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What to do in Dalat
Dalat is a south central Vietnamese town that offers travelers good weather, great food, fun shopping and plenty of things to do. In the city you’ll find many interesting French colonial buildings and deeper inland and in the mountains there are waterfalls, hill-tribe villages while farms and rice paddies can be seen everywhere.
Dalat is never short of fun outdoor opportunities such as golf, horseback riding, kids-friendly horse-and-cart rides, hiking, paragliding, and cooking classes. Those who come here just for a few days break from big hectic cities like Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Hanoi, will definitely enjoy it here. Its mild and pleasant temperatures alone (usually between 17°C to 25°C even in summertime) make Dalat worth a visit and as a result it’s a refreshing destination to escape the constant heat from lower-lying regions.
This doesn’t mean Dalat is a quiet town though; it is a very popular holiday destination for local tourists but the attractions are spread out over vast rolling green hilly areas, meaning you won’t feel crowded out most of the time.
Fans of adventure activities will love it here. Dalat and the nearby area is where visitors can enjoy great outdoor sports such as whitewater rafting, whitewater kayaking, rock climbing, paragliding and canyoning. There are a few companies in Dalat offering good tour packages including Phat Tire Ventures. This company seems to have the most experience as well as a great team as their guides go through an intensive 30-hour Wilderness First Aid course designed by the Wilderness Medicine Institute and the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). They also are sent to a refresher first aid course each year through Family Medical Practice in Ho Chi Minh City. That says a lot.
The cable car ride from/to Truc Lam Monastery Complex is a popular way to see Dalat from above. Along the two and a half kilometre ride, you can enjoy the attractive scenery such as pine tree-covered hills, rivers, rice plantations and the sea. Truc Lam Monastery Complex is rather new and already famous for its beautiful pagoda. Avoid national and school holidays as well as weekends if you want to avoid the crowds. Truc Lam is a lovely place for picnicking.
Dalat is home to many talented chefs and some of them don’t mind sharing their secrets with strangers.
Elephant and Ostriches Ride
Prenn Waterfall is not just another pretty site to visit in Dalat. It offers many interesting activities including elephant and ostrich rides. The humble elephant will take you through unspoiled nature such as small creeks, lakes and green forests. For those who really want to try something different, here is your chance. Ostriches might not be a common transport option but here in Dalat you can ride on one. The idea of climbing up on an ostrich’s back can be quite a challenge but once you manage to get up there and start the ride it is one of the most interesting experiences as these well-trained animals are used to human and are amazingly friendly.
Hiking in Dalat
Leisurely nature walks along forest trails (or many more adventurer treks for the experience hikers) are another way to discover this area’s beauty. Dalat is full of many natural sights where interesting animals and birds can be found. Some treks may lead you to caves, waterfalls, lakes, volcanic peaks, minority villages, suspension bridges and farmlands too.
Lang Bian Mountain (about 12km north of downtown Dalat) is one of the most popular locations for a day or a half-day out hiking. It has five peaks that range from 2100m to 2400m in altitude. Other hot locations for hiking include Ba Be Lake National Park, Pongour Falls and the Lake of Sorrows.
To go hiking in Dalat is quite easy and simple and you don’t really require a tour company; many people just rent a bike and use a local map and off they go. Warm clothing, a raincoat, sunblock lotion and mosquito repellent are usually needed.
Another way to enjoy Dalat’s beautiful countryside is on horseback. Visitors can hire horses by the hour and for about twice the amount they can also take a horse-drawn carriage for a pleasure ride around Dalat Flower Garden and the Lake of Sorrow too.
If you travel as a family with young kids, don’t forget to rent a huge swan paddleboat and take a spin around Dalat lakes such as the manmade lake inside Valley of Love, the Lake of Sighs (Ho Than Tho) and another popular artificial lake, Xuan Huong Lake. It can be great fun for a few hours at least.
If you want a bit of thrill in Dalat and without having to work out too much, check out the toboggan ride at Datanla waterfall. With more than 40 cars (each with two seats), the roller coaster features medium-sized rapids and you can slide down the 800m long track with speeds of up to 40kmh. The toboggans are user friendly design and according to the operator the safety system fully meets European standards.
GOLF IN DALAT
Golf courses in Vietnam offer extra facilities such as bars, restaurants, and pro shops where rental clubs are available. Some courses offer also other recreational choices, with tennis courts, swimming pools and children’s playgrounds.
In general it is cheaper to play golf here in the afternoon from around 14:30 onward and weekdays are less busy and cheaper than weekends.
