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Đà Lạt was built up in the early 1900s as a mountain playground, an escape for the French colonialists who didn’t do so well in Saigon’s oppressive heat. These days, both foreigners and Vietnamese tourists alike flock to the “City of Eternal Spring” for some cool fresh air and beautiful sights. If you travel through Vietnam, you really should try to spend at least a couple of days in Đà Lạt, and here’s how to spend your time.
You’ve just arrived by bus or plane and your legs probably feel a bit like jelly, so let’s save the hikes and walkabouts for day two. For day one, get on a motorbike and have a look around. You could rent one for yourself and head out to explore, but why not let a trained guide do the driving while you relax on the back? There are numerous reputable tour companies that would love to plop a helmet on you and show you around town.
Dalat Motorbike Ventures, 77 Đoàn Thị Điểm, Phường 4 +84 168 737 4373
Mr Vu’s Dalat Road Rider, 11A Hà Huy Tập, Ward 3, Phường 3 +84 164 668 8883
Easy Riders Vietnam, 71 Trương Công Định, Phường 1, Đà Lạt +84 90 959 65 80
After you’ve rolled around Đà Lạt and the surrounding hillsides, head to Hằng Nga Guesthouse—more commonly known as Crazy House. It’s a weird and wonderful piece of expressionist architecture that will both amaze and confuse you. Crazy House is the brainchild of architect Đặng Việt Nga, built with just cement, rebar and creativity. It will only take you about an hour to explore this unique place, and it’s also a great spot to watch the sun as it sets. You can even book one of the themed rooms to stay in for the night!
This one will depend on which day you’re in Đà Lạt, since it’s only open on Saturday and Sunday nights. Even if the full-blown market isn’t available, the area still has plenty of shopping and street food on the other nights. The air is filled with chatter and the smells of delicious snacks. We recommend you try Dalat Pizza. Look for signs that say “Bánh Tráng Nướng.”
Some of the best coffee in Vietnam comes from Đà Lạt. The beans that grow at these high altitudes need to be robust—hence the name of the strain that grows here: Robusta. Try your brew with some ice and condensed milk like they do in Ho Chi Minh City, or have an egg coffee. You’ll need some caffeine in you before heading out for the day.
Disclaimer: This is only for fit, physically capable people. If you aren’t comfortable abseiling down cliffs and waterfalls, then skip right on ahead to the next section.
For those of you still here, this is a wild adventure through ravines, rivers and waterfalls. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart, though, because you’ll be putting a lot of trust in lengths of thin nylon ropes. Your heart will probably try to thump its way out of your chest more than once as you take ‘trust falls’ into dark caverns of gushing water. There are several companies available, but we recommend:
Highland Holiday Tours, 47 Trương Công Định, Đà Lạt +84 91 351 10 47
If you’ve skipped the excursion, or if there’s still some daylight left, then you should take a leisurely cable car ride to the Trúc Lâm Temple next to Tuyền Lâm Lake. There are buddhist monks, burning incense, great views and beautiful buildings. You can wander around at your own pace, and there are plenty of spots to take amazing pictures.
Trúc Lâm temple, 1 Nguyễn Đình Chiểu, Phường 3, Đà Lạt +84 633823782
This lake is the focal point of Đà Lạt. For a great experience, walk around the lake and see what’s happening. Usually you can find some authentic street food stalls set up, and it’s a great chance to meet locals and talk with them about their lives. Groups of friends and family gather around the lake to relax and spend time together. As you roam around, don’t be surprised if some of them want to speak with you. They’re often curious to learn more about foreigners and their countries. We recommend you bring the drink of your choice and find a nice spot around the lake to watch the lights flicker off the water. It’s a great way to finish your trip, especially if you spent half the day hiking into deep ravines.