Da Lat City Guide

Roughly 300km north east of Ho Chi Minh City lies the fairytale alpine town of Da Lat – the city we cover in this travel guide. In the local Lat language, ‘Da Lat’ means ‘River of the Lat Tribe’. During French colonial rule, Da Lat was ‘discovered’ by scientific explorers. However by 1912, it was established as a resort centre, offering a cool retreat from the bustle of Saigon. 

Once a French hill station, it’s now the agricultural heartland of Vietnam, home to vast tracts of coffee, fruit and flower plantations. In addition to this, it’s also one of Vietnam’s fastest-growing tourist attractions, luring 3 million (and growing) tourists to its temperate climes each year. With an average annual temperature of 17, thanks to the groves of pine trees that flank it, Da Lat is known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’. 

Workers harvest coffee beans on the hills at Da Lat
Workers harvest coffee beans in the hills of Da Lat. Photo: Tran Tuan Kiet

Nestled amongst hills, the central lake offers picture-perfect views, complete with horses serenely grazing in a bucolic setting, and swan boats paddling the water. Okay, the latter may be kitsch, but somehow it’s fitting for the setting. Da Lat is also known as the ‘City of Romance’, ‘Paris of the East’, (boasting a mini replica of the Eiffel Tower) and the ‘Garden City’ which it’s most deserving of. Huge blooms spill from flower baskets hanging from wrought-iron street lamps, hanging over the rose lined streets. 

Read on for Hidden’s city guide to Da Lat including our top picks for where to stay, what to eat, and the best activities available

Best Time to Visit Da Lat

Although the weather remains at roughly the same temperature throughout the year, there are two seasons, the rainy and dry seasons. April until October is the wet season, with most days seeing rainfall. So your best bet is to visit from November until March.

But January until March is the perfect period to see the garden city in all its glory. Primarly because it’s springtime and the trees are green and flowering, and flowers bloom brilliantly in every part of the city. Above all the best part-the cherry blossoms! These pink trees are any photographer or Instagrammer’s dream. 

Getting to Da Lat

Flights to Da Lat

The airport in Da Lat, Lien Khuong Airport, is 30km south of the city and linked by a modern and yet scenic two lane highway. Therefore flights are available to and from Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Hanoi, Hue, Vinh, Haiphong and Bangkok. Da Lat is serviced by three airlines at the present time, Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet Air and Jetstar Pacific Airlines. 

Checking the timetables and prices being offered is well worthwhile since competition offers better rates with advanced bookings, Vietjet Air like Vietnam Airlines is linked into overseas reservation and ticket issuing through the GDS and airline systems.

lush green in Da Lat is perfect for nature lovers
The lush surroundings make Da Lat perfect for nature lovers. Photo: Tran Tuan Kiet

Getting from Da Lat Airport to the City 

Shuttle Bus from Da Lat Airport

There are shuttle buses available just outside the airport building, tickets are sold on the spot for 40,000 VND (1.70 USD). But beware when catching the shuttle bus that the driver might try to drop you off elsewhere in Da Lat rather than your hotel. Therefore make sure to specify which hotel you want to be dropped off at and that this is clearly communicated to the driver. Be firm but polite with the driver if he tries to drop you off elsewhere unless you don’t mind walking! By default, the shuttle drops you off at Ngoc Phat Hotel which is opposite the Big C mall and may be counted as a central area of the city.

Taxis at Da Lat Airport

Mai Linh Taxi from the airport counter without any pre-booking was 170,000 VND (7.30 USD) to Da Lat city (as of February 2017) and 190,000 VND (8.10 USD) to hotels outside the centre. However some hotels offer special arrangements with taxi companies to ferry hotel-stayers to and from the airport for around 200,000 VND (8.50 VND).

Da Lat Local Bus

The Route 1 buses run from Da Lat to Duc Trong, thus passing by the airport. The local bus stop (which is just a bus stop sign) is on the QL20 highway near the turn to the airport. So you’ll have to walk about 1 km from the airport to this bus stop. The price is 15,000 VND (.65 USD).

Da Lat by Train

Although Da Lat has a railway station, it only runs a tourist train on a short scenic route. Therefore the nearest operating train station is 135km away in Nha Trang. So from there you’ll have to take a bus to get to Da Lat.

Getting the Bus to Da Lat

Primarily most local and foreign travellers arrive in Da Lat by bus, including those travelling on the famous Sinh Cafe Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City open-tour bus. Da Lat’s Interprovincial Bus Station is a couple of kilometres south of the city at 1 Duong To Hien Thanh.

Hidden Hint: FUTA has a free transport van to take you to your hostel or hotel, but be prepared to wait, possibly hours, as the service is known to be unreliable.

You can find an intercity bus timetable at Dalattrip. From Ho Chi Minh City, the bus ride is about six hours. However recently renovated roads reduce the commute time by a few hours.  The bus costs around 270,000 VND (11.50 USD). Similarly the bus from Nha Trang takes three to four hours, including a 30-minute breakfast/WC stop about one hour out of Nha Trang, and costs around 145,000 VND (6.10 USD). Finally  sleeper buses from Da Nang, depart from Da Nang at 5 p.m and arrive in Da Lat at 8 a.m – 9 a.m(15 hours). It costs 265,000 VND (11.30 USD).

Where to Stay in Da Lat

Crazy House

Address: So 3 Duong Huynh Thuc Khang Entry Price: 50,000 VND (2 USD) – Rooms: From 900,000 VND (39 USD) – Hours: 8.30 a.m. – 7 p.m. Daily

If you’ve read anything about this region, you will have heard of the Crazy House. Primarily known for its unusual architecture and complicated floor plan, the Crazy House is a fun place to visit. However what you may not know, is the house not only opens its doors to tourists to see during the day – but it also opens up as a hotel. Therefore each hotel room is very different and each is a fun place to stay – especially if you’ve got children. But be aware though, once the doors open to the day-time public, there are occasionally loud noises disturbing your lie-in or even the chance of eyes peering through the bedroom window!

