Dalat, surprisingly, turned out to be one of my top three favorite cities in Vietnam, other two being Danang and Hoi An. As I flew back from Vietnam with a heavy heart last night, I decided I wanted to write about this lovely hill town first instead of following a typical route or itinerary. With truck load of things to do in Dalat but just two days at hand, I had to be picky about the places I really wanted to visit instead of opting for the traditional easy rider tour.
To give you some background, easy rider tours in Vietnam are quite popular. Basically you hop on a bike with a friendly English speaking guide and you can go around town for $20 – $35 a day (Depending on number of hours, places covered etc). These tours are highly recommended by fellow backpackers and travelers in Vietnam. So by all means you won’t go wrong by trying them out – I am a bit more adventurous so decided to rent a bike and explore Dalat on my own.
Luckily my new travel buddy Romina, whom I met on a bus from Ho Chi Minh to Mui Ne, also has similar plans and we decided to check out various pieces about top things to do in Dalat all day on TripAdvisor and other sites to design our own DIY Dalat itinerary.
Our choice of locations and travel style was similar so we immediately hit it off. We both love nature and being outdoors as well as quirky, cool, fun stuff so we zeroed in on few places we wanted to visit in Dalat and headed out for a day long bike adventure with just our phone GPS to guide us.
Things to do in Dalat which are Cheap, Fun and Easy to DIY
Ride a Bike, Duh!!
As if I haven’t recommended it enough already but biking around Dalat and Vietnam on the whole, is a LOT of fun. Not only can you choose where to stop and click an awe-inspiring view or grab a cup of coffee, you can also choose where to go and what to skip. Plus, biking is easy and fun in Dalat as drivers are slower and well there is practically negligible traffic (Esp if you compare to the chaos of bigger bustling metropolis like Saigon or Hanoi).
We rented a bike for 120,000 VND – Approx $6 for the day. Note – Bikes are not rented out for 24 hours in Vietnam, you must return it same day so I would advice to start early. We were lazy so we started off at around 10:00 hrs and were able to finish our bike tour around 17:00 hrs going at an easy pace.
Visit Datanla Waterfalls
Our first stop was Datanla falls which is just a few kms from the main Dalat city center. It was an easy 15 min drive and we paid a parking fee of just 3000 VND (Around 13 cents).
As soon as we arrived, we were overwhelmed by the number of people and the choice of activities. At Datanla, you can enjoy an Alpine coaster, Cable car ride and canyoning (Aka water abseiling). Since we had a long day ahead and no change of clothes, we weren’t prepared to jump in a waterfall with a rope and had to sadly skip canyoning. We tried the other two and I definitely enjoyed the coaster more than the slow cable ride.
However, I am glad we tried the cable ride as it took us deeper into the forests to another waterfall which was absolutely epic. This area was also so much less crowded than the main falls above which were thronged by hundreds of tourists. I would recommend you to save your $2 for cable car and simply walk down towards this beautiful waterfall.
Entry & Timings – 45000 VND (Approx $2), Open daily from 0800 – 1800 Hrs
Hike up to Elephant Falls
Visiting the elephant waterfalls in Dalat was the highlight of my day for sure. The falls in itself are spectacular but the 40 kms ride to the falls gives you a better idea of Dalat city and village life. You will cross different styles of houses and highways , cute cafes and eateries all along the way.
Once we arrived (finally after around 1.5 hours), another shocker was the terrain at the falls – its definitely not for the faint hearted. It was quite a strenuous hike with various slippery routes you could take to view the falls from different angles -which was so amazing. More so when we found a spot to ourselves by the lake…
Entry & Timings – 20000 VND (Approx $1), Open Daily from 0800 – 1600 Hrs
Linh An Tu Pagoda and Happy Buddha
We both aren’t huge fans of statues and temples but the big blue happy buddha is literally a two min walk from the elephant falls and it is quite majestic (Especially the main Linh Ah Tu pagoda) so definitely worth paying it a quick visit.
Entry & Timings – Entry is free and timings unsure as there are no boards/signs at venue.
Go Nuts at the Crazy House
Crazy House, locally known as Hang Nga guesthouse is a cute, quirky building designed by a local Vietnamese architect – Dang Viet Nga. This unconventional expressionist structure is often compared to Gaudi’s architecture in Barcelona and having been there, I can see why.
There are a lot of stairs into a maze like house with stunning city views and fun design elements like mushrooms, animals, caves, webs and the likes. You might get that ‘Alice in Wonderland’ feeling when you get there.
The best part is that for around $30-$60 you can even live in the crazy house hotel with super cool animal themed rooms. How crazy is that???
Entry & Timings – 40000 VND (Approx $2) Open daily from 0830 – 1900 Hrs
Have a drink at The Maze Bar (100 Roofs Cafe)
100 Roofs cafe, fondly known as the maze bar is one of the best bars I have ever seen – yeah, no kidding! Its designed like a maze with several floors and different stairways leading up to a new quirky room/ corner. The bar also has amazing artifacts and decor with plenty of sweet seating spots. You can find tables and chairs nestled comfortably in a cave-ish enclosure and usually in the middle of nowhere.
It’s a lot of fun walking around the place, not knowing what’s around the corner or which path will lead you where. We were often confused if we say two stairways leading up and they would both come out in totally different places. It’s one place I loved getting lost in and you would too! So don’t skip the 100 roof’s bar in Dalat at any cost.
Entry & Timings – No entry fee but you must buy a drink at the counter to enter (that’s a win-win, I would say). Closes at midnight but advisable to enter early to enjoy the rooftop which closes at 2100 hrs.
Enjoy a Family Dinner
Almost all hostels and guesthouses are owned by local families. To make their guests feel welcome, they host free family dinners on the first night of your stay – this is a great way to meet fellow travelers and talk to locals about their lovely town.
Take a Walk Around this Quaint Town
Apart from this, you can easily spend a few hours simply walking around town, which is what I did on Day 1. I took out my GoPro and went for a stroll to admire the lovely architecture and natural beauty. This is what I found –
Enjoy Picture Perfect Rooftop Views
Several hostels, hotels and bars have amazing rooftops. I got this postcard style picture sipping coffee at the rooftop of our family hostel.
Enjoy a Cup of Coffee in Chic Off-Beat Cafes
There are so many coffee shops all around Dalat. The weather is a bit chilly and there’s always a nip in the air so pipping hot coffee is the perfect drink.
While driving to elephant falls, we stumbled upon a lovely cafe almost by mistake. I drove past it but stopped in hopes for grabbing a bite.. I was tired and could use a break. So, my friend Romina got off the bike to check the place out and there were no signs or people around – then she saw a lady on a hammock. After trying to explain we wanted food, we ended up in the sweetest cafe I have ever seen.
They had antique TV’S radios and lovely old counter pieces. Bikes and hammocks stretched with a lovely view of the paddy fields nearby, added to its charm. They only served coffee and soft drinks but we were so happy to find this spot that we simply had to chill there for a while.
I am afraid, I can’t really tell exactly where it was, plus it had no name – I doubt I can even find it again and would probably drive right past it all over again..but if we could find this lovely place in one stop, maybe you can discover some off beat cafes yourself and have your own “coffee-hunt-adventure”.
I am sure by now you can see why I fell madly in love with Dalat as soon as I arrived and looked out of the window of my bus. With so many things to do in Dalat, which is your favorite? If you have visited Dalat, I would love to know all about your adventures in this charming town.