DALAT: Love at first sight in Vietnam's city of eternal spring

Photos: Bangkok Post archive

Blessed with a year-round breeze wafting through the valley it calls home, this small town attracts visitors the world over who come to experience the picturesque landscape of lakes, waterfalls and abundant tropical flora. Welcome to Dalat—a magical destination ideal for a once-in-a-lifetime journey.

The charm of Dalat lies in its clean air and welcoming climate of temperatures averaging 18-25 C, combined with European-influenced art, culture and architecture which has earned it the nickname "Little Paris".

Things to do in Dalat

Located 1,500 metres above sea level in Lam Dong province, Dalat covers just under 400 sq. km—smaller than Samuth Songkram, Thailand's smallest city at 410.7 sq. km. Nevertheless, Dalat puts one under its spell with exquisite attractions and plenty of tourist activities. But to discover these unforgettable sites, one must visit this fascinating city.

Truc Lam Pagoda

This Japanese Zen-Buddhist temple is deeply influenced by Vietnamese culture. Situated atop a hill with stunning views of surrounding lush landscape and sweeping Tuyen Lam Lake. The Truc Lam Pagoda is regarded as the most popular and beautiful religious edifice in Dalat.   

The 2.3 km cable-car trip to Truc Lam Pagoda takes just 10 minutes, and is seen by many as the highlight of the trip, with bird's-eye views of the majestic pines which line the main road. Cable-car service is available 7 - 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 - 5 p.m. Single-leg tickets cost VND 50,000 and VND 70,000 for return-trip.

Datana Waterfall

While Vietnam is bristling with waterfalls just screaming to be explored, Datana Waterfall is the one that travellers don't want to miss. With a history dating back hundreds of years, the 20-metre tall cascade features a self-ride roller coaster, which takes adventure-loving visitors on a one-km. ride through the jungle down the seemingly countless tiers, before a hydraulic conveyance system returns them to the embarkation point without having to break a sweat. The ride operates daily, 7 a.m. - 5 p.m., with admission at VND 50,000 per ride, and no charge for forest trekking.

Dalat Flower Gardens

Known as "The City of Thousand Flowers", Dalat is blessed with an abundance of flower gardens that are loved by all as they bloom at places throughout the town. Most notable is the garden at the southern end of Xuan Huong Lake on Phu Dong Thien Vuong Rd. First cultivated in 1866, today the garden is used to provide agricultural advice to farmers. This time of year the garden is awash in colourful winter blooms, including orchid, hydrangea, decorative plants, and many large exotic plants, and is open daily, 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. Admission is VND 30,000 for adults, VND 15,000 for children.

Cho Dem Dalat

This pedestrian-only walking street runs from the city centre at Xuan Huong Lake, runs past the city's clock tower roundabout to the Morning Market roundabout. At about the half-km. point is the Cho Dem Dalat night market, bristling with wide varieties of street food and local snacks. One section of the market features a plethora of affordable shopping stalls selling clothes, handbags, handmade crafts, knitted beanies, while another zone offers local specialties like Dalat wine, G7 coffee, artichoke tea and dried fruit. Open only on weekends 7 -10 p.m., the market presents a great opportunity for travellers to observe and even take part in the local way of life.    

With its unspoiled natural attractions and charming local way of life, Dalat has many intriguing facets to be discovered. Travellers will enjoy exploring the city's architectural, artistic and cultural attractions. These include Bao Dai Summer Palace, which dates back to the reign of Vietnam's last emperor; the Domaine De Marie Convent, a pink-hued French-built Catholic church; Crazy House, an unorthodox structure which was the of Hamg Nga, a daughter of the former vice president under late Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh; and, Valley of Love, a nature-park tourist attraction and popular local holiday destination. 

The local currency is the Vietnam Dong (VND), and electricity service operates with three-pronged plugs at 220V / 50Hz.

With a direct flight from Bangkok to Liên Khương airport in southern Vietnam taking just under 2 hours, and Dalat a short drive from there, this gem is also more accessible than ever before.

Before you know it, you'll fall under Dalat's magic spell. So pack a bag and set off on a journey to discover for yourself the wonders of the City of Eternal Spring.

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