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Dalat (often written Da Lat) was one of the places I visited during a month-long trip in Vietnam. I didn't know much about Dalat before I started to plan for our trip, and initially it was more of a stopping point between Ho Chi Minh City and Hoi An, but I ended up having a great time here. There's lots of fun things you can do in Dalat in 2-3 days, but here are 9 of the best things you shouldn't miss when in Dalat!
Before covering some of the best things to do in Dalat, let’s first answer the question of Where is Dalat?
Dalat is a city in the south of Vietnam, located between Ho Chi Minh City and the coastal city of Nha Trang. It was initially developed by the French in the early 1900's as a resort destination and hints of this still remain, with European-style buildings and tourist-centred attractions and amenities. The vibrant city is centred around the large Xuan Huong lake and is surrounded by rolling countryside and waterfalls. It's a great place to visit, especially if you are wanting to break up a journey from the south to central Vietnam. So, now you know where Dalat is, let's look at 9 fun things to do in Dalat.
9 Fun things to do in Dalat
1. Stroll along the edge of Xuon Huong lake
Xuon Huong lake sits in the centre of Dalat, and is a picturesque focal point for the city. You can rent out swan pedalo boats to take out onto the lake and there’s also a couple of cafes either side of the lake, close to the main city centre. There are walking paths around the edge of the lake and a stroll along here is a nice way to spend an hour or so. If the weather is nice, pick up a Bahn mi and take it with you to have as a picnic on one of the benches on your way round.
Strolling around Xuon Huong lake is a great free sunny day activity in Dalat
2. Visit The Crazy House
The Crazy House (official name Villa Hang Nga) is one of the things Dalat is famous for and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Designed by local architect Dr. Dang Viet Nga, the fairytale house really is totally bizarre and is one of the world's most unique architectural structures.
The concept of the house was to bring people closer to nature and the overall design of the house center's around the structure of a tree. This is reflected throughout the house with the use of vines, stalagmites, plants, animals, spider veins and the colours of nature in the design.
Some of the features are slightly stranger than others and one of the buildings has creepy monster hands clawing at the side of it, whilst the events space has an 'under the sea' theme featuring a giant octopus!
The creepy 'hands' wall (L) and a guest room (R) in The Crazy House
The building was originally built as a guest house with an events space. But over the years, and as interest in The Crazy House grew, more structures and rooms were added and it was opened up to tourists to explore.
The house is a big maze, with hidden nooks, wavy bridges and winding pathways connecting the buildings. It reminded me of some of the Gaudi buildings in Barcelona. It’s a really interesting place to wander around and we had a fun couple of hours here.
You can stay overnight in one of the guest rooms, or just pay to visit and explore. If the guest rooms are not occupied, they are opened up for you to look at from the doorway. Each room is slightly different but they all have a feel of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarves', with curvy walls and furniture made out of logs. Nothing is 'normal', everything is completely mad and over the top, but it is a lot of fun to explore!
The Crazy House is just a short walk from the centre of Dalat. Tickets to enter the Crazy House are only 60k vnd per person (£2) and it is definitely worth it, it's a great way to spend a couple of hours in Dalat.
Having fun exploring The Crazy House in Dalat
3. Ride the Alpine coaster at Datanla Waterfall
The Datanla Waterfall is one of the main tourist attractions in Dalat. It is just 6 km from the main city centre and only takes 15 minutes by taxi or scooter.
The waterfalls at Datanla are impressive, however the whole place is very much a tourist attraction, so if you are coming here expecting to find peace in nature, you’re going to be disappointed. However don't let that put you off, because despite that, it is a fun place to visit.
One of the best things to do at Datanla is to ride the alpine coaster! Each car can fit two adults, or you can choose to ride separately. The coaster twists and turns through the forest, down to the base of Waterfall 1 and 2. It can pick up speed, but don't worry, you are able to control the speed of the car as you have a brake! Although the scenery wasn't quite as good as the mountain coaster we went on at Oeschinensee in Switzerland, it was so much fun.
Buy a round ticket for 100k vnd per person (£3.50) at the entrance to the park. Keep hold of your ticket so that you can use the return journey when you are ready to leave.
