20 Best Things To Do in Dalat— The Chill City of Pines

Dalat (Vietnamese spelling: Đà Lạt) is a plateau city in Lam Dong Province (tỉnh Lâm Đồng) and has only been developed since the first half of the twentieth century. At 1 500m above sea level, the weather here is predominantly calm and pleasant year-round. 

Around 410 000 people, including local ethnicities, live in and around Dalat city. Many of the best things to do in Dalat revolve around nature and the easy-going slow pace of its friendly citizens. 

The rainy season is from April to October and the dry season from November to March. Nature’s abundance has drawn many people to put roots down in Dalat. As a result, there’s quite a cultural and religious diversity as well as many luxury homes. 

Top Things To Do in Dalat

Dalat has many fun things to do regardless of age. Sightseeing and taking photos, visiting religious sites, street food and window shopping in the evening, are for everybody. 

The younger generations might be more into trekking, hiking, or camping in the mountains and forests. While the older generations can opt for some easy strolling, relaxing, and family activities in nature. Most tourist attractions in Dalat are open only during the day time and food establishments in the city center commonly close at around 10 PM. All the destinations mentioned in this article are included in tours around Dalat.

View all the locations mentioned in this article.

1. Xuan Huong Lake and Best Things To Do in Dalat City Center

Xuan Huong Lake and Best Things To Do in Dalat City Center
[ by Nambian47 from Flickr ]

At the center of Dalat lies Xuan Huong Lake (hồ Xuân Hương)— a romantic combination of nature and human intervention. Construction started in 1919 and it was eventually named after a famous Vietnamese female poet in 1953.

There are a lot of fun things to do around Dalat’s lake. Dotted around are many lake-view restaurants and coffee shops. Favorite hangouts for the younger generations are places like Lam Vien Square (Quảng trường Lâm Viên) and Dalat Flower Garden (Vườn hoa Đà Lạt). 

You can also coast around on a tandem bike or even a three-seater. If you’re feeling fancy, rent a horse and carriage for a charming ride around its 5 km perimeter. 

Swan boats on the water are a favorite family activity. And any time you feel like having a rest, there’s plenty of grass, shade, and fresh air around.

2. Street Food and Shopping around Dalat Market

Dalat Market
[ by 我的旅游日记 from Facebook ]

Dalat Market (chợ Đà Lạt) by day is like any typical bustling market hub, but from 7 PM to 10 PM it comes to life in a special way. Dalat can be chilly, so there are great bargains on warm clothes at stalls and in shops. You can also pick up second-hand merchandise and cheap factory rejects.

No market stroll is complete without good food. So enjoy some charcoal-grilled sweet potatoes, corn, Vietnamese pizza (bánh tráng nướng), meat skewers, and sweet steaming tofu soup or soy milk in the chilly weather!

You can get anything here including fresh and dried produce, candied fruits, tea, local flowers, and souvenirs. One thing to bear in mind is that this market is a really crowded attraction, so shop smart and be careful of your belongings.

3. Nature’s Theme Park on Mt. Langbiang

Mt. Langbiang
[ by 4512 Image Hosting from Flickr ]

Mt. Langbiang is one of the most highly-rated things to do in Dalat on popular forums. It’s just 12km from the city center with green meadows as far as the eye can see, and mountains covered in pines hidden in the clouds. 

There’s a small entrance fee to pay for a ton of fun activities from the bottom to the top of the mountain. You can take a 25-minute jeep ride or hike any of the trails to Radar Peak (đỉnh Ra đa) which is 1 929m above sea level. 

It’s about an hour to the top, and once up there, you can do horse riding and even paraglide down to Dankia Lake. Just hanging out with the clouds and taking pics will make a great day of it, and there’s a telescope to get an eagle’s eye view. 

At the bottom of the mountain, there are chalets and a camping site. Tours may include entertainment and activities with local ethnic groups around the campfire, sipping on local cần wine, barbecuing, listening to tales, and dancing.

