Things to See and Do
The quaint riverine capital of
and the oceanside town of
sit along the coast a couple of hours east of
The two are so close to each other that they share most of the same
sights and attractions, though some are more convenient to one city
or the other. For example
Bokor is closer
to Kampot and the
ferry departs Kep, but as Kampot and Kep are only 30-40 minutes
apart, even if you are in the ‘wrong city’ it adds little time. Kep
Beach, Rabbit Island, Bokor Hill Station and countryside tours are
perhaps the most popular day trips with tour operators
offering competitive prices. There are also
bicycling tours, river cruises,
Architecture of Kampot
Kampot has been an active settlement for centuries but the
location and layout of the modern town was established
during the French colonial period in the late 19th/early
20th centuries. Many of the buildings in the south half of
town along and near the river were constructed during this
period. Though suffering a bit from the ravages of time, the
architecture of Kampot is pleasantly provincial, a mix of
red tile-roofed shophouses and old French colonial
The south end of town harbors several European-style
buildings including the old governor’s mansion (now the
Kampot Museum) and the colonial prison. Most of the other
colonial era buildings employ the classic 2-storey ‘Chinese
shophouse’ design, many displaying European design elements.
Unlike many other Cambodian cities, the shophouses are often
individuated in design and facade, lending to Kampot’s
The old architecture of Kep is also of note, though more for
its state than architectural interest. Sea and mountainside
villas, constructed in from 1930s to 1960s, were abandoned
during the war years and most now sit deteriorating, the
remains of a different time. As the Kep area has developed
in recent years, the old villas are slowly being destroyed.
The most popular beach in the area. A single, kilometer-long
crescent of sand near the tip of the Kep peninsula, bounded by rocks
at either end and traced by an oceanfront road. Warm shallow waters.
It’s an average swimming beach but still pleasantly peaceful - a
good place to lounge, have an oceanside seafood meal and enjoy the
cool sea breeze.
Dining platforms and seafood vendors line the road behind the beach
as well as the oceanfront further down the road. The beach can be
quite busy on weekends, but is often deserted during the week. The
road through Kep follows the coastline to the beach and then circles
back on itself. Sometimes cars and vans must pay admission. Be aware
the oceanfront road along the beach area is a one way street and the
police do occasionally enforce the law, especially on the weekend.
Kep’s “other beach” - a long, narrow sandy tropical beach about 25km
from Kep. The beach is very lightly touristed with only a couple of
snack/drink vendors, a few fishing boats and little else. It’s an
interesting, photogenic trip through the rice paddies and salt flats
to get there.
Phnom Doung Beach
A small, completely untouristed beach about 9km
south of Kampot City. The dirt road from Kampot to
the beach passes through picturesque rice fields and
Tours out of Kampot to the old Bokor
Hill Station in the nearby Elephant Mountains have long been
popular. A new casino/hotel complex has gone up over the last couple
of years, and the road up the mountain improved, but the reminants
of the old hill station are still there - a mountaintop collection
of crumbling buildings - hotel, casino, church and royal residence.
The station was originally constructed by French authorities in the
early 1920s as a complement to the Kep resort area. In its day Bokor
was an elegant getaway for officials and foreign visitors - a
classic colonial 'hill station' located in the mountains to allow
foreigner visitors accustomed to more temperate climes to escape the
tropical heat. The old building were abandoned in the 1970s, leaving
ghostly ruins - vestiges of a different age, often shrouded in fog
One thing that the years have not changed is the absolutely
spectacular view of the coast and the cool (sometimes cold) mountain
air. Bokor is jungled and excursions beyond Bokor, including
trekking, can be arranged by local tour operators.