Dalat Palace Golf Club
The 18-hole Dalat Palace Golf Club first opened in 1922 (originally as a 9-hole course) and later was abandoned until 1993 when it underwent restoration and has since opened to the public. It is now considered the best golf course in the country with lakes, pine trees, valleys and beautiful flower gardens. Famous golfers who have played there beside regulars such as Bao Dai (the last emperor of Vietnam) were Masa Nishijima (the author of the award-winning book Analysis of a Golf Course. Nishijima was also the sixth person to play all the courses listed on GOLF Magazine’s World Top 100 List) and Billy Casper (American golf legend who won 27 tournaments on the PGA Tour).
WHAT TO SEE IN DALAT
Bao Dai’s Summer Palace
Bao Dai was the last emperor/king of Vietnam and ascended to the throne in 1926. He was only 12 years old at that time. With a reputation as a man who enjoyed parties and the good life, Bao Dai spent a good amount of time in Dalat.
His summer palace was made up of three imperial buildings with the part called Dinh 3 being the best known and most visited. Built in 1933, the restored palace is still furnished with a lot of its original furniture and fittings and offers a rich insight into the life of the royal resident. The parts that are open for the public are the emperor’s throne, office and bedroom, dining room and the empress’s quarters. Many portraits and sculptures of the royals are on display too. Photography is not allowed inside the building.
Crazy House (Hang Nga Guest House and Art Gallery)
It’s hard to meet people who have visited Dalat and have not been to Hang Nga Guest House and Art Gallery, better known as the ‘Crazy House’ because of its bizarre concept and tree-like shape, designed by Dang Viet Nga, a Soviet-trained Vietnamese architect who first established it in 1990.
With a little over a dozen rooms, each with its own unique theme, here you’ll find tunnels, ladders, concrete kangaroos; tigers and bears. If you are lucky, you might have the chance to chat with the designer herself as she is usually present there.
Dalat Flower Gardens
It’s hard to separate Dalat and flowers from each other as the city is well known for its variety of colourful flowers and plant species. It even has its own famous annual flower festival which has proven to be very popular with domestic tourists. Established in 1966, the Dalat Flower Gardens are on the northern side of Xuan Huong Lake in the heart of the city and cover an area of about 7,000sqm.
Orchids, hydrangeas, roses, pansies, mimosas and peach blossoms are among the 300 different kinds of common flowers displayed in the parks along with many more exotic flowers. Some of the flowers blossom a few times in a year, meaning that the park always features lovely flora no matter when you visit, but summer is of course its peak time. Visitors can also buy beautifully arranged bouquets at the gardens.
Dalat Market (Cho Dalat)
Dalat Market is similar to many of Vietnam’s city markets and is an interesting place to spend a short while to feel the vibe of the real Vietnam. It is made up of more than 1,000 shops in a few multi-storey buildings. The busy market offers interesting goods, especially local produce from wine to flowers, meat to handicrafts and cosmetics to strawberries candy and household appliances.
Basically you can find everything here including cheap winter cloths (in case you are not prepared for Dalat’s cool weather.) Check out the market’s food court for local specialties.
Dalat Train Station
Built in 1943, Dalat Railway Station is small but offers interesting original ticket windows with a wood-burning steam train. Visitors can also hop on for a short ride of about 5km following the historic line to a tiny village named Trai Mat and enjoy the countryside along the way. The train operates about five times per day and needs at least a group of four to five people to be able to make the trip.
Datanla is no doubt one of the most visited waterfalls in Dalat and is conveniently located a few kilometres south of town. Sometimes ethnic K’Ho artists perform cong chieng here – a Vietnamese traditional instrument cast from mixed copper. Those who are looking for thrills should try the (mini) roller coaster ride from the top of the falls.
Elephant Falls (Lieng Rewoa Waterfall)
This dramatic falls has its original name from the K’ho ethnic language and it means ‘elephant falls’ in Vietnamese. Because of its remote location it is relatively quiet, which can only be good as it also means less tourist buses. Check out the nearby Linh An Tu Pagoda – a peaceful retreat.
Lake of Sighs (Ho Than Tho)
The Lake of Sighs, as its name suggests, is named after several sad tales of lovers. It was originally a natural lake but was enlarged by the French as a dam. Even though the name has unhappy connotations the Lake of Sighs is a popular destination for the Vietnamese, especially young couples. Paddle boats and motorboats take lovers out and away on the lake. There are horses and horse-drawn carriages to be hired too.