Protip: You’re likely to do a lot of walking around here so leave your luggage at the hotel. Bring a good pair of hiking shoes, adequate water, and maybe some snacks because they cost extra here.

More About Mt. Langbiang

4. Scale the Mountain Tops of Langbiang

Scale the Mountain Tops of Langbiang
[ by Johnny Tuấn from Facebook ]

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can do some free hiking up to either Nui Ong Peak (đỉnh Núi Ông) (2124m) or Nui Ba Peak (đỉnh Núi Bà) (2167m). 

It’s easy rambling through the pine trees, and directional signs show the way up without taking away the authenticity. It’s a roughly 7km hike from the bottom to the top which can take around 3 hours. 

Start your trip early so you don’t miss the sunny part of the day and can return safely to the bottom before nightfall. You’ll need good shoes, a light jacket, a small basic first aid kit including insect repellent, plenty of water, and snacks for the way. 

More About Mt. Langbiang

5. Kid-friendly Dalat Zoodoo Zoo For a Fun Family Activity

Zoodoo Zoo
[ image from Zoodoo ]

Dalat Zoodoo Zoo is one of the best things to do in Dalat with young children. It prioritizes animal care and raising them in a gentle manner to be comfortable around humans. 

Wallabies, alpacas, ponies, meerkats, capybaras, and other animals are sure to be great new friends for your kids. The zoo has a spot for day-picnic and there’s a cafe selling food and beverages. 

There are specific visiting slots from 9 AM to 4 PM so make sure to book a ticket beforehand to save yourself the trouble of waiting in line. There’s also a coach that can pick you up at your hotel or in the city center. 

More About the Zoodoo

6. Steam Locomotive and Serrated Railway at Dalat Station 

Steam Locomotive and Serrated Railway at Dalat Station
[ by Polina Rotiva from Unsplash ]

Dalat Railway Station is another key thing to do in Dalat. Construction for the Station started in 1932 and it was designed after the shape of Mt. Langbiang. This is one of the oldest stations in Vietnam and the only one to have an operating steam locomotive along a serrated railway. 

The railroad was partially destroyed during the war leaving only the 7km from the Station to Linh Phuoc Pagoda— available as a one-way or round trip. This station is now a favorite spot for the younger generations coming to take photos, especially inside the train cabin coffee shop.

7. 11 National Attainments in Linh Phuoc Pagoda 

Linh Phuoc Pagoda
[ by loek-zanders from Flickr ]

Linh Phuoc Pagoda (Chùa Linh Phước) is one of the highlighted religious structures in Dalat. Commonly known as Ve Chai Pagoda (ve chai means junk in Vietnamese) by locals, this place holds 11 national attainments or record breakers

Its exterior includes millions of broken glass bottles and ceramic pieces, including the 49-meter dragon in the yard. Visitors can view the tallest stupa, the tallest Guan Yin statue, and the biggest wooden Bodhidarma statue in Vietnam. 

Another figure of Guan Yin is made up of over 600 000 strawflowers and renewed every two years. There’s also a 300-meter structure depicting 18 levels of hell in Buddhist mythology.

More About the Linh Phuoc Pagoda

8. Pongour— the Best Waterfall in Vietnam

Pongour— the Best Waterfall in Vietnam
[ by Arian Zwegers from Flickr ]

Pongour Waterfall was considered the most magnificent waterfall by the French and the best waterfall of Vietnam by Bao Dai for all the right reasons. This area was established as a National Heritage Site and is home to a lot of species, many of which are endangered.

After a 15-minute walk surrounded by pine trees, you’re greeted by the sight of a stream cascading over 40 meters of seven overlapping stone ladders. If you decide to spend a day here, prepare adequate food and water because they only sell a few grilled snacks.