The road up the mountain has been completed and is in good
condition. Full day Bokor tours can be arranged through a local tour
operator. Tours run about $10/person inclusive for an all-day tour
including a sunset boat cruise on the Kampong Bay River. The Park
Office and turn-off to the Hill Station are 37km west of Kampot on
National Route 3. The drive from the base to the top takes 30-45
Limestone mountains (‘phnom’) dot the
landscape between Kampot and Kep. Many contain limestone caves, some
adorned with exotic rock formations, and almost all containing
Buddhist shines. Make sure to bring a torch and wear shoes suitable
for climbing on rocks.
caves of Phnom Chhnork (Chhgnok)
The main cave sits a hundred meters up
the mountain at the end of a long stairway, and contains a
pre-Angkorian ruin about 50 meters inside, set amongst stalagmites
and stalactites slowly growing into it. The ruin is a small
alcove-like brick structure constructed in 4th-5th century AD and
associated with the state of Funan. A bit of carving is still
visible. Also look for the elephant shaped limestone formations near
the entrance of the cave. A second cave sits about 300 meters from
the main cave in the same outcropping. There is very little in the
way of formations, but it is quite deep, requiring climbing over
piles of rock and through small openings. Small shrine.
Kbal Romeas (Phnom Sla Ta'aun)
Phnom Kbal Romeas (Phnom Sla Ta'aun) is
comparatively plain, but contains a few intereting structures and is
base to Climbodia. Look for the huge rock balanced in a hole in the
ceiling. A few old shrines, hidden deep inside the hill and many
stalactites. Excellent views from the top.
Caving at Phnom Kbal Romeas: Climbodia offers caving
and rock climbing. Securely placed Via Ferratas take you deep into
the belly of the hill, abseiling down a labyrinth of caves. All
cave at Phnom Sasear, also known as the ‘White Elephant
Cave.’ Located next to an colorful pagoda. The stairs up the side of
the outcropping provide a beautiful view of the countryside,
especially during the wet season. The cave contains a shrine at the
base of a limestone formation alleged to resemble a white elephant.
Kampot and Kep provinces harbor some
beautiful rural countryside just outside the town areas - bucolic
scenery, rice paddies and water buffalos with white egrets riding
their backs, countryside pagodas and little villages filled with
traditional stilted houses. Even the ride between Kampot and Kep
offers some beautiful rural scenery. Keep your camera at the ready.
Half and full day countryside tours by tuk-tuk, taxi or motodup are
one of the most popular tour activities out of Kampot (and Kep). The
tour routes are in no way over touristed, offering a good look at
the Cambodian countryside as well as points of interest specific to
Kampot and Kep.
Area tours usually include visits to the salt pans, two or three
nearby caves including the a Angkorian-era ruin at Phnom Chhnork, a
pepper plantation to see one of Kampot’s most important crops, and
perhaps a stop at ‘the Secret Lake’ along the way. Tours also
usually include a look at Kep, lunch at the Crab Market and some
time at Kep Beach. Other destinations and additions to a full day
tour might include a trip to Rabbit Island out of Kep, or a look at
the cave of Kampong Trach, or perhaps a sunset cruise on the Kampong
Bay River out of Kampot. Tour operators are usually happy to
customize the tour to your requirements.
Plantation Ranch Kep (Ranch de la Plantation) offers trail
riding around the Kep area, taking in a variety of environments.
Trails wind through mountain, forest and beaches. Trail guide
included. The horses are well maintained horses, averaging about
130-150cm at the withers. French, English and Khmer spoken. Located
in Kep, north of town, Turn north at Street 2320 and straight on for
Boarding - Kampot
Cambodia Kiteboarding Kiteboarding equipment rental and
courses (insurance included) available. Taster and beginners
courses. 2016 Ozone kites Mystic harnesses and Crazyfly boards.
Qualified IKO instructor active in Kampot fpor 7 years. Licensed by
the International Kiteboarding Organisation (IKO). Contact at Villa
Vedici, river road (east side), 1km north of Kampot town.
The beautiful old colonial era governor's mansion on the riverfront
has been converted into the Kampot Museum. Re-cently opened, and
though there are posted hours (see below) the actual opening hours
seem quite irregular. The museum promises a look at the history of
the Kampot area, including local artifacts, old photographs and
maps. Open Tuesday, Thursday and weekend afternoons from
3:00PM-6:00PM, and also open in the mornings on weekends. Located on
the riverfront road at the south end of town.
