Dalat, also Da Lat, located in the South Central Highlands of Vietnam, was originally the playground of the French who built villas in the clear mountain air to escape the heat and humidity of the coast and of Saigon, now know as Ho Chi Minh City.
Dalat: terrazzamenti agricoli e cimitero di guerra
Dalat's high altitude (1500-2000 m) and fertile landscape make it one of Vietnam's premier agricultural areas. In fact, in markets as far north as Hanoi, vegetable and flower vendors will tout their "made in Dalat" produce.
Most guidebooks describe Dalat as a cheesy town popular only as a local honeymoon destination with tacky sites. The good news about that description is that the town is not over-run with tourists like some other cities in Vietnam. The bad news is that the description is not entirely untrue. There are tacky sites in Dalat where local honeymooners go to get their pictures taken by photographers, but Dalat is surrounded by some of the best mountain biking, hiking and canyoning opportunities in Vietnam.
Most local and foreign travellers arrive in Dalat by bus, particularly on the famous Sinh Cafe Hanoi-HCMC bus route. From Nha Trang, the bus ride is about 5 hours, with the obligatory stop at a dilapidated Chaam temple/tourist site. From Ho Chi Minh City, the bus ride is also about 5 hours.
Depending on where you stay, you can walk to most parts around town. You can catch a Xe Om (motorbike taxi) from most corners, so if you're going somewhere farther out of town, you have a fast way to get there.
Ho Xuan Huong aka Xuan Huong lake, center of town. Open daily, all hours. No admission fee but rental fees vary if you want to boat. Approximately 5km in diameter, this lake was made after two dams on the Camly river were destroyed during a storm in the 1930s. Now, Xuan Huong lake is one of the main draws of Da Lat, and you can see honeymooners and locals strolling its banks. Many nice hotels have a view of the lake.
Thung Lung Tinh Yeu aka Valley of Love, Phu Duong Thien Vong street. Open daily until 5PM. Admission fee under USD1. About 5km outside of town, the Valley of Love is common stop on Dalat tours and is very popular with honeymooners. The Valley of Love is also a great spot for canyoning. See contact info below for canyoning operators.
Lake of Sorrow or Lake of Sighs, 5km northeast of town on Ho Xuan Huong road. Admission fee under USD1. The Lake of Sorrow is another common destination in Dalat. The Lake of Sorrow is so-named because of a tale of two lovers, one who committed suicide after the other was called up to serve in the army. The exact tale changes depending on the age and gender of the storyteller!
Tuyen Lam Lake, 5km south of town on highway 20. Its clean green waters flow from the beautiful Tia Spring and from the Da Tam River, which flows down from Voi mountain. Its waters stretch over an immense 350 hectares and because of its various sources, Tuyen Lam is known as the lake where rivers, springs and forests meet. The lake was built in the 80s. It is one of the largest and most beautiful lakes in town. The other side of the lake is the Voi mountain which is a good place for hiking.
Prenn Falls, At the foot of Prenn Pass, about 10km outside of town. Open daily until 5PM. Admission fee under USD1. A very common stop on a typical Dalat tour, Prenn Falls is quite beautiful but is a lot more fun when you're hiking it than just taking pictures of it.
Pongour Falls, 30km south of town on highway 20.
Let's go on an advanture tour with the students' guide! firstname.lastname@example.org
Easy Riders (a motorbike and driver/guide) is a great way for a non-motorcyclist to tour the central highlands, providing access to places you would otherwise never know about. They speak good English, are from local villages, seemingly know everyone, and will probably find you before you find them. You will know the driver is legit when you are presented with a book, full of praise from other excited tourists. From about USD20/person for an 8 hour tour, up to USD60/day for long distance multi-day trips, often including accommodation.
Outdoor Adventures, 32 Truong Cong Dinh , phone - 063-832221, fax - 063-510965, cell - 0918593311 mailto:email@example.com runs trips daily with extended trips outside Dalat also available. Combines American technology and safety methods with local knowledge of trails and communities to deliver an outstanding adventure experience. Hike the highlands, making your way across sketchy bridges, to meet hill tribes that barely experience foreigners. Or, canyon the Valley of Love and enjoy the stunned faces of honeymooners as you pass with climbing gear over your shoulder. And, best of all, bike through coffee farms to Bao Dai palace or to the Bamboo forest and enjoy stunning views of Da Lat's many lakes and rivers.
University of Dalat, 1 Phu Dong Thien Vuong Street. Students from the Hand-in-Hand Club are eager to serve as free guides.
There aren't a lot of handicrafts for purchase here in Da Lat.This is mostly because Dalat is not heavily touristed, so items on sale are for locals and Vietnamese honeymooners. However, Dalat is famous for its beautifully crafted silk embroidered pictures, which can be purchased at a massive mark up from the many galleries around Dalat or at a fraction of the price from the central Dalat market.
Dalat also has an abundance of fruit, vegetables and flows available for purchase if you plan to stay for a few days and want to liven up your hotel room or cook your own meals.
Central Market / Cho Dalat, center of town. Open daily until early evening. Given its breadbasket status, Dalat's Central Market place is the best place in town to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Near the entrance, there is a lively and always busy vegetable restaurant that serves excellent soups. A tiny vegetarian food stall is located in a corner of the second level.
Golf Course Pro Shop, open daily until about 8PM. If you are craving quesidillas and haven't had Mexican in the months you've backpacked through Asia, you will find what you're looking for at the Pro Shop. It's little bit out of the way, but the quesidillas, chips and guacamole are excellent. And, the beer is always cold.
Da Quy / Wild Sunflower Restaurant (49 Truong Cong Dinh) offers very high-quality French & Vietnamese cuisine at reasonable prices.
Peace Café next to Peace Hotel 1 offers some of the cheapest (and tastiest) eats in Dalat.
Sunshine Town" (Ap Anh Sang) has traditional food quite cheap in clean surroundings, right out the circle.
Au Lac, Bui Thi Xuan Street, offers good vegetarian food.
Larry's Bar, 12 Tran Phu (at the base of the Sofitel Dalat Palace Hotel). Open every night. The Sofitel Dalat Palace was championed by Larry Hillblom, who saved the palace from obscurity and demolition and who also happened to have lots of American dollars to spend as the founder of DHL. Larry's Bar pays homage to Larry's Brit background. Library-style with dark wood paneling, darts and lots of good beer and nuts available. Great place to relax after a day of biking or hiking.