Top 10 things to do in Kampot & Kep

Kampot and the neighbouring Kep are very close, and easily accessible to anyone staying in either area. Our guide introduces you to 10 great things to see and do in the region.

#1 Explore Preah Monivong Bokor National Park

Kampot is one of the quieter cities in Cambodia, but there’s nothing quite like escaping altogether and finding nature’s calm.

Situated roughly 34 km northwest of the city, Preah Monivong Bokor National Park (or Boker National Park for short) offers many treasures waiting to be explored.

Walking around the spooky yet fascinating abandoned hotel left by the French colonists is one of them.

Keep on reading to get the most out of your visit to this park.

Drive through Bokor National Park for spectacular views

Imagine cruising through the highlands of the Damrei Mountains on a perfectly paved road while enjoying the refreshing view of the coastline and the surrounding province of Kep.

That’s exactly the experience you will get. Along the roads, you’ll find strange stone formations as reminders of the French colonial buildings that used to stand there.

Bokor Hill Station is a memory from an era time forgot

After a 45-minute drive, you’ll discover Bokor Hill Station. This is a remote settlement, built by the French colonialists in 1921. The buildings include a spooky yet fascinating abandoned hotel you can walk around in, the 5-star Le Bokor Palace Hotel & Casino.

As the stars indicate, you can expect top luxury here, but very few guests actually stay here. Apart from a few curious travellers who want to check out the inside, you won’t find many guests in this hotel. The few cars that you will find in the huge parking lot most likely belong to the staff.

The hauntingly beautiful Old French Palace served as a sanctuary for French elites during the hottest days of the year. The building has a grand lounge area with a fireplace, spiral staircases, and terraces overlooking the sea — you won’t run out of backdrops for your photographs!

A visit to this grand building will give you an idea of what it was like to live as a rich French colonist in Cambodia during the French colonial era.

Close by is the Black Palace, the former holiday home of King Sihanouk. It’s not quite as fabulous as it was back in the day, but it provides welcome shade while you catch your breath.

After making a short stop at the Black Palace, you’ll drive by the Lok Yeay Mao Monument. This 29-metre statue was built to protect the spirits of travellers, fishermen, and hunters.

Popokvil Waterfall is where to cool off from your trek

A little off-track, about 5 km northeast from Bokor Hill Station, you’ll find Popokvil Waterfall. Although not the greatest waterfall you’re ever going to see in Cambodia, the water rushing off the natural two-tier fall structure is very soothing, especially after a long trek.

You can even swim in the shallow pool situated at the bottom as well — don’t forget to bring swimwear!

Just bear in mind that during the dry season (October-April), there won’t be much to see of this waterfall, unfortunately.

The park is huge, so rent a motorcycle

The best way to explore this National Park is by renting a motorbike in Kampot or Kep.

It’s only a 20-minute drive from Kampot town and 45 minutes from Kep. Motorbike rental costs $4 for a day, plus fuel.

The roads are well-paved, so don’t worry if you’re an inexperienced driver. The entrance fee is only 2000 riel ($0.50). Make sure you take a jacket or sweater with you as well — it can get chilly and foggy as you ride to higher altitudes.

#2 Visit a working pepper farm at La Plantation

Thanks to the favourable climate in the Kampot area, this region has a reputation for producing some of the best pepper in the world. The high exposure of sun combined with a sea breeze, the quality of the land, and rainfall during the rainy season make it an outstanding area to grow pepper.

La Plantation is a sprawling, organic pepper farm that offers free guided walks through 22,000 Kampot pepper posts. A central objective of the farm is providing a sustainable livelihood to hundreds of Cambodians and promoting eco-friendly farming practices.

When you arrive at La Plantation, a guide will explain the history of the farm and how they grow and harvest pepper, spices, and local fruits and vegetables. At the end of the tour, the pepper-tasting session will teach you to recognize different flavours of pepper. (I personally loved the red pepper; its spiciness combined with fruity aromas give the pepper an exceptional flavour).

Guided tours are free and are available in English, French and Khmer, but tips are always appreciated!

Want a glimpse into a traditional Cambodian kitchen? Learn how to cook a delicious Cambodian dish with fresh ingredients, and flavour your dish with the best-ranked pepper in the world.

With the chef’s help you will choose fresh ingredients from the Kampot market, and after you’ve cooked your Cambodian dinner, you’ll get to eat the local dish at a lakeside pavilion. The course costs $30 including pick-up, or $25 if you arrange your own transport to the farm.

La Plantation is open every day from 9:00 to 18:00. The easiest way to visit the farm is by renting your own motorbike. Alternatively, they also offer pick-up and a return trip from Kep to the farm for $7 per adult and $3 per child. Visit their website for more info.