Kampong Trach is the district that borders Vietnam. The road trip
from Kampot to the main town passes though some picturesque rural
areas. There is a new side road to Kampong Trach town that skirts
the base of Phnom Voar, (where the victims of the 1994 Khmer Rouge
kidnappings were held.) These mountain areas of Kampong Trach were
one of the last Khmer Rouge holdouts. Kampong Trach town is small
and relatively uninteresting. The area’s main attraction is a series
of limestone caves and tubes that have been carved into a nearby
mountain. The roof of a large cave in the center of a mountain has
collapsed, making a small, enclosed jungle. Pagodas and shrines have
been built amongst the caves, providing for some excellent photo
possibilities. Bring a flashlight and wear good walking shoes.
From Kampot, take the Kep road, bear left at the White Horse
Monument and follow to Kampong Trach. After a few kilometers the
road changes to badly broken pavement. The side road mentioned above
requires a left turn onto a graded dirt road about 7 km past the
White Horse Monument. It is not a straightforward route and it may
be better if you go with a guide. Set aside the better part of a day
for the trip to the caves and back.
Kampot pepper, grown in Kampot province, has been
internationally renowned for more than a century as some of
the highest quality pepper in the world - its distinct
flavor and pugnacity, intense but light taste with fresh
lingering aromas has long been a prized in the finest French
kitchens. It is also featured in local Kampot/Kep cuisine
such as Pepper Crab (local crab fried with pepper corns).
Most half and full day countryside tours out of Kampot and
Kep include a stop at at least one pepper plantation. There
are at least a few different farms in the area a couple not
far from the road to Kep, and another at Angkor Chey. At the
plantation you can see the different growing methods and
types of pepper, and there is usually a shop where you can
buy Kampot pepper straight from the source.
At the beginning of the 20th century the Kampot plantations
were in full operation and Cambodia was exporting more than
8000 tones of pepper annually. By 1960, there were more than
1 million pepper poles in Kampot. But the wars from the late
20th century put an end to regular production for almost 30
years. Production was renewed in the late 1990s. Pepper
plantations once again dot Kampot province.
Kampot pepper comes in four varieties - green, black, red
and white - all from the same plant but differing in
ripeness and preparation. Green pepper is harvested young
and usually used fresh in cooking. The classic black pepper
is allowed to ripen dark green, harvested, dried and ground.
Perfect for table use. Red pepper is prepared the same as
black, but allowed to over-ripen before harvest. Finally,
white pepper is red pepper that has had the outer shell
removed. Often used in blends.
Rabbit Island (Koh Tunsay) is a small tropical island
located about 30 minutes south of Kep by local boat. The island is
undeveloped except for some rustic bungalows and a couple of beach
shack restaurants. Secluded white sand beaches dot the edges of the
island, backed by a hilly coconut palm interior. Most services are
near the west side beach. The surrounding waters are relatively
clear and warm, offering some snorkeling opportunities around the
rocks. Coral is scarce but colorful fish abound. You can stay on the
island or just make a day trip of it. Rooms/bungalows on the island
generally run $10 or less. Arrange a boat trip to the island through
your guesthouse in Kampot or Kep or just go to the Koh Tunsay Boat
Dock in Kep town. Boats are almost always available. A round-trip
trip to/from the island runs $25 for the whole boat, so bring some
friends to split the cost. The round-trip price is the same whether
you stay a few hours or a few days. Tour operators in Kep offer day
packages starting at about $7/person inclusive. .
Various sorts of river trips out of
Kampot up the Kampong Bay River are available, including regularly
scheduled daily cruises and charter tours to the rapids, sometimes
including jugle trekking as well. The most popular and easiest
cruises are the late afternoon ‘Sunset Cruises’ for drinks and
sunset on the river and early evening ‘Firefly Cruises’ to see the
swarms of fireflies that dance along the river and jungle’s edge.
