Dalat, also Da Lat (Đà Lạt), 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 known as Ho Chi Minh City.
Dalat looks like a cross between Vietnam and the French Alps. Many of its hotels and houses are built in a European/ French style. The city spreads across a series of pine-covered hills, with a small lake in the center and surrounded by a man made lake and higher peaks, making for some lovely scenery quite different from the rest of Vietnam. Temperatures are pleasantly warm by day, and quite cool at night, down to perhaps 10 degrees Celcius.
Dalat is very much a niche tourism town, open to some of the more adventurous travelers, or the Indo chic romantics, seeking world class golf. There is a steady flow during some parts of the year of tourist from all walks of life and places, small hotels, cafe's lining its streets and plenty of small shops offering anything from orchids to knitwear. The vast majority of visitors are Vietnamese, although plenty of Americans and Europeans find their way, in their search for this utopian Dalat, a Life style resort destination, either on short package tours, or research and soul searching, drawn by the scenery, vivid blue skies, fresh air, flower-filled parks, and local culinary treats. Dalat is a favorite destination for company weekend outings, family get-aways, and honeymooners. Most guidebooks for overseas visitors describe Dalat as a tourist town with a colorful approach to tourism.
Dalat is a very pleasant stop, on a north-south tour, or viceversa. or a pleasant outing from the heat of Saigon. For overseas visitors, it offers mostly a chance to cool down, observe the Vietnamese at play, view a bit of the French legacy, the Indochine legend and its momentous glories and the architecture untouched by the Vietnam conflict left behind,a unique place to enjoy the atmosphere of a unique country and its people.
Dalat is also surrounded by some of the best mountain biking, hiking and canyoning opportunities in Vietnam, with hills of coffee and tea plantations, which evoke images of the colonial hill stations of the north of India.
Dalat's high altitude (1500-2000 m) and fertile landscape make it one of Vietnam's premier agricultural areas, producing varieties of fruits, vegetables, tea, coffee and flowers that don't grow in the lowlands. In markets as far north as Hanoi and Hai Phong, vegetable and flower vendors will tout their "made in Dalat" produce.
Most local and foreign travellers arrive in Dalat by bus, including those travelling on the famous Sinh Cafe Hanoi-HCMC open-tour bus. Mai Linh Express and Phuong Trang run several daily services to Dalat from Nha Trang and HCMC. From Nha Trang, the bus ride is about 5 hours, with the obligatory stop at a dilapidated Cham temple/tourist site. From Ho Chi Minh City, the bus ride is about 7 hours (9 hours if there is bad traffic leaving Saigon).
It may be best to book a ticket on a bus without a television. The entertainment offered could be loud and unappealing to western passengers, who might rather prefer sleeping before arriving at their next destination.
There are various travel agencies in the town that can book buses to all parts of the country.
Alternatively, catch a local bus at HCMC, Bien Hoa, Phan Rang, Nha Trang or Buon Ma Thuot.
The airport, is a mere 30 km south of the city linked by a modern and yet scenic two lane highway and offers daily Vietnam Airlines/Air Mekong flights to and from HCMC, Danang and Hanoi.
Dalat is being serviced by two airlines at this present time, being Vietnam Airlines and Air Mekong, a new private carrier with additional flights from and to Hanoi, Saigon and other destinations. Checking the timetables and prices being offered is well worth while since competition offers better rates with advanced bookings, Air Mekong like Vietnam Airlines is linked into overseas reservation and ticket issuing through the GDS and airline systems.
Some hotels offer special arrangements with taxi companies to ferry hotel-stayers to and fro the airport at around 200,000 VND.
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. Taxis are also abundant and reasonable in price, yet watch the meter, as meter fixing is a common practice from north to the south.
Please consider carefully before you move to rent a motorbike, as according to the Vietnamese law you must be in the possession of a valid Vietnamese drivers license, to be able to operate and drive a motor vehicle in the country, failure to have one, cancels any insurance that the bike might come with and makes you liable according to the law for any damages and remember in South East Asia, you are always liable, as you are always guilty, as you are presumed to have more money then the other party. Hence you will have to pay for damages to the bike and its full value, damages to other people and their property, as well you might have just ruined your own vacation time, due to injury and of course hefty payments to third parties.
