Are you planning a trip to Vietnam and looking for great places to put on your itinerary? Well, we bet you haven’t included Da Lat, even though you definitely should! It’s not a big tourist city, yet there’s tons of things to do in Dalat! Here’s a list of at least 15 of them!
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A city known for its food and friendliness, Dalat is a great place to go for a few days. The funny thing is, it’s not on the usual Vietnam itinerary, and Jim and I cannot figure out why. It seems most people are more interested in going to the bigger places like Hue, Nha Trang, Hoi An, and even Phu Quoc. However, we just got back from spending four days there and loved every minute of it.
Called many things by the locals, we most often heard it referred to as the City of Flowers or the Romantic City, but it’s also the Green City, the City of Eternal Spring, as well as many others. We did run into a lot of young people, often couples. Whether they were honeymooning or just enjoying getting away, there’s no doubt love was in the air.
We’ve also podcasted about our amazing trip to Dalat. You can listen to the episode here:
In this article:
- Fun things to do in Dalat
- Getting There
- Getting Around the Dalat Area
- Weather in Da Lat
- Where to stay
Fun Things to Do in Da Lat
We were surely surprised at how much there was to see and do in Dalat. We’ve listed over 15 things to do below that if you are like us, you will thoroughly enjoy.
- Enjoy the stunning flowers of Dalat
- Take a fast ride on the Alpine Slide
- Get quirky Instagram photos at the Clay Tunnel
- Eat the freshest fruits and vegetables in all of Vietnam
- Wander around or stay in the Crazy House
- Visit one of the Summer Palaces
- Center yourself at Linh Son Pagoda
- Take a ride on the romantic Dalat Railway
- Enjoy the views from inside the tallest female Buddha
- Take the Cable Car for a great view
- Visit the Linh Quang Pagoda
- Take a Motorbike Tour through the countryside
- Drink Weasel (poop) coffee
- Wander around the lake and maybe rent a swan paddle boat
- Eat great food or buy souvenirs at the Dalat Night Market
- Sip on the best coffee in one of the many great cafés
There are flowers everywhere in Da Lat and the surrounding area. We visited in the middle of January, just as the cherry blossoms were beginning to bloom. On top of that, we saw all types of flowers from orchids to marigolds. All gorgeous.
Dalat loves flowers so much that it hosts a Flower Festival every two years during the month of December. The next one will be in 2024.
Datanla New Alpine Coaster
One of the newer attractions, the New Alpine Coaster, is the longest summer toboggan in Southeast Asia with a run of 2400 meters. Our Grab dropped us off right at the entrance, and we were happy to see no waiting. The ride was loads of fun, and well worth it for kids of all ages.
We were surprised that when we got off at the bottom, to view the waterfall, that the line to get back on was at least 40 minutes. This did not change at all. I think it’s because they open the top an hour before the bottom.
The waterfall was lovely, and there was a café and a small walking path to do before you join the line to go back up.
When we went it cost 200K dong, round trip, and like I said, we loved it.
Speaking of fun for kids…I would say the Clay Tunnel is really for the kids. It’s a quirky park, quite far from the center of Dalat, where all the statues are sculpted out of the local clay.
As you first walk in, you encounter the Dragon, which is a huge and impressive sculpture. Then you continue down a circuit path to all the other scenes that have been carved out of a man-made clay tunnel (it’s actually more of a gorge, open to the sky above). There was everything from animals to train stations.
One reason that this is such a great place for kids is that they can run and climb, try some archery, eat kid snacks, and just unwind. It’s definitely a great place to be a kid.
For those who like to take Instagrammable photos, this is a must. Because you can climb all over the structures, you can get some pretty cool shots. The most popular shot is a person standing between two faces. They’ve even set up a line for you to wait before you can take yours.
One of the quirkiest and funniest parts of the park was a whole section dedicated to the Covid Pandemic. You walk around to find the clay sculptures reminding you of the importance of things like wearing masks, washing thoroughly, and getting vaccinations. Hilarious!
As you can imagine, it takes a lot of upkeep when working with clay, and we saw maintenance and new sculptures being built along the way. For me, this adds to the experience, because you can see how it’s done. I love that.
Eating Fresh, Delicious Foods from the Dalat Farms
Dalat’s amazing climate makes it the best place to grow fruits and vegetables, and there are farms all throughout the mountains and valleys. The farms are pretty small compared to those in the US or other western countries, but they are definitely producers, and the farmers we ran into were informative and friendly.
Crazy House is probably one of the most popular places to visit in Dalat. A hotel cum amusement park, the architect wanted to create something completely different, and from what we saw, she succeeded.
As you enter, you can see multiple buildings, made in a clay style, kind of like the Flintstones but much larger. There are clay sculptures, winding stairways, gardens, a café and so much more. It was fun to wander and see all the quirky things she incorporated into the design.
The great thing is, you can stay at the Crazy House. It’s a hotel after all, and a reasonable one at that. In fact, we are making plans to do just that. Some of the rooms were open, so you would see what you get, and they look well-designed, comfy, and inviting.