9. Step Down Along Elephant Waterfall

Step Down Along Elephant Waterfall
[ by Anne and David from Flickr ]

Elephant Waterfall (Thác Voi) is another untouched natural wonder 28km away from the city center. It takes 145 stone steps through tranquil forest scenery to reach the bottom of the Waterfall. 

There, you’ll be able to pick out rock formations resembling a herd of elephants playing in the water. Also, take a peek behind the pouring water and check into the Bat Cave

In 2001, it was established as a National Heritage Site. On the way back from here you can drop by Linh An Pagoda (Chùa Linh Ẩn) with the tallest statue of Guan Yin in Vietnam.

Protip: Even though the laddered section is now equipped with handles, a good pair of walking shoes is still necessary. Pay close attention to your children if you decide to come here with them.

10. Trekking and Camping in Bidoup Nui Ba National Park

Nui Ba National Park
[ by Toni Wöhrl and Sang Cai from CC BY-SA 4.0 ]

Bidoup Nui Ba National Park (Vườn quốc gia Bidoup Núi Bà) is an excellent place for some light trekking, hiking, and camping in the forest. It’s a natural wonder covering 64 800 hectares and is 35km from the city center. 

This national park has a biodiversity of thousands of species including geographically unique flora and fauna, and endangered species in Vietnam. Tours can also include visits to local ethnic communities living in the park.

The park provides stress-free one or two-day tours with English-speaking guides. Tours include food and water, tents and camping gear, plus insurance. You pay extra for things like binoculars and sleeping bags. 

Special needs concerning food, allergies, and other things should be arranged prior to booking. The staff will inform you if your needs cost extra. 

Protip: Bring a good pair of hiking shoes and leave your luggage at your hotel. First-aid kits and insect repellent are usually included, but bring your own just in case.

11. Dalat Truc Lam Zen Monastery

Dalat Truc Lam Zen Monastery
[ by Anne and David from Flickr ]

Truc Lam Zen Monastery (Thiền viện Trúc Lâm) on Mt. Phoenix (núi Phượng Hoàng) is one of the biggest zen monasteries in Vietnam. Its calm tranquility is reflected in the architecture and the garden with countless flowers brought from all over the world by practitioners.

Located 5km away from the city center, the most convenient and quickest way to get to Truc Lam Zen Monastery is by cable car from Robin Hil. It provides fantastic sky views of Dalat city along with its mountain ranges and pine forests. 

The outer monastery is open to visitors, while the inner is home to separated male and female practitioners. Just outside the monastery, visitors can find vegetarian diners and gift shops for some nice souvenirs.

12. Nature’s Extravaganza at Tuyen Lam Lake

Nature’s Extravaganza at Tuyen Lam Lake
[ by GioPG from Pixabay ]

From Truc Lam Zen Monastery, you can hike 140 steps down to Tuyen Lam Lake (hồ Tuyền Lâm)— another natural gem just outside the city center. This tranquil lake surrounded by pine forests has a number of activities. 

 A nice way to take in the scenery is in a group canoe. There are also professionally guided kayak tours, and family-friendly swan boat rides around the shore. Fishing in the shacks along the shore is free of charge, and you can rent fishing equipment at the dock.

If you want more of the calm atmosphere, camp along the shore for a day or even overnight for a small fee. Camping equipment can be rented for the day or for an overnight stay. 

Along the shore, you’ll also find lake-view cabins for the night and diners to spice up your day with some barbeque. The late afternoons are amazing here and a trip on an inflatable boat is a must-see for the maple leaf forests under the setting sun.

Protip: You can find a day tour or 2-day tour in Tuyen Lam Lake which includes these activities online.

13. Extreme Sports at Datanla Waterfall

Extreme Sports at Datanla Waterfall
[ Trans World Productions from Visualhunt.com / CC BY-ND ]

Datanla is a serene and beautiful waterfall just 3km away from Tuyen Lam Lake. The main attractions for visitors are the outdoor thrills and extreme sports. All these extreme sports have professional instructors to ensure your safety and guide you along the way.