Packaged day tours are easily purchased round town, which will take you to a variety of sites, it is recommended to use one of the three licensed operator, as they are registered with the tourism department, offer insurance coverage and in the event of any disputes, or grievances have to respond to the claims against them. Fair pricing policies apply to them, which might not be the case with some of more shady characters in the business, hence ask for the government registered license and receipt with a red invoice when contracting any services. (An indignity not uncommon in the developing world -- visitors from outside Vietnam are often required to pay double what Vietnamese pay for admission to many places when visiting individually, hence going through licensed operators will avoid some of those challenges.
The tourist agency, "Trung Tam Dich Vu Lu Hanh Da Lat," located on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, is not recommended due to their unethnical practice of duping tourists by reserving tickets for Sinh Cafe Open Tour bus for $12 (240,000 dong), then contacting the tourist's hotel to change the ticket for a later Phuong Trang bus, for 120,000 dong. The tickets will have extra zeros whited-out to make it look like $12.
Tours typically include a handful of stops like the following:
- The three palaces and summer home of the colonial-era, last emperor of Vietnam Bao Dai, which is of great interest once you visit these three heritage sites, named as Palace I., II and III, the Dalat Palace Hotel being one of them, with its adjacent Dalat Du Park Hotel, all from the 1922's, together with the Dalat Palace Golf Club, which was built in 1922, to give his majesty the opportunity to practice his golf skills picked up during his years of study in France. The golf course is a awesome site, whether you enjoy the swinging and putting or not, as the coffee shop at the golf course has some wholesome meals of Asian and European making, with great view of the deep green fairways and classy environment. The Palace I is located on the same street when you walk to the Crazy House. It is about 15-30 minutes walk depending on your pace (1.1 km. from Tran Phu, 47 metres elevation gain). Palace II is located on Tran Hung Dao, not far from the Xuan Huong Lake (next to Yersin Park).
- A striking, not-quite-finished fantasy house designed by the daughter of an independence war hero. Known as the Crazy House. Worth a visit if you are interested in architecture, or like Dr. Seuss-style surroundings. It is located on Huỳnh Thúc Kháng, Phường 4, Da Lat; which is about 0.3 km off Duy Tan Street. Admission 30,000 dong.
- A set of flower gardens centered around a re-constructed traditional Vietnamese teakwood house. The Flower Garden is located on the northwestern end of the Xuan Huong Lake, so if you go for a stroll around the lake, it can be visited as a stop. Admission 10,000 dong.
- A hill-top pagoda coupled with a brief cable car ride over the pine forest.
- A ride in a Land Rover up to the top of Langbiang mountain, with spectacular views of Dalat and the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Other sites of interest:
- Ho Xuan Huong (Hồ Xuân Hương) 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. The lake was drained in 2010, but is now filled again.
- Da Lat market filled with local specialities: strawberry jam, fruits conserves, avocado, artichoke.
- Nha Tho Domaine de Marie:(on Ngo Quyen, 1 km from where Hai Thuong and Ba Trang Hai (3 Trang Hai) meets.) A pink church on top of a hill, with a store selling various dried fruits and snacks from the local orchards run by the nuns of the monastery.
- Da Lat train station: take the steam train through the 7km historical line to Trai Mat, from there you can visit the Linh Phuong pagoda. Price for train ride is 106,000d return.
- Ho Suoi Vang (Golden Spring lake). Rather unspoiled scenery.
- Thien Vien Truc Lam Monastery, at the top of where the cable car drops you off (single 50,000 dong, return 70,000) The monastery (admission free, donations accepted) has a magnificent view over the dams below and its gardens are full of landscaped shrubs in animal form. Extremely peaceful - a great place to relax and soak in the tranquility. People who do not want to complete the round trip could opt for a 4.1 km. walk back to Tran Phu. Be sure to bring a map.
- Lang Biang mountain. The 1,900m peak is reachable by a steep paved path, ideal for a 3 hours hike, or you can ride in a jeep for 40,000d. Also visit the minorities village under the mountain foot.
- Thung Lung Tinh Yeu (Thung Lũng Tình Yêu) aka Valley of Love, Phu Duong Thien Vong street. Open daily until 5PM. Admission fee under US$1. 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 US$1. 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.
- Tuyen Lam Lake (Hồ Tuyền Lâm), 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 US$1. 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, it's one of the largest and widest waterfalls in Vietnam and during the wet season is a magnificent sight. Although a dam built nearby has reduced the water flow recently.
- Easy Riders, www.easyrider.vn  email:[email protected] (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.