Robins Villa

Address: 20 Tran Binh Trong – Price: From 440,000 VND (19 USD)

Famous for its fish pond and lush gardens, Robins Villa lies perfectly placed in Da Lat. Just a 15-minute walk from the markets, it still makes you feel that you really are up in the mountains, away from the big cities. Robins Villa has a restaurant, a bar, airport pickup, free WiFi and beautifully spacious rooms – some offering a balcony.

So if you’re looking for a comfortable and peaceful stay, feeling like a home away from home – this is the place for you! Above all your stay at Robins Villa will be completely stress-free, meaning you can totally relax and enjoy your break.

Restaurants in Da Lat City

Breakfast at Duc Loi

Address: 70 Nguyen Thi Nghia Price: 15,000 VND (.65 USD)

Duc Loi is a small breakfast restaurant within walking distance from central Da Lat. The staff are wonderfully friendly, speak quite good English and make delicious soups. But the best part? Being completely pland-based, this very intimate restaurant gives you most of your five-a-day before you even get to lunch time. Although, with the portion size, we doubt you’d be hungry enough for lunch! This very local dish is filled with noodles, mushrooms, tofu, onions, celery and many more veggies! 

Hidden Hint: Use our map pin to find Duc Loi Restaurant as the google street address is inaccurate.

However if you’re not convinced by the delicious soup, the locals or the friendly staff – we think you’d be convinced by the 15,000 VND (.65 USD) price. Be sure to get there early as they open early and often close before 11 a.m. once they’ve sold out. 

Da Lat Coffee at La Viet Coffee

Address: 200 Nguyen Cong Tru

Da Lat grows the vast majority of the region’s coffee. One of the most respected producers is La Viet, supplying trendy coffee shops across the country. In addition their warehouse-style cafe doubles as a roastery and training centre. So head over for an excellent coffee and a real education into premium Vietnamese Coffee. Cakes, pastries and sandwiches are available but their coffee is the reason La Viet Cafe sits at number one on TripAdvisor.

La Viet Coffee Shop
Da Lat is famous for coffee and La Viet Coffee Shop is the best in town

What to Do in Da Lat City

Da Lat Cable Car

Address: 1 Dong Da – Price: VND 50,000 (2.20 USD) for a single ride and VND 70,000 (3.05 USD) for a round trip

Surrounded by beautiful views, waterfalls and nature – Da Lat is picturesque. So take advantage of this by riding the cable car.  It is a perfect option if hiking and motorbiking is not for you. The modern cable car from Robin Hill to Truc Lam Monastery provides wonderful views of the city on one side and forest-covered mountains on the other. The cable car covers 2.4 km each way. After that, at the top is a cafe, gift shop and gardens to visit even if you choose not to enter the monastery.

Motorbike Tour of Da Lat 

Address: 77 Doan Thi Diem Price: From 700,000VND (30 USD) per person

Above all, exploring the city by motorcycle is an endlessly rewarding experience. Therefore doing so with a local guide gives access to sights and insights that seriously elevate your trip. So join Da Lat Motorbike Ventures (also called Rew Rew Adventure) for a packed day visiting a flower farm, weasel coffee farm, silk factory, rice wine factory, waterfalls, a cricket farm, and more. In addition the tour can be tailored to your interests and the experienced team help nervous riders feel comfortable on the back of a bike.

visitors enjoy this mountainside view of Da Lat City
Visitors enjoy a mountainside view during a tour of Da Lat City. Photo: Tran Tuan Kiet

What to See in Da Lat City

Truc Lam Da Lat Zen Monastery

Address: Truc Lam Yen Tu Price: Free (Cable Car 70,000 VND (3 USD)

Da Lat is a relatively small city, but with its large number of international and Vietnamese tourists, it can sometimes feel a little overcrowded. So it’s good to escape from the hustle and bustle and Truc Lam Da Lat Zen Monastery is the perfect place to escape to. It’s only a 10-15 minute drive out of the city, but once you’re there it feels like you’re thousands of miles away. The monastery is very picturesque, with beautiful buildings and flower gardens. In addition the peaceful atmosphere makes you want to stay there for hours – just sitting there and listening to nothing but gongs and chimes.

Tuyen Lam Lake

Address: Ho Tuyen Lam 

5km south of town on Highway 20, clean green waters flow from the beautiful Tia Spring and from the Da Tam River into Tuyen Lam Lake. Its waters stretch over an immense 350 hectares. Because of its various sources, Tuyen Lam is known as the lake where rivers, springs and forests meet. 

The lake is easy to reach by taxi but your own transport frees you up to visit different areas. Above all, the most spectacular of these is Dinh Phinatt, where you are rewarded with spectacular views of the lake and city.

But if you want some time away from the beeping bikes and dodging through tourists, take some time out to visit Tuyen Lam Lake. The feeling of peace and tranquility is like nothing you find in the city. So sit and watch the beauty, rent a pedal boat, grab a beer at a lakefront cafe or ride up a nearby mountain – this outing will definitely not disappoint.

Hidden’s Thoughts

In an age of Instagram and photoshopped travel, we’re often left disappointed when we arrive at a place, and it looks nothing like the photos we’ve seen on social media. However Da Lat is not one of those places. In other words, like any natural beauty, it’s unassuming yet captivating. 

For a true alpine ‘escape’, head there during winter/early spring (wrapped in a warm coat) for a cosy getaway. Add a pair of boots, and walk your way through the town’s pretty streets. A daily stroll around the lake is what any doctor would order.