At the base of Waterfalls 1 and 2 is a coffee shop and also several viewing platforms. In a bizarre addition there is also a giant gorilla statue next to the waterfall. I have no idea why and personally this does ruin the view somewhat.
Waterfalls 1 and 2 at Datanla with a Giant Gorilla to complete the picture!
I would highly recommend following the hiking trail to Waterfall 3. The trail is not too long and initially it follows a stream downriver. Eventually you will reach a small shrine at the top of the waterfall. You can't really see the waterfall from the point though - to see the waterfall properly you will need to hike down the hill. The path here is quite steep but it is worth it. At the bottom is a small shaded area where you can enjoy views of the waterfall. This waterfall is much nicer than the first two and fewer people make the effort to hike here. It is worth saying though, that we visited in May 2022 and at the time it did appear that some construction was going on to introduce a cable car to this spot so it may become busier here in the future.
After you've enjoyed Waterfall 3, it's time to hike back up to the coaster station. Show them your return ticket, hop on and enjoy being pulled up through the forest, back up to the main park entrance!
We also noticed that a new, bigger alpine coaster is being built, so in the future, visitors will be able to enjoy a longer ride.
The walk down to Waterfall 3 was less busy and much nicer
4. Take on the Dalat High Ropes course
Located next to Datanla Waterfall is the Dalat High Ropes course. Due to my husband's fear of heights, we didn't partake in this activity but it looked like a lot of fun! (Despite the screams coming from the zip line!) There's over 80 different activities you can choose from and they range in difficulty, depending on how adventurous you are feeling. There are also many great activities for kids.
5. Ride the Dalat Cable Car
The Dalat cable car connects Robin Hill in Dalat with Truc Lam Buddhist Monastery, with a station at each location. The ticket price is 80k vnd (£2.80) for a return trip and 60k (£2.15) for a one way trip from the Truc Lam Monastery back to Dalat city.
The Truc Lam Buddhist Monastery Station is just a 5 minute drive from Datanla Waterfall so can be combined into one day if you are already in this location. If you travelled by taxi to Datanla Waterfall, you can walk to Truc Lam Monastery Station, though it will take about 40 minutes and it's not so picturesque. There are taxis outside Datanla waterfall that you could get to Truc Lam Monastery and from there you could buy a one way ticket on the cable car and ride back to Dalat city.
The cable car travels 2.2 km across the forest, offering great views of Dalat city, Truc Lam lake and the monastery.
Truc Lam Lake, near Datanla Waterfall
6. Visit Truc Lam Buddhist monastery and lake
The Truc Lam Monastery complex sits above Truc Lam lake, nestled amongst 23 hectares of protected forest. The main sight within the complex is the Truc Lam pagoda, or main hall. Visitors are forbidden from entering certain buildings, but can stroll around the tranquil landscaped grounds. Entry is free but you must be appropriately dressed, with your knees and shoulders covered. There are free sarongs at the entrance which you can borrow for your visit.
Although Truc Lam lake is a pretty sight from above, at the ground level there was a lot of construction work going on at the time of our visit in May 2022. There's already a few local restaurants by the edge of the lake as well as boats you can hire to take out on the lake, but I wouldn't be surprised if this area is being developed further to encourage more tourism in the coming years.
Strolling through the pretty grounds of Truc Lam Monastery
7. Go to Dalat's night market
Dalat's night market is one of the main attractions in Dalat, particularly at the weekend, when groups of local tourists arrive on coaches, specifically for the market. The night market is quite large and there are many stalls selling clothes and shoes, as well as food stalls. Whilst the market is not as good as some I experienced in Thailand, there is a really fun atmosphere here. Everyone congregates on the steps overlooking the centre of the market, music is playing and everyone is just having a great time.
8. Enjoy a BBQ Hotplate at the night market
As well as the smaller street stalls, there are several larger outdoor restaurants, specialising in BBQ hotplates. You can get great meat and seafood hotplates, and they all come with rice and vegetables. Cooking your own food on the hotplate is a fun social way to eat and the atmosphere was great!