- "A witty crew of freelance motorbike guides who where truly born to be wild whom's popularity is reaching cult proportions among travelers seeking an alternative to being herded around on the usual open tour bus trail." (Lonely planet February 2003)
- Phat Tire Ventures, 73 Truong Cong Dinh , phone - 063-829422, fax - 063-820331, cell - 0918438781, [email protected] . Trips run daily with extended trips outside Dalat also available. Founded by Brian and Kim Vierra, Phat Tire Ventures 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 pace 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 Dalat's many lakes and rivers.
- Youth Action Travel Dalat , 45 Truong Cong Dinh, phone - 063-3510357, fax - 063-3554515, cell - 0919 124 137, email: [email protected] With over 15 years of experience in adventure tourism. Offering trekking, canyoning, rock climbing, abseiling, mountain biking, paragliding.
- Vespa Vietnam Adventures ,highly recommended. This departs from Ho Chi Minh City. Couple: $US 2300, Single: $US 1380. Or call: +84(0)903652068 (International caller drop the first zero number)
- University of Dalat, 1 Phu Dong Thien Vuong Street. Students from the Hand-in-Hand Club are eager to serve as free guides.
Lak Lake is a nice stop on a bike-tour in the central Highlights. Staying 1 Night in Dalat i got told, that i will miss the most scenic part of the trip when I go from Dalat to the (anyway so overdevelopped) NHA TRANG and then Take the busy Road 26 to BUON MA THUOT. And he was right, its a beautiful ride down to the Elefant-Waterfall throug Cafeplantations ect. and then up to Lak Lake over a mountain and then through sunny highlands with Rice-Fields. The Road is partly very bad though, but doable.
Most visitors to Dalat are Vietnamese, and most of them leave loaded with stuff. What they like to take home is dried and candied fruits, strawberry preserves, coffee, green and artichoke tea, local wine, dried venison, orchids, strawberries, avocados, and other fresh produce. If you take any sort of organized tour, chances are you will be off-loaded for a half hour at a shop selling these items. Local treats are also for sale in abundance in the large central market located in the area around Nguyen Thi Minh Khai and Le Dai Hanh. Part covered and part outdoor, the market has dozens of small stalls selling also fruits and vegetables, clothing, and a wide variety of other goods. There is a supermarket on the top floor selling neccessities for travellers. Strolling around the market is a favorite evening activity, and every night it buzzes with thousands of sweater-clad visitors.
Dalat does not offer lot of high-end handicrafts of the sort favored by overseas tourists. Dalat is famous, however, 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 flowers 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.
Dalat has countless restaurants to serve the diverse visitors, from all walks of life and origins, with offerings ranging from Local Lamdong province, Dalat food, to central and southern Vietnamese dishes and a fair number of Western and French inspired eateries, bars and restaurants, serving every budget and aspirations.
1/1 Bui Thi Xuan, Dalat, Tel (84) (63) 352 0215
Open daily from 7:00 to 22:30. V Cafe is the home of great food and live music in Da Lat. Boasting a unique and fun east meets west atmosphere, excellent service, a large and diverse menu of international dishes, and regularly hosting the best live music in town. There is something for everybody at V Cafe.
- Dalat (Central) Market / Chợ Đà Lạt, 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 in a corner of the second level.
No.1 Phu Dong Thien Vuong Street, Dalat Tel: (+84 63) 3821 201 - Cafe, Pro Shop and Clubhouse, open daily from 6 a.m. until about 8PM. If you are craving Quesadillas, Tacos and haven't had Mexican, Western Food in the months, you will find what you're looking for at the Pro Shop. It's little bit out of the way, but in Dalat everything is round the corner anyways, but the food, the chips with salsa and guacamole, sandwiches and burgers, are excellent. And, the beer is always cold.
No. 12 Tran Phu Street, Tel. (063)825 777, part of the Dalat Du Parc and Dalat Palace compound, French and Western Country Style cuisine, at affordable prices, outstanding service and open from 6 a.m. till 11 p.m., wide selection of traditional dishes and fast food favorites, cold beer and a pretty impressive wine list, besides their famous fresh Dalat fruit juices. Service is great,served by English speaking friendly staff.
- Rapelais, French Fine Dining Restaurant, Dalat Palace Hotel
12, Tran Phu Street, one of the best fine dining experiences, besides fancy eateries in Hanoi or Saigon, receiving each year visitors just to experience a unique French ~ Vietnamese influenced fine dining experience, second to none. Recipient of numerous international prizes and accolades.