Lat Village (aka Chicken Village)
You’ll know that you’ve arrived here when you spot the concrete chicken statue in front of the village. There are a few different legends about the chicken depending who you talk to such as; this monument was built by the government to show its appreciation of the villagers for their input during the Vietnam War or; it was built for the memory of a young couple whose love was forbidden. There are more stories but it really doesn’t matter about why and how the giant chicken got there. A visit to this minority village is truly an eye-opening look into the simple life of ordinary Vietnamese people who lead a very basic lifestyle with simple housing, a small school, plantations and farms.
The village is poor and there is no doubt that some folks here might try a little bit too hard to sell visitors their crafts and handmade products like blankets, cotton goods and local rice wine (similar to poitin). When not working on their land, many villagers work at home doing a bit of this and that to provide extra income for their families including traditional silk and cloth weaving.
Linh Phuoc Pagoda
Linh Phuoc is one of the most well-known pagodas in Vietnam with a 37-metre bell tower – the tallest in the country. The main hall consists of colourful paintings regarding the story of Buddha from his birth until he obtained Nirvana and his death. Linh Phuoc Pagoda’s surroundings are peaceful with small lakes and gardens but things can also get very busy with domestic tourists from time to time.
Linh Son Pagoda
If you want to visit a non-touristic pagoda, try Linh Son Pagoda. It is more like a neighborhood place than an attraction. Also located on a hill overlooking Dalat, the pagoda offers contrasting views of the busy city on one side and the temple’s own tea and coffee plantations on the other. It’s a common sight to see monks working in the fields, especially during the tea and coffee harvesting season.
These magnificent and powerful falls are 20 metres high in the mountains and about 100 metres wide in rainy season and are the largest falls in Vietnam. Visitors can hear the echo of the water falling into the lake from a long way away.
The impressive 10-metre high Prenn Falls is a major Dalat attraction, meaning lots of visitors come here, especially during public holidays and school breaks. Located about 10km from the centre of Dalat, Prenn Falls has a small cable car service but many people prefer to walk up the path behind the falls. It’s more fun but wetter that way. Many visitors also make their way to the nearby Au Lac Temple.
Truc Lam Pagoda
Though it was recently built, Truc Lam Pagoda is popular and probably the prettiest and the best-kept shrine in Dalat. Located on Phuong Hoang Mountain by Tuyen Lam Lake, it features a cast bronze bell, a pagoda and many Buddha images. Go up there by cable car and admire the view from the top – it’s amazing.
The French Quarter
Take a sneak peak of how the then influential people spent their summers during colonial times by visiting the French Quarter along Tran Hung Dao Road. Visitors will see many original French colonial-style villas and homes that were built around 1920s and ‘30s. Many hotels, golf courses and spas as well as schools and churches were built in the same period, most using French designs. This area is well maintained and many villas are now owned by nearby five-star hotels.
Thien Vuong Pagoda
This pagoda was built by the local Chinese community so it’s sometimes referred to as the ‘Chinese Pagoda’. However the main focus of this monastery is not the pagoda but three historical Buddhist statues which date back to the 16th century. Thien Vuong Pagoda has a superb location suited among Dalat’s refreshing hills, giving travelers who enjoy seeing both religious and natural sites more options (there are monks and nuns living in the compound, too). Many people take along picnic baskets.
Valley of Love (Vallée d’Amour) Park
As the name suggests, the Valley of Love Park is popular with Vietnamese newlyweds. It has rolling green hills, lakes and beautiful gardens and picnicking spaces. Youngsters like this place not only because of the small amusement park but for the western-like ‘cowboys’ with their fake guns, and wide hats. The cowboys’ job is to actually offer horse and pony rides to customers as well as posing for photos with them.
Some people even bring hammocks here and pass their time reading, napping and people watching. It’s a purely relaxing place that caters for all. Another popular activity in the park is to go for a ride on the swan pedal boats around the lake. Avoid major holidays and long weekends if you want to hire a boat in peace.
Xuan Huong Lake
This manmade lake has become a major landmark. It has beautiful gardens with many flowering plants and trees. The beautiful reflection of willow and peach trees along the banks of the lake is part of Dalat’s charm and there are restaurants, cafés, shops, accommodation and a variety of business venues nearby, especially on the northwest side of the lake, considered the heart of Dalat. Here, locals enjoy picnicking, cycling and jogging, horse-cart riding and riding swan paddle boats as well as celebrating weddings.
Let us introduce some interesting places with mountain scenery for you to choose
During each trip to Da Lat, everyone has their own way to enjoy their trip and relax during a short vacation. Some people like to go to open places, separate fr
there are some interesting activities that you should try once time at least when visiting Tuyen Lam lake.
Coming to Dalat, you should not missed the majesty of 3 waterfalls: Elephant, Datanla and Pongour Waterfall. Let’s discover with VietChallenges!