Gia Lai, situated in the northern part of the Central Highlands, ranks as Vietnam's second-largest province, trailing only Nghe An. It spans 15,500 square kilometers and is about 481 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City.
To its northeast lies Quang Ngai Province, to the east is Binh Dinh Province, while the southeast shares a border with Phu Yen Province. In the west, Gia Lai is adjacent to Cambodia's Ratanakiri Province, with Dak Lak Province to the south and Kon Tum Province to the north.
The provincial capital is Pleiku, and the primary tourist attractions are concentrated within Pleiku City and its environs, spanning roughly 20-30 kilometers.
Gia Lai experiences a tropical monsoon climate characterized by high humidity, substantial rainfall, and the absence of storms and frost.
The climate exhibits two distinct seasons: a rainy season from May to October and a dry season spanning from November to the following April. The average annual temperature hovers between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius.
Bien Ho Lake
T'Nung Lake, also referred to as Bien Ho Lake or Ea Nueng Lake, is a freshwater gem situated in Bien Ho Commune, 7 kilometers north of Pleiku's city center. Nestled within the Bien Ho - Chu Dang Ya eco-tourism area, this lake boasts a narrow land strip extending towards its center, offering visitors a sweeping view of pine-covered landscapes.
The lake spans nearly 300 hectares at an altitude of 800 meters above sea level. Originally formed from three interconnected volcanic craters, the lake's shores reveal a distinct volcanic origin. The most beautiful time to witness its beauty is during the Lunar New Year.
Bien Ho Che - Tea hill
Also known as Bien Ho Che, this tea hill adjacent to Bien Ho Lake covers over 1,000 hectares and blankets the foothills of the surrounding mountains with lush green tea leaves.
Dating back to 1919, when the French initiated tea cultivation on the Pleiku Plateau, these tea hills offer a magical ambiance in the early morning with a veil of mist shrouding the landscape, especially between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.
Century-old pine trees
Situated near Bien Ho Che, about 12 kilometers from Pleiku’s city center, you’ll find a road beneath a nearly one-kilometer-long canopy of century-old pine trees. These pines, planted in 1917 with 101 trees, attract crowds of tourists and young visitors seeking photo opportunities.
To reach here, follow the 17 kilometers route starting at Phu Dong intersection, passing through Le Duan, Ton That Tung, Tran Van Binh, and Ngo Quyen streets. Cross the Bien Ho Suspension Bridge, turn right at Nghia Hung Spillway, and follow Bien Ho Road around the lake. Continue straight along the road, leading to a scenic path adorned with hundred-year-old green pine trees.
Pleiku locals often frequent this area for runs and exercise. The best time to capture the road’s beauty is early in the morning when the dew glistens and sunlight filters through the leaves.
Along the pine tree-lined route, you’ll find mobile cafes set up in repurposed old cars, providing relaxation spots for travelers.
Buu Minh Pagoda
Situated in the heart of Bien Ho Che, Buu Minh Pagoda is the oldest pagoda in Gia Lai. Originally constructed in 1936 and initially named Phat Hoc Pagoda, it was later restored and renamed Buu Minh in 1961.
The pagoda exhibits architectural elements reminiscent of Central Highlands communal houses but with the features of Japanese and Korean temples.
It also boasts one of the highest among Vietnamese pagodas, with its roof and tower resembling a canoe. The main hall spans over 520 square meters and rises more than 47 meters high. During major holidays, the pagoda draws a substantial crowd of residents who visit to seek blessings and peace.
Great Solidarity Square
The Great Solidarity Square, the focal point of Pleiku City, was inaugurated in December 2012, covering 12 hectares. Alongside the Ho Chi Minh Museum, the Museum of Antiquities, and the Nup Monument, this square forms an architectural and cultural complex infused with Central Highlands identity.
The square hosts a variety of significant features, including a statue of President Ho Chi Minh standing at over 10 meters in height, a three-story cylindrical stone block symbolizing 54 ethnic groups, and a gong (traditional Vietnamese instrument) system, representing the region's distinct culture. It serves as a space for cultural exchange and relaxation for both Gia Lai residents and tourists.