Bao Dai Summer Palace 3
Dalat being much cooler than Saigon, was a popular place for the kings to go and build their summer palaces. I guess there’s a few of them, all open to the public. We discovered that the best one to visit was palace number three, which we did.
The building itself was basically a rich person’s mansion. It was decorated in the 1950s style, and had some informative signs with a few sentences telling you about the rooms. For me, the most interesting thing was how the crown prince was treated as opposed to his siblings.
For example, he was allowed to eat dinner with the parents, but the other children had their own table in a separate dining space. He had his own bedroom suite, and was well-pampered until he went off to study in France.
The best part of the overall visit was walking through the gorgeous gardens. The flowers were spectacular, and my favorite part was the back of the house where there was a veranda with hanging vines.
It doesn’t take long to visit the palace, only about 40 minutes for the whole experience, but I do think it was worth it.
Center Yourself at Linh Son Pagoda
We were on a mission to eat one of Dalat’s specialties called wet cake chicken. We found a restaurant, loved it, then wanted to take a small walk to one of the most peaceful and serene temples, Linh Son Temple.
Of all the temples we’ve visited, this one was the quietest, giving us such a feeling of inner calm. There were only a couple of other people there, and they seemed to enjoy the peace as much as we did. We didn’t even hear anyone talking.
The temple boasts a couple of small pagodas, meticulously maintained grounds, and of course living quarters for the monks. We loved meandering along the paths enjoying the solitude. It was hard to imagine that the city was so close.
Ride the Dalat Railway
When you look up things to do, you always will come across visiting the train station in Dalat, but hardly anyone mentions that you can actually take the train. It’s not a train for transport, it’s turned into just a tourist activity, but a great one.
Because the train station is on everyone’s list, you must pay to go in. It costs 5,000 dong to enter, which admittedly is a pittance but still a bit strange. Especially, if you do like we did and just want to buy a ticket and go to Trai Mat.
The train ride is set up perfectly for an outing of a couple of hours. It only runs a few times per day, and the ride to Trai Mat (the only destination) is a mere 20 minutes or so away.
Once you arrive in Trai Mat, you have just enough time to walk to the famous dragon pagoda, called Linh Phuoc, wander a bit and head back. I mean it’s timed perfectly. Then you get back on the train and head back to Da Lat.
Of course you do not have to ride the train both ways, you can find your own way one direction if you choose. Personally, I don’t see a reason to do this. The train was just lots of fun.
If you just want to visit the train station and not go on a ride, like many people do, then you will enjoy the few shops, a great café, and some fantastic vintage train shots for your Instagram. For only 5,000 dong, it’s worth the stop.
Tallest Female Buddha in Vietnam
One stop we made outside of Da Lat was to the Linh An Temple where we visited the tallest female Buddha in Vietnam. She’s about 70 meters tall, and when you go inside her, there is a staircase leading up, up, up with a good view of Elephant Waterfall.
After the female Buddha, the grounds lead you behind the main temple and there we found a forest of Buddhas which signify all the donations folks have made to the temple as well as a large statue of the Happy Buddha, who is always sporting a huge smile.
To get there: It’s only about a 50 minute ride, about twenty-eight kilometers from the city. You can take your rented motorbike or even a Grab car.
Take the Da Lat Cable Car to Truc Lac Monastery
When we were dropped off at the cable car, it looked deserted. We weren’t sure it was even open. There were hardly any people there, but it was open, so on we went.
We chose to take the cable car round trip, but I don’t know that I would recommend it. You can easily call a Grab to take you to your next stop from the top.
The cable car ride was over Robin Hill which is mainly pine forest, which I found surprising. Almost at the end, we saw a small lake as well. The views were pretty spectacular. Once at the top, you cross the street and you can visit the Truc Lac Monastery.
Truc Lac was another place I would highly recommend. The monks are known for the development and upkeep of their gorgeous flower gardens, and many people were there taking tons of photos, because it was pretty special.
There is also a stupa on the grounds that is well worth a look. Let alone the main temple building, temple bell, and an ornate gate. The grounds are beautiful, and down below the main area is a picnic area in the trees. It was shady and cool, and a perfect place to just relax for a few minutes.
Linh Quang Pagoda
Another wonderful temple is the Linh Quang temple on the outskirts of the city. It’s known as a dragon temple, and as soon as you enter, you can see why.
In the courtyard, there is a huge sculpture of a dragon, with scenes depicted all around. It’s a great stop for some amazing photos and to see a bit of Vietnamese temple culture at its best.
Take a Motorbike Tour
One thing we did, much to my own surprise, was to take a motorbike tour through the countryside. Two guides picked us up from our hotel, and we visited things like the silk factory, a coffee plantation, some amazing temples, had lunch, and enjoyed our guides’ stories.
The tour was from about 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM, and even though I was a little trepidatious about riding with a stranger on the back of a motorbike all day, I soon felt comfortable. The guide who drove me, Ho, was very attentive and made sure not to do anything to scare me. Boy, did I appreciate that.
Now that I have one motorbike tour under my belt, I will be much more willing to do another one. Let’s face it, it’s the preferred mode of transportation in Vietnam!
