Inland from Nha Trang, the climatically temperate upland city of Dalat sits among pleasant hills, a characteristic which brought the French colonisers to enjoy the cool of the location, leaving a legacy that still imbues the city with a touch of Parisian charm.


The European influence upon Vietnam's last Emperor, Bao Dai, is also evident in the art deco lines of his Summer Palace. Likewise the Railway station and Da Lat Palace Hotel exude colonial style, while its adjacent golf course provides for a very pleasant world-class round in its beautiful and tranquil setting.

Beyond the small inner core, for a city, Dalat presents a fairly pretty picture, with less frenetic traffic than in other Vietnamese conurbations and its houses painted in a concoction of pleasing colours. Within the city, Xuan Huong lake is a pleasant area to stroll, its northwestern shore featuring a flower garden.

Since Dalat evolved from the leisure pursuits of the French, there are no truly authentic historic Vietnamese features, but the Buddhist temple of Linh Son is a very fine example of a modern manifestation of traditional Vietnamese temple architectural style.

At the other end of the scale Linh Phuoc Pagoda is a highly ornate a and decorous structure constructed from a variety of strange materials, but despite a certain 'kitsch' character is visually impressive and an interesting example of the city's taste for experimental art.

When it comes to design lines, Dalat's 'Crazy House' virtually drops all the rule books in its surrealistic structure, having more to do with the fantasy architecture of more radical European influences such as Barcelona's Antoni Gaudi and British album sleeve designer Roger Dean than Viet architectural tradfitions.

Dalat is at the forefront of Vietnam's cutting-edge agricultural science and the surrounding landscape excels in the production of fine flowers, vegetables and fruits, but just beyond the fields and polytunnels, there are several lovely areas of natural beauty to explore.

A cable car ride into the pretty countryside will bring you to Truc Lam Pagoda and gardens in its Tuyen Lam lakeside setting, a cool and relaxing place to wander among the highland pines. Further westwards, Elephant falls is another of Dalat's local beauty spots.

A highly popular attraction near Dalat is the 'Love Valley', often marketed in travel guides as a spot for honeymooners, which it certainly very successfully attracts.

Although set in a very pretty location, the 'romantic' decorations will not appeal to everyone, but beyond the superficial and somewhat tacky presentation, there are nevertheless some good leafy walks to enjoy. The local area is also good for a spot of adventurous canyoning.


To the north of Dalat, in the central highlands, Buon Ma Thuot is at the centre of Vietnam’s premier coffee growing region, and the area abounds with the produce of the world’s second largest coffee growing nation, which you can sample in numerous cafes.

Aside from the cafes and coffee museum, the town itself has little to see in the way of tourist sights, but is most visited en-route to visit the surrounding areas such as Yok Don National Park, Lak Lake and the village of Ban Don.

The area is home to forty-four ethnic groups, quite distinct from the ethnic groups found in northern Vietnam, the most prominent of which are the Ede, Jarai, M’nong, Lao and Giarai peoples, the latter famous for their beautiful tomb houses.

Lak Lake, to the south of the town, provides an opportunity to get aboard a canoe or do some elephant riding while taking in the pleasant and peaceful ambience, or visiting a tribal longhouse, where a homestay is also possible.

Northwest of Buon Ma Thuot, you can also do some elephant riding and visit the tribal villages at Ban Don Village, close to the entrance of Yok Don National Park. In March, the village hosts the Elephant Race Festival.

The park and its deciduous forest is an important haven for rare wildlife, such Red Wolves, Tigers, Leopards, Elephants and Bears, as well as many other mammals, reptiles and birds. Within the park, you can trek on foot or by elephant, camp and canoe the Srepok River.


Further north of Buon Ma Thuot, in Vietnam’s central highlands, Pleiku is another coffee growing region and has some lovely scenery though little in the way of sophisticated tourist infrastructure. However, for the enterprising traveller, the area is a place to explore the authentic ethnic settlements of the region including the Bahmar people.

Bien Ho Lake is the flooded remnant of a volcanic crater and home to some Jarai ethnic settlements and will appeal to the traveller who likes to get away from the trappings of tourism.