Discovering The Central Highlands of Vietnam

Vietnam’s central highlands attracts a lot of travelers in the world by its nature and unique culture. This article can be your travel guide when you visit the central highlands of Vietnam.

Vietnam’s central highlands attracts a lot of travelers in the world by its nature and unique culture. This article can be your travel guide when you visit the central highlands of Vietnam.

When is the best time to visit Vietnam’s central highlands

When is the best time to visit Vietnam’s central highlands

Your highland experience will vary enormously depending on when you visit. The dry season runs from November through to April. 

The best time to visit the central highlands to see the region at its atmospheric best, is during the wet season between May to October. Bear in mind that the rain can make some outlying villages inaccessible during this time.

Stay in Vietnam’s Central Highlands

Ca Tien National Park

Green Bamboo Lodge

The best of the small array of decent lodges clustered across the river from the park entrance. Rooms are set in a series of cute “bungalows” approximating local ethnic designs; they

Da Lat

Tulip

This is a nice, new option with partial lake views and lovely rooms – it’s excellent value for money. Staff speak little English, but they’re willing to please and keep the place spick and span. The popularity of this hotel means it’s now part of a small chain of three.

Dalat Palace Heritage

Da Lat’s most magnificent colonial pile sits amid manicured grounds, still radiating 1920s splendor. All rooms are lavishly appointed and decked out with period furnishings, including chunky telephones and massive bathtubs. 

Dalat Palace Heritage

It’s gorgeous, but can feel a little empty at times – though this can be a positive thing. Book online for the best deals.

Du Parc

This sympathetically restored colonial edifice would be an ideal place to stay if your budget won’t stretch to a room at the nearby Dalat Palace. The cage-lift creaks up to pleasant, well-ventilated rooms with elegant interiors and polished wooden floors. Outside peak season, it’s possible to get some superb deals via their website.

Buon Ma Thuot

Saigon-Ban Me

The most salubrious place to stay in the city, and with a wonderfully central location to boot. Lifts whisk guests up from the neat lobby to even neater rooms, while elsewhere on the complex you’ll find a decent restaurant, a fitness center and a sauna.

Pleiku

HAGL

This is by far the most comfortable option around, with spacious rooms that are well equipped with desks and bathtubs – those on the upper floors also have nice views across the countryside. 

Good value, and a lovely place to treat yourself if you’ve been on a central highland slog. It’s about 1km east of the town centre.

HAGL

Cultural attractions 

The seven best things to see and do on your visit to the central highlands.

  1. Dambri Waterfalls
    The most impressive waterfalls in the highlands – stand right below them and feel the spray on your face.

  2. Da Lat
    Abseil down a waterfall, pose for pictures on a pony or just enjoy some cooler nights in this popular hill city.

  3. Ride the rails
    Chug your way through highland scenery on the short train ride to Trai Mat village, 7km east of Da Lat.

  4. Lak Lake
    Paddle around Lak Lake in a dugout canoe at dawn and watch the sunrise sweep across its surface.

  5. Coffee country
    Enjoy a cup of fresh coffee in Vietnam’s capital of caffeine, Buon Ma Thuot.

  6. Kon Tum
    Kick back in the small, agreeable town of Kon Tum, which deserves more tourists on account of the minority villages on its doorstep.

  7. Bahnar villages
    Overnight in a dramatically tall communal rong in a Bahnar village near Kon Tum.

Bao Loc’s attractions 

The vast majority of travelers pass straight from Ho Chi Minh City to Da Lat, but buses sometimes screech to a brief halt on the causeway traversing La Nga Lake, from where the houseboats cast adrift on the water are only a zoom lens away. Locals use foot-powered rowing boats to access their homes, which also double as fish farms.

Eventually the hills yield to the tea, coffee and mulberry plantations of the Bao Loc Plateau. Here, the town of Bao Loc is the best place for a pit stop between Ho Chi Minh City and Da Lat, and it’s also a jumping-off point for visits to nearby Cat Tien National Park and the Dambri Waterfalls. 

Though there are no sights of interest in the town itself, the undulating hills nearby provide fertile soil for the cultivation of tea and coffee, and locals also grow the mulberry bushes that silkworms are fond of. 

