Surrounded by pine tree forests, hills, and lakes, Da Lat looks like a typical European resort town. Adding spring-like weather, it becomes a favorite destination to escape the summer heat for both domestic and foreign tourists.
Situated on the Central Highland – a plateau 1500 meters above sea level in the southern part of Vietnam, the hilly town of Da Lat has been a popular retreat since colonial times. The French were the first to find this place and they very much enjoyed this poetic landscape, with pine-covered hills and valleys embracing serene lakes.
Additionally, unlike most cities in southern Vietnam where the weather is hot and humid, the daily temperature in Da Lat hovers between 18 and 25 Celcius degrees, making it a perfect place to get away from the summer heat.
1. Da Lat – The resort town
After the French’s defeat in the 1950s, Da Lat’s popularity as a resort town didn’t decline. In fact, it spread among the Vietnamese elite who adored the European vibe. Residences, churches, and Swiss-style chalets soon spawned up amid pine tree forests on the slopes of Da Lat
In the next decades, the city, fortunately, escaped the war, with many of its villas and buildings remaining in good shape. Though a few retain their original function, many are now turned into museums or hotels.
1.1 Dalat Cathedral
Speaking of architectural heritages in the hilly town, many people will immediately think of the iconic Da Lat Cathedral. Completed in 1942, this Romanesque structure serves as the diocese of Da Lat. It stands at the heart of the city, with its prominent bell tower overlooking the mirror-like Xuan Huong lake. There is a chicken sculpture atop the holy cross, thus the cathedral is often referred to as the “Chicken Church”.
1.2 Dalat Palace Hotel
Just a stone’s throw away from the cathedral is Dalat Palace – the town’s oldest and most prestigious hotel. Originally, this hotel featured Art Deco style which was popular at the time of construction (1922). Yet it shifted to Victorian-style during later stages, with glamourous dining rooms and royal-like facilities.
The pièce de résistance is, however, the expansive manicured garden that offers a sweeping over the Xuan Huong Lake. Just like the Metropole in Hanoi, this grande-dame has been home away from home to playwrights, ambassadors, and state leaders from all over the globe.
1.3 Da Lat Railway Station
Opened in 1938, Da Lat Railway Station is the terminal of the train route connecting Da Lat and Phan Rang. It is notable for its unique architecture that combines French Art Deco style with the gable roofs of nhà sàn (communal houses of the ethnic minorities residing in the Central Highland).
The station had been an important gateway to this hilly town until 1968 when the war intensified. Since the 1990s, it has returned to service but as a tourist attraction. A 7-km section of the line was also restored, linking the town center with the nearby village of Trai Mat.
1.4 Bao Dai Residences
Aside from Hue, nowhere in Vietnam is related to Bao Dai more than Da Lat. The last emperor spent a lot of time in this resort town after returning to the country in the late 1940s. He even built and purchased several residences, two of which have now become museums.
These residences are magnificent examples of French architecture in Da Lat.
Located near the Pasteur Institute, Dinh 3 (Residence Nr. 3) is the most popular Bao Dai property. It was built between 1933 and 1939 and served as the retreating place for the royal family. The mansion is the cooperative work between French and Vietnamese architects. It bears the mark of the Art Deco style, with unmistakable curved facades, long horizontal lines, railings, and pothole windows. The interior is also relatively modest, featuring high ceilings, simple furniture, and antiques.
Dinh 1 (Residence Nr. 1), on the other hand, was originally constructed for a French millionaire. It was bought by Bao Dai in 1949 because he liked this beautiful landscape. In the following decades, the residence was largely abandoned. It has only regained its former glory thanks to a restoration project started in 2014. Dinh 1 is a magnificent example of classic French architecture in Da Lat, with white stuccos, forest green shutters, and pale yellow walls. Inside are personal items and furniture dating back to the era of the last emperor.
2. Da Lat – The agricultural center
Although Da Lat retains an attractive tourism destination, the city is also widely known for its agricultural products. Thanks to its cool climate and a decent amount of rainfall, the farms in and around the town are the main producers of strawberries, flowers, and other vegetables from the tepid zone.
ere you can expect to find the freshest salad or the juiciest tomato in the country. There are also some newly invented fruit species, which are available nowhere else, except here. The farms are usually opened to the public so that visitors can see how products are cultivated, and you can buy them directly from the farmers.
