Tour Dalat and Vietnam's Central Highlands
This most beautiful of all of Vietnam's French Hill Stations was a cool Alpine refuge from sweltering Saigon. Hundreds of colonial chalets were built here. Today, Dalat Hill Station is home to the gardens that supply most of the flowers and vegetables found in markets throughout Southern Vietnam.
Day One: Vegetables and Honeymoons
Depart Ho Chi Minh City with private car and driver this morning along with your personal guide. It takes more than an hour before you finally leave this sprawling city behind and begin the slow climb into Vietnam's Central Highlands. About half way you will stop to stretch your legs at Prenn Falls, where you can hike along the gushing stream that feeds the falls if you like.
The rest of the journey takes you through one of the few remaining old-growth forests left in Vietnam as well as some of the country's most fertile farm land until you arrive in Vietnam's golf, honeymoon, and cut flower capital. If you get an early start you will arrive around lunch time.
After you settle into your hotel you will visit the summer villa of Bao Dai, Vietnam's last emperor.
Next, a stop at the "crazy house," one of the Vietnam's most bizarre pieces of architecture. It's actually a hotel, although few are interested in staying in a plaster nightmare from a sixties theme park. Not far away is Dalat's own crazy monk, a deranged robed fellow who speaks in tongues and sells very collectable calligraphy.
Before you call it a day, pay a quick visit to the gothic Dalat Cathedral almost next door to your hotel. Several great restaurants ring the lovely lake near the center of town. Instead you may prefer to buy a bottle of wine, a crusty loaf of bread and some cheese and make your own picnic in the fresh mountain air.
In the mountains north of Saigon is Dalat Hill Station, Vietnam's vegetable garden and honeymoon capital. The French came here to beat the heat. You can come here to enjoy stunning scenery and a charming colonial town with unbelievable hotels, great restaurants, and some unusual things to do and see. Bao Dai, Vietnam's last Emperor, kept a villa here that you can wander through. Or how about a ride on an antique train to nowhere?
Day Two: A Train to Nowhere and a Bamboo Forest Monastery
After your leisurely breakfast, your day begins with a visit to the busy public market, where farmers from from surrounding mountains come to sell an amazing assortment of fresh fruits, vegetables and exotic plans. After a walk around the charming provincial French District you visit the Dalat Flower Gardens, one of the most fascinating botanical gardens you are ever likely to see.
Your driver and guide are at your disposal for the rest of the day. You might opt for a train trip to nowhere. The restored turn-of-the-century Cremaillere Railway travels a mere eight kilometers to Trai Mat Village, then turns around after a brief stop. You get to see some spectacular scenery along the way. The many other options include the Cam Ly Falls of the Valley of Love, where you can explore a lake by paddle-boat or rent horses by the hour.
If you choose to stay another night or two we can help you arrange for trekking to nearby ethnic minority villages. At night the public market is transformed into a street-food paradise worth exploring with your guide. One of our favorite places to visit is the Truc Lam (bamboo forest) Monastery, one of the largest Zen Buddhist teaching centers in Vietnam. Surrounded by a breathtaking evergreen forest and overlooking Tuyen Lam Lake, this is one of the most peaceful places you may ever visit.
Day Three: Back to Saigon or off to Phan Thiet or beyond?
Your morning is free to relax, enjoy one of Sapa's world-class golf courses, or take a walk around Xuan Huong Lake, a great place for people watching. Unless you plan to stay longer, we will whisk you back to Saigon after lunch. If you have a bit more time, travel to Dalat combines perfectly with a few days in Phan Thiet, the year 'round tropical beach paradise just a few hours away. There are also flights from Dalat to Danang (for Hoi An), Hanoi and Saigon.