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Kampot and Kep: Things to See and Do

The quaint riverine capital of Kampot and the oceanside town of Kep sit along the coast a couple of hours east of Sihanoukville. 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 Rabbit Island 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 Angkorian ruins, caves, jungle trekking, bicycling tours, river cruises, secluded beaches, salt pans, pepper plantations and more.


Architecture of Kampot (and Kep)
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 government buildings.

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 quaint air.

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.




Kep Beach 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.

Angkuol Beach 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 salt pans.




Bokor Hill Station

(Bokor map)

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 and clouds.

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 minutes.



Caves near Kampot

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.




The 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.

Phnom 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 skill levels.
Tel: 095-581951

The 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.





Countryside Tours

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.



Things to do - Kep Adventures
Offering full and half day tours to several of Kep Bay’s remote islands. Snorkeling gear, BBQ, and drinks are all included. Visits to remote islands and a local fishing village give island goers a taste of authentic Cambodian island life.

Tel: 015 89 24 34



Kite 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 for 7 years. Licensed by the International Kiteboarding Organisation (IKO). Contact at Villa Vedici, river road (east side), 1km north of Kampot town.

Tel: 089-392068



River Cruise - Kampot
Running through the town with the Elephant mountains as a backdrop the Kampong Bay river is a prominent feature of Kampot. For many locals the river is their lifeblood and dozens of fishing boats travel up and down the river in the morning and evenings. Any trip to Kampot wouldn’t be complete without experiencing it from the water. Several operators offer various trips and prices start from a few dollars per person depending on duration and other inclusions.

Chakio Tourism Boat
Daily sunset cruise from 5.30pm – 7.30pm, $5.00 per person with one included drink. Restaurant and bar serving Asian & Western food. Go swimming, visit Prek Chak, see fireflies. Private bookings available.
Kampot Riverside Road
Tel: 017-987619, 010-987619





Kampot Museum
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

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

and Pepper Plantations
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.


Kurata Pepper
“Famous Cambodian black pepper grown and harvested in Koh Kong”
Kurata Pepper have successfully been growing and harvesting organic pepper on a farm located at the foot of the Cardamon Mountains since 1997. Their highly sought after Dry Ripe Pepper and Pickled Green Pepper are a must for all foodies.
#5 Street 222, Phnom Penh

Tel: 012 842 970



Rabbit Island

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. .




Kampot River Trips &

Sunset Cruises

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 day.

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 Island,.



Salt Pans
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.




Trekking around Kep
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 side.

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 experienced climber.

Tel: 095-581951


Jungle Jet River Tours
Definitely the fastest and most exhilarating way to see Kampot River. With daily tours up the river starting from just $20. Get up to speeds of 80kms+ as you travel 30kms or so up river from Kampot town. With an internationally qualified driver enjoy doing 360 degree spins as you pass just inches from the banks of the river. Extended sunset tours out to the ocean are also available.
Located downtown, right on the river, at Rusty Keyhole Boat House
Tel: 088 724 2949


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: 0


Rith Travel & Tours
Tours, tickets and transport. Bokor, Rabbit Island, Countryside tours, fishing, snorkeling.
Kep, at the Crab Market
Tel: 016-789994

Sok Lim Tours
Kampot packages, sunset cruises, Rabbit Island, Bokor, jungle trekking, countryside tours, Takeo.
Kampot, opposite Magic Sponge Guesthouse.
Tel: 012-719872

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


Kampot-Kep area


Kampot links



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