Drink Weasel (Poop) Coffee
There are many coffee plantations in the Dalat area, and we visited the Minh Le Plantation. It was a sprawling complex, with huge verandas to drink a coffee with amazing views, and of course lots of souvenirs.
Our guide told us all about the three coffee plants used in Vietnam, showed us the weasels, and then let us order a coffee and left us alone to enjoy the shade and view for about 20 minutes.
I’m not recommending the weasel coffee. Was it good? Sure. Was it the best in the world? No. Was it worth keeping these small rodents in a cage their entire lives? Definitely not.
However, you can have just a regular cup of coffee at the plantation, and still enjoy your time there.
Wander Around Ho Than Tho Lake
As soon as you drive into Da Lat, you go by Ho Then Tho Lake. It’s very close to the center of town and the night market. During the day, you can rent a paddle boat or even go horse-back riding I’m told. I did see one horse, but no one was riding it.
We walked around the lake at night and enjoyed all the different colored lights in the trees and gardens along the shore. It was really nice, and of course much cooler than in the middle of the daytime.
Enjoy Dinner at the Dalat Night Market
The night market, right downtown, is a huge area. You can buy anything from clothes to souvenirs, and of course there is an opportunity to try lots of street foods or full-on dinners.
We chose to eat at the BBQ restaurant, where we cooked the meat right at our table. Well, the staff did. They take really good care of you the whole time you are there.
If you are a fan of night markets, make sure to see this one.
Have an Egg Coffee or Hot Chocolate
Vietnam, and especially Dalat, is famous for its coffee. We had to try the egg coffee, but boy were we surprised to find that you can also get an egg hot chocolate. I ordered one at one of our favorite places, An Café, and it was delicious.
The egg mixture just adds a full-body creaminess that is hard not to love. Luckily Da Lat is full of cafés. There’s two or three on every block, it seems, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a few that you just love.
How to Get to Dalat
There are really only two ways to get to Dalat from Ho Chi Minh. One is taking the overnight bus and the other is flying.
We chose to fly, and the flight was about an hour, so it was quick and pretty inexpensive for a domestic flight. What we didn’t realize was how far out the Dalat airport was from the city. We took a Grab and it came to about 450K dong, about 18 US dollars.
On the other hand, the cheapest way to get to Dalat from Saigon is taking the overnight sleeper bus. It takes about 8 hours and will cost you about 200K dong, much cheaper. You do get a bed to sleep in, but you will have to deal with other people, lights, and curvy roads. If cheap adventure is what you are looking for, this is definitely for you.
Getting Around the City
Most people go to Dalat planning to rent motorbikes for the entire time they are there. We only checked on the single day prices, and found it cost something like 100K dong, which is super cheap. However, we still don’t feel comfortable on motorbikes enough to do this.
Instead, we did what we do in Saigon, used Grab cars. What we found is, Grab is a little more expensive than in HCMC (Ho Chi Minh City), probably because things are a bit further away. Not everything is right smack dab in the middle of a huge metropolis.
We never had any issues getting a Grab, but we got nervous when we went to Clay Tunnel that we wouldn’t get one, so we basically hired the first one to take us around the rest of the day. It ended up costing us over 300K dong, much more than if we’d just rented a scooter.
If and when we go back to Dalat, we definitely will just rent a motorbike and do all the driving ourselves. Of course, the second time anywhere means you already have a good grasp on the directions and where things are, so we’ll feel much more comfortable.
Weather in Dalat
We went to Dalat in January, which was more than pleasant. While much of Vietnam is just exiting its hot and muggy rainy season, Dalat was sunny during the day and cool at night. Turns out that’s what Dalat is always like.
We were told over and over again that the temperatures fluctuate from 18-25 degrees Celcius (64-77 degrees F) every day all year long. While we were there, it did get a little higher, but it was still pretty comfortable.
If you look at the graphs below for the average temperatures and the average rainfall, you’ll notice that the temperature stays relatively mild and comfortable all year long, but there are definitely months where you will get rain almost every day.
Where to Stay in Dalat
Dalat is a spread out city, but no matter where you go, you can find plenty of places to eat right outside your hotel door. We recommend you stay as close to downtown as possible, though, because you will be able to enjoy the night market and the lake.
Most accommodation is pretty reasonable, but if you want a little something extra like a pool, the prices go up and usually they are a bit further from the center since they need more space. Our favorite hotel not right in the center with a pool is the Hương Thảo Holic.
Thankfully, there are plenty of options in Dalat, and these are some of our other favorites:
Sunny’s House – which is superb for the cost and proximity to downtown. Some rooms even come with a bathtub, which in Vietnam is a real luxury.
Hanz Ngoc Sang Hotel – really close to the night market and so easy to walk just about anywhere downtown.
QA Hotel – if you are traveling with kids, this is the hotel for you, because they have bigger rooms and breakfast is included.
Dalat is a city not to be missed when visiting Vietnam. Even though it doesn’t have any of the high volume sights, it gives you the feeling of what living in Vietnam is really like. Plus it’s a great place to unwind, take a breath, and enjoy the fresh air. We promise you will fall in love with this city!
Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.