A good place to start is the 1km rail sled from the entrance to the bottom of the fall which goes around the mountain. Speeds can reach 40km/h, but not to worry because there’s both an automatic and manual brake mechanism. 

The High Rope Course comprises a zipline and a multi-difficulty obstacle course. Next is Datanla’s Canyon Tour’s great water thrill which includes waterfall cable climbing,  stream sliding, and zipline diving. A kayaking tour along the stream makes for an engaging team activity. 

14. Infamous Chicken Church 

Infamous Chicken Church
[ by qiv from CC BY-SA 2.0 ]

Dalat Cathedral (Nhà thờ Chánh toà Đà Lạt), or St. Nicholas of Bari Cathedral, is a prominent religious structure of the city. The Cathedral is built in a Roman-style architecture, and construction began in 1931 and finished in 1942.

The cathedral is commonly known as Chicken Church (Nhà thờ Con Gà) by locals because of the metal rooster on the cross of the bell tower. The rooster is made from a light alloy which acts as a wind direction indicator and a lightning rod. 

The origin of this rooster is debated as either the Gallic Rooster— the symbol of France— or the “Denial of Peter” from the New Testament where Jesus said to Peter: “Before the rooster crows, you’ll disown me three times”. 

15. A Royal Experience at Bao Dai Summer Palace

A Royal Experience at Bao Dai Summer Palace
[ by tranquangbtg from Pixabay ]

Bảo Đại Summer Palace (Dinh III Bảo Đại) was built from 1933 to 1938 and is the most popular out of three palaces in Dalat. Located on a pine hill, this French-style palace and a well-kept garden are where Bao Dai— the last king of Vietnam— spent most of his working days. 

Visitors can take themselves back in time by dressing up as Vietnamese royalties. There are objects on display in every room. The office displays the royal seal and a bust of Bảo Đại, and that of his father— Khải Định.

The First Palace was initially built by a French officer but purchased by Bao Dai in 1949 who then dug a tunnel connecting to the Second Palace. The Second Palace was built in 1933 as the office for Jean Decoux, a famous governor-general, and has a bunker wine cellar. 

16. Fancy Household of Queen Nam Phuong

Fancy Household of Queen Nam Phuong
[ image from Vnexpress ]

Stroll along French Quarter where French villas are surrounded by pine trees, and you’ll come to Queen Nam Phuong Palace (Cung Nam Phương Hoàng Hậu). It’s built with a Southeast Asia architectural twist. 

The stairs, windows, ceilings, along with the majority of furniture are made of wood. The objects on display include Nguyen Dynasty Porcelain and gold tableware, granite fireplaces imported from Italy, photographs on the walls, and other everyday objects. 

The Palace was built in the early 1930s and given to Nam Phuong— the last queen of Vietnam— by her father for her marriage to Bao Dai. There’s also an emergency underground passage speculated to be connected to the First and Second Bao Dai Palace

17. Unique Pink Architecture at Domaine de Marie

Unique Pink Architecture at Domaine de Marie
[ by Harry Jing from Unsplash ]

Domaine de Marie Church (Nhà thờ Giáo xứ Mai Anh) is another popular religious site. This church complex also contains two convents for nuns and local orphans.

The nuns are in charge of education and teaching handicraft skills to the orphans and hearing-impaired children. If you want to support them, you can buy their creations in the church shop including wool sweaters and handicraft souvenirs.

The architectural style is a mix of 17th century French and Rong House (nhà Rông)— an ethnic stilt house typical of the Vietnam central highlands. The stained-glass windows make for a creative light manipulation highlighting the church and the colorful flower garden.

Construction began in 1940, mainly thanks to the philanthropist madame Suzzane Humbert— wife of Jean Decoux. Her remains can be found right behind the Main Hall surrounded by the garden. 

