Camping in Dalat

Introduction | Camping in Dalat | Map

Last updated April 2015 | First published 2013 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle

The best thing about Dalat is not the city itself but the natural beauty of the surrounding area: purple mountains cloaked in pine forests stretching into the misty distance. The first time I came to Dalat I remember getting excited on the bus journey as the road climbed higher through jungle and mountains, only to be disappointed on arrival, when I realized that very little of this landscape is visible from the city. What was the point, I wondered, in travelling all the way up into the mountains if, once you arrived, there was no sensation of being there? Of course, most visitors to Dalat go on excursions to waterfalls, lakes and valleys within easy reach of the city. However, because Dalat is such a popular destination for domestic and foreign tourists, these nearby ‘scenic’ sites are often heavily commercialized, busy and underwhelming. To really immerse yourself in the natural setting of this area, rent some wheels, ride a short way out of the city, find a spot in the forest, and camp. Below is my guide to camping in Dalat. For more articles about Dalat see Related Content.

Camping: the best way to see Dalat
Camping: the best way to see Dalat

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CAMPING IN DALAT

Rent a bicycle or motorbike from your guesthouse or hotel in Dalat City and ride northwest out of town towards Hồ Suối Vàng (Golden Spring Lake). Just after passing the lake the road starts to climb into dense pine forests. You’ll see some good dirt tracks leading off the main road and into the forest. Take any one of these tracks and follow it until you find a good campsite.

Pine forests north of Dalat

Pine forests north of Dalat

A good campsite in this area is one with easy access to the main road (in case you need to make a quick exit because of bad weather or unforeseen circumstances) but preferably not in sight of the main road. This is because you don’t want to attract the curiosity of any locals or passers-by (of which there are very few anyway). These pine forests are great for camping: the carpet of fallen pine needles is soft to sit and lie on, the pine trees offer shade from the sunshine and shelter from the rain, and there’s plenty of dead pine wood for making a small fire (although obviously you need to be very careful, especially in the dry season, as pine is very flammable).

Choose your campsite carefullyChoose your campsite carefully

Come preparedMake sure you come prepared. You’ll need your own tent (although if you try hard you can probably find one to rent or buy in Dalat City), a small camp stove or something to cook on over the fire, lots of bottled water, some food supplies (there are no shops in the area) such as instant noodles, coffee and fruit, a torch (flashlight), and warm clothing or a sleeping bag – remember it gets cold in this area at night, no matter how warm it feels during the daytime. Most importantly, bring a big plastic bag to put your rubbish in – make sure you leave your campsite in the same condition you found it in. You’ll also need a lock for your bicycle or motorbike so that you can lock the wheels and leave it near your tent during the night.

The best time of year to camp in this area is in the dry season from December to March. During this time the weather is perfect for camping: dry, warm (but not hot), sunny and bright.

Around the campfireI like to find my campsite around mid-morning so that I can pitch my tent, collect fire wood and organize my things. Then I spend the day in the dappled sunlight under the giant pine trees, watching the colours change over the mountains, reading, snacking, playing the guitar and singing until sunset. I make my fire at dusk as the sun is disappearing behind the ridges to the west. When darkness falls it’s always a surprise to find that mine is not the only fire in these forests: half a dozen other flickering orange lights appear in the landscape around me – a reminder that many people in the Central Highlands still live semi-nomadic lives. When the night gets cold I lie by the fire, watching the stars and thinking about the animals that once inhabited these forests: less than fifty years ago wild tigers and elephants were a daily concern for locals in the area. Today, the only wildlife you’re likely to encounter are buffalo, which can still be a pretty scary sight in the middle of the night! The thing that stays with me the most from my camping trips in Dalat is the sound of the wind through the pine trees at night; a sound that is at once haunting and comforting.