Minh Thanh Pagoda
Located 2 kilometers from the city center atop a hill, Minh Thanh Pagoda, built in 1964, has become a place of worship for the local community. This 20,000-square-meter pagoda complex showcases structures with curved roofs reminiscent of Japanese pagodas.
A statue of Guan Yin Buddha is positioned in the center of the pagoda, adorned with greenery, stone columns, and a 7.5-meter-high, 40-ton unicorn statue carved from stone. The temple courtyard features stone and carved wooden statues.
The pagoda offers a serene green space designed by monks, complete with trees and miniature landscapes to create a fresh and pure atmosphere.
Chu Dang Ya Volcano
Located about 30 kilometers from Pleiku City, Chu Dang Ya is a volcano that evolved over millions of years. After releasing its lava flows, Chu Dang Ya volcano entered a dormant phase, making it a renowned tourist attraction.
The surroundings of this area are adorned with flowers and greenery throughout the years. Standing at the crater’s edge, visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of Pleiku City. The road leading to the volcano’s base has been paved with concrete, offering convenience to travelers.
To reach the summit, visitors can choose to climb or rent a motorbike taxi for a fee of VND100,000 ($4).
Every year, at the end of October and early November, mountain marigolds burst into bloom along the road and surrounding the volcanic area.
Tan Son Dam
Tan Son Dam, also known as Tan Son Irrigation Lake, is in Nghia Hung Commune, Chu Pah District, about 25 kilometers north of Pleiku City, along the road to Chu Dang Ya Volcano.
The dam was built in 2007 and put into operation in 2010. It serves as a water source for the region, contributing to the regulation and enhancement of the landscape. The irrigation lake stores a substantial water supply during the rainy season to support agricultural activities when Gia Lai experiences dry spells.
Thanks to its serene and picturesque surroundings, Tan Son Dam has become a famous tourist destination, particularly among photography enthusiasts.
K50 Waterfall, also known as Hang En (Swallow Cave) Waterfall, is located within the Kon Chu Rang Nature Reserve, in K’Bang District, to the north of Gia Lai Province, about 150 kilometers from Pleiku city center.
The best time to visit this waterfall is from March to June when the weather is sunny, with minimal rainfall, and the waterfall flows gracefully. Visitors can partake in a day trip from Pleiku, though many recommend staying overnight nearby or even camping within the reserve.
The waterfall earns its name, "Hang En," because behind its cascading waters serves as the dwelling place for a multitude of swallows. K50 stands for the waterfall’s impressive 50-meter height.
In the past, reaching the waterfall required an eight-hour trek through the forest, but now, with improved concrete roads, motorbikes can get closer to the base. Visitors should equip themselves with long-sleeved clothing, high socks, and walking sticks to ward off insects, snakes, and centipedes.
Yaly Hydroelectric Plant
Yaly Hydroelectric Plant is part of the hydroelectric system located on the Se San River, one of the busiest tourist destination in Gia Lai Province, located about 40 kilometers from Pleiku city center.
The journey to the hydropower plant offers breathtaking scenery, characterized by primeval forests, hills and rivers. Built in 1993, this is Vietnam’s second-largest hydroelectric dam, following Song Da in northern Vietnam. Yaly Hydroelectric Plant is associated with Yaly Waterfall, one of Vietnam’s most impressive and beautiful waterfalls, featuring a height of 42 meters.
The factory welcomes visitors for tours during its operating hours, covering a route that includes the main gate, the spillway, and a memorial area. Depending on the schedule, the factory may also open the underground machine room, with advance arrangements required. The entrance fee is VND50,000 ($2) per person.
Situated 30 kilometers from Pleiku, the waterfall is surrounded by a forest ecosystem. Originating from a river atop the mountain, the waterfall's powerful flow creates a majestic landscape.
Instead of descending vertically, the waterfall meanders along large cliffs, forming nine levels. Each level ranges from 5 to 10 meters in height, with the last two levels standing at approximately 15 meters. From a distance, the waterfall resembles a dragon gracefully coiled, poised to take flight into the sky.
