Visit one of the most sacred mountains in Cambodia.
Phnom Kulen National Park has a perfect balance of nature, culture and history. Phnom Kulen directly translates to Mountain of Lychees yet has a diverse range of mountainous flora. The mountain top is a sacred pilgrimage site for locals who come to pray and leave offerings at Wat Preah Ang Thom, a large temple with giant reclining Buddha statue. Phnom Kulen was once the centre of the ancient Khmer empire and has an array of ancient statues and relics dating back to this pre-Angkorian time. However, the main lure of Phnom Kulen is its waterfall – with Khmer style picnic area to chill out in.
Phnom Kulen National Park was recognised back in 1993. Currently, the park is under management by the Department of Environment. Phnom Kulen National Park covers five different community protected areas: Phnum Kdouchv, Klar Kmum, Po Pel, Anlong Thom and Ta Penh. There five communities rely directly on the park for their livelihoods.
Seng Saingheat has been a ranger at Phnom Kulen National Park since 2017. He is stationed at the Northern end of the park near Kbal Spean Waterfall. Saingheat studies on weekends with the hope of becoming a guide. He wants to teach tourists about ecotourism and the importance of the forest for the community and environment. His long term goal is to work in the Department of Environment – sustainability is his passion.
“Most of my time I spend in the forest patrolling to stop people taking trees. Many people from the communities at Phnom Kulen National Park go on patrols with us as well. They also rely on the forest here so it is important that we protect it. They work here selling souvenirs and collecting food and other forest protects such as honey.
Before I worked as I ranger I worked in a store at the Siem Reap airport. As a Ranger it is a lot more demanding but I feel like I’m actually making a difference for the forest and community here.”
Phnom Kulen National Park is approximately 50kms from Siem Reap and covers an area of 370 km2. It is managed by the Siem Reap Department of Environment and there are 46 rangers employed to patrol 7 sub-areas.
Local communities in the area benefit from the park through tourism, non-timber forest products and employment. Currently, private tour companies work with local communities to offer camping and accommodation overnight. However, it is mainly day experiences.
Phnom Kulen National Park has two main areas to visit on a day out from Siem Reap: Phnom Kulen (Kulen Mountain) and at the Northern end – Kbal Spean, Banteay Srei district. Experiences on offer are spiritual, historical, cultural and nature-based. Including temples, ancient statues and relics as well as waterfalls and forest.
Phnom Kulen National Park is culturally and historically significant. From the end of the Khmer Rouge until the present excavation of relics and statues continued to be uncovered. Discoveries in the area happy regularly.
A $20 ticket is required for entry to Kulen Mountain, which goes to the Department of Tourism. However, if you are visiting Kbal Spean your entry is included in the Angkor Ticket.
A ticket office is located at the bottom of Phnom Kulen. Here you must purchase a $20 entrance ticket (cash only). Facilities here include: shops, restaurants and toilets. Mini vans frequent this stop and can take you to the top of the mountain.
Access to Phnom Kulen Mountain is via a bumpy dirt road – unsuitable for tuk-tuks. Take a moto, van, car or walk the 12kms to the top. The road is one-way and therefore all traffic going up the mountain stops at 11am – so make sure you are at the top before then.
There are a variety of interesting cultural and historical sites to visit at Phnom Kulen National Park. Most notably, Preah Ang Thom Pagoda at the very top that has stone steps leading to the main entrance. Most popular is the sacred Elephant Pond, Srah Damrei, and the 1000 Lingas or Valley of the Lingas.
Perfect for swimming or relaxing, there are a set of beautiful waterfalls at the top of the mountain.
There are Khmer style hammocks and huts close by to the waterfalls to have a picnic lunch or simply relax.
There are many shops and stalls selling Khmer food, drinks and souvenirs at the top of the mountain.
Phnom Kulen National Park is extremely popular for locals and international tourists alike. Therefore, during public holidays and weekends the area can get extremely busy.
If you enjoy a good hike and are feeling energetic then the walk from the bottom of the mountain to the top of Phnom Kulen is possible. Bring plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen though as Cambodia is hot all year round.
PREAH ANG THOM PAGODA
Do as locals do and visit the sacred temple at the top of the mountain. Be sure to remove your shoes and cover knees and shoulders when entering. Most notable here is a giant reclining Buddha statue.
SRAH DAMREI – SACRED ELEPHANT POOL
A sacred pool with carved stone Elephant statues and animal carvings.
KBAL SPEAN WATERFALL AND LINGAS
At the northern end of the park, Kbal Spean offers a beautiful waterfall and the chance to admire carved lingas under the water. In dry season (October – April) the stones are more visible. Access if via a different road to the Kulen Mountain.
At the top of Phnom Kulen is a waterfall with many different areas to swim or relax. In wet season, the bottom section is most stunning with gushing water. The top section is flatter and close to the picnic area.
Phnom Kulen National Park is 48km from Siem Reap. Siem Reap is accessible via air and connected via road to many almost all destinations in Cambodia. To book your road journey via bus or taxi visit bookmebusfor up to date schedules and hassle free booking.
From the bottom check point to Kulen Mountain it is another 30-40minutes along a windy, dirt dirt road. Take note that tuk-tuks are not suitable for the journey and must stop at the check point.
Phnom Kulen Summit
From the checkpoint you will need to take a minivan, car or moto to the top. It is also possible to walk and takes approximately 2 hours each way – as is recommended for those into their hiking. There are minivans that frequent Phnom Kulen, so if feeling tired it is possible to catch a local bus down again.
Traffic on the main road is one-way. Therefore all ascending vehicles must be at the top before 11am when the traffic turns around.
Kbal Spean is in the Banteay Srei district and can be accessed via Kulen Mountain or via Road 66/67 – closeby to the Angkor Centre for Biodiversity Conservation.
Hiring a private car for the day will cost around $50 and private minivans $60-$80.
PHNOM KULEN NATIONAL PARK
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