18. Bizarre Stay at Crazy House

Bizarre Stay at Crazy House
[ by YHBae from Pixabay ]

Crazy House or Hang Nga Guesthouse (Nhà khách Hằng Nga) is a striking piece of modern art. Visitors can explore the structure for a small fee or book a stay in one of the themed rooms.

The whole structure revolves around expressionist architecture where the walls and ceilings don’t follow symmetry, but allow for spontaneity and creativity. The building mimics natural features with a soft touch of Salvador Dalí and Walt Disney.

It opened to the public in 1990 and is still going through improvements and expansions. The owner/ creator of this building is Đặng Viết Nga who credits her inspiration to Antoni Gaudí

19. Nature’s Untouched Finesse at Dankia Lake and Golden Stream

Nature’s Untouched Finesse at Dankia Lake and Golden Stream
[ by HaileyBluez from Pixabay ]

The most exciting way to get to Dankia Lake and Golden Stream is by paragliding from Mt. Langbiang. It’s the largest freshwater source of Dalat and also supplies Ankroet— the first water power plant of Vietnam built in 1943

The best part about this lake is that it’s one of the more untouched nature places around the city. Activities around these turquoise waters lurking in fog covered pine forest include easy strolling, horseback riding, camping, and fishing in the middle of the lake. 

The only business development allowed is for boating and canoe services for visitors. Fortunately, plans for luxurious resorts never came to be.

20. Photogenic Cau Dat Tea Farm

Photogenic Cau Dat Tea Farm
[ by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels ]

Cau Dat Tea Farm (đồi chè Cầu Đất) is a green tea hill located 20km from the city center with 100 years of history. It’s gaining popularity among the younger generations as a favorite spot for taking photos of the farms, the coffee shops around, and the Wooden Bridge amidst the clouds. 

Visitors can join two fun and informative tours, or you can wander around by yourself. The Farm Tour visits the tea farms, flower gardens, hydroponic strawberry farms, and you can pick-and-pay for vegetables. 

The Tea Tour allows you to live a day as a tea farmer from picking tea leaves to going through every procedure in both traditional and modern tea-making processes. You can of course enjoy a good cuppa and you get a little take-home gift.

How to Get to Dalat

Coaches to Dalat can easily be booked from Ho Chi Minh City at the city’s bus terminals, main stations, and also online. Futa Bus Lines is a common choice and Bookaway is a good booking agency. Traveling coaches provide water, air-conditioning, and possibly wifi.

Getting Around Dalat

Grab is the equivalent of Uber in Vietnam. Grab Car is less expensive than a taxi and you can book them for the day. A single person bike ride is even cheaper. You need an Internet connection and a phone number to receive SMS. For more information, check out their English homepage

Buses are convenient for moving around the city center with Google Maps. Get directions to your destinations using our Google Maps Links and choose the Public Transportation tab. Each bus has a number for the course, and you can see which bus to take, where to get off, and the extra walking distance thanks to Google Maps. Tickets for one stop are around 7 000 VND. 

Motorbike Rental Services can be found around Xuân Hương Lake, at your hotel, or homestay as well as online. You don’t really need papers going around the city center. However, if you’re going outside, it’s recommended to bring your passport, your international and national driving license, and purchase insurance.

Renting Bicycles is a fun way to get around the city center.

Traveling Tips for Dalat

Best Time to Visit: Dalat’s got something special to offer for all seasons. However, visitors may want to avoid July, September, and October as the afternoon rains may disturb your plans.

Accommodation: Local homestays a few kilometers away from Xuân Hương Lake tend to be more quiet and cheaper.

Food: Local diners around Dalat Market can save you a bit of money. 

Environment: Be as mindful of the environment as much as possible, especially when you visit natural attractions to help preserve the scenery.

Culture: Religious structures require visitors to be mindful of the surroundings and you may have to wear clothes covering knees and shoulders.

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