The Best Things to See and Do in Dalat, Vietnam

The Happy Buddha statue sits at the core of the Linh An Tu pagoda near Dalat
The Happy Buddha statue sits at the core of the Linh An Tu pagoda near Dalat | © Mauro Ladu / Alamy Stock Photo

Dalat is a cool mountain retreat in otherwise steamy Vietnam, with temperatures that flutter between 15C and 24C. A sizeable city located in the Central Highlands region, it offers the buzz of bars and markets as well as the adventure of surrounding rainforests, waterfalls and canyons.

1. Hike up Lang Biang Mountain

Natural Feature

Scenic view of mountain range at Lang Biang, Vietnam, Southeast Asia
© Michael Marquand / Alamy Stock Photo

Dalat’s highest mountain, Lang Biang, sits at 2,169m (7,116ft) above sea level. Just a short drive from the city, past fields of wildflowers and rows of crops, you will start your hike at the parking lot or catch the shuttle bus closer to the top. However you reach the summit, take your time to enjoy the panorama of lush hills sloping down to the Golden Stream and Silver Stream, which are said to resemble slivers of silk.

2. Stay at the Hang Nga Crazy House

Hotel, Villa, Guesthouse

Crazy House Hotel, Hang Nga Guesthouse, Dalat, Central Highlands, Vietnam, Asia
© imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo
Crazy House is precisely what it says on the tin – a boggling feat of architecture and a delight for anyone who enjoys the weird and wonderful. With a Gaudí-meets- Dalí-meets-Disney aesthetic, it’s inspired by giant banyan trees and mimics natural forms, with no straight lines and twisting branches lining the walkways. However, it isn’t just for show – the house is also a hotel (Hằng Nga Guesthouse), where you can choose between 10 themed rooms.

3. Ride a cable car to Truc Lam Pagoda

Architectural Landmark

Thien Vien Truc Lam Pagoda, Phan Rang, Ninh Thuan, Vietnam
© imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo

Take the 2km (1mi) cable car from Robin Hill to Truc Lam Pagoda, soaring over pine forests, farmland and a ravine, as you’re whisked to the top of Phung Hoang (Phoenix Mountain). The pagoda is Vietnam’s biggest Zen monastery – among its grounds you can walk through flower and bonsai gardens, see the pond’s terrapins basking in the sun and watch Buddhist monks going about their routines. This easy excursion can be done in just a couple of hours.

4. Take a trip to the Elephant Waterfalls

Natural Feature

Elephant Falls, waterfall, Central Highlands, Vietnam, Asia
© imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo

A giant rock said to resemble the head of an elephant gives this waterfall its name. The wide body of water shoots over a cliff into a verdant, jagged landscape that has a prehistoric quality to it. Ascend the 145 steps of rock and wood to fully appreciate the scene. The waterfall is about 30km (19mi) from the centre of Dalat but there are plenty of buses running here, with the journey taking about an hour.

5. Stroll around Dalat Flower Gardens

Natural Feature

Dalat Flower Gardens park in city of Da Lat, Vietnam, is a popular tourist destination.
© Dmitry Naumov / Alamy Stock Photo

One of Dalat’s several affectionate nicknames is The City of Flowers. Due to the temperate climate and plentiful rains, the region is ideal for growing certain crops and blooms that won’t flourish anywhere else in Vietnam. The 7,000sqm (75,000sqft) gardens feature 300 types of flowers, some of which blossom throughout the year. Highlights include a cactus garden, orchid house and a perfectly pruned topiary.

6. Shop at the Night Market

Market, Street Food

A night market in Dalat, Vietnam
© Stephanie Humphries / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo
Enter the colourful world of Dalat Night Market, where vendors dish out steaming bowls of rice noodles, street performances range from hip-hop dancers to cartoon fancy-dress and locals rummage through second-hand clothes. Because Dalat is located in the highlands, you’ll find all sorts of warm garments here, including jackets, gloves and woolly hats. Open at weekends, the market is a popular place to socialise as well as shop.

7. See live music at The Escape Bar

Bar, Cafe, Vietnamese

This cool 1970s-style cocktail bar could be the setting of an old-school movie, with geometric wallpaper and a wavy cut-away ceiling. But the best thing about it is the music performances, which range from rock n’ roll to reggae. The house band has a repertoire of great covers, including songs from the Rolling Stones and Radiohead. Located in the basement of the Muong Thanh Dalat Hotel, it’s a short walk from the central market and Xuan Hong Lake.

8. Join a canyoning excursion

Natural Feature

Canyoning, Da Lat, Vietnam
© cfry / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo

With its waterfalls, pools, boulders and rainforest, the environment around Dalat is an ideal environment for canyoning. The Dalat canyoning tour leads you through the Central Highland rainforest in a perfectly safe outdoor adventure (using European ropes and professional rigging gear), including a 100m (328ft) zip line and abseiling route down the Waterfalls of Datanla. It takes a leap of courage to jump the 10m (33ft) into a pool below – but the adrenaline rush is well worth it.

9. Ride a motorbike to Lak Lake

Natural Feature

Motorcyclist rides on a serpentine road in cloudy weather. Vietnam, Dalat
© Elizaveta Galitckaia / Alamy Stock Photo

Sign up for a tour with Easy Riders to take in the sights on that quintessentially Vietnamese method of transport – the motorbike. Riding pillion or taking control of your own bike, the knowledgeable guides lead small groups around a range of routes, from a few hours exploring the highlights of Dalat to multi-day trips. One of the more interesting destinations is Lak Lake because of the ethnic Mnong tribes that live and work in the region.

10. Drink at the Maze Bar (100 Roofs Cafe)

Bar, Pub Grub

Another of Dalat’s architectural oddities is the 100 Roofs Café, a seemingly endless warren spread over five floors of an inconspicuous side-road building. A series of passages and rooms that look like a fairytale jumble-sale lead to a rooftop garden, which continues up steps to a vantage point. You have to buy at least one drink for access to look around – but that’s no hardship, with a good-value menu of spirits and beers on offer.

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