Kon Ka Kinh National Park
Located in the northeastern region of Gia Lai Province, Kon Ka Kinh National Park is 50 kilometers from Pleiku City, featuring a cool climate all year round. Kon Ka Kinh's highest peak reaches 1,748 meters above sea level, with numerous mountain ranges at an average altitude of 1,200-1,500 meters, descending from north to south.
Designated as a special-use forest in Vietnam since 1986, this park is renowned for its rich flora and fauna. Its allure extends to a network of rivers, streams, waterfalls, and natural rapids, including Dak Pooc Waterfall, Knia River, Dak Ko Bung River, and the Dak Pooc Waterfall, the most famous and beautiful with a 40-meter drop.
Pink Grass Hill
The Pink Grass Hill of Gia Lai typically make an appearance at the onset of the dry season. It is approximately 20 kilometers from Pleiku City.
The area serves as a favorite spot for families to picnic or camp. In addition to this pink grass hill, another one can be found in Chu Se District, gracing the landscape in November and December, with early mornings and sunsets being the most favorable times for enjoying its beauty.
Beyond the suggested destinations, the journey to Pleiku offers opportunities to explore various attractions, including the expansive rubber forests. Consider making stops along the way to capture the scenic beauty and create lasting memories through photographs.
Grilled chicken with bamboo-tube rice
Grilled chicken is a local specialty that hails from Teng Village in Tan Son Commune, Pleiku City. The most popular restaurant offering this dish, aptly named after the village Plei Teng, has become a gastronomic landmark in the region.
As patrons step into Plei Teng, they are welcomed by a spacious and breezy ambiance adorned with lush greenery. The dining experience is unique, with diners seated on traditional stilts. The restaurant boasts nearly 10 stilt houses, each capable of accommodating approximately 20 people, creating an ideal setting for communal gatherings and group exchange programs.
The star attractions on the menu include grilled chicken and skewered or whole grilled pork, served alongside bamboo-tube rice. Free-range chicken with low fat and firm meat are chosen for these grilled dishes. The chicken is rotated over charcoal fire, ensuring even cooking and a perfect blend of flavors.
Diners have the privilege of witnessing their meals being prepared as the chefs work their magic right at the table. The result is a plate of piping hot chicken with a golden and crispy skin. Patrons can expect to pay around VND200,000 ($8) for a serving of the grilled chicken.
For those eager to explore other grilled chicken options in Pleiku, other establishments include Gia Lai Bazan, Ksor Hnao Artisan Restaurant, and Ia Gui Restaurant.
Two-Bowl pho (dry pho)
Two-bowl pho is a must-try for visitors to Gia Lai, offering a delightful fusion of flavors and textures. True to its name, the two-bowl pho presents diners with a duo: one bowl containing the dry pho and another with flavorful broth, typically made with a blend of pork and beef or chicken bones. The dry pho boasts a subtle taste, mild sweetness, and a delicate infusion of spices.
The two-bowl pho features ivory-white noodles. The preparation involves placing noodles into a bowl, accompanied by fried pork fat, fried shallots, scallions, minced pork, beef or chicken. Complemented by an array of fresh herbs, including bean sprouts, basil, lettuce, and coriander, the dish is incomplete without the touch of Gia Lai's black sauce made of fermented soybean.
In 2012, the dish achieved acclaim from the Asian Records Organization (ARO) as one of the 10 Vietnamese culinary delights to secure an Asian record, distinguished by its "Asian cuisine value" based on specific criteria.
Visitors can try out this dish at places such as Pho Hong, Pho Ngoc Son, and Be Tu eatery.
In the landscapes of the Krong Pa highlands, a culinary tradition unfolds with the grazing of cows in their natural habitat. The meat from these bovines is considered of the highest quality when they reach the age of 5-7 years, meeting specific standards to create a well-known dish, namely, half-dried beef.
The key lies in selecting the meat core from the thighs and tenderloin, removing tendons, cutting it into pieces, and marinating with a blend of spices including garlic, dried onions, and chili. After the meat absorbs this flavorful concoction, it undergoes a drying process with charcoal.