9. Go to the Maze bar
The Maze bar is one of Dalat’s attractions that you may have seen on instagram. It has a similar feel to The Crazy House and is a fun place to visit in the evening with a group. When you arrive at the bar, it initially appears very small. Buy a drink at the bar then head downstairs and start your journey through the maze! The maze is a series of small interconnecting spaces with little nooks and dead-ends. There are a few seating areas throughout the maze, but the main seating area is in the garden, at the end of the maze.
Unfortunately when we visited, we were the only ones in the whole bar! I was really surprised because I had seen a lot about this on Instagram and it seemed like a fun place to visit. At the time of our visit, there weren't many foreign tourists in Dalat and the Maze bar is definitely a bar which caters to tourists. Even though we were the only ones there, it was a fun place to visit!
Having fun in The Maze Bar!
Useful information for visiting Dalat, Vietnam
Is Dalat worth visiting?
Personally, I was quite surprised by Dalat and I really enjoyed the few days we had here. As I've mentioned, it’s a popular tourist destination, especially with local, domestic tourists and it had a great atmosphere because of that. There's a bustling night market, plenty of places to eat, Xuan Huong lake as well as waterfalls, monasteries and attractions to visit. If you are not short on time, then Dalat is a good addition to your Vietnam itinerary, especially if you want to break up the journey between south and central Vietnam.
How many days do you need in Dalat?
We spent 3 nights and 3 days in Dalat and found this to be plenty of time. In hindsight, we could have easily fitted everything we wanted to see into 2 days, however the third day meant that we had some down time and could take things a bit slower. So, I would say 2-3 days is a good amount of time to spend in Dalat.
With 2 days in Dalat, you can spend one full day exploring the main town centre itself, including a visit to the famous Crazy House, a stroll around the Xuan Huong lake and a visit to the night market. On your second day, enjoy a trip to the Datanla Waterfall - one of the most popular attractions in Dalat and visit the Truc Lam Monastery. If you have a 3rd day, take this day to explore further afield, taking advantage of some of the beautiful scenery and landscapes around Dalat.
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How to get to Dalat?
Dalat is a large city and a popular tourist destination, both with domestic tourists and international travellers. For that reason, it is well connected and easy to get to. Depending on your budget, you can get to Dalat by bus or plane.
By plane: Lien Kuong airport is just 30 minutes taxi ride from the centre of Dalat. You can catch a direct flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Dalat in just 1 hour.
By Bus: The main bus station in Dalat is located a short 10-15 minutes from the centre of Dalat. The overnight sleeper bus is the most popular choice for backpackers and those travelling on a budget.
If you are arriving in Dalat via an overnight bus - take note: My husband and I arrived in Dalat on an overnight sleeper bus from Ho Chi Minh City. The bus was due to arrive at 7.30am, however it actually arrived at 4.30am. The bus drivers in Vietnam don't mess around and they drive very (too) fast! Luckily our hotel was open at 5am (though we did wake the staff member up!), and we were able to check into our room at the additional cost of a half day rate, but this is something to bear in mind when selecting your accommodation and planning your journey to Dalat.
I always use 12go when booking transport in Asia and I found Futa bus company to be good during my travels in Vietnam. If you are travelling with Futa buses, they often offer a free transfer service from the bus station (which is usually outside of the city or town) to your accommodation but they don't really explain this. When we got off the bus, there was the usual onslaught of taxi drivers waiting for the foreigners. We only found out about the free shuttle bus because the taxi drivers only had scooters and we had too much luggage with us for a scooter, so they told us about the shuttle. For our next journey with Futa we already knew about the shuttle so politely declined the taxis and went straight to the Futa shuttle buses, but again, no-one mentioned this to us.
What's the weather like in Dalat?
Dalat is much cooler than other tourist destinations and is known for its stable climate. The best time to visit Dalat is between November - April. During this time, the temperature is more manageable and there tends to be less rainfall. When the sun is out in the daytime, it can be quite warm, however as evening approaches, the temperature drops, so you will need a jacket or jumper to keep you warm in the evenings during these months.
June - August is when Dalat experiences the most rainfall, so it might be best to avoid these months if possible.