Da Lat, in Lam Dong province, is a popular weekend getaway from Ho Chi Minh City. No one is going to notice the lack of beach in the region thanks to its cool weather, pine-covered hills, breathtaking waterfalls, lakes, valleys and serpentine passes connecting them all. The city serves as a great getaway from the chaotic pace of hubs like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.
It’s only a 6 hour ride from Ho Chi Minh City (which can be done on a sleeper bus, so you won’t even notice time passing), and if you really want a beach after, head to Nha Trang (a luxurious beachside destination which is only a 4 hour ride from Da Lat). Take some time to fully experience what Da Lat has to offer and satisfy your adventure-seeking soul.
Some relaxing sightseeing to slow down your pace
There are many places in Da Lat where you can take it easy and spend a couple of hours slowing down your pace amidst some beautiful scenery. Tuyen Lam Lake is one of them. The surface of the lake is so clear that you get a perfect mirror image of what is above the water surface – beautifully green pine trees and blue skies. At Tuyen Lam, you can do various activities to pass the time – we would highly recommend you bring over a picnic basket and spend some time on the grass. You can also go horseback riding, rock climbing, fishing or canoeing, and if you really feel like it, set up camp for the night.
Visiting a tea farm is a must do activity in Da Lat as well. Cau Dat Tea farm was established in 1927 and is made of almost endless green tea hills. Visiting here is a refreshing breath of countryside air and you can make a fun afternoon of it by partaking in an activity called “One Day As A Farmer” where you learn about and practice every step in the tea-making process. From planting to collecting, drying and packaging, you will do it all – certainly a great exercise for those on a family trip.
Cu Lan Village is another wonderful place to visit. Home to the K’Ho tribe (one of the 54 ethnic groups of Vietnam), this picturesque little village is on the foot of the beautiful Langbiang Mountain, and the K’Ho live on stilt houses placed against the slope of the mountain. An ideal destination for relaxing, at Cu Lan you can spend your day cycling around, flying kites, riding horses, camping outdoors and getting to know the unique tribespeople. Vang Valley is also a great place to explore, and a much better alternative to the more touristy sites such as Mong Mo Hill or Tinh Yeu Valley. Here you will find more pine trees, colorful flower gardens, peaceful lakes and rumbling waterfalls. All to be explored on foot, under the calm sun and cool breeze. Truc Lam Monastery is also another option and here you can get on a cable car from Robin Hill to reach it.
Put on your hiking boots and tackle some muddy paths
Langbiang Mountain is known as the roof of Da Lat, standing at 2,167 meters tall. Conquering this will take you around 3 hours (a relatively easy hike) and while this can be done alone, it’s recommended that you do it via tour where you will be shown the best paths and other small sights on the way. A tour is also a great way to financially support the local K’Ho tribe to whom the mountain belongs to, and of course get to know their culture and customs.
Bidoup National Park, known as the green lung of Da Lat, is another great trekking spot (as are all national parks of Vietnam and there are many!) Here you can not only trek up Ba Mountain, but also try your hand at other activities such as camping overnight, bird watching, and exploring small villages of the ethnic groups that have made their home there. Another relatively easy hike is Samson mountain, located a little off-the-beaten-track. From up here you will get splendid views of the whole of Da Lat. You can also find a hiking tour if you’re not keen on doing this alone.
Some off-road adventure
Cycling is a must do in Da Lat as everything about this city is so gentle – the people, the traffic, the weather. There are plenty of bike routes you can tackle in the area for all different types of levels. Xuan Huong Lake is one of the easier ones, and if you head outside of the city center, you can tackle more difficult ones that take you off road through the forests. Of course safety is a primary concern, so again we would recommend you join a cycling tour if you want to experience the more advanced trails. Dalat Adventures and Viet Challenge are two of the more reputable tour agencies that provide these tours.
If you are an experienced motorbike driver and have the necessary permits, then Da Lat is your heaven. There are plenty of places to visit by motorbike that are a little farther out of town or require extreme skill in tackling the off-road dirt paths, one of them being the path from Co Don Pine Tree to Suoi Vang Lake. Co Don is a lone pine tree that pops up on many Instagram feeds. It stands tall on a field of pink flowers by the riverside and is extremely scenic.
The ‘Cay Thong Co Don’ (Lonely Pine Tree) is about 18 kilometers from the city and will take you about half a day to get back and forth from this location. To get here, head to road 722 and cross the Golden Stream bridge. From there drive around 3 more kilometers and you will see a trail leading up hill – take it! You’ll soon arrive at the tree.
Pro tip: Do not follow Google Maps here! You will end up at the other side of the lake and the tree. The trails also get slippery during rainy days so we do not advise it – check the weather beforehand. You can also spend the night camping here if you are looking to catch the sunrise.
Da Lat is also home to many mountain passes that are a thrill to conquer. These are often well built, yet come with hairpin bends that will take your breath away, not only because of how stunning the views on both sides are, but also because they are actually quite dangerous and requires skill. Famous ones include Prenn Pass, Bao Loc Pass, and Ngoan Muc. Remember to follow all safety precautions.
Don’t go chasing waterfalls (actually, you should)
Datanla waterfall is not the biggest waterfall in Da Lat but it definitely comes with the most adventure. Located in a park complex of some sort with picnic areas, restaurants, entertainment activities, a toboggan trail through the trees and more, the most popular activity here is rapelling down it (or canyoning as some might call it). Cliff jumping, waterfall sliding and kayaking are also options. Please remember though that these activities come with many risks so only opt to go with reputable tour agencies such as Highland Sport Travel and Viet Challenge. There have been unfortunate deaths, so do not take the risk to go with a cheaper, lesser-known option. Also, please remember that Datanla Waterfall is the only place permitted to operate canyoning tours.
Beyond Datanla, there are many other waterfalls here.wo of the most popular ones are Voi Waterfall (Elephant Falls) and Ponggur. Elephant Falls is one of the heaviest waterfalls in the region. While you can enjoy a downward view of it from a paved viewing area, you can also decide to head down the waterfall and get a view looking up. Pongour waterfall is the most majestic and is about a two hour ride away from the city (40 kilometers). The waterfall reaches a height of 240 meters and has seven terraced layers. A great day trip from the city, you can tackle both of these waterfalls and Tuyen Lam Lake in a loop and head back to the city center before night falls.
Da Lat is a fantastic escape from the hustle and bustle of a busy city life. With so many things to do, one trip here will not suffice. Try to spend a week here so you can space out your activities and still have time to go for a relaxing massage or to read a book in one of the many famous cafes that the city is known for. At night, don’t forget to stop by the Da Lat night market where you can eat some delicious highland specialties such as grilled sweet potato and banh trang tron, Vietnamese pizza!