Exploring Vietnam’s central highlands on a motorbike and discovering the amazing Dalat Waterfalls!

Heading up to DaLat from Mui Ne the real adventure on our motorbikes was to begin, after being underwhelmed with the touristy coastal town we were ready for a real look into what makes Vietnam so special. Taking the winding mountain roads across lush green landscapes, riding through tiny villages and of course enjoying the beautiful city of Dalat! With its adventure activities such as canyoning and of course, its famous waterfalls and winding rural roads, this was exactly why we bought the bikes in the first place! Of all the things to do in Dalat one to consider is getting a bike and exploring the surrounding regions on your own terms!

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Heading up the mountain roads towards Da Lat

After the amazing coastal roads we experienced during the ride from Vung Tau to Mui Ne, about one of the only things we did really love about this area, we were ready for another change of scenery. Cutting in off the roads that trace their way all along the coastline we headed up into the central highland district of Vietnam. On increasingly steep and winding roads we found ourselves gaining elevation at a rapid pace. Its a good job our bikes from Tigit were almost brand new and in great shape! Taking your own bike or a bike tour on this section of roads is something you should consider as a must of all the things to do in Dalat!

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For us this was our first REAL riding day on the motorbikes, no more casual coastal highways but instead true adventure as we ploughed on into the mountainous heart of the country. Often stopping for photos and to take in the spectacular scenery that we now found ourselves in we couldn’t believe the contrast a days riding could provide. Now we were well and truly on our way to becoming bikers and had discovered a passion we never knew existed! We realised more than ever that rather than the “sights” seeing the amazing surrounding areas is one of the most rewarding things to do in Dalat.

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Riding through tiny villages, coffee plantations and stunning scenery

Riding our motorbikes soon became a passion as we made our way through Vietnam, offering us the chance to explore areas on our own terms, stopping whenever the feeling grabs us, to take photos or just take in the stunning scenery that would face us at almost every corner… no wonder it took us 6 weeks to make it around the full country! Up here in Dalat having a motorbike is the ultimate and best way to make the most of what is one of the countries more interesting and beautiful regions.

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The central highlands area is one of the most diverse and beautiful in the entire country, as our bikes rapidly gained altitude as we weaved our way up the ever wonderful rural road the change in temperature began. But the chill in the air to us only signified the added potential for adventure that the mountains bring. Now surrounded by ferns, pine trees and never ending rows of evergreens that more resembles the forests of Europe than the jungles and palm trees of South East Asia we had grew accustomed too. Make the most of your time in the central highlands, taking a bike or easy rider tour is one of the best things to do in Dalat and the surrounding areas.

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Da Lat offers a very different view of this region than most would have expected, instead of rice paddies there are terraces of coffee plants, ethic minorities live in houses with sloping thatched roofs like those of rural Romania and the pace of life here is much slower than in the humid and claustrophobic main cities of Saigon and Hanoi.

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Things to do in Dalat: Heading out to Elephant Waterfall

Dalat is surrounded by amazing waterfalls, in truth too many to visit and spread out far and wide from the city itself. Some of the most impressive were just that little but too far for us to visit in a day so we stuck to the closer ones. Elephant waterfall has to be one of the most well known falls in the area and unlike some of the others that fall short due to the over eagerness of the tourist industry here. Of all the conventional sights in the city the Elephant waterfall is the most worth while of all the things to do in Dalat on our opinion.

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Elephant waterfall also has going for it an interesting traverse over slippy rocks to contend with in order to descend to the bottom of its powerful cascade. Watch your footing but be sure to make the effort to head down for what has to be one of the most unforgettable sights we’ve seen in Vietnam! When we visited it was pretty quiet and though we didn’t have the place to ourselves we did find it peaceful and serine all the same with the odd person wandering though.

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Heading down the consistently wet rocks you can even crawl behind the waterfall, feeling the full force of the 30m / 100ft falls as the water pounds the volcanic rock that surrounds it…and soaks you through in the process!!

Located near Nam Ban village and known in Vietnamese as Thac Voi the entrance fee is 10,000 dong / £0.35 / $0.44. It is around 30km from the city. This is also one of the cheapest things to do in Dalat for how epic it is!

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Discovering serenity at Tiger Waterfall

Now after Elephant Waterfalls we would have been perfectly content with the fact that we had seen such a wonderful sight, but we wanted to explore somewhere a little less travelled. Despite being closer to the city, only around 15km, these amazing waterfalls are completely deserted and even borderline derelict, if that’s even possible for a natural feature! You probably won’t find this off the beaten track waterfall on many lists of things to do in Dalat, but for us it is a must!

