When it comes to history, climate and sheer natural beauty, no other destination in Vietnam compares to the charming, mile-high city of Dalat, in the majestic Central Highlands.

Its cool temperatures, piney hills, tranquil lakes and spectacular waterfalls evoke another time, another place. And yet it's just a short hop from Ho Chi Minh City (45 minutes), Danang (80 minutes) and Hanoi (90 minutes) airports, all of which accommodate frequent, non-stop flights from Hong Kong (Dragonair) and Singapore (SilkAir).

Founded by French colonists in the early 20th Century, Dalat is also known as Le Petit Paris and the City of Eternal Spring, and has long been the resort of choice in Vietnam for locals, foreigners, honeymooners and retirees alike.

The capital of Lam Dong Province is the ideal setting for all kinds of outdoor pursuits, including trekking, mountain biking, horseback riding, kayaking and golfing.

In fact, Dalat is home to Vietnam's first golf course -- Dalat Palace Golf Club, commissioned by Emperor Bao Dai in the 1920s and beautifully restored by IMG in the 1990s -- as well as two of the country's newest (Royale City and Rose Garden). Year after year, the hilly, parkland-style layout at Dalat Palace GC is rated the top course in Vietnam and among the best in Asia.

Other area attractions include Bao Dai's summer palaces (full of interesting art and every-day objects), Xuan Huong Lake, Vuon Hoa Botanical Gardens, Truc Lam Pagoda and a railway station with relics of a bygone era.

One of the more interesting houses in Vietnam and sites in Dalat is Hang Nga Guesthouse & Art Gallery, which locals have nicknamed the Crazy House for its unusual architecture and design.

Dalat's unique charm extends to its many coffee shops, old French Quarter and Valley of Love, a place just outside of town that offers paddle boat rentals and horseback riding opportunities with the Dalat Cowboys, who are indeed dressed as cowboys

Farther out, Lat Village and the Chicken Village (with a huge statue of a chicken) provide windows into the daily life of some of Vietnam's more colorful hill-tribe communities