Nestled 1,500 meters above sea level on the Langbiang Plateau in the southern area of Vietnam’s Central Highlands, the picturesque landscapes of Lam Dong Province’s Da Lat Town attract large numbers of tourists annually.
Thanks to its fresh, cool air, majestic waterfalls and thousands of brilliant flowers, the community is a favorite destination for both Vietnamese and foreign visitors alike. The name Da Lat originates from the ancient hill tribe people who once populated the region and means “stream of the Lat people.”
Arriving in Da Lat, situated 320 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City, tourists are always astonished at the town’s overflowing bounty of flowers.
Blossoms can be seen everywhere in countless varieties including orchids, mimosas, pansies, wild sunflowers and roses. There are also many rare types of flowers found in few other places in the country.
The easiest to spot are the orchids, dubbed locally as “queen of the flowers.” Of the world’s 100,000 species of orchids, as many as 500 types are grown in the town.
Da Lat also boasts a unique species of orchid called lan hai, which received much attention and praise when it was displayed at an orchid exhibition in Tokyo, Japan a few years ago.
The flower was named for its resemblance to a type of embroidered shoe worn by noble women, known in Vietnamese as “hai.”
Another popular type of Da Lat flora is the mimosa, a six-meter-tall tree with small yellow flowers which grows only in hot countries.
The tree, which originates from Australia, comes into bloom three times a year during the dry season. Da Lat is home to two types of mimosa trees, one is a long-leafed variety and the other is short-leafed.
Local songwriter Tran Kiet Tuong found great inspiration in the mimosa and wrote a song based on the tree’s beauty.
According to folklore, Da Lat girls would often place mimosa flowers between the pages of a book, and then send it to their boyfriends. The pressed flowers would retain their sweet scent, and act as a fond reminder of the girls. Like the mimosa itself, this practice is said to have stemmed from Australia.
Among thousands of varieties of flowers, the Da Lat rose is a particular favorite nationwide. Aside from being sold in the town’s markets, roses are also transported to larger markets in other provinces and cities, including Hanoi and HCMC.
The flowers come in all sort of colors and shades including pink, violet and yellow.
The yellow roses are known locally as “Josephine,” after the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, while other roses are also referred to after famous movie stars and nobility.
Watercolor waterfalls and more
The town of Da Lat is also well known for its breathtaking waterfalls, including the Prenn, Cam Ly, Dambri and Pongua.
Prenn Waterfall, located at the foot of Prenn Pass and about 10 km from the center of Da Lat, is considered a symbol of the town. Behind the cascading water is a bamboo bridge where visitors can cross through a spray of refreshing mist. Tourists can also explore the surrounding area, home to a wide variety of animals.
Locals compare the scenery at Prenn Waterfall to that of a watercolor painting. The water pouring over the top of the fall creates a sheet of silver, which flows into a swirling pool of white foam at the bottom. A nearby photo shop allows visitors to have their photo taken at the falls to commemorate their trip.
Tourists can also take a horse or elephant ride while touring the area, or rent a canoe to discover the waterfall’s surrounding canals.
Nearby Xuan Huong Lake, spanning five square kilometers, is another picturesque area and popular with honeymooners.
This manmade lake, which was named after famous Vietnamese poet Ho Xuan Huong who lived in the 18th-century, was also a site where many indigenous people of Highland Langbian ancestry made their homes.
In 1984, scientists found many ancient relics at the bottom of the lake belonging to the hill tribes that once lived in this area.
Another well-known Da Lat lake is Tuyen Lam, located five kilometers south of the town.
Tuyen Lam is known as the lake where rivers, springs and forests converge. The immense area stretches over 350 hectares from the beautiful Tia Spring and Da Tam River to Voi Mountain.
Da Lat is also known for its Valley of Love, known in Vietnamese as Thung lung tinh yeu.
Situated about five kilometers outside of town and spanning about 242 hectares, the Valley of Love is filled with scenic, rolling pine tree-clad hills, perfect for picnics.
For those who love to hike, the 1,900-meter tall Lang Biang Mountain takes around three hours to climb. For others who would rather drive up, jeeps can be hired for around US$10.
Other tourist attractions in Da Lat Town include the Da Lat Market, Lake of Sighs, and the summer Palace of Bao Dai, the last king of Vietnam.
According to Sato Kohara, a Japanese fine arts student touring the area, “I have visited many sites in Vietnam, but still felt surprised when I arrived here. This site is peaceful, romantic and fresh.
“If I have a chance to visit Vietnam again, I will return to this site together with my friends,” she adds.