays, Dà Lat hosts their acclaimed Flower Festival every other year. On display at the festival are local, regional, and international exhibitions of flowers, plants, and vegetables. A celebration of floriculture, the festival brings a surge of tourists to the city.
Night scene in Dà Lat, Vietnam. Photo by: John Gillespie.
Dà Lat is a compact city, but it is very hilly. With so many inclines, finding the right mode of transportation is important. Visitors are always encouraged to get out on foot and in Dà Lat, walking is best for visiting specific areas in the city. Walking around the city center is easy and doesn’t take up too much energy.
Transportation options around the city beyond walking include bicycle rentals, taxis, buses, and motorbikes. For active travelers, bicycles are a fast and inexpensive way to get around Dà Lat. With many roads closed to motor vehicles, bicycles will give tourists access to more parts of the city and surrounding hills.
Many hotels and shops offer daily rentals to tourists for an affordable price. Alternatively, taxis and buses also have affordable rates with numerous routes crisscrossing the city and lakeshore. If travelers feel comfortable driving themselves, they could also rent a car or motorbike.
Field of yellow flowers in Dà Lat, Vietnam. Photo by: Sergi Hill.
Vietnam is often thought of as being a fairly warm destination. For many parts of the country, temperatures do tend to stay warm and then get hotter as the seasons change. For some parts of Vietnam, the climate is somewhat of an enigma as colder weather is frequent throughout the year.
Dà Lat is one of the places in Vietnam where temperatures average about 20° less than the balmy tropical temperatures of the coast and south. Visitors will want to pack a few extra layers to ensure that they stay warm during their vacation. Tourism hits an all high in Dà Lat during the winter months.
With cool temperatures and budding flowers, most visitors traveling to Dà Lat will plan their vacations for the month of October, November, December, January, and February. However, as with any destination, there are spikes of tourists throughout the year. March and April are also somewhat popular as are the summer months when the reed flowers are in bloom.
Ho Xuan Huong Lake. Photo: Thai Ho
With picturesque mountain views and a cool climate, it’s easy to see why the French fell in love with Dà Lat. Now, nearly a century later, tourists are still flowing through this Highlands city. Visitors can relax at their charming hotel or get out and explore the area’s stunning natural features. Guaranteed to be unforgettable, Dà Lat is one destination that shouldn’t be skipped.
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Keyword: Da Lat, Vietnam