One of the largest towns in the Central Highlands, Buon Ma Thuot offers easy access to the area’s many natural attractions, including Yok Don National Park and its rare wildlife, idyllic Lak Lake, several spectacular waterfalls, as well as numerous Ede and M’nong hill tribe villages.
Like most places in the Central Highlands, Buon Ma Thuot saw some heavy fighting during the Vietnam war, but these days, it’s all about the coffee. With ideal soil and climate conditions, coffee from Buon Ma Thuot is considered by many to be the best in the country.
There are beautiful and famous waterfalls such as: Thuy Tien, Trinh Nu, Krong Kmar, Bay Nhanh, among many big lakes such as Lak, Dak Mil. Coming to there, tourists are able to get in the primitive forests of the Chu Yang Sin, Yok Don National parks, visit Buon Don that is a well-known local of hunting and taming wild elephants, or make tour to Dak Lak’s historical vestiges like Bao Dai Palace, Yang Prong Tower, Buon Ma Thuot Prison, Dak Tua Cave.
Places to See
While the town of Buon Ma Thuot itself offers little in terms of sights, it is a good base for excursions to the many outdoor attractions in the surrounding area.
Yok Don national park (Cuc Phuong national Park)
Numerous rare animals, including elephants, leopards, and tigers, as well as other endangered species, and birds roam the forests of Vietnam’s biggest nature preserve. It is also home to various ethnic hill tribes, chiefly the matrilineal Ede and M’nong, who are famous for capturing and domesticating wild elephants.
Ban Don Village
Located on the edge of Yok Don National Park, this hill tribe village is a pleasant place to see traditional tribal architecture, and to learn more about the customs involved in the capture and domestication of wild elephants.
Dray Sap, Dray Nur and Gia Long Waterfalls: These stunning waterfalls can easily be visited on day trips. If you are planning on only visiting one of them, make sure to see Dray Sap as it is located in a magnificent rainforest.
Set among bright green rice fields and forested hills, Lak Lake is a beautiful and idyllic place to sample the slow paced rural life style. Don’t miss a visit to June village, a small Ede hill tribe community on the shores of the lake, and its distinctive thatched roof longhouses built on stilts.
Restaurants/ Dining Scene
Finding a good place to eat in Buon Ma Thuot may be a challenge, but the quest will prove to be rewarding to those who try.
Ninh Hoa is a Vietnamese dish of meat and vegetables wrapped in rice paper and soaked in peanut sauce. It is served in some restaurants found in Ly Thuong Kiet, close to the inexpensive hotels. There are many places that serve noodles, but the best ones can be found in Quan Com Tieu Linh in Hung Vuong.
Western food is quite scarce, but Bon Trieu is worth a try. Found on Hai Ba Trung beside Dam San Tourist, the establishment has an English-language menu with some dishes made with a Western twist. Those looking for a gastronomic adventure can go to Thanh Hung on Nguyen Dinh Chieu, where the meals are exotic. Meanwhile, locals recommend the Damsan Hotel’s restaurant for delicious Vietnamese fare at reasonable prices.
The thing that makes up for the lack of dining options in Buon Ma Thuot is the coffee. The town’s coffee is smooth and rich, with a hint of chocolate. The locals drink it either extra strong or extra sweet, with condensed milk and ice.
Buon Ma Thuot Nightlife
Buon Ma Thuot is not a destination for the ultimate in nightlife. Visitors should not expect clubs, pubs and bars in a provincial town tucked in the Central Highlands. There are no disco lights, pulsing beats or live music to be found here.
Buon Ma Thuot is very much a rural area and is not as lively at night. However, there are some places which can be considered as night time destinations, even though they do not fit in the typical night life scene.
The Forget Me Not Cafe may be quiet during the day, but at night it comes alive. This is due to the karaoke sessions held every night from 19:00 to 22:00. Those who want to end their day with a drink can check out the beer joints in Buon Ma Thuot, most of which are found in the intersection of Mac Thi Buoi and Phan Boi Chau Streets. Bach Dang on Quang Trung Street also serves cheap bia hoi on tap.
Buon Ma Thuot Shopping
In this town, shopping options are very limited and tourists who expect to find a wide selection of merchandise will be disappointed. Because coffee is Buon Ma Thuot’s best-known product, it is also the main commodity. Coffee is sold everywhere in town and you can buy whole coffee beans, ground coffee, even the ready-to-drink variety. The best place to buy coffee beans is at the intersection of Hoang Dieu and Phan Chu Trinh Streets. Trung Nguyen is considered as the ‘Coca-Cola’ of Vietnamese coffee and is sold in many places, but its main store is on Nguyen Tat Thanh Street.
Those who want to give souvenirs to friends can purchase small replicas of M’nong-style jugs. These jugs are used by the hill tribes to store whiskey and are cool souvenirs, but they can be difficult to carry and transport. The jug replicas are sold in the souvenir shops of Buon Ma Thuot.
Buon Ma Thuot Activities
What are the best things to do when in Buon Ma Thuot? There are several activities that can keep a visitor preoccupied in this town. However, at the top of the list is elephant riding. In Ban Don Village, there are guides who can take a visitor into the Yok Don National Park and across the Serepok River by riding an elephant. Visitors will find that the huge creatures are actually quite gentle, and that the elephants love playing in the water. The M’nong people, who live in the park, are the ones who take care of the elephants.
Visitors can also head on over to the Dak Lak Province Museum and check out the Ethnographic Exhibit where you can learn a lot about the history, culture, customs and traditions of hill tribes in Buon Ma Thuot.
However, if visitors want to cool down after a long day, they can go and enjoy the Dak Lak Waterpark.
Buon Ma Thuot Information
Buon Ma Thuot is a short three-hour drive from Nha Trang, and the trip affords passengers a view of beautiful landscapes. It can also be reached from Dalat, but the road is very winding. One can ride a bus to get to the town but to better explore the region, a travellers should have their own means of transportation.
Buon Ma Thuot experiences a tropical monsoon climate with two different seasons. The rainy season begins in May and ends in October; the dry season begins in November and ends in April. The best time to visit is during the dry season. The scenery is not as lush, but at least it makes getting around more convenient and less stressful.
A travel permit is needed before going to any of the surrounding villages in Buon Ma Thuot. This can be acquired from the Dak Lak Tourist Association but if a traveller books a tour with a travel agent, it becomes the agent’s responsibility to get the permit.
Buon Ma Thuot Weather
Tropical monsoon climate with two distinct seasons. Rainy season lasts from May to October, and dry season lasts from November to April. Average annual temperature is 24C/75F.