#3 Be a big kid at Arcadia Waterpark

Let your friends catapult you into the blue sky on the huge water blob, and spend your day chilling at the bar or on the floating platforms.

The waterpark is part of the Arcadia Hostel, and it’s a great place to have fun with your travel buds. And once you’ve exhausted yourself from all the backflips and frontflips, you can rent kayaks or inflatable tubes and float peacefully down the river. As you’re floating, keep an eye out as you pass by the local villages and the natural beauty all around you.

Trek to a waterfall

There are also a few trails around Arcadia. The treks can take you to a 14-metre waterfall, to temples built within vast plantations, or to a mountaintop pagoda. You’ll meet locals along the way, ascending or descending with their crops and livestock. Make sure to fill your bag with food and water because there aren’t many stores in the area.

If you’d rather stay dry, there are ping pong and pool tables, dart boards and volleyball courts to use — and a climbing wall if you are bold enough.

How to get to Arcadia

You can find the Arcadia Waterpark in the heart of the jungle, just 15 minutes away from Kampot. Entrance is free for guests staying at the hostel and $7 for everyone else. A tuk-tuk can take you the park from the centre of Kampot for only $5, and it’s open from 9:00 to 18:00. Make sure to bring enough money because there are no ATMs in the area.

#4 Shop for the freshest seafood at Kep Crab Market

Kep is well-known for its crabbing industry. It will, therefore, come as no surprise a whole market dedicated to crabs exists in the region.

The scent of crabs, shrimp, squid and fish being slowly cooked wafts through the air, so it’s impossible to miss this place.

Purchase fresh seafood from local fishermen and choose from over 30 restaurants to cook it for you. Feast on crab stewed in famous Khmer pepper while enjoying the cool breeze, and watch boats unload their catch. If you dine at sundown, you’ll get to witness a spectacular sunset as you eat your freshly-caught crab.

The market is small, but it’s lively: vendors moving their carts, tourists asking for bargains, and locals busy grilling seafood.

Having dinner at this market is part of the Kep experience, and it typically costs only $10/kilo of crabs. A tuk-tuk or motorbike can take you there from downtown Kep for only $3. Stalls are ready to serve your freshly-baked crab from 9:00 till 22:00.

#5 Phnom Kampong Trach Water Cave: A journey into the mountains

Set foot on purple-tinged soil, swim in a secret lake, greet the huge Sleeping Buddha, and take in the gorgeous limestone formations in Phnom Kampong Trach Cave.

The cave starts at the foot of a rocky mountain, where you can admire the Chinese-Vietnamese and Khmer pagodas that are almost 800 years old!

The caves are sacred, and you’ll find many people using it as a holy place of worship. The cave starts at the foot of a rocky mountain, where you can admire the 800 years old Chinese-Vietnamese and Khmer pagodas.

In the cave itself, you’ll find a beautiful large reclining Buddha statue amongst several smaller statues on top of the purple-tinged soil. You’ll also be surrounded by some pretty incredible limestone rock formations.

There’s also another cave 10 km away called the “Swimming Cave” with a small swimming pool inside — perfect if you want to dive in and refresh yourself!

How can visitors get to the Phnom Kampong Trach caves?

The Phnom Kampong Trach cave is near the border of Vietnam, about a 45-minute drive from Kep and an hour’s drive from Kampot.

Whether you’re coming from Kampot town, Kep, or Phnom Sorsia, it’s easy to find tuk-tuks which can take you to Phnom Kampong Trach Cave. The ride will cost you between $5-$20, and it takes you through beautiful countryside.

The entrance fee is $1, and you can ask the local kids to guide you around. Bring shoes that can get wet and a sarong to cover your knees, because Kampong Trach is a place of worship for local people.

#6 Be enchanted by Phnom Sorsia and the White Elephant Cave

This Buddhist hill complex is popular for its enchanting cave systems. The reason for its name? The limestone formations resemble a white elephant head. These glitter under the low light pouring in from a small opening above.

It’s honestly an amazing sight.

The cave is pretty easy to get to. It’s about a 45-minute trip from both Kampot and Kep, and a one-way tuk-tuk ride will cost around $5.

Once you’re there, you’ll see a stairway leading up to a colourful temple. At the top, just turn left and you’ll be at the White Elephant Cave.

Local kids offer to serve as guides for a dollar or two. There are man-made steps, but you should still wear good sneakers, as the ground can be slippery. Be sure to wear long sleeves and pants because Phnom Sorsia is considered a holy place.

You could also buy a sarong on the way and keep it as a souvenir to remind you of your trip to this cave system.

