It takes some effort and a few dongs to get to Dalat, but if you are on the run from the unbearable heat of Vietnam’s lowland coastline, this is the place to be.
Dubbed as the ‘City of Eternal Spring,’ Dalat is a honeymoon destination for the locals and a nature escape for adventure-seeking western travellers. And here’s our take on the top ten things to do in Dalat, a former French resort often referred to as ‘Le Petit Paris.’[Updated: January 2020 | Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links, we may receive a small commission for any purchases at no extra cost to you. Lovely.]
Top 10 Things to Do in Dalat
Nestled in the Central Highlands, Dalat is unlike any other city in Vietnam. The combination of the cooler climate and exciting hilly surroundings makes it the perfect getaway from sizzling hot cities.
The lower temperatures also make it easier and more enjoyable to explore the city on foot or bike as well as hike the tallest peak in the area, which we highly recommend.
Here’s our list of top 10 things to do in Dalat city.
1. Take the Cable Car to Truc Lam Pagoda
Although swamped with coach tours, Truc Lam Pagoda, overlooking Tuyen Lam Lake is still one of the top things to do in Dalat. The pagoda is an active monastery where the Truc Lam ritual practised by monks dates back to the 1200s.
Opened to the public in 1944, the temple invites you to visit the ceremonial hall, beautiful rose garden, and the refreshing pine forest.
Have a stroll along the pine tree promenades and descend into the ‘Valley of Love’. Here you can take a boat or simply enjoy the view from the nearby lake.
How to get to Truc Lam Pagoda
To reach the monastery, take the Cable Car (Cap Treo Da Lat) located 3 km south of the city centre.
While Da Lat is a walkable city, you’ll want to take a taxi to reach the cable car station, which will set you back around 35,000-40,000 VND. That’s a small price to pay for a little bit of comfort. The road to the cable car is pretty steep.
Taking the Cable Car to reach the pagoda is perhaps one of the most fun things to do in Dalat. It will cost you 80,000 VND for a round trip per adult or 50,000 VND one way to take the ride. The price is well worth it. You’ll have just enough time to enjoy the spectacular views of Da Lat and the hills from above.
Cable Car Address: Doi Robin, Tp. Da Lat
Cable Car opening hours: Monday to Friday: 7.30 am – 12 pm & 1 pm – 5 pm. Saturday-Sunday: 7.30 am – 5 pm.
2. Take the Easy Rider Tour
To experience Da Lat to the fullest, take the Easy Rider tour. These are some of the best tours around Vietnam. Run by the locals who know the area inside out, they’ll take you around Da Lat and the surrounding villages.
This tour is a great option if you are in town for a day but still want to discover all the iconic Dalat attractions. Plus you’ll ride to one of the silk villages to see the precious fibre in the making.
3. Visit the Oldest Railway Station in Vietnam
If you are looking for historic things to do in Dalat, visit the impressive Railway Station. At 1,500 m high, it’s not only the oldest but also the highest railway station in Vietnam.
Designed in 1932 by French architects, it was abandoned during the Vietnam war and eventually reopened as a Dalat tourist attraction in 1990.
Resembling the Normandy’s Trouville-Deauville Station, the three peaks of the station supposedly represent the three peaks of Dalat, including Lang Biang, the tallest summit in Da Lat.
At the station, you can marvel at the beautiful Japanese locomotive or take a ride to Trai Mat village. It’s a 7 km scenic ride through the suburbs towards the striking Linh Phuoc Pagoda, which is another wonder among all the peculiar things to see in Da Lat.
Da Lat to Trai Mat train ride
With the train leaving the station every 2 hours, you’ll have a lovely experience visiting the spectacular temple. But buying train tickets can be a little tricky.
We recommend coming to the station as early as possible. If the ticket office is closed on your arrival, your best bet is to sit at the station and wait for it to open. Otherwise, you are risking for the tickets to be snatched by a coach tour.
Return (round-trip) ticket costs 170,000 VND per person and 150,000 VND one way. However, bear in mind that one-way tickets apply to groups only.
