Concierge.com's insider take:
Founded a century ago as a French hill station, this Central Highlands retreat remains, quite literally, a breath of fresh air for Vietnamese looking to beat the heat of steamy Ho Chi Minh City, some 200 miles to the southwest. Colonial vestiges are scattered across the town, including a neo-Gothic cathedral, a pink-sided Catholic convent, the 18-hole Dalat Palace Golf Club (considered the nation's best course), and the charming Cremaillere Railway Station, the terminus of a cog railroad that once connected the mile-high town with the lowlands. The greatest concentration of gracious prewar villas is to be found in the Bellevue Quarter, about one mile west of downtown. Fifteen of these historic buildings have been renovated by Six Senses as the Evason Ana Mandara Villas Dalat, the company's first nonbeach resort (Le Lai St.; 84-6-355-5888; www.sixsenses.com). Much of the original rustic constructionfloor tiles, fireplaces, wood trimhas been salvaged, while the grounds have been allowed to go slightly feral. The resort can organize city trips by vintage Citroën automobile, "coffee addict" tours of outlying plantations and local cafés, or, for the more active, mountain biking, canyoning, and hiking excursions. Then retreat to the in-house Six Senses spa for a body polish with homegrown roses and berries.
There's a kitschy vibe to the City of Eternal Spring, a wildly popular honeymoon destination. Wedding-dress and handembroidery shops dot the hilly streets, and no self-respecting Vietnamese vacationer would go to Dalat without visiting the Art Deco summer palace of Bao Dai to plop down at the last emperor's desk for a just-say-cheesy photo op. For more regal accommodation, check in to the 43-room Sofitel Dalat Palace, a lovingly restored Jazz Age relic (84-63-825-444; Vietnam Airlines flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to Dalat's airport, which is 15 miles south of town. Air-conditioned buses also make the run from HCMC (six to eight hours) and Nha Trang (three to four hours) through stretches of rugged mountain scenery. November through April holds the best weather, but even during the late-summer monsoon season most mornings are clear. Hotel reservations are essential on long weekends and public holidays, when thousands of Vietnamese head for these hills.