Ahh, Dalat. This place had been recommended to us numerous times by a number of different people prior to going, but we never expected just how good it would be. Dalat is known for being the honeymoon capital of Vietnam. You get this sort of vibe here as you walk past the ‘illuminated heart’ decorations all over the roundabout islands, the Eiffel Tower shaped trees dotted along the river and the horse drawn carriages that pass in the street. It’s a beautiful mountain town that’s most famous for its strawberries (due to the perfect spring-like weather conditions all year round), weasel coffee and flowers, which are dotted over every street in the city. The scenery and city in general is beautiful, so you definitely wouldn’t be strapped for things to look at if you just wanted to take a wander around. However, if you are looking for something a little more exciting, something to get your adrenaline going and your heart beating just that little bit faster… it’s your lucky day because this is the place for that too!
As well as for it’s beauty, Dalat has become well known for being a great spot for thrill seekers from all over the world. Dalats’ numerous waterfalls, rivers and mountains provide a great location for adventurous sports such as mountain-biking, hiking, canyoning, abseiling, climbing and white-water rafting.
It’s an amazing city and deserves to be on any travellers or holiday-goers list. This blog post will dive into our top 10 things to do in Dalat, most of which we did ourselves when we were travelling in March 2018.
1 - Go Tobogganing at Datanlna Waterfalls
What an experience this was! Datanlna Waterfall is yet another waterfall in Dalat, however much less impressive than Elephant Waterfalls and much more touristy at that. However, one very cool activity that do have at the waterfall is a toboggan ride which sends tourists whizzing around the outskirts of the waterfall and the mountains at speeds of up to 40kmh.
You can ride singularly or ride as a two. We went on it as a pair and had so much fun! We paid 150,000VND each, for a two-way experience which takes you to see the waterfall and then takes you back again, via toboggan. You can pay 100,000VND for the one way ticket option if this suits you better.
We're guessing that the toboggan ride activity is safe to do! However, word of warning… It does not blooming’ feel like it! Numerous times, coming up to the curving corners in the track, the toboggan literally felt as it it were going to fly straight off the cliff! Although, I’m pretty sure this is down to Jac not applying ‘gently applying the break’ when we passed the signs saying to do so, oops!
2 - Test your nerves canyoning down 60m waterfalls
You’ll see this everywhere in Dalat! Dalat has so many waterfalls. Elephant waterfalls, Prenn Waterfall, Datanla Waterfalls and many more. Many companies offering canyoning excursions will take you to these waterfalls for a fun-filled day of canyoning, abseiling and cliff-jumping. However, one waterfall in Dalat isn’t used by any tour companies as it is inclusively used by one company - Groovy Gecko Tours. So obviously, we had to go canyoning with these guys!
Groovy Gecko Tours offer a full day canyoning down their own private waterfalls along the Dasar River. We were attracted to these guys not only for this reason, but because they only allow groups of 9 people on their excursions. Many companies offer the same excursions at Datanla Waterfalls, however some of these could be filled with up to 20 people.. so we definitely weren’t keen on waiting for 20 people to abseil down the waterfall after us!
The excursion was amazing. You are picked up from your hotel at 7:30 in the morning by minibus, which then picks up the rest of the group from their hostels too. You will drive for around 30 minutes before you are transferred on to an army jeep. The jeep ride is literally one of the best bits of the day. It takes you on an amazing 40 minute off-road experience, all the way to the edge of the river to start the theory practice. You’ll be thrown about the jeep as your standing up in the back of it, getting to know the people your about to spend the day with!
You’ll be geared up in your harnesses, wetsuits and helmet and be shown how to abseil by your guides (Who speak amazing English) before you can finally get going!
The canyoning part of the experience was amazing! We abseiled down waterfalls at 8m, 15m, 18m, 32m, and wait for it… 65m in height! We couldn’t believe the size of the 65m cliff. It felt like it took forever to get down! You move on to cliff jumping afterwards, which was great too. However, we only got to jump off the 5m cliff on our excursion as it was dry season. Usually, there is a 7m cliff as well.
The tour guides are great, they were so helpful and provided us with guidance the whole way through. They also provided us with an amazing lunch of 2 Banh Mi each (Baguettes with meat and salad), Oreos, banana cake and more fruit than you could ever imagine.