Tips for visiting Da Lat
- Taking a flight is the most convenient way to go to Da Lat. The flight takes 45 minutes if departing from Saigon. From Hanoi, it takes approximately 90 minutes. Lien Khuong (DLI) is the closest airport, which is located 33 kilometres south of the city.
- Travelling by cars/ intercity buses takes 4-5 hours, but you can see the landscape changes along the route, from fields of rubber trees in Dong Nai, tea plantations in Bao Loc to pine-covered valleys before reaching the resort town.
- Though this hilly town is a year-round destination, the best time to visit is during the dry season (Nov-Apr) because the rainfall might be torrential and persistent.
25 thoughts on “Da Lat: A Perfect Summer Destination”
What a gorgeous Cathedral. 🙂
It’s much smaller than the cathedrals in Europe, but it looks cute. Too bad that I couldn’t go inside because they were holding a ceremony.
Next time! 😉
An interesting article with great pics!
Thank you! 🙂
Dalat is so beautiful and the shot of the Valley of Love is even more so.
I was surprised as well 🙂 Several years ago, this place looked horrible, the hills were deserted, everywhere is full of trash, and hawkers stick to you like glue. It’s great to see that this place was finally returned to its original state.
Dalat reminds me a little bit of Bandung, a city some 110 km southeast of Jakarta, which was used by the Dutch as a retreat place thanks to its cooler temperatures compared to the heat and humidity of Java’s coastal cities. It’s interesting to think that despite the hot climate the Europeans’ clothing in their tropical colonies wasn’t too different from what they wore back home.
With tall hats, suits and long dresses? 🙂 Although the climate in the resort towns are cooler than the rest of the country, I guess it is still too warm to wear such things. Perhaps they wear it to show their status, or just to prevent mosquitoes 🙂
What a lovely place. I can imagine how those Europeans felt a respite from the heat after discovering this place. The temperatures sound ideal for me too. And it looks so green and fresh, amazing.
I’ve heard that Dalat is also something of an adventure capital – for mountain biking, abseiling down waterfalls, and white water rafting too. It looks so laid-back and seems like the perfect place to go on a stroll or a hike. Did you get to try those newly invented fruits and vegetables? I’m curious about how they taste.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t try those fruits because they weren’t in season 🙁 You are right! With many mountains, forests and waterfalls nearby, Dalat is the city of extrem sports. Hiking, biking and canoing over waterfalls are the most favourites. Its cool climate is another advantage for adventurers because they won’t be dehydrated so quickly.
The whole town looks so beautiful from the gorgeous setting to the houses tumbling down the hillsides to the special buildings. All your post about Vietnam make me with to return and explore more.
Thanks Alison! You will be surprised by how much the country has changed for the last decades. Some changes are good, others are even more chaotic 😛
The place is awesome. Inspiringly beautiful. So are your photos.
Thank you for your kind words, cô Tám 🙂
Dalat from your post looks so interesting. You have written so well that it looks like we have a virtual tour of this city.
Was that a noble yellow robe in Dinh 1? from the movies I watched nobility robes are often red but that one looks so different.The windows looks like the typical Bavarian windows!
I was surprised to see features of a villa!
I would love to see that farm…!
Thanks for your compliment, Christina!
Yes the yellow robe is in Dinh 1. It is the ceremonial outfit of the emperor. Most of the time, Vietnamese emperors wear golden coloured robes (like the Chinese). Red and orange are also used, but mainly for members of the royal family. Others can only wear less eye-catching colours such as green, blue, purple, etc. I think you mistook the Vienamese court outfits with the Korean 🙂
Ooppss sorry Len!! cultural mix up!oh yes Golden Yellow is also a nobility color.Hehe
Oh my God, you capture it beautifully. I’ve heard about Da Lat a few times, but never imagined that it’s very lovely. Without your brief and nice narration, I would think that it is somewhere in Europe.
I think I should put Da Lat in my bucket list, just if I have a chance to visit Vietnam again someday 🙂
Thank you! I’m glad that you like the post 🙂