Heading to Da Lat? This groovy little place in southern Vietnam is perfect for a weekend stopover during your Southeast Asia journey. I’ve put together a list of the top five things to do in Da Lat so that you can make the most of your time here, even if it’s just for a day. From the best coffee spots to adventure-packed afternoons, check out my top picks…
Anyone who’s read any of my other posts will know that I’m all about setting myself up for the day with a hearty brekkie and decent coffee. Da Lat is full of lovely little cafes to head to, and Vietnamese coffee is some of the best in the world.
Travelling can be exhausting, and Da Lat makes a nice break from all the madness. Sure, there are still a gazillion motorbikes zooming around, but you can easily clamber upwards towards the quieter part of town. Da Lat is up in the mountains of Vietnam so is slightly cooler anyway – one of the reasons I loved this city so much was because I could wear a jumper for more than three minutes without sweating. Wander around and find a spot to fuel up in…
My favourite foodie spots include An Cafe and their amazing swing seats. I also fell in love with Goût Coffee & Pastry – it’s more ‘Berlin’ than ‘traditional Vietnam’ in terms of style (they have a super quirky décor) but the coffee is pure Vietnamese bliss. One More Cafe was about a minute’s walk from my hostel, which made me feel slightly less guilty about how often I went there for cake. They also do a great brekkie and have a really lovely upstairs seating area looking over the city.
One of the coolest things to do in Da Lat is to head to the waterfalls and take a little abseiling trip. Canyoning is something that Da Lat does very well, so add it to your list if you’re into serious adventures.
There are plenty of tour companies offering half-day and full-day tour packages. I’d recommend booking one through your hostel or accommodation as rates vary with seasons and this can be an easier way to get a reduced price. Alternatively, Pine Track Adventures and Da Lat Trip both have amazing reviews and will really look after you.
Datlana Waterfall is the top canyoning destination – you’ll spend your time here learning the basics before dropping 25m through a waterfall. The final part of your adventure involves the ‘Washing Machine’, three guesses how it got its name. This abseil spins you around beneath the waterfall in a fun and adrenaline-fuelled frenzy. Not for the faint-hearted!
If you fancy seeing a waterfall without being strapped into a harness, take a hike up Elephant Falls. Wear proper shoes and enjoy the beauty of the natural falls. The lake here is also lovely and peaceful, so give yourself a couple of hours to really take it all in.
Get a Little Crazy
Visiting Crazy House (Hang Nga Guesthouse) is undeniably one of the weirdest things to do in Da Lat, but don’t let that put you off! It’s a building, or variation of a building, that is incredibly hard to describe. Have a Google and you’ll see what I mean…
If you’re familiar with Gaudi, you might know what I’m talking about. This guesthouse/ maze/ mini theme park needs to be on your list of Da Lat hotspots. It’s a surrealist intertwining of crazy, intricate architecture and unadulterated fun that you can explore and enjoy (and stay in!). The building is designed to look like a tree, but is so much more than that. Any fans of Alice in Wonderland and Dali will be in heaven!
Soak up Some Culture
There are heaps of cultural things to do in Da Lat, so don’t worry if you’re not an adrenaline junkie!
Head to Linh Phuoc Pagoda for some peace and quiet and enjoy the exquisite architecture. Broken glass and ceramics are the main materials used in a lot of the buildings here, and there are plenty of statues to admire.
Hop on a cable car and head to Zen temple Trúc Lâm. This is a beautiful place to visit if you want a break from the main city area. Granted, there are still tourists here, but there is a real sense of serenity and calm that is respected by everyone. It’s positioned right next to Tuyền Lâm Lake and is surrounded by nature, so makes the perfect place to head to break up the day and relax.
I wouldn’t suggest going for a dip, but Xuan Huong Lake is still nice to wander around. If you’ve arrived in Da Lat from Saigon, which I did, you might be surprised to see so much greenery. I loved taking some time to myself and getting away from all the traffic!
You can also head out on a tour with Da Lat’s famous ‘Easy Riders’ – motorbike tours tailored to your interests. This is a great way to get around if you’re travelling alone and all guides speak some English. Prices vary depending on how many locations you want to visit and how long your trip will take. This is one of the best things to do in Da Lat if you’re a solo traveller and are a ‘to-do list’ kind of person – get everything done easily, and relatively comfortably…
Enjoy the Nightlife
While Da Lat isn’t famed for its clubs and lively evening events, it’s still worth venturing out of your accommodation once it gets dark. If you’re after some food, wander around and check the large range of menus offered in the city. Western food here is generally very good quality, but local food is outstanding.
Street-food will always be one of the things that Vietnam does very well (along with coffee and traffic), so take a chance on that lady with the spring roll stall on the corner. There are plenty of indoor food options available, too. After dinner, head out for a drink or two…
The ‘Maze Bar’ is a quirky little spot to head in the evening. This spot is technically referred to as ‘100 Roofs Café’ if you’re struggling to find it! It really is a maze and it’s decorated with lots of quirky trinkets. Head to the rooftop, if you can find it, before it closes at 9pm. The rest of the bar is open ‘til midnight and is a great place to meet travellers and backpackers.
Larry’s Bar (located on the ground floor of a hotel) is something of a legend in Da Lat – stock up on any Western food you’ve been missing and soak up the pub-like atmosphere. Pool tables, board games and big TVs. Just like being back home, ey? Beepub is the perfect venue for anyone craving a decent pint and some live music. Full of travellers and expats alike, this is a lovely spot to spend the evening.
So, there we have it – the best way to spend a day in Da Lat. Whether you’re just passing through between Saigon and Hoi An or set up camp for a while, enjoy this beautiful city and explore it as much as you can. While these are my top picks for a day visit, there’s plenty more to discover…