Most guesthouses and tour operators in town can arrange cruise
tickets for you. You can also get info and tickets at the cruise
boats that sit riverside opposite the Rikitikitavi hotel most of the
Going the other way, downriver trips from Kampot to the ocean let
you explore beaches and sand spits near the river’s mouth and do a
bit of ocean swimming. Some tour operators can supply basic fishing
gear. For something a bit further afield The Crab Shuttle offers a
daily 2.5 hour boat shuttle between Kampot and Kep via Rabbit
Salt is another of Kampot’s important products. Vast salt pans (salt
fields) stretch across much of the coastline south and southeast of
Kampot and are usually included in most countryside tours out of
Kampot and Kep.
The salt pans consist of large areas of hardpack ground divided up
into paddy like pans. Ocean water is pumped into the pans from
canals, then allowed to evaporate, leaving a thick layer of salt
coating the ground. Workers rake the salt carefully into piles,
collecting and moving it to storage.
There are easily accessible salt pans along just east of Kampot town
along the road to Kep. The road south from Kampot to Phnom Duong
beach also passes through salt pans. The salt field only operate in
the dry season.
Offering a fairly easy hiking experience, a small service road loops
about 8 kilometers around Kep Mountain through jungled national
forest land - a small mountain near the tip of the Kep peninsula.
The gently sloping road winds past a couple of old pagodas, though
light jungle where you may spy monkeys or other wildlife, and
provides many picturesque overlooks along the way. Kampot and the
Elephant Mountains can be seen from the northwest viewpoint, and the
trail on the east side of the mountain provides some striking views
across the valley to a pagoda on the next mountain and beaches in
the distance. For the more adventurous several footpaths split off
from the road, leading to the top of the mountain and to the other
Most of the foot trails and most of the service road is in good
condition, though parts are narrow and overgrown. Suitable to hike
on foot, mountain bike or dirt bike. The trail is most easily
accessed from the hillside road next to Veranda Resort. When the
ranger is present there is a US$1 admission fee. Set on the
mountainside 100 meters from the trailhead, Led Zeppelin Cafe is a
nice a place to relax over a drink and a beautiful view. They also
have trail maps and information.
Tour and Dive Operators
in Kampot and Kep
Whether you plan to book a tour or do-it-yourself, transportation
and/or tours are probably most easily arranged through one of the
many local tour operators or your guesthouse. In Kep several
tour/travel shops are clustered near the Kep Beach intersection,
especially near the bus station. Shop around for the best price and
for exact type of tour you would like to take.
Climbodia provides caving and
rock climbing in amazing caves at Phnom Kbal Romeas. A climb to the
top rewards with breathtaking views inside the cave and from the top
of the hill, Bokor and the ocean. Securely placed Via Ferratas take
you deep into the belly of the hill, abseiling down a labyrinth of
caves. All skill levels, from the absolute beginner to the
CN Tours & Travels
Kampot/Kep tours of all sorts - countryside, Bokor, waterfall, bus
tickets, bycycle rental. Transport.
Kampot, one block off the river, Street 730
Tel: 017-555213, 070-868168
Kampot Tours & Travel
All travel and tour services. Bokor, countryside, boating, cycling,
Kep, Rabbit Island, transport to Vietnam and Thailand.
Kampot, one block off the river road
Tel: 097-9828756, 092-125556, 033-6335556
Rith Travel & Tours
Tours, tickets and transport. Bokor, Rabbit Island, Countryside
tours, fishing, snorkeling.
Kep, at the Crab Market
Sok Lim Tours
Kampot packages, sunset cruises, Rabbit Island, Bokor, jungle
trekking, countryside tours, Takeo.
Kampot, opposite Magic Sponge Guesthouse.
Tree Travel Service
Long running, trusted Kampot tour operator and motorcycle rental.
Offering all kinds of tours of the Kampot-Kep area - countryside
tours, pepper plantations, salt farm, caves, Bokor Hill Station,
Rabbit Island, river cruise, motorcycles tours, as well as tuk-tuk,
car and van. Rental of transportation of all kinds,: cars and vans
with or without driver. Motorcycles, both mopeds (110cc-125cc) and
dirt bikes (200cc-250cc.) Recommended.
Tel: 012-974698, 015-567499
Street 729, just off Street 724 , about a block from the Durian Traffic Circle