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's high altitude, 1500-2000 meters, and fertile landscape makes 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 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.
You can also rent a motorbike by the day.
Alternatively, hunt out the "Easy Riders" (though they are more likely to find you). They speak good English, are from local villages and seemingly know everyone. Giving you great access to places your otherwise never know about. You will know the driver is legit when you are presented with a book, full of praise from other excited tourists. The "Easy Riders" generally charge about $20 (US) per person for an 8 tour. People have been known to hire the "Easy Riders" for motorcycle tours that stretch from Dalat to Hanoi! This will cost you around $60 (US) per day, often including accomodation.
- 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 $1USD. 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 $1USD. 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 $1USD. 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.
- Outdoor Adventures, 32 Truong Cong Dinh , phone - 063-832221, fax - 063-510965, cell - 0918593311, website: www.tnkdalat.com, Email - [email protected] Trips run daily with extended trips outside Dalat also available. Founded by Le and River, Highland discovery 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 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.
- Hire an 'Easyrider' (a motorbike and rider) and go on a tour of the central highlands. Easyriders will more than likely find you when you enter the town, website: www.easyrider.vn . The is highly recommended.
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 it's 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 for reasonable prices.
- Peace Café next to Peace Hotel 1 offers some of the cheapest (and tastiest) eats in Dalat.
- 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.
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.
- 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 $4/night, and there is a cafe next door.
- Sofitel Dalat Palace Hotel, .
There are various travel agencies in the town that can book buses to all parts of the country.
|This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!