Upon our early morning arrival to Dalat mid-June 2016, everybody on the night sleeper bus started to put on layers. They began with socks and long sleeve shirts, continued with wool sweaters, long trousers, and boots. What scared me was when they then began to put on scarves, gloves and winter coats. Then there was I, wearing a tank top and shorts, afraid of what awaits me outside of this warm bus. Clueless. And then the bus stopped to let everybody out. And there was still about 20 degrees out there.
WATCH OUT FOR THE WEEKEND CROWDS
Welcome to Dalat, one of the most popular holiday destinations among domestic tourists in Vietnam (especially newlyweds). Here, thanks to the weather in Dalat, you can pretend it’s Christmas whole year around. Weekend markets full of locals eating hotpots and drinking hot peanut soy milk in the evenings. Either way, you look beautiful hillside villages and pine forests.
We stayed in Dalat over a week in spite of planning only a weekend there. And that’s also a word of advice for any future visitors – if you want to arrive during the weekend, make sure to book accommodation in advance, preferably over the phone. It took us over three hours to find a guest house willing to take us in on Friday morning. Everything was full, even the hotel we booked on Agoda said ‘Sorry, no room’ and asked us to call Agoda to request a refund. So yeah, book over the phone, agree on the price, pay in cash upon arrival. Just to be sure.
WHERE TO STAY IN DALAT?
We managed to find a room in a lovely guest house about 10 minutes walk away from the town center. The place was called Cat Vy 1 Guest House and was newly refurbished at the time of our visit. A double room there was about $15 USD with a nice bathroom, big bed, balcony and really good wifi. We would definitely recommend it because it’s away from the hectic town center. Considering low temperatures in Dalat, most hotels don’t offer air-con rooms, so you leave windows open overnight. As the traffic starts in the early morning, there is next to no chance to sleep in unless your hotel is hidden away from the busiest areas of town.
If you decide to give Cat Vy 1 a shot and the lady from the photo below still works there, show her the photo and start off your stay there on a positive note. Might get you a small discount or a little bit of extra care.
On that note, there is a ton of hotels and other guest houses around Dalat. Something for every budget, so as long as you arrive Monday-Thursday, you shouldn’t have any issues finding the perfect accommodation for yourself.
A couple more accommodation options for you in Dalat worth checking out:
Budget: Dalat Sunny Hostel, $10 USD, double room, garden view, recently opened, Central Dalat
Mid-range: Hoan Minh Chau Hotel, $26 USD, double room, Central Dalat
High-end: Dalat Edensee Lake Resort & Spa, $106 USD, Superior Mountain View, Tuyen Lam Lake
WHAT TO DO IN DALAT?
Now that you already have a lovely place to stay and are ready to explore, what is there to do in and around Dalat? Well, there’s plenty places of interest to choose from!
It all depends on what you’re looking for.
Do you like outdoor activities? If so, then you shouldn’t have a problem keeping yourself busy and rarely spending time in your room. One of the biggest attractions in Dalat is bicycle tours and trekking. Trương Công Định Street is where you will find most of the bike tour and trekking agencies organizing trips in the area. If you’d rather do something on your own, rent a bike or a bicycle at your hotel. Then go exploring around and beyond the city – the views are stunning either way you go. It’s unlike anything you’ve seen in Vietnam before.
Lang Biang Mountain in Dalat, 2167m.
It is definitely worth an extra day to go trekking up Lang Biang mountain, north of Dalat. You can either get there by bicycle, motorbike or public bus from Dalat. With the peak at 2167m, the trek up was easy enough for a beginner, yet still made me feel accomplished as we reached the top. There wasn’t much of a view from there due to cloudy weather, but we’ve seen some amazing landscapes on the way up. Coffee plantations, strawberry farms, and beautiful forests spreading up in every direction. It was a lovely experience to escape loud Vietnamese city life and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
The admission was only 20,000 VND. Bear in mind that in order to take the most beautiful path up the mountain, after purchasing a ticket, you need to return outside the big gate and follow the path on the right side leading you up next to farms. Going up another 20 minutes, you will find yourself alone in a forest – keep going. Midway through you will have to enter the main road for about 50 meters and by the checkpoint, take the path to the right.
Most locals take the jeeps up the other peak so only people who want to do the trek choose to walk up the Lang Biang 2167m peak. If you don’t take the path recommended in this post you will find yourself walking up the mountain on a side of the road with hundreds of honking jeeps passing you by, filled with screaming tourists. Not a pleasant experience, believe me. But enough about Lang Biang.
Our video from the hike to the Lang Biang peak!
Pagodas and Waterfalls around Dalat and a Crazy House
There are also some waterfalls in Dalat area for you to discover, including the Elephant Waterfall (admission 20,000 VND). We visited it and it was pretty spectacular, I have to admit. There is also Truc Lam Pagoda and our absolute favorite Linh Phuoc Pagoda. It’s one place you have to visit because it’s nothing like any other temple you’ve seen before. From what I heard, there is an option of getting there by cable car in Dalat, but we opted for a bicycle ride about 10 km one way.