Great service, elegant and distinctly old fashioned with class and style, if its unique 1920's atmosphere and cusine and refined service, this is the place in town for that fancy birthday, anniversary, or special moment in life.
No.12 Tran Phu Street, Dalat Palace Hotel, based in the belly of the colonial style hotel, its a bar established by the late American billionaire, philanthropist and controversial bon vivant Larry Hillblom, with a unique colonial - outback bar atmosphere, great music, ( live Friday and Saturday evening performances) and the best pizza to be found east of the Mekong river and beyond, reasonable prices and outstanding service by friendly staff, who have been there for years and know their punters by name and preferred drinks. One of the few waterholes in town to close past the midnight hours, kitchen service until closing moments.
No. 4C Chu Van An street, tel: 0633822875, 15' walking from Xuan Huong Lake, 10' walking from "Dinh Bao Dai" (Bao Dai's Summer Palace #2)), well known for "Bún Bò" and "Mì Quảng", the traditional noodle that Vietnamese often have for breakfast. Price: 12,000-45,000 VND. 7AM-10PM.
- Dã Quỳ / Wild Sunflower Restaurant
No.49 Truong Cong Dinh) offers very high-quality French & Vietnamese cuisine at reasonable prices by Western standards.
- Peace Café next to Peace Hotel 1 offers some of the cheapest eats in Dalat, with a variety of items on the menu.
- Sunshine Town" (Ap Anh Sang) has traditional food quite cheap in clean surroundings, right out the circle.
- Âu Lạc, Bui Thi Xuan Street, offers good vegetarian food.
No. 9A Le Dai Hanh) offering both local and western food along with an excellent selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Small and neat atmosphere, overlooking the city gardens. Either eat alfresco, watching the hustle and bustle of DaLat's streets moving by, with some nice indoor dining. Owner speaks English.
- The Hangout Bar, 71 Truong Cong Dinh street, opposite Peace Hotel, is one of the best bar in town. Not only it locates in the centre of the city and has free pool table, board games, darts, ...etc., but also has great music with a huge colletion from the different artists around the world - tourists can choose the music to listen as well. It's a good place to pick travel tips, meet other travelers, expats and locals. The Hangout Bar is the latest place in town still open after mid night. It is the place for tourists to 'hangout' like the name is!
- Larry's Bar, 12 Tran Phu (in the basement of the Dalat Palace Hotel). Open every night. The Dalat Palace was championed by philanthropist, controversial American billionaire and bon vivant, Larry Hillblom, who saved the palace from obscurity and demolition and who also happened to have lots of American dollars to spent, as the co-founder of DHL. Larry's Bar pays homage to Larry's British background. Library-style with dark wood paneling,pool table, darts and lots of good beer and nuts available. Great place to relax after a day of biking or hiking. Currently January 2011 has happy hour 5-7, where beers cost $1.50 instead of $3. Large pizzas cost around $8 USD.
English speaking staff and most knowledgeable since they have been there since Larry's days, open from 4 p.m. till past midnight with food order until the last moment. Favorite with locals and expats, living history and counting,
- Y-Niem Cafe and Nightclub, beautiful architectural design and exceptional service.
- Cafe Tung', really nice cafe. The delicious Vietnamese coffee costs 8000 dong and is served with tea.
- Saigon Nite, Cheep beer, pool and friendly staff. Also the only bar open after midnight. Lonely planet calls it "One of the better late-night place to shoot pool and share a drink with ex-pats and visitors."
Accommodation in Dalat is very reasonable in the 'off-season', for as little as US$4 per night for a perfectly presentable hotel room with double bed and ensuite. In high season prices rise and advance booking is a good idea - particularly during weekends most hotels in the centre are fully booked. Beware of the Pink House as many guests have reported theft by staff from their rooms.
- Hoa Binh 1 Hotel, also known as Peace Hotel 1, is anything but peaceful, and fills to capacity on weekends. But staff are friendly, rooms are available from US$10-15 per night, and there is a cafe next door. [email protected] +84 (0)63 382 2787
- Peace Hotel is where the Peace Cafe is in the LP. Has wifi and you can book breakfast for 1 additional dollar. Rooms from about 7 dollar. 8 dollar for street view.
- Dreams Hotel, 151 Phan Dinh Phung Street, ☎ 3833748 ([email protected]), . Clean rooms, friendly staff and full big breakfast. They also have Sauna, Steam and Hot tub for free use of guests (4.00 p.m to 7.00p.m)The hot shower system was real good & of course up-to-date in style!