The whole excursion cost 1,230,000 VND each and was worth every penny… or worth every dong, if we are going to be correct in currency! There are many other companies that you can do canyoning with, however these guys are our top choice!
Here’s a link to their website: http://www.groovygeckotours.net/
3 - Visit Elephant Waterfalls
Located in Nam Ban Village, which is around 28km from Dalats’ City Centre, is That Voi waterfall (More commonly known as Elephant Waterfalls. It’s a pretty impressive sight and we were pleasantly surprised with how close you can get to the waterfall, given that it’s a tourist attraction.
You have to pay 10,000VND admission fee before you are allowed to enter the gate that descends down to the waterfall. There is two viewing platforms, one is from the side and is quite close to the gate you enter. The other is literally right at the foot of the waterfall, on a huge rock in the middle of the fast flowing rapids that transcend from the waterfall. To get to this viewing platform, you need to put a bit of effort in! It’s quite a tricky scramble down to the bottom as you have to climb/walk over an uneven path of large rocks, tree trucks and bridges. However, most of the path has a metal handrail running alongside it, which makes it a lot safer/easier. It’s definitely recommended that you wear suitable shoes/trainers as some of the rocks beneath the waterfall are incredibly slippy.
At the bottom, you really do get a glimpse of the size of the waterfall. It’s definitely a must-see whilst in Dalat!
4 - Mount Lang Biang
If you are into your hiking... Mount Lang Biang is the place for you. One activity that we both love is climbing mountains, so much so that we are trying to find one to climb in every city we go to. In Dalat, the best mountain to climb and the one that most people know the most is Mount Lang Biang.
After paying the admission of 20,000 VND, you’ll need to decide how you would like to get to the peaks. Mount Lang Biang has 3 peaks. The second peak is very popular with tourists as it's accessible by the 4.4km, winding road leading up to it. If hiking isn’t for you, then this is a great option. The most popular way for big groups to get there is via jeep. It costs around 300,000 VND for a return trip. The other option is riding there on motorbike, which is also possible. Many touring agencies will offer guided tours to the second peak via jeep.
It's highest peak (and the one we were interested in) stands at 2167m. The only way to get to this peak is by hiking, therefore it's not as popular when it comes to the crowds of tourists wanting to catch a glimpse of the beautiful city of Dalat from above. It’s around a 2-3 hour fairly difficult slog up to the top, especially on the last 300m, which is a very steep, endless amount of stairs that lead up to the peak. However, the view at the top is more than worth it. Definitely worth the effort to get there.
If you are looking for something a bit different and love camping as much as we do - why not camp at the peak?! We did this and had one of the best days so far since starting travelling. If you would like to read more about how we did this, please <click here> to read our blog post about it!
5 - The Crazy House
A very popular tourist attraction, already well known in Dalat, is the Crazy House. The crazy house is a artistic medley of fairytale-like buildings, which were designed and intertwined by a Vietnamese architect named Dang Viet Nga. Nga has actively acknowledged her inspiration being drawn from architects such as Gaudi, which is prevalent as you walk through the crazy house. The overall look of the main building forms the body of a giant tree. As you walk around you feel the vines form as handrails and other natural forms in unbelievable designs such as spiders, mushrooms and a huge room dedicated purely to creatures from under the sea! The whole thing makes you feel high as a kite as you take it in in all of its madness.
We actually went one step further and stayed the night. We booked a room via agoda, which turned out to not be available when we got there. Unfortunately, this meant we had to be... Yep, you guessed it, upgraded to the best room in the house! We were buzzing as we were led up the tiny cave corridors into our new room for the night. We had a two-storied room which featured; a tiny table with tiny stools and an even more tiny teapot and teacups, a winding-vine oak staircase with some incredibly weird stairs that made you come down them like you hadn't quite made it to the toilet with a upset stomach, a fire place slap-bang in the middle of the staircase (you can imagine how much this got used in 35 degree heat), a huge spiderweb sky-light window which took up most of the ceiling, a super-comfy round bed that was placed inside a hole in one of the walls upstairs and a giant colourful pheasant that was carved into the staircase. It was a great experience during our travels, especially as we got to explore the building at 7 in the morning before it actually opened to the public. It was also hilarious staying in our own room during opening hours and watching people try to open the handle of your room to have a look! A couple of times, we were walked in on by some very confused Chinese families, it was so funny! Would definitely recommend staying here just for one night if you can, as it's an experience in itself.
