This large chunk of Vietnam is often overlooked by travellers. However for those with the time and inclination to explore the remote mountainous central region are rewarded with fascinating indigenous cultures, cooler temperatures, beautiful lakes and one of the best off-the-beaten-track experiences Vietnam has to offer. The infrastructure is less developed, the restaurants are ‘local’, spoken-English is sporadic and the accommodation largely basic…..and its all the more rewarding for it. You also learn a great deal about Vietnam’s modern history, as the recent wars against both the French and Americans had a huge impact on lives in this region.
You are likely to either start or finish travels in the Central Highlands in Dalat. Heading north, the first significant staging post is Buon Ma Thout, famous as the “capital of coffee”. From here, visitors usually head to the tiny town of Lac Thien to spend the night beside beautiful Lak Lake, perhaps having dinner in a traditional long house. A day’s activities could include a visit to Bao Dai’s villa, a castle owned by the last Emperor of the Nguyen dynasty, a stop at Jun Village to find out about the customs and culture of the Ede minority and an elephant ride to visit M’lieng village, from where it is possible to take a dugout canoe across the lake.
Continuing your journey north, Pleiku is the regional capital and is inhabited primarily by the Bahnar and Jarai ethnic groups – ‘montagnards’ as they were known in Colonial times. The town sits at an elevation of 800m above sea level and these days acts as the gateway for those wishing to go to explore Kon Tum.