Dalat is a mid-sized city that looks like a cross between Vietnam and the French Alps. Outside of the city centre, it is surrounded by a series of pine-covered hills, lakes, and higher peaks, making for some lovely scenery quite different from the rest of Vietnam.
Temperatures are pleasantly warm by day, and quite cool at night, down to perhaps 10 degrees Celsius. Be aware that during summer months, rain comes at least once a day and can sometimes dictate the mood and activities you are planning.
The city centre is quite small and feels very urban, concrete, and patches of streets and buildings are in disrepair or construction. However, outside of the small urban centre is a spacious landscape of well kempt and pretty hotels, cafes, restaurants, and lakes peppered among the rolling green hills and pine trees to offer tourists an escape from city life. Even further out from those are fields of fruits, vegetables, coffee, and canopied flower gardens that are harvested and exported across Vietnam. The tempo of life in Dalat is very relaxed, traffic is not frenetic, streets are spacious, and the local populace is friendly to foreigners.
Dalat is very much a niche tourism town, open to those seeking a respite from the heat of the rest of Vietnam, a change in scenery to lush pine forests and rolling hills, or those seeking world class golf. There is a steady flow during some parts of the year of tourist from all walks of life and places, small hotels, cafe’s lining its streets and plenty of small shops offering anything from orchids to knitwear. The vast majority of visitors are Vietnamese, although plenty of Americans and Europeans find their way, either on short package tours, soul searching, or drawn by the scenery, vivid blue skies, fresh air, flower-filled parks, and local culinary treats. Dalat is a favourite destination for company weekend outings, family get-aways, and honeymooners. Most guidebooks for overseas visitors describe Dalat as a tourist town with a colourful approach to tourism.
Dalat is a very pleasant stop, on a north-south tour (or vice versa), or a pleasant outing from the heat of Saigon. For overseas visitors, it offers mostly a chance to cool down, observe some beautiful landscape and agriculture, view a bit of the French legacy, the Indochine legend and its momentous glories and the architecture untouched by the Vietnam conflict left behind,a unique place to enjoy the atmosphere of a unique country and its people.
Dalat is also surrounded by some of the best mountain biking, hiking and canyoning opportunities in Vietnam, with hills of coffee and tea plantations, which evoke images of the colonial hill stations of the north of India.
Dalat’s high altitude (1500-2000m) and fertile landscape make it one of Vietnam’s premier agricultural areas, producing varieties of fruits, vegetables, tea, coffee beans, and flowers that do not grow in the lowlands. In markets as far north as Hanoi and Hai Phong, vegetable and flower vendors will tout their “made in Dalat” produce.