Da Lat is located in the south of Vietnam about 7 hours north of Ho Chi Minh City. I might be biased after living in Prague for 20 years and coming to Da Lat from Mui Ne, a city that I really didn’t like. As soon as I got out of the sleeper bus and absorbed the European vibe of this otherwise typically Vietnamese city, I was hooked!
The narrow houses that can be found all throughout Vietnam have European looking facades in Da Lat. Although you might get run-over by motorcycles when you cross the road to get to the beautiful train fountain in the old part of the city, the view from the lake screams Switzerland, not Vietnam.
Originally, we had only planned on spending two days in the city but we extended our stay the moment we checked into our hostel and saw their tour book. Turns out that Da Lat had a lot more to offer than a European vibe and delicious avocado smoothies. Canyoning, waterfalls and unique Gaudi-esque structures are only a few reasons to visit Da Lat.
Our first day tour was ridiculously cheap and thorough. We visited the rose plantation, silk worm farm, cricket farm, a minority village where male and female roles are reversed, a Buddhist temple and the elephant waterfall. But I’ll tell you more about the half-day tour of Da Lat next time…
The biggest surprise in the tour book, and the reason that so many visitors come to the seemingly remote Vietnamese city, is canyoning. Also known as canyoneering, canyoning is basically a trek through a canyon than involves some cliff jumping and abseiling down waterfalls. Although I’m terrified of heights, we signed up for the tour and I ended up surviving despite lots of sweating, crying and only a little bit of blood shed.
If you hate adventures, Europe and hectic tours, you might still want to come to Da Lat for their coffee and avocados. Turns out that all avocados in Vietnam, and even some neighboring countries, come from Da Lat! July happens to be the season when avocados are being sold everywhere for cheap and we took full advantage of that!
Make sure to take the time to wander through the market in town. If you’re persistent enough, you will stumble upon a small cafe that serves the best avocado smoothie in the world! Unlike the ones I tried in Indonesia and the Philippines, this smoothie included coconut milk and a scoop of durian ice cream that made it unique, delicious and sinfully calorific. But who counts calories on holiday?
Finally, Da Lat is also known for it’s coffee. Just like it’s avocado distribution, coffee from Da Lat is exported all over the world. If you visit the largest Starbucks in the World in Shanghai, you’ll even notice the Da Lat coffee of their signature wall featuring all the delicious coffees from around the world.
Vietnam is also known for its controversial “weasel poop coffee”. The animals who poop out the beans are in fact luwaks, not weasels and many countries in Eastern Asia call luwak coffee their own. We got a chance to try it at a picturesque coffee plantation that overlooked the countryside.
Although it was significantly more delicious than regular coffee, these animals are kept taken out of the wild and kept in cages and are almost exclusively fed coffee beans, which is very questionable if you’re into animal welfare. After doing more research, we wouldn’t drink the coffee again, but it was definitely an interesting cultural and culinary experience.
If you’re in Vietnam, make sure not to miss this unique city! Check out the videos on my YouTube Channel of the tours, paddle boats, cafes and other things you can experience in Da Lat.