- Thanh Huong Hotel, 02 Bui Thi Xuan St., ☎ 063 382 7699 ([email protected]), . is located on Bui Thi Xuan close to Xuan Huong lake. Reasonably priced, includes cable tv, wifi, fridge. Some rooms have balconies.
- Van Anh Hotel is located on Di Bui Thi Xuan, and charges US $10 for a twin or double room, and US $15 for a triple. The staff are extremely friendly, helpful and speak good English, rooms are clean with cable TV, private bathrooms and hot water, and there is excellent wifi. Also very motorcycle-friendly.
- Nam Ky Hotel is located at 11 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia - Tp. Da Lat. good overview and cheap rates. Telephone: (063) 3824493 - 3828295 or Vinaphone : 091 3789449
- Try the Ngoc Quynh Hotel_2 Yersi, about 2km from the centre, good overview, cheap and also very friendly.
- Or you may want to stay near the student centre, try the Sakura Hotel on Bui Thi Xuan Street. This street is full of cheap hotels.www.mimosatravel.info
- In the centre, opposite the market, Nguyen Chi Thanh Street also offers cheap lodgings.
- Hang Nga Guest House on Bui Thi Xuan Street (opposite Trung Cang Hotel) is worth checking out - friendly staff, clean rooms, good English spoken, with rooms from $7. email [email protected] Tel. Mr. Gentle +84903100132
- My Dream Hotel :213A Phan Đình Phùng Thành Phố Đà Lạt, Lâm Đồng , cheap rate from 7 to 10 USD/night. contact: Ms. Leha +84.918564472 or email:[email protected]
Tourist and FIT Hotels
- Golf 1 Hotel 3 star hotel at Dinh Tien Hoang Street. 5 minute walk to Xuan Huong lake and Dalat market.
- The Dalat Palace Heritage Luxury Hotel
12, Tran Phu Street the only 5-star hotel in Dalat, with 43 luxury rooms and suites, one presidential suite, built in the Art Deco style of the 1920's French architecture and refurbished during later stages in a Victorian Art Deco style, with imperial dining rooms and facilities. It has beautiful gardens, it was conceived as the very center of the city and dominates with great views onto the Xuan Huong lake. It also has an 18-hole championship golf course,tennis courts, spa, a unique site and among the most beautiful in Vietnam. It has been home away from home to the famous and scandalous from all over the globe for the past many decades, with historical figures and moments in time, so special and unique that it has inspired many books and novels. www.dalatpalace.vn
- Dalat Du Parc Heritage Boutique Hotel 3/4-star hotel built in 1922, part of the original Dalat Palace compound, with 143 rooms and one Ambassador suite, unique style and glory of yesterday, with any and all of the services through friendly, competent and English speaking staff, with excellent services, a very old fashioned lift and great views from the rooms at the back of the hotel of slopping Dalat's housing and hill scenery. The must stay at least one night for any visitor to Dalat, as the adjecent restaurant part of the hotel just completes the picture with great food.www.hotelduparc.vn
- Empress Hotel Dalat 5, Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Dalat, Lam Dong Province
- Ngoc Lan hotel4-star hotel in the center of Dalat city, on a poetic hill and overlooking the picturesque Xuan Huong lake, Ngoc Lan is one of the newer hotels in Dalat, ( Three years ) with an extensive sauna and massage parlor in the basement.
- Hoang Anh Dalat resort The resort covers five hectares, is comprised of six villas with 75 rooms in total.
- Ana Mandara Villas Dalat Resort & Spa Le Lai Street, Da Lat, TheAna Mandara Villas Dalat Resort & Spa is nestled on the gentle slopes of Vietnam’s rural highlands. This five star resort houses 65 well-appointed rooms that are ensconced in 17 fully refurbished French colonial villas. Le Lai Street, Da Lat, a bit far from the city center and only recommended for those who like to walk on very rough surfaces gobble stones, with large distances between the accommodation and the other services of the resort. Charming and for the adventurous, must like sharing living rooms and other services, as each villas houses several rooms, hence the sharing issue.
Safe bus (45 seats with A/C) always be ready each 30' to go to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city), it takes about 180.000 VND/ticket, ~7hrs/trip (~5-6 hrs at night). Contact dalat.thesinhtourist office, 4Bui thi Xuan St.
To Nha Trang, it costs also 120.000 VND/ticket, ca. 5 hrs/trip.
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