Entry to the crazy house costs 40,000VND per person, our stay cost 950,000VND (£30), which is absolutely crazy considering you couldn't even get a night in the Premier Inn for £30 back in the UK!
6 - Go for a drink in the Maze Bar (100 Roofs Bar)
If you liked the crazy house during the daytime, you'll love the Maze Bar come night-time. It's twisting corridors, underground cave-like interior will have you giggling away with your friends as you try to find the bar. To enter the Maze inside of Maze Bar, you must first buy a drink which start from around 60,000VND. It's not cheap, but you get what you pay for as you stumble through the crazy walkways. After turning left then right, then right then left, then right and down, then up and around.... You finally hit the bar at the top. Or at the bottom, I'm not actually sure where it ends. Just go there!
7 - Explore the row of creepy, abandoned villas...
And wonder why on earth they are all so deserted!? As massive fans of abandoned places, we had to go and check out the supposedly creepy row of abandoned villas, just off of Hoa Phuong Tim. Situated right next to Ho Tuyen Lam Lake, the long, red dirt path takes you directly through the middle of 10-12 abandoned, three-storied French-Colonial style villas. The sight of them all standing tall with their windows blown out, concrete walls unfinished and stairways still intact was literally amazing. We wondered through a few of the villas, shooting more videos than Spielberg himself on the go pro/drone. Worth a check out whilst you are in Dalat, and as a bonus... It's completely free!
Its also worth noting - we spent some time searching for an Abandoned Monastery that local families were meant to live in, which we of course found. However, building works have started renovating on this and everything else was boarded up to high heaven so it was one heck of an anti-climax. So if you've read it's worth going to - it's not.
Also the supposed haunted house, if you hear about it, it isn't worth visiting because its been renovated and we've probably stayed in several hostels that were scarier! Stick with the abandoned Villas!
8 - Watch the sunset at Ho Tuyen Lam Lake
After exploring the abandoned villas, be sure to stop at the barrier that goes along the outline of Ho Tuyen Lam Lake. Just on the left of the row of little street food stands and shops, there is thee PERFECT spot to stand and watch the sun set in between the mountains on the other side of the river. It was one of the most beautiful sunsets we had seen in Vietnam so far. It was pure luck that we caught it at the right time too as we were actually just driving that way to go back to the hostel!
9 - Enjoy a family dinner
Hostels are so big on this in Dalat! Every night when walking through backpacker streets, you'll see a group of people sitting round a table, eating some good home-cooked food and drinking the ever-so-potent rice wine with the hosts of the hostel. It usually costs around 50,000VND, which is an amazing price to pay for the meal you get, plus the fruit for desert. And not to forget the rice wine, your host will most likely be giving this away free by the bucket-full during family meals, so drink up and get socialising. It's an amazing opportunity to meet people who are travelling just like you and also an opportunity to find some friends to get lost with in maze bar afterwards!
10 - Dalat Night Market
Head to Dalats night market on the weekend if you want to really dive deep into the busy nature of the city locals! It takes place every night but is best at the weekends, as thats when it's the most busy, which is an experience in itself. There are hundreds of stalls selling clothes. When we were there in March, it was so hot at around 30 degrees Celsius every day, so we were in keen search of new summer clothes to wear. However funnily enough, all of these stalls were flogging winter hats, scarfs and puffer jackets as that time of year was practically classed as winter for the locals! Other stalls sell mostly food items and souvenirs. We are not kidding when we say we ate so much food at this night market! They do these amazing little pastries and have really tasty foods that are traditional to Dalat, such as a Dalat Pizza. This was a rice paper wrap stuffed with meat, eggs and vegetables which looks like a pizza before it's rolled up and served to you like a crepe. Another food that you will see plenty of is strawberries! However, beware that these strawberries can be much pricier than the ones you can find on the streets. We bought a kilo of strawberries on a street near our hostel for 30,000 VND, whilst at the market they were charging 70,000VND. You'll also find lots of locals dancing or singing with crowds surrounding them in their hundreds. It's a great experience so make sure you make a night of it!
Dalat was our favourite city in Vietnam, as you can probably tell from this jam-packed list. So make sure you have it on your list when travelling through Vietnam!