Dalat has a retro, vintage vibe (in 2018, a popular 1960s-era movie was filmed in Dalat), and is widely considered to be Vietnam’s most romantic city. It’s wildly popular with young couples and newlyweds as a result. But Dalat is often overlooked by international tourists.
1. Get a taste of Dalat’s coffee culture
Dalat is synonymous with coffee. You can almost smell the hearty aroma of roasting beans in the air as soon as your step onto the tarmac at Dalat airport. Lam Dong Province and the hills surrounding Dalat are plastered with coffee plantations.
Dalat city itself is filled with dozens of cute cafes of every shape and kind—from ultra-modern warehouse-style espresso bars, to retro Communist-inspired cafes.
Whether you do a plantation trip, a quick tour of a roasting house or you just cafe hop and sample a few different local brews, coffee culture is something you must experience in Dalat.
2. Visit Truc Lam Temple
I know, I know—Vietnam has more temples and pagodas than you could possibly hope (or want) to visit. But there’s something special about Truc Lam Temple (Thiền Viện Trúc Lâm). A Zen Buddhist temple and meditation centre set at the top of Dalat’s Robin Hill, the Truc Lam complex is massive—about 24 hectares in total.
The temple’s resident monks keep the grounds immaculately clean and the shrubs perfectly manicured.
3. ‘Chase the clouds’ in Trai Mat
When I mentioned my upcoming trip to Dalat to my Vietnamese language teacher in Hanoi, she told me I simply must go ‘chase the clouds’ in Trai Mat.
Chasing the clouds, I discovered, basically involves getting up before dawn and hanging out in a field. As the sun rises, low mist floats into view, diffusing the light and making for some pretty spectacular photo opportunities before it evaporates.
There are a few places in Vietnam that are famous cloud chasing spots—including Dien Bein Phu in the far northwest. Trai Mat, a small agricultural village just outside Dalat, is a great place to chase the clouds in Central Vietnam.
4. Lose your mind at the Crazy House
Dalat’s best-known tourist attraction, the Crazy House (Hằng Nga), is a private home in the city centre with a rather kooky design. Somewhere between a Dali painting, a Gaudi creation and a polystyrene theme park installation, it’s comprised of strangely shaped and painted walkways, chambers, peep holes and staircases.
A self-guided tour of the Crazy House involves walking around the property and exploring its nooks.
5. Feel like royalty at the Bao Dai Summer Palace
The former summer residences (there’s more than one in Dalat) of Vietnam’s last emperor are fine examples of royal architecture and design. Donning a pair of soft booties and slipping and sliding your way around the polished floors of the restored houses is one of the coolest things to do in Dalat.