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Despite being quite easy to get to if you have your own set of wheels they feel much more remote than they really are. Set amongst the thick pine forests that charactarise the area and along a dirt track that clings to terraced coffee plantations. Here you will find a huge cascading waterfall rather than a sheer drop, instead the water more gently and much more elegantly making its way down the sloped rivulets and runways. 

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We found the falls completely deserted when we arrived and had the entire place to ourselves (until a couple of lovely hikers from Canada turned up!!) , the peaceful and tranquil setting is echoed by the gentle rush of the water,  the breeze through the trees and melodic bird song rather than tourist chatter and hawking! Here we also came across some abandoned and derelict infrastructure that appears to have been developed for visitors but for some reason failed! Well, for us this failure is its appeal!

Entrance is free but if you have a bike you will have to pay 10,000 dong / £0.35 / $0.44 to a local woman to park!

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There were a few creepy crawlies hanging around too!

Wishing we hadn’t bothered at Datanla waterfall!

To be honest this was a quick stop off on the way back from Elephant waterfall, we had heard of the place thought we might as well call in! Well how wrong we were! From the off we knew we maybe shouldn’t have bothered, the lines of tour buses and queue of Chinese tourists were the give away to a slice of nature ruined by the overzealous tourist industry. Probably the first thing on most “things to do in Dalat” lists it comes at the bottom of the pile for us!

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It is almost unbelievable what they have done here! Creating some kind of strange hand powered rollercoaster to transport lazy tourists up and down the winding paths toward the falls surrounded by enough infrastructure to make you forget why you came here in the first place. People shouting, pushing, queuing up to take a photo of frankly what is one of the most drab and unexciting examples of a waterfall I have ever seen! Then add this to the fact they have created one of the world’s lamest cable cars to skip out yet more gentle walking and to get down to the main falls you have to purchase another ticket to use the elevator!! A complete rip off!

$0.5/ticket | Alpine Coaster : $2.3/round ticket – $1.5/one way ticket | Cable Cabin down deeper waterfall : $2/ticket

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Taking the stunning adventure down the mountain pass back to the coast! 

Now for the real adventure, taking the mountain passes almost 100 miles back down to the coast through some of the most impressive scenery we have ever seen. Down tight winding roads that traverse steep cliffs with pouring waterfalls at every corner. Through minority villages with their strange and wonderful customs and houses and experiencing some harsh and dangerous conditions on this isolated stretch.

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As we climbed higher and higher we did wonder if this was in fact the way down to the coast or not, at one point we found ourselves within the clouds, a ferocious storm hit battering us with wind and rain and the visibility dropped to around 3-4m / around 10ft, at time we lost sight of each other in this harsh climate and terrain.

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But coming through the other end of the clouds the views over the highlands suddenly opened up, there was lush green mountains for miles and miles. As the bends and curves of the road swung us around this impossibly beautiful landscape we were almost saddened when the road flattened out and the humidity of the coast returned. However the lands that surround the beach town of Nha Trang offered their own wonderful rural sights too.

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The now fertile planes of this area were awash with rice paddies green with their flourishing crops. With women in the traditional style Vietnamese hats picking rice with the mountains we just traversed in the background, now with the sun shining brightly on us, we reflected on an amazing exploration only made possible due to our motorbikes and our sense of adventure!

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Have you ever visited Dalat and the stunning central highlands of Vietnam?

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The adventure of a lifetime!

Check out our canyoning trip in Dalat

Read all about our amazing canyoning adventure in Da Lat here: Leaping 36ft into a narrow cavern, ziplining over a turquoise lake and abseiling 100ft over a waterfall: Canyoning in Dalat, Vietnam!

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Nicola Hilditch-Short

Nic is one half of the Roaming Renegades, a passionate traveller, climber, adventurer, photographer and artist who has a B.A in Fine Art and M.A in Design & Art Direction.
  • Gokul Raj

    Road Trips never get old. You guys did get some great views along the way.

  • How beautiful is Da Lat??? And it’s so easy to hire a motorbike there hey? BUT you didn’t go waterfall canyoning? OMG that was the absolute COOLEST thing I did in Da Lat!!!!

    • Yes , we did go canyoning, I wrote a full post on it as it was so good! This post was just about biking around the area. Its one of our favourite places in Vietnam.