Those with their own transport will be able to scoot around this highly attractive area; alternatively, rent a taxi or xe om for half a day.

Dambri Waterfalls

Surrounded as they are by dense forest, the Dambri Waterfalls are much more attractive than any of those in the vicinity of Da Lat, and the only ones worth visiting in the dry season. 

The road to the falls, which branches north from Highway 20 just east of Bao Loc, bisects rolling countryside carpeted with coffee, tea and pineapple plantations.

Once you arrive, there are two paths leading to the falls. The main one to the right leads to the top of the falls, where some ugly fencing stands between you and a precipice over which a torrent of whitewater tumbles 80m. 

Dambri Waterfalls

From here, you can descend to the base of the falls by the steep steps or take a lift. A second path, to the left by the restaurant, leads down a steep stairway amid towering trees to a superb view of the falls from the front. 

A bridge links the two paths over the river, and here you’re likely to get drenched by the spray even during the dry season. The path continues downstream to a smaller cascade, Dasara Falls, but the trail can be slippery after rain.

Cat Tien National Park

The area’s outstanding attraction is Cat Tien National Park, a protected area situated 150km north of Ho Chi Minh City and about 50km west of Bao Loc. 

The park covers the largest lowland tropical rainforest in south Vietnam, and hosts nearly 350 species of bird, over 450 species of butterfly and over one hundred mammals, including wild cats, elephants, monkeys and the rare Javan rhinoceros. 

Don’t bank on seeing a rhino, as the few residing here are in a secluded reserve that’s closed to visitors. Crocs are a different story, since a clutch resides in an area around 12km from the park entrance (8km by boat, 4km on foot).

Da Lat Province

Vietnam’s premier hill station, Da Lat, sits tucked into the mountain folds of the Lang Bian Plateau at an altitude of around 1500m. 

A beguiling amalgam of winding streets, picturesque churches, bounteous vegetable gardens and crashing waterfalls, this quaint colonial curio is a great place to chill out, literally and metaphorically; if it's cool air gets you in the mood for action, you could try trekking to minority villages, mountain-biking and rock-climbing. Find out more about Da Lat.

Buon Ma Thuot

To the Vietnamese, Buon Ma Thuot means only one thing: coffee. Vietnam is the world’s second-largest producer of the bean, and this is where most of its best stuff is grown. 

There’s an almost mind-boggling profusion of cafés here, and though no venues are particularly memorable, it would be a pity to leave town without sampling some of its most famous products for yourself.

All this said, and despite the highland location, first impressions of Buon Ma Thuot are unlikely to be all that favorable. 

Buon Ma Thuot

A city with a population of around half a million, its sprawl of modern buildings are splayed across a grid of grubby, characterless streets, and there’s little to keep you occupied in the way of attractions. 

However, a range of good accommodation means that, if you’re on your way through the highlands, this is a logical place to hunker down for a day or two – some even end up developing an affinity for the place, and staying longer than they’d intended.

Accommodations in Buon Ma Thuot

There are plenty of places to stay in Buon Ma Thuot, catering for most budgets, though few of them have much character. Most of the cheaper options are clustered along Ly Thuong Kiet, while mid-range hotels are scattered around town.

Buon Ma Thuot’s cuisine

Dining in Buon Ma Thuot is unlikely to get the pulse racing, though there are a few quirky options here and there. For budget evening fare, try the stalls on Y Jut and surrounding roads. 

More importantly, it would also be a crime to visit the heart of Vietnam’s coffee industry without tasting the product itself, and there are plenty of opportunities in the city’s cafés. 

You’ll find them scattered all over town, but there’s a particular concentration along the south end of Le Thanh Tong, known to locals as “Coffee Street”.

Attractions around Buon Ma Thuot

The main draw of Buon Ma Thuot is what can be found surrounding it: traditional minority communities (mostly E De people) at Ako Dhong and in the surrounding countryside at Ban Don; Yok Don National Park; and some wonderful waterfalls.

Between April and July you’ll see the city surrounded by millions of lemon-coloured butterflies, wafting through the air like yellow petals.

Huong Giang