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17 Responses to Camping in Dalat

  1. Pingback: The Tết Classic: Lunar New Year Motorbike Loop » Vietnam Coracle

  2. Pingback: Camping the Ocean Road: Saigon to Nha Trang » Vietnam Coracle

  3. Sara says:

    Hi Tom,
    I am on a bicycle trip around SE Asia, just arrived in Vietnam and plan to bike from Saigon to Hanoi. I know it might not be the best season, but I want to do a bit of camping. Do you know where to buy fuel for my camping stove in Saigon? And the name of it? So far I havn´t found any. I have a Trangia, but lost my fuelbottel.

    • Hi Sara,

      Try at one of the places I mention in my Camping the Ocean Road guide here. You’ll find links to two places in Saigon under ‘About Camping on This Route’. Fanfan and Leu Du Lich are their names. You could also try U Best on Bui Vien Street.

      Camping is not so bad at this time of year – it’s kind of between seasons at the moment, so you should get plenty of sunshine and rain :-)

      I hope you find it.

      Tom

  4. Rica says:

    Hi Tom,
    My boyfriend and I are flying into Da Lat and out of Nha Trang and want to do the motorbike ride from one to the other. Do you know anywhere in Da Lat that offers one-way motorbike rental? Any advice you have would be much appreciated!

    Thanks :)
    Rica

    • Hi Rica,

      I don’t know of a specific place that hires bikes one-way but I don’t think it will be difficult to find because this is quite a popular one-way ride to do. Just ask at your guesthouse or hotel in Dalat.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

      • Rica says:

        Thanks for getting back to me so quickly Tom. I’ll let you know if we find a particularly good company to with :).

        Rica

  5. Evrim says:

    Hi Tom,
    I found your blog at the right time. This is an amazing blog. Thank you for your time and effort to put all the info for fellow travellers and inspiring others is the most important thing in life. So I said I found you at the right time. I’ll be backpacking in Vietnam for 3 weeks starting from 26th January 2016. I am a solo female traveler and I wanna do a motorcycle trip from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi. My questions are: 1-) what do you think about doing solo motorbike trip and camping as a solo female traveller? 2-) have you seen any dangers that I should absolutely avoid? 3-) do you know any local contacts in Vietnam to help me buy a motorbike? 4-) i have never driven a motorbike accept a scooter, so which type of motorbike should I get? 5-) before starting the journey what info I should learn about motorbikes as a must? 6-) do you know a local school that I can volunteer for couple of days and help them to raise funds? I am not interested in big NGOs as they are already well-known but small ones and local schools need exposure to get volunteers and funds, if you knew and could share, I would appreciate so much. I am looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you so much.

    • Hi Evrim,

      Firstly, I don’t think that travelling in Vietnam as a solo female is any
      more dangerous than it is in any other Southeast Asian nation: just take
      all the normal precautions you would when travelling solo in any other
      country. Vietnamese people as generally very kind and friendly, and this is
      even more so in off the beaten track locations. In fact, the places where
      you should be most careful and the more touristy towns, such as Nha Trang
      and Ho Chi Minh City in the Pham Ngu Lao ‘backpacker’ area.

      For buying a motorbike you can look at the noticeboards in backpacker
      hostels, cafes, bars and hang outs in Saigon or Hanoi. Also you can join
      the Expats Ho Chi Minh City Facebook page because bikes are often for sale
      on it. You can also contact Tigit Motorbikes to see if they have one to
      sell – you can mention Vietnam Coracle if you like, they know me. Or you
      can rent a bike which can be more convenient: I recommend Rent a Bike
      Vietnam: you’ll find an ad for them in the right sidebar of any Vietnam
      Coracle page.

      If you haven’t ridden much before, then I suggest you get an automatic bike
      rather than a manual or semi-automatic. Good automatic bikes include the
      Yamaha Nouvo (like mine here) and the Honda Air Blade.
      They are easy to drive, reliable and perfect for any of the road trip that
      I have written about. But they are more expensive than other bikes.

      You don’t really need any specific knowledge of bikes before you go. There
      are local garages everywhere: just write the word sửa xe máy and you will
      always find someone to fix your bike. Even in remote areas, if something
      happens just find the nearest person or house and they will help you.