Unlike conventional stovetop methods, the meat is only 60% cooked, ensuring a firm exterior while retaining a tender and sweet interior. When it's served to diners, the meat will be seared and then teared into small pieces along the grain. For an extra layer of perfection, the meat can be baked for 15-20 minutes.
Half-dried beef can be dipped in a variety of sauces, such as a salt, lime and pepper dipping sauce or chili sauce, but the true connoisseur's choice is the weaver ant salt, a specialty of the Ede ethnic group. The weaver ants are dry-roasted, then blended with chili, salt, coriander, laksa leaves, and the touch of then len leaves, a tree species in highland communes.
Stinky crab noodle soup
Stinky crab noodle soup is a local delicacy originating from Binh Dinh Province. This dish often captures the attention of visitors both through its name and taste. Diners can be hesitant due to the smell of fermented crab paste, but those who try it will be captivated by the rich taste.
Served alongside the noodles are crispy fried pork skin, shrimp crackers, pork rolls, and slices of pork belly.
Gia Lai stands as the fourth-largest coffee-producing province in the nation, sharing this distinction with Buon Ma Thuot, renowned as a premier coffee-tasting destination in the Central Highlands. The fertile soil and favorable climate of Pleiku contribute to the cultivation of high-quality coffee.
For those seeking a gift of exceptional coffee, Pleiku offers a selection of renowned roasted coffee brands, including Thu Ha, Phien Phuong, Dinh Dien, and Thanh Thuy.
Pleiku is adorned with notable, expansive coffee shops, each contributing to the vibrant coffee culture of the region, such as Omely, Maya, Cuoi Acoustic, Java Coffee, Pleiku Ancient Shop, and V7 Coffee.
When it comes to dining in Pleiku City, the Department of Tourism suggests several noteworthy establishments:
1. Tre Xanh, located at 18 Le Lai Street
2. Gia Lai Pleiku Hotel Restaurant, located at 124 Le Loi Street
3. Ngoc Lam, located at 127 Phan Dinh Phung Street
4. Thien Thanh Restaurant, located at Alley 22, Pham Van Dong Street
5. Lam Vien Restaurant, located at 100 Phan Dinh Phung Street
Gia Lai offers a wide array of accommodation options, primarily centered in Pleiku City. For those seeking a touch of luxury, high-end hotels like Hoang Anh Gia Lai, Duc Long Gia Lai, and Boston Hotel are available, with prices ranging from VND700,000 to VND1 million ($28 to $41) per night.
For more budget-conscious travelers, average hotels such as Cong Doan, Pleiku Hotel, Hoai Thuong Gia Lai, La MIA Lakeview, Tre Xanh, Khai Hoan, and Vinh Hoi provide comfortable stays at prices ranging from VND300,000 to VND500,000 ($12 to $21) per night.
Gia Lai also boasts numerous homestays like Sora, Moonlight, Tien Son Pleiku, and Gio, offering cozy accommodations at an average price of VND300,000 per room.
Pleiku Airport, located approximately 7 kilometers from the city center, is easily accessible by a 15-minute car ride. Both Vietnam Airlines and VietJet Air operate flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to Pleiku, with round-trip ticket prices ranging from VND1.5 million to VND3.5 million, depending on the departure point and flight time. From Da Nang City, flights are available based on the schedule.
Besides, Gia Lai's well-connected road infrastructure allows convenient travel from major cities like Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City to Pleiku.
From Ho Chi Minh City, follow CT02 and QL14 expressways, covering about 500 kilometers in an average travel time of 10 hours. Buses depart from Mien Dong Bus Station. Traveling from Da Nang involves taking the Da Nang - Quang Ngai highway, then National Highway 24, covering 380 kilometers in about 7 hours.
Within the province, visitors can opt for self-driving cars available for rent at the airport or hotels, with prices ranging from VND700,000 to VND1.2 million.
Motorbike rentals are also an option, costing between VND80,000 and VND120,000 per day. For those preferring public transportation, buses within Pleiku provide routes to various tourist destinations such as Bien Ho Lake, the tea hill, or Kon Tum City.
As you plan your visit, it's important to note that Pleiku Airport, while small, may experience delays or cancellations based on operational conditions.