#7 Experience the sensory vibrance of Kampot Market, one of the wildest shopping experiences in town 

Are you looking to fish out a bargain at the busiest place in town? Kep Central Market will certainly satiate your desire for an excitingly chaotic shopping trip!

There you can check out all the little passageways filled with colourful sarongs and kramas, fill your basket with souvenirs, and try delicious Cambodian and French dishes.

From fresh produce to clothes, jewellery, and household goods, you can find almost everything in this market. You will see goods spread out on the floor, carts bursting with crops, and finger foods sold on motorbikes.

From downtown, it only takes 5 to 10 minutes to walk to the Kampot Market, and stores are open from 8am to 5pm. Be prepared for the heat and flurry of people, but it’s the only way to fully experience a local Khmer market.

#8 Watch fireflies dance in the dark on the Firefly River Cruise

Always wanted to see fireflies? Glide down the Kampong Bye River and watch fireflies dancing in the dark! No guarantee you will see them, but your chances will be highest with a new moon.

If you do catch a glimpse of these fantastic creatures, the colours against the night’s backdrop are really quite something. Pair this with the calmness of the water below you and you have a truly magical experience.

Most tours will leave before dusk, so you can watch the stunning sunset as the reflection on the water turns different shades of yellow, red and purple. Most tours take around 2 hours. Captain Chim’s River is one of the most popular tours, only $5 per person including a drink.

More in a party mood? Check out Flying Dragon, or book a private boat for $20-$35.

Tip: Put on insect repellent, or wear long sleeves and pants to protect you from insect bites.

#9 Kick back and watch the sun set over Kep Beach

Rinse all the heat and stress away at Kep Beach. Walk on the fine sand, go for a refreshing swim and treat yourself with freshly-caught seafood.

There are simple beach huts along the shoreline where you can find some shade and keep your belongings for an extra fee. For hungry travellers, food stalls, cafes and restaurants are just across the street.

This single kilometre-long coastline near the tip of the Kep peninsula is a favourite Khmer holiday spot, so expect a lot of people, especially on the weekends.

The beach is located in the centre of Kep, and is about a 40-minute tuk-tuk drive ($8) from Kampot.

#10 Be delighted by Kep Butterfly Farm

Discover a hidden paradise in Kep! See the colourful butterflies, stroll through rich gardens and reconnect with nature.

If you want to take a break from the busy streets of Kep, simply take a tuk-tuk or a motorbike to Kep Butterfly Farm, located in a quiet and beautiful valley near the Kep National Park.

In this beautiful garden, you will find a dome that houses different species of butterflies. Outside are neatly-trimmed plants and trees, swings, benches, gazebos, and a view of surrounding farms.

From downtown Kep, you can hire a round-trip tuk-tuk or catch a ride on the back of a motorbike for $11. Be aware that the trip can be a bit bumpy. The farm is open from 7:00 to 17:00, with a $1 entrance fee, or $2 for a guided tour.

 

Our favourite places to stay in Kampot

Daom Djah Spirit

Located along a river outside of town, with palm trees all around, you find Daom Djah Spirit. The excellent food and beautiful yet simple bungalows feel like a true nature retreat! It's a 15min ride to town, so rent a bike before you come here or ask the friendly staff to book a TukTuk for you.

Double Room with Shared Bathroom $13

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The Magic Sponge

Featuring a mini golf course, pool tables, and a pub with live entertainment, you definitely won’t get bored at The Magic Sponge. Located along Guesthouse Street, the city center and river are within walking distance. Owner William and his staff are very warm and welcoming.

Double Room from $18

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Arcadia

Arcadia is heaven for backpackers. This hostel boasts an amazing waterpark featuring a waterslide and many other attributes that will guarantee a great day of fun. If you are not staying here, I still recommend to visit this place for an afternoon. Non-guests can access this waterpark for a small payment too. Once you got your wristband, get ready to launch your mates 10 meter high in the sky on the big blob!

Double Room from $18 and dorms from $5

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Professional Traveller

Kate is a writer, (ex)Management Consultant and avid traveller. She recently returned from a 2-year career break exploring the world and decided corporate life wasn’t for her. She’ll soon be testing life as a digital nomad. She’s visited over 40 countries and fell in love with Latin America in particular. Her travelling has inspired a passion for yoga, salsa, hiking and Spanish.

Founder

Based in Bali, Maarten’s passion for travel is undeniable. In 2016, he decided to quit his job as a stock analyst and started doing what he always dreamed of: travelling through South East Asia and helping other people plan their trips. When he is not working on Gecko Routes, you’ll find him surfing in the ocean or exploring the best gems of Indonesia.

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