      I don’t know any specific schools but you could try contacting the Noble
      Foundation in Saigon and asking them if they can recommend somewhere.

      I hope this helps,

      Tom

  6. Hi Tom,
    Thanks a lot for your reply. I’m looking forward to enjoying this wonderful place. I’ll let you know later about my experience.
    Take care,
    Lisandro.

  7. Hi Tom,
    Thanks a lot for the information you shared with us. It’s very helpful for everyone, especially for those who want to go a bit further in travelling and not just staying on the beaten track.
    I’ve been living in Vietnam for more than two years in Binh Duong New City, I teach English at a university here. It’s a very nice place to live.
    As I have a short holiday, I decided to go to DaLat for 4 days, arriving on Friday 18th early morning, at abut 5:30 am and leaving for Saigon on Monday 21st at night. I’m planning to go camping, so I’m going well equipped. I’m taking with me a tent\hammock\sleeping bag and cooking gear.
    I did some research about were to go and I came across your blog. I want to visit some waterfalls and camp there as I go, I was wondering if that is possible. I’d like to avoid guest houses or hostels where possible. I also want to camp in the pine forest you posted, it looks great. Did you leave your motorbike next to your tent?
    My idea is to rent a motorbike as soon as I get there and return it before I leave, so any info about renting bikes will also be appreciated.
    Thanks for your help,
    Lisandro.

    • Hi Lisandro,

      Yes, camping in Dalat should be possible and nice at this time of year. However, because you are going to be there on a weekend some places may be a little busy. For example, the waterfalls can be crowded on weekends.

      The pine forests where I camped are great. Yes, I parked my motorbike next to my tent at night. But I made sure the bike was locked and secure and that it was visible from my tent. I can’t recommend anywhere specifically to rent motorbikes in Dalat, but I’m sure it will be easy to find one, especially in the backpacker area around Truong Cong Dinh Street.

      At some of the waterfalls it is possible to camp – empty ones like Bo Bla and Gougar are OK. You can ask to camp at Pongour. And there are good pine forests around Tiger falls and Bao Dai falls.

      In general, pine forests around Dalat are great for camping, but try to be as invisible as possible – obviously a foreigner camping in the forest will attract attention – and you don’t want that when you’re camping. When camping at the waterfalls, it’s best to ask permission from some one first – often they will agree.

      I hope you have a great trip,

      Tom

  8. Yann says:

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for your answer, I did some research and this shop look great to get what we need for the trip. We are use to camp on our travel here in France, always leave the place as clean as we found it. I heard it can get pretty difficult to camp on someone land in Vietnam, we are more thinking about only camping on the beach or in forest along the Laos border.

    Thanks again for your work on this blog.

    Yann & Amanda

  9. Yann says:

    Hi Tom,

    I’m Yann, my girlfriend Amanda and I are coming to vietnam in January and we want to travel from Saigon to Hanoi on motorbikes.
    We wanted to thank you for the effort you put into this blog, it as been very helpful for planning our trip. We decided to follow your tracks from Saigon and head to Hué, then climb up in the mountain.
    We just wanted to now if you have any recommendations of where we could find camping gear (tent, sleaping bags…) in Saigon, and if it is easy to find camping spots along the way?

    Looking forward to hearing from you,

    Yann & Amanda

    • Hi Yann and Amanda,
      In Saigon you can find some camping equipment around the backpacker area of Pham Ngu Lao in District 1. There’s a store called Fan Fan at 61/4 Co Giang Street, you can email them: fanfanvn@gmail.com
      Camping in Vietnam is good fun, but you should choose your site carefully. It’s best if you are not visible from the road. And, of course, make sure you camp responsibly: don’t leave any trash and don’t camp on some one’s land unless you get permission from them first.
      Remember it can get quite cold and raining in January in places north of Nha Trang, like Hue.
      Have a good trip.
      Tom

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