Being at an elevation of 1,500 metres offers welcome respite from the heat and humidity. The city was founded with this purpose solely in mind by the French colonial administration in 1912. Once upon a time Dalat was optimistically referred to as ‘Le Petit Paris’, due to many spectacular chalet style lodges that sprung up around the town during this period. Several remain, as does some of the charm, but its fair to say that a rising population has led to chaotic building, compounded by poor renovation of many heritage buildings. However, take in to consideration the stunning backdrop of forests, waterfalls and lakes and Dalat becomes worth a few days in your itinerary.
“Listening to the noon going down in the romantic town, a Da Lat violet is filled with fog…” is a line from a very famous Vietnamese song, written by Minh Ky Da Cam. The vast majority of visitors to Dalat are Vietnamese honeymooners, drawn by the vivid blue skies, cool fresh air, flower-filled parks, and local cuisine. Watching the young, loved-up couples becomes an absorbing pastime.
Dalat’s high altitude and fertile landscape make it one of Vietnam’s premium agricultural areas, producing a variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers that do not grow in the lowlands. In markets as far north as Hanoi, vegetables and flower vendors will tout their “made in Dalat” produce.
In 1978, the south and north Cat Tien parks (a short way south of Dalat) were put under the State’s protection and then in 1992, Cat Loc park was also listed in a joint program to protect the environment. Eventually, in 1998, these three parks joined together to become the Cat Tien National Park. It is now the most important reserve in Vietnam, home to a wealth of flora, as well as much of the country’s endangered wildlife. Amongst the species that live in the 70,000-hectare park are the Asian elephants, yellow-cheeked gibbons and sun bears. Most visitors will visit the park’s Endangered Primate Centre, where you’ll be able to see two of the rarest species in the world – the Delacour and Cat Ba langurs. Cat Tien National Park has a diverse topography encompassing rolling hills, flat plains, dense forest and meandering rivers.