There are lots of fun things to do in Dalat (sometimes spelt “Da Lat”), a pretty mountain-town in-between the more popular Vietnamese tourist towns of Ho Chi Minh City, Mui Ne and Nha Trang.
A small town focused around the pleasant Xuan Huong Lake, Da lat city is popular with Vietnamese romantics and honeymooners, as well as tourists looking to escape the soaring heat of the former Saigon. As an escape, you couldn’t do much better than Dalat’s countryside views, evergreen forests and strawberry fields.
But Dalat is fairly chaotic in its own right. It’s a city best enjoyed by avoiding the busy central market place (at least during the day) and hiring a pedallo swan at one of the town's many pristine lakes, for example, or getting out of town to visit the many interesting Da lat attractions and local sites in the outlying suburbs.
As most of the sights are spread out around the city, opting for a day tour of Dalat with a friendly English-speaking guide is the best way to make the most of this charming Vietnamese city. Here are some of the highlights:
Bao Dai's Summer Palace
The summer palace of Bao Dai, the former King of Annam, a region that makes up about two-thirds of present day Vietnam. This summer palace offers an interesting look into a royal vacation home. Everything in this art-deco influenced villa has been left as it was before Bao Dai’s abdication to France in 1945. You will be made to wear “pillowcases” over your shoes so as to not damage the floors as you tour the building. The surrounding grounds are just as interesting, offering up some unusual photo opportunities with locals dressed up as cowboys and donkey-rides for the kids.
Valley of Love
Romantic or crass? You be the judge. The Valley of Love will cause bewilderment for most tourists as you take a stroll through a romantic-themed park with all sorts of schmaltzy monuments to love. However, the view of the lake is gorgeous and the paddle-boats, swans, horse-drawn carriages and love seats make for an interesting stop.
After taking in the impressive view of Dalat from the cable car’s platform, take a short ride by cable car over forests and vegetable gardens to the hill-top Truc Lam pagoda and picturesque Tuyen Lam lake. The views from the cable car are stunning and the pagoda is the largest institute of meditation in Vietnam. Take a short walk through the pagoda’s grounds and take in the the breath-taking view of the lake below.
Depending on your tour, you may get to visit some other Dalat attractions including a historic railway, an embroidery village and the Hang Nga Crazy House, notable for its architecture reminiscent of something from Alice in Wonderland. If time permits, investigate an Easy Riders tour of the highlands. These motorcycle guides speak excellent English and can escort you to local places of interest and get you off the beaten path.
With picturesque scenery unlike anywhere else in Vietnam, favourable spring-like temperatures and plenty of sights to see, Dalat is worthy of a couple of days' stopover on any Vietnam tour.