Dalat, also known as Da Lat is located in the South Central Highlands of Vietnam. It was originally the playground of the French who built villas in the clear mountain air to escape the heat and humidity of the coast and of Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City.
Dalat looks like a cross between Vietnam and the French Alps. Many of its hotels and houses are built in a European and French style. The city spreads across a series of pine-covered hills, with a small lake in the center and surrounded by a man made lake 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 Celcius.
Dalat is very much a niche tourism town, open to some of the more adventurous travelers, or the Indo chic romantics, 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, in their search for this utopian Dalat, a lifestyle resort destination, either on short package tours, or research and soul searching, drawn by the scenery, vivid blue skies, fresh air, flower-filled parks and local culinary treats.
Dalat is a favorite destination for company weekend outings, family get-aways, and honeymooners. Most guidebooks for overseas visitors describe Dalat as a tourist town with a colorful 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 the Vietnamese at play, 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 (1500-2000 m) and fertile landscape make it one of Vietnam's premier agricultural areas, producing varieties of fruits, vegetables, tea, coffee and flowers that don't 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.