Da Lat on the Langbiang Plateau 1500m above sea level with its picturesque mountains, covered in fragrant pine forests and lush farmlands is the place I probably love the most in all of Vietnam. The climate is that of an eternal spring and not much can beat the feeling of people gathering in chill evening hours, sitting around a fire burning in a clay oven and eating bubbling meatball stew with warm and crispy baguettes.
In Da Lat you can find relaxing trekking trails, picturesque waterfalls, museums, palaces, historic sites and ethnic villages hidden away in small valleys. Many points of interest keep your holidays busy if you like, but you can also sit in cafés by the lakeside and enjoy the peace of the highlands.
Yes, the flower parks, lakeside restaurants and flower-adorned roundabouts may look a bit kitschy at the first glance. Mind, Da Lat is the prime honeymoon destination for Vietnamese couples, so romantic scenery is the city’s USP. Also there is a lack of nightlife. The inhabitants of Da Lat go to bed early compared to the Saigonese. However, there are a couple good late-night opportunities available as well, you just need to discover them first.
Da Lat City appears like a beautiful mix of rural French architecture and Vietnamese style. Together with natural, historic and modern landmarks, the city as a travel destination is one of the most fascinating places in Vietnam. The mix of ideal climate, a romantic scenery, historical sites and plenty of adventure sports opportunities turns Da Lat to one of the best places in Vietnam to release stress and spend a relaxed holiday.
Weather in Da Lat
My first impression as we leave the bus at 6 in the morning, is the cold climate.
Around 15 degrees during the night, which might be cozy for Austrian standards,
but I have been living in the tropical heat of Saigon for the past year.
So it feels cold – and wonderfully refreshing!
The City of Eternal Spring earned this nickname well. The Langbiang Plateau features one of the most stable climates throughout Vietnam. Both tourists from foreign countries, as well as people from Vietnam enjoy the permanent springtime weather. Myself I believe that a lot of the romantic feeling of Da Lat actually comes from the fact that couples can hug each other all night without stewing in their own transpiration like in Saigon.
The temperature lies at an average of 17.9 °C. The average high is 23.2 °C, the average low 14.3 °C. During the rainy season between May and October, there are around 20 rainy days per month. Together with the natural fog lying in the valleys the rain turns Da Lat to one of the best agricultural regions of Vietnam, famous for fruits, flowers and vegetables.
The best time to visit Da Lat might be the dry season though, from December to March, when there is not much rain, the morning sun strong and the sky clear. But in my opinion even rainy days in Da Lat have a very specific charme.
In 1893 a French expedition including the famous microbiologist Alexandre Yersin discovered the plateau of Da Lat in the mountains of Vietnam’s Lam Dong province at around 1500m above sea level. Especially for Dr. Yersin, born in Lausanne, Switzerland and grown up in France, the mountains covered in pine forests and the near alpine climate must have been a reason to stop for a moment and breathe in the fabulous smell of the pine trees deeply. At least for me it was when we travelled to Da Lat this spring.
The members of the group proposed the creation of a mountain resort area on the plateau to the French governor-general in the 1890s and the governor agreed. Originally they planned to build the resort near the mountain station Dankia. The current location was proposed by the road building expedition between 1898 and 1899 and in the year 1907, the first hotel was built in the new location. The urban planning was carried out by Ernest Hébrard, a famous architect, archaeologist and urban planner from France.
The city is not too famous for local cuisine, which does not make us wonder, since today’s kitchen was introduced by the French and the Vietnamese. Other places in Vietnam can look back on thousands of years of development on the food sector. But Da Lat is the source of fresh vegetables and fruit that gets delivered to the rest of Vietnam. The great specialities are plants that don’t grow anywhere else in the country, like artichokes and strawberries.
The Langbiang Plateau also produces most of Vietnam’s excellent coffee and the high altitude enables specialised farmers to grow Coffea arabica rather than Coffea robusta, the second most important export commodity of Vietnam.
Foodwise I would like to point out that hot and spicy dishes have their origin rather in Central Vietnam’s former capital and heritage city Hue, but the people of Da Lat love it as well, because it keeps the morning chill at bay. Sitting around a fire with farmers and eating spicy beef stew with bread is one of the cosy experiences you should not miss.
The Central Market of the city offers the whole assortment of jams, dried and candied fruits, coffees and teas from the province. It is also the ideal place to choose your souvenirs.
Points of Interest in Da Lat
Most landmarks of Da Lat are in and around the city. Especially historical buildings and the famous Crazy House. Some natural monuments like waterfalls or the beautiful Langbiang mountain are scattered on the plateau. We have collected a selection of interesting places to visit for you:
- Truc Lam Monastery
- King Bao Dai’s Summer Palace
- The Crazy House
- Ho Xuan Huong
- Mong Mo Hill
- Linh Phuoc Pagoda
- Langbiang Mountain
- Prenn Waterfall
- Cherry Church
- Elephant Waterfalls
- Central Market & Night Market
- Valley of Love
- Dalat Biological Research Institute (Taxidermy Museum)
- Lam Dong Museum
- Dalat Cathedral (Rooster Church)
- Gold and Silver Stream and Lakes
- Dalat Teachers College (Lycee Yersin)
When, after living in Saigon for several years, I first set foot into Dalat, it was love at first sight. The climate, the smell of the pine trees and the (compared to HCMC) lack of traffic chaos felt like paradise. My wife and I decided to settle somewhere in the picturesque hills, run a café and a guesthouse or something and retreat from the stressful city life once and for all.
Dalat seemed to be the perfect spot: Beautiful enough to spend a lifetime there, touristy enough to earn a living, close enough to Saigon to visit my wife’s family (and my shops for western foodstuff).
In the end it was the lack of proper (international) education that made us give up on our plans – and man am I happy we did not move there!
Mass tourism has taken over Da Lat in the past couple years and brought crime, high prices, massive construction projects and trash, trash, trash as much as anywhere else in Southeast Asia.
I am sad, for Da Lat was one of the most beautiful spots on the map… but no more.