Situated on a plateau, Dak Lak is one of five provinces in Vietnam’s Central Highland region. The Dak Lak Plateau sits at about 600 meters (1,968 feet) above sea level and it’s often recognized for its beautiful lakes, streams, waterfalls, and mountains.
Coffee, rubber, and fruit are all integral to the local economy, however, there is a limited tourist trade because of Lak Lake. Smaller communities make Dak Lak Province feel more authentic and it has become a destination where visitors can gain insight into traditional Vietnamese culture.
How to Get to Dak Lak
The Central Highland region of Vietnam is located in the southern part of the country near the borders of Laos and Cambodia. Dak Lak Province sits in the center of the region’s five provinces. Southern Vietnam’s biggest city, Ho Chi Minh is 217.5 miles (350 kilometers) away from Dak Lak’s provincial capital, Buôn Ma Thuôt. Driving from Ho Chi Minh City would take about 7 and ½ hours.
Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, is 786 miles (1,265 kilometers) to the north of Buôn Ma Thuôt. Driving to the province is only done by travelers who have the time to road trip as travel times by car from Hanoi are estimated to take 24-25 hours. The majority of visitors to Dak Lak Province will come from Ho Chi Minh City or other parts of South Vietnam.
Dak Lak’s history has been well-recorded from the 2nd century AD to the days of the Vietnam War. The earliest recordings tie the province to the Kingdom of Champa, which ruled over the land of what is now modern-day Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. When the Champa people were annexed by Vietnam, the area around Dak Lak province fell under Vietnamese rule.
Solidifying Vietnam’s hold on the region in 1540, a noble allowed ethnic Vietnamese to settle and develop the land. During the days of French colonization, the local ethnic people heavily resisted the foreign forces. Dak Lak’s longest campaign against the French lasted 23 years and it was led by an ethnic M’Nông tribal leader.
Later, during the Vietnam War, Dak Lak’s southern location meant that it saw a significant amount of wartime action. The biggest confrontation during the war was called the Battle of Ban Me Thuôt and its outcome was that Northern Vietnam destroyed the South’s II Corps Tactical Zone.
- Reputation states that the province makes the “best coffee in Southeast Asia”
- The name “Dak Lak” comes from the M’Nông people and it means “Lak Lake”
- The province has a total population of 2,126,925 people as of 2019
Dak Lak’s largest city, Buôn Ma Thuôt is also the provincial capital. Located in the heart of the Central Highlands, the city is famous for being the region’s “Capital of Coffee”. Buôn Ma Thuôt is fairly flat, and it sits at an elevation of 1,759 feet (536 meters). As the capital of the Dak Lak Province, Buôn Ma Thuôt has become a hub of activity.
Hosting government and administrative buildings, the local university, and a thriving economy, the capital city has become the province’s main tourist destination. Throughout Buôn Ma Thuôt there are many half-day and full-day tours that take visitors to hotspots in and just outside of the city.
Popular tours include trips to Lak Lake, Dray Nur Waterfall, Yok Dôn National Park, Ban Don Village, coffee plantations, Coffee Museum, and Khai Doan Pagoda. Using the city as a base for their travels throughout the province, travelers often highly rate local hotels and restaurants.
Accommodation options that are both well-rated and affordable in Buôn Ma Thuôt include the Muong Thanh Luxury Hotel and Thanh Mai Hotel. The local cafés in Buôn Ma Thuôt have also become an attraction in their own right with places like the Circle Coffee Roasters and Bazan Café serving some of the locally produced roasts.
Famous Towns and Districts in Dak Lak
Aside from the provincial capital, there are a few towns, villages, and districts that have become tourist destinations. Whether they have become famous for their landscape or agriculture, these are the places that tourists visit when traveling around the Dak Lak Province.
Ea H’leo District
Featuring a high level of soil fertility, the Ea H’leo District is one area outside of the provincial capital where tourists can see various types of agricultural fields. Grown in Ea H’leo are the district’s famous coffee, rubber, and pepper. More remote, Ea H’leo has also become famous for its expansive forests.
Ban Don Village
Sometimes called the “Elephant Village”, Ban Don has become famous for its capture and taming of Vietnam’s pachyderms over the decades. Home to about 20 elephants, the villagers have developed a bond with these giant creatures.
One of the province’s most famous destinations, visitors will have the chance to learn more about the local’s culture and practices by arranging for a tour or homestay of Ban Don.
Liên Son Town
Located within the renowned Lak District of Dak Lak, Liên Son is the prime vacation spot for lake visitors. A small community turned resort, it sits on the edge of Lak Lake and it has become a mini-hub for local tourism. Boasting quaint hotels and overnight camping spots, Liên Son is one destination in Dak Lak that shouldn’t be missed.
Many travelers in Vietnam head to Dak Lak for a change of scenery and activities. Away from the beach resorts, attractions in Dak Lak are very focused on nature and agriculture. To see the province’s hotspots, visitors can book a tour or head out on their own to see what makes Dak Lak so unique.
As mentioned, Lak Lake is the district’s most famous feature and largest body of water. Grandiose and picturesque, the lake is home to rural communities and scenery. Visitors to the lake can take a boat over the blue water or hike the nearby gentle hills.
Tours to the lake can be completed in a single day, however, travelers also have the option of staying overnight in Liên Son, which is on the lakeshore.
National Parks in Dak Lak
There are two national parks in the Dak Lak Province – Yok Dôn and Chu Yang Sinh. Yok Dôn National Park is the more famous of the two because of its elephants. Striving to be ethical, when touring this park, visitors will be able to see the elephants roam freely which is an uncommon practice in Vietnam.
Chu Yang Sin National Park is acclaimed for its dramatic landscape, which includes the Southern Annamite Mountains. An ecotourist destination, the national park is less popular, so there aren’t as many crowds. However, guests will need to book a tour in advance to gain entrance to this national park.
Waterfalls in Dak Lak
Dray Nur is Dak Lak’s most famous waterfall with water cascading over a stunning rock shelf. The waterfall isn’t too far outside of Buôn Ma Thuôt and tours leave from the capital city on a daily basis. Another waterfall in the area is called Dray Sap Thuong and it sits on the Srepok River near the Ban Don village.
The World Coffee Museum
Described as being a “lively way to exhibit and display” information, the interactive setup of the World Coffee Museum makes it one of the “must-do” tours in Buôn Ma Thuôt. Activating the five senses, museum guests will get an in-depth look at the history of coffee in the province. Exhibits also display how coffee is grown, harvested, and turned into various products.
Much of the success of Dak Lak can be attributed to coffee, so hosting a Coffee Festival is a no-brainer for the capital city. Buôn Ma Thuôt’s annual Coffee Festival is held in March, which is the time when the coffee trees are blooming. A celebration of coffee, the city hosts parades, exhibits, and special menus during the multi-day festival.
As a district in Southern Vietnam, Dak Lak has a wet and dry season. Visitors should avoid the wet season as monsoons can make traveling throughout Dak Lak very difficult. The best time to visit the Dak Lak Province is from December to March. During these months, the weather is drier and cooler. March is a particularly popular month to visit the province because the coffee trees will be in bloom.
Unknown to many travelers, Dak Lak does an amazing job at hiding its best features because hidden amongst the hills and forests is an array of breathtaking landscapes, unique culture, and exhilarating attractions. For many travelers, the Dak Lak Province shows them a whole new side of Vietnam as they venture through the heart and soul of the Central Highlands.
Activities near Da Lak