Dalat - A little city in Southern Vietnam‘s Central Highlands region, about 300km northeast of Saigon, Dalat earned its epitaph ‘The City of Eternal Spring’ because of its year-round cool weather. Heritage buildings and wide streets, leftovers of the French, characterise downtown Dalat.
Thick bushels of purple hydrangeas decorate every stretch of sidewalk. Set over undulating hills, Dalat’s streets are pitched at odd angles, creating interesting ‘stacked’ rooftops and narrow laneways that are a joy to explore on foot.
Where to stay in Dalat
Close to restaurants and most of the landmarks mentioned in this Dalat itinerary, the city center is a great place to base your stay in Dalat. If you don’t mind being a bit further out, there are some unique luxury accommodations in the hills around the city.
Luxe: Ana Mandara Villas Dalat Resort & Spa – a set of 17 original 1930s French villas. If it falls within your budget, this is one of the most unique and beautiful accommodations in all of Vietnam.
Heritage: Dalat Palace Heritage Hotel – well-appointed rooms set inside a private park 300m from the Bao Dai Palace.
Mid-range: New Hampton Suites – tidy rooms in the city centre.
Budget: Moc Thach Hostel – budget-friendly private and shared rooms on the western side of the lake.
Awesome things to do in Dalat
Here are my top things to do in Dalat. At the end of the post, you’ll find some essential visitor’s information to plan your trip.
‘CHASE THE CLOUDS’ IN TRAI MAT
When I mentioned my upcoming trip to Dalat to my Vietnamese language teacher in Hanoi, she told me I simply must go ‘chase the clouds’ in Trai Mat.
Chasing the clouds, I discovered, basically involves getting up before dawn and hanging out in a field. As the sun rises, low mist floats into view, diffusing the light and making for some pretty spectacular photo opportunities before it evaporates.
There are a few places in Vietnam that are famous cloud chasing spots – including Dien Bein Phu in the far northwest. Trai Mat, a small agricultural village just outside Dalat, is a great place to chase the clouds in Central Vietnam.
GET A PHOTO IN FRONT OF THE PINK CHURCH
Selfie and Instagram culture is huge in Vietnam, and no where did I see more snap-happiness than in Dalat. Who can blame us – Dalat’s pastel, perfectly symmetrical French buildings are incredibly photogenic.
The most sought-after photo opportunity in Dalat is at the city’s famous pink church. Plan to arrive at Domaine de Marie early if you want a photo minus the crowds (more information on Day 1 of my Dalat itinerary below).
VISIT A FLOWER FARM
Dalat is famous for its hydrangeas and wild flowers (in fact, a lot of the cut flowers sold at flower markets in Hanoi and elsewhere are grown in Dalat). There are a few flower farms around Dalat that are open to the public and well worth a visit.
Some are family owned; others are state run. Some consist of fields; others take the form of huge white-tented greenhouses. Most ask for a small fee (around 20,000 VND) to enter.
The Hydrangea Garden near Trai Mat village and the lavender farm near Tuyen Tam Lake are both popular with visitors. If flowers aren’t your thing, you can visit strawberry and fruit farms (or vineyards) instead.
DALAT GALLERY LA CHOCOTEA
Da Lat is not only famous for its temperate, cool climate and friendly, hospitable people, but also a destination for poetic and lyrical landscapes. Gallery La Chocotea, a miniature Chocolate museum, is considered a "mecca" for those who love pure chocolate.