Perched high in the Southern Central Highlands amidst valleys, lakes and waterfalls, Vietnam’s Dalat is known for its mountain scenery and delightfully cool weather. Originally inhabited by the Lat and Ma hill tribes (Da Lat meaning “stream of the Lat People”), who now live in nearby Lat and Chicken Villages, Dalat became a holiday resort for commanders who tired of the tropical Vietnamese climate during the French Colonial era. It remains Vietnam’s “Le Petit Paris” and its “city of eternal spring”, its colonial mansions and over 2000 remaining French villas still reflecting its French influence.
Dalat has a lot to offer travelers interested in trekking, motorcycle trips and natural sights – its surrounding lakes, waterfalls, and parks offer boating and windsurfing. This is a great place to get to know Vietnam’s highlands.
Dalat is home to Emperor Bao Dai’s summer palaces. Built in 1933 and set in a lovely pine grove near Lake Xuan Huong, this art deco style palace houses portraits and sculptures, and royal living quarters of the deposed imperial family. Nearby, Lake Xuan Huong stretches for nearly 5 km., offering windsurfing and boating adventures, though long walks around the lake seem to be most popular.
Dalat features several interesting buildings and lovely pagodas, among them the Lin Phuoc Pagoda, a contemporary structure with a gold Buddha and a spectacular garden. The Hang Nga House and Gallery, nicknamed “crazy house” by locals, is probably one of its most fun sites, especially for youngsters. The house is designed with cave sitting rooms, a concrete giraffe tea room, helter- skelter hallways and stairways and fish heads containing guest rooms for overnight stays. Its bustling, lively central market is unlike most Vietnamese markets, characterized by a highly unusual open promenade for shoppers and passers-by.
Just out of town, a lovely park, Thung Lung Tinh Yeu Park, known as “The Valley of Love” is a popular spot for honeymooners and lovers who stroll through its paths or sail on its small lake. The region around Dalat is punctuated with coffee farms and colorful small villages. Lat Village and Chicken Village are home to several hill tribes who were enticed down from Dalat. Chicken Village, where peoples of the Koho minority reside, is famous for its giant concrete chicken, caught mid-strut, in the village center. In the highlands, there are opportunities to visit coffee farms, sing karaoke or just enjoy local drinks at some of the small inns perched on the valley’s hills.
Further afield, there is much to see and do for nature lovers. Several scenic waterfalls dot the area: Prenn Falls, located about 10 km. from Dalat, at the foot of the dramatic Prenn Pass, is a great spot for enjoying a brief hike, its breathtaking waterfalls cascading from above to create a silver sheet pouring into a pool below. Behind the falls, a bamboo bridge enables visitors to cross the waters. Gouganh Falls, some 40 km. from Dalat offers an amazing view of waters splitting at the center to create numerous falls, each streaming in a different direction. Lan Bien Mountain, its five volcanic peaks rising to 2100-2400 m., is a trekker’s dream, as is Tuyen Lake, known for its emerald green waters and backdrop of mountains.