Da Lat Railway Station Address: Quang Trung, Phuong 10, Tp. Da Lat
Da Lat Railway Station opening hours: Daily from 8 am – 6 pm
4. Sip Tea at Xuan Huong Lake
One of the best ways to get to know a new place is to go on a city walk. And one of the best things to see in Dalat on foot is the gorgeous crescent-moon-shaped Xuan Huong lake. Covering 43 ha, the lake is a great place to visit for an early morning or an afternoon stroll.
If you make it to the lake, halfway through at the eastern end of the lake, step into the perfectly manicured Japanese garden and cross the red bridge into a cafe on a little island. The Xuan Huong Garden Coffee is a delightful place to rest your feet while sipping tea in beautiful surroundings.
Xuan Huong Garden Coffee Address: 01 Tran Quoc Toan, Phuong 10, Thanh pho Da Lat
5. Ride to the Tumbling Datanla Falls
If you only have little time and are unsure of what to do in Dalat, sightseeing on a bike is a great place to start. During the tour, you’ll get to see the best spots in the city such as the railway station, the French Quarter, and beyond.
Located in the Vietnamese highlands, Da Lat has more to offer than just a cityscape. The tour itinerary also includes visiting the stunning Datanla Falls as well as the Love Valley.
If you’re not interested in tours, you can rent a bike and get there independently. Located 5 km from Da Lat, the falls are only about a 10-minute drive away from the city centre. Bring your swimwear and take the toboggan ride down if you dare.
6. Trek the Lang Biang Mountain
One of the best things to do in Dalat if you love nature is to trek Lang Biang, the tallest peak in Da Lat. You’ll see many reviews about it being a tourist trap and it is, but only if you stay at the base of the mountain.
Many locals come to the foot of the mountain to take photos next to the Hollywood-like sign and ride a Russian jeep up to the old radar station at 1,950 m above sea level. But there’s so much more to Langbiang than just sad-looking ponies and noisy jeep rides.
The Lang Biang National Park is stunning and if you take the right path, you’ll have an enjoyable day out in the pine-tree forest, not to mention a great 4km uphill climbing exercise.
The mountain is located 12 km outside the town and you can easily access it by bike, motorbike, taxi or a local bus. To locate the right trekking path, follow our top tips for Hiking Langbiang.
7. Snack at Dalat’s Night Market
Located in the city centre, on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, the Da Lat night market attracts many hungry locals and visitors alike. Like many markets in Vietnam, it’s vibrant and very busy. Come here for food and a wander if you are out of ideas for things to do in Dalat at night.
Aside from tasty food options, here you’ll also find clothes and souvenir stalls as well as get to watch cool kids skating and dancing around.
Da Lat Night Market Address: Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street
Da Lat Night Market opening hours: Daily from 5 pm – 10 pm
8. Stay at the Crazy House
While wandering around Da Lat make a note to visit Crazy House, the strange and wonderful Hang Nga Villa. Designed by a Vietnamese architect Dang Viet Nga in 1990, it’s an art gallery and a fairy-tale-like guest house.
Inspired by the natural surroundings of Da Lat, the 5-storey house is the architect’s take on Gaudi’s whimsical architecture. It has 10 animal-themed rooms such as the tiger room or the eagle room, each incorporating elements of the respected animal.
If you‘ve been searching for unusual things to do in Dalat, this one’s for you. For just under $100 you could stay in one of the rooms. Check the availability here.
In 2009, the building was listed as one of the world’s ten most ‘bizarre’ buildings, and rightly so. It is one of the most unusual things to see in Dalat. And you don’t have to stay there to enjoy it.
Depending on your height (that’s right), the tickets cost from 20,000 VND to 60,000 VND.
Crazy House Address: Crazy House, 03 Duong Huynh Thuc Khang, St, Thanh pho Da Lat
Crazy House opening hours: Daily from 8.30 am – 7 pm
9. Visit Dalat Flower Garden
Among many fun and outdoorsy things to do in Dalat, visiting flower garden will be a highlight if you love plants. Even if you don’t have green fingers, it’s still a lovely and colourful place to explore during your visit to the ‘City of flowers.’
The Da Lat Flower Garden is home to 300+ exotic as well as native plants arranged in beautiful swirls and patterns. And if you can time your visit to Dalat during the Lunar New Year (end of January), you’ll have a chance to catch the Spring Flower Fair festivities too.