Linh Phuoc Pagoda was actually the first pagoda where visitors were allowed to enter even the top floor. The views from the top were absolutely spectacular. Seeing Dalat coffee plantations and strawberry farms stretching out all the way up to the horizon over these beautiful hills made a breathtaking experience.
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A few interesting attractions await you in the town of Dalat itself if you’re not a big fan of outdoorsy activities. If it’s your cup of tea, go and explore the Crazy House and its quirky architecture (admission 40,000 VND), which reminded Greg of Barcelona’s one and only Gaudi’s House. Unfortunately, at the time of our visit (June 2016), the project was still unfinished and left us slightly underwhelmed.
Our video from the Crazy House!
You can also go and have fun spending the afternoon on the Xuan Huong lake and its swan paddle boats. We haven’t tried it but it seemed like a lot of fun! People who love museums can spend a few hours in Lam Dong Museum of old artifacts and pottery (admission 10,000 VND) or go sightseeing around town full of wonderful French-colonial architecture, churches and villas behind every corner. You can also pay a visit to the old railway station and have a nice afternoon cup of coffee there.
Weasel Coffee Farm in Dalat
During our visit to Dalat, we also decided to visit a weasel coffee farm advertising itself online as animal-friendly. We thought that the only way to confirm that was to visit the farm and record footage there. We are against animal cruelty and decided to post a video exposing the truth about the conditions on the weasel coffee farm in Dalat on our YouTube channel. Check it out below.
WHERE TO EAT IN DALAT?
Now we’re talking! We were both blown away by the amount of good food Dalat had to offer both on the streets and in many restaurants we visited. Our favorites? There you go.
There is a lovely restaurant close to the city center called The Artist Alley, where they serve delicious food at decent prices. Make sure to check out the gallery room upstairs. Very cozy and the staff is extremely helpful and attentive. This place was actually the second best restaurant in Dalat according to TripAdvisor.
While you’re there, after lunch you can try the Bi.cycle.up a coffee shop next door and admire it’s amazing interior design and the owner’s attention to detail. Definitely one of the coolest coffee shops in town. Since we’re talking about coffee, you can also try a more local coffee shop 50 meters further down the road. It’s called Pho Cafe and offers great coffee in good prices (12,000 VND for ca phe sua da).
Local food in Dalat
If you want to try vietnamese local food, try the soup at Pho Hieu on Tang Bat Ho Street. Just next door there is another local restaurant serving rice dishes at decent prices considering Dalat is a tourist destination. Across the street every evening a little stall with pastries opens up. You can get a taste of local croissants, muffins, rolls and eclairs at 5,000 VND each. Also, warm yourself up during chilly evenings drinking hot soy milk. The peanut one is fab! You have to try it!
Around the corner across the street from Highland Holiday Tours, there is a lovely juice bar where you can try freshly squeezed, hot juices with lemongrass and ginger. They were an interesting highlight for us.
There is also some fantastic street food you can find on Phan Dinh Phung Street, especially its western side. If you check on Google Maps, there is a lady who makes wonderful breakfast bahn mi baguettes somewhere between Cat Vy 1 and Nhan Anh Cafe. They are amazing for breakfast and the place also offers laundry service at 20,000 VND per kilo. In the evenings, on the same street, you will find a stall where you can try another local snack – a grilled baguette in chili oil. Still healthier than any crisps or cookies – and cheaper. But beware – it’s spicier than you may think. 5,000 VND per baguette.
What to do in Dalat at night? Well, I don’t think there is much nightlife in Dalat considering only few international tourists actually get there. However, every weekend a big local market opens up for domestic tourists in the Central Market area. You can get a lot of food there as well, including freshly grilled meats and vegetables, hot-pots and little pancakes with egg, spring onion, sausage and dried shrimp. The last ones you can literally find every 20 meters throughout the market. Worth a try! A very distinctive taste.
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HOW TO GET TO DALAT?
The good thing is there are buses coming to Dalat from every possible direction. You can squeeze it into your trip regardless whether you’re in Saigon, Mui Ne, Nha Trang or Vung Tau.
We used The Sinh Tourist bus and were happy with it. Beware the night buses in Vietnam aren’t very comfortable. Try to get to the last top bunks before they’re taken – they usually are the best option on the whole bus. If you decide to take a bus during the day, it still might turn out to be a sleeper bus. They are really popular in Vietnam for some mysterious reason, so if you have a preference, ask in your hotel or at the agency what bus you are about to book and they will most likely know. Considering the incredible views on the way from Dalat, we’d recommend leaving Dalat during the day.
You can also fly to Dalat from other main airports in the country.
If I had to describe this lovely place with only three words I’d say Dalat is unique, stunning and magical. It is definitely a must see and it was a big highlight of our trip. I nearly teared up a bit having to say goodbye to the lady from our guesthouse who made us feel at home and welcome. Come to Dalat, you won’t regret it!
Check out more vlogs from Dalat on our YouTube channel!
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