Dalat Flower Gardens Address: Tran Quoc Toan, Phuong 8, Thanh pho Da Lat. You’ll find it on the northern end of Xuan Huong lake, approximately 2 km away from the city centre.
10. Have a Refreshing Day at the Elephant Falls
One of the things to do in Dalat that’s further away from the city centre is the dramatic Elephant Waterfall. Considered one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the highlands, (despite the litter) the fall is worth a trip.
Located on the Cam Ly River, 30 km from Dalat, it can be reached by motorbike or a local bus. Another alternative is to join an organised tour. Wear comfortable footwear as the descend to the waterfall can be rough and slippery in places.
How to catch a local bus to the Elephant Waterfall
If you decide to take a bus, take the green bus going to Nam Ban village at the bus stop next to the central market. The bus leaves every 35 or so minutes with the first departure at 6 am and costs 20,000 VND per person per journey.
But remember to ask the bus driver to drop you off at Thac Voi. From here it’s an easy walk to the waterfall. Bring some cash with you to pay your entrance fee – 10,000 VND, which usually doubles during the Lunar Moon celebrations, in case you’re visiting in late January.
The Elephant Waterfall Address: Gia Lam, Lam Ha District, Lam Dong
The Elephant Waterfall opening hours: Daily from 7.30 am – 5 pm
Arriving at Da Lat
It’s easy to reach Da Lat via air. We had a pleasant 1-hour flight from Da Nang International Airport. You can also catch a flight to Da Lat from (and to) HCMC or Vietnam’s capital Hanoi.
Da Lat airport is located 30km south of the city and operates frequent shuttle buses to and from the town. You’ll find the bus stops right outside the airport. Tickets cost 40,000 VND per person and can be purchased at the airport or simply onboard the shuttle bus.
Alternatively, catch a local bus at HCMC, Bien Hoa, Nam Cat Tien, Phan Rang, Nha Trang or Buon Ma Thuot.
TOP TIP: If you are planning a trip to Dalat, consider using the super friendly 12GoAsia website. We booked most of our Vietnam train tickets using this website and found it efficient and reliable. Just book online and there’s no need to print your tickets, just show them to the station staff before you board on your smartphone. Easy.
Getting Around the City
Although roads, just like in the rest of Vietnam, are a little crazy, it’s easy to get around Da Lat by bike or motorbike. We found it enjoyable to simply walk around the town. The pavements here are well maintained and mostly free of clutter.
Taxis are reasonably priced too and will take you to the main attractions for a very affordable fare. As we’ve already mentioned, a taxi from the city centre to the Cable Car will set you back around 35,000-40,000 VND.
If you trust the locals, get a motorbike taxi (Xe Om), they are available everywhere but remember to check the price before getting on one.
You can also hire Easy Riders. But beware, not all locals who offer the services are genuine guides.
Accommodation in Da Lat
There’s no shortage of accommodation options in Dalat for every budget. From high-end hotels to backpacker hostels, you’ll find something to suit your travel style.
We quite enjoyed our stay at Hai Long Vuong Hotel. Located on a quiet street, around 20 min leisurely walk from the town centre, it has lovely panoramic views across the city. If you stay here, we recommend booking a private room with a balcony or at least a window.
Cafes in Dalat
On your way up to the Cable Car, pop into the Anna’s Coffee House located on the left-hand side across the road from the car park. It’s a cosy space for a cup of nice coffee or freshly squeezed watermelon juice.
Address: 9B Dong Da Street Ward 3 (di len Doi Ro Bin: Cap Treo), Phuong 3, Thanh ph Da Lat
Lit Juice and Cafe is a great spot to relax on a crisp evening. Here you can buy freshly prepared drinks including delicious hot juice.
Address: 30 Truong Cong Dinh Street, Ward 1, Da Lat
Also, for a coffee fix, stop at the local cafes. We grabbed a cup of lovely Vietnamese coffee for only 10,000 VND at a coffee shop just outside the centre.
Planning a visit to ‘Le Petit Paris?’ What’s on your things to see in Da Lat itinerary? Let us know in the comments below.
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