Cambodia is a mystical land abound with ancient temples, vast tropical forests, magnificent mountain ranges, secluded tropical islands, rare wildlife and much, much more. With such a diverse array of landscapes, it comes as no surprise that Cambodia is also home to some of Asia’s best trekking destinations. From untouched jungles where wild elephants roam to remote mountain villages where ancient traditions still thrive, Cambodia has trekking options for every style and fitness level.
Whether you are looking for an afternoon getaway in nature or a week-long journey through the wilderness, we compiled our list of Cambodia’s 7 best trekking destinations.
Phnom Kulen National Park (Kulen Mountains)
Located about 40 kilometers from Siem Reap, Phnom Kulen National Park is home to Cambodia’s most sacred mountain, Phnom Kulen, which literally means “Mountain of Lychees”. It was here that King Jayavarman II founded the Khmer Empire in the 9th Century, and is a site that is considered holy for Buddhists, Hindus, and Cambodians alike. But although many Cambodians from all across the country flock to this National Park for it’s revered religious sites, there is far more that this stunning national park has to offer its visitors.
Inside you’ll find a lush tropical jungle teeming with some of Southeast Asia’s rarest flora and fauna, roaring waterfalls, trickling streams, and pristine hiking trails. While hiking the trails at Phnom Kulen National Park, you’ll also come across numerous moss-covered stone elephants and lions at Srah Damrei and Damrei Krap, as well as ancient temples hidden deep in the jungle that have been lost to time. You can even visit the holy waters of Kbai Spean, which is believed to have healing powers and help couples conceive.
The Cardamom Mountains are home to Southeast Asia’s largest remaining rainforest and some of the region’s most challenging hiking trails. This extensive network of mountains, forests, and grasslands is also one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots, where you can still find wild elephants and rare wildlife roaming free. As the Cardamom Mountains are located in one of Cambodia’s most isolated regions, you’ll have direct access to unspoiled nature that is lined with magnificent waterfalls, remote hill tribe villages, exotic wildlife and some of Cambodia’s most breathtaking scenery!
In recent years, the Cardamom Mountains have also become home to some of Cambodia’s most unique eco-tourism experiences with their network of local homestays, wildlife conservation efforts, and community-based tourism initiatives. Make sure that any booking you make in the Cardamom Mountains contributes directly to the local community and supports the sustainable economic and environmental development of this region!
In Khmer, Molndulkiri means “Meeting of the Hills” which aptly describes this remote region dotted with rolling hills, lush rainforests, majestic mountains, and traditional ethnic culture. Mondulkiri is also the country’s most sparsely populated province, with just four people per square kilometer, making this the perfect destination for the true off-the-beaten-path traveler. If trekking through untamed nature is what you’re looking for, then Mondulkiri is a must-add to your travel itinerary in Cambodia.
In order to get the most out of your trek through Mondulkiri Province, we recommend hiring a local Bunong guide who can share generations of family secrets from this enchanting region and give you local insights that you won’t find anywhere else! You are also contributing to the sustainable tourism initiatives in the region, which support the local families and community organizations that call Mondulkiri Province home.
Virachey National Park
Stretching a whopping 3,325 square kilometers, Virachey National Park is Cambodia’s largest national park and features some of the country’s best selection of trekking opportunities. Whether you have just a few days or even a few weeks free on your itinerary, Virachey has treks to suit just about every timeline and skill level. Whichever trek you decide on, you’ll find yourself in the midst of Cambodia’s untouched wilderness with an opportunity to spot some of Southeast Asia’s rarest creatures such as wild elephants, tigers, leopards, sun bears, gibbons, hornbills, and giant ibises.
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in local village life, engage with indigenous communities and learn about local farming, fishing and hunting techniques during your trek through Virachey National Park, then this off-the-beaten-path jungle trek will offer you the local travel experience of a lifetime!
Kirirom National Park
Just a short 2-hour drive away from the center of Phnom Penh you’ll find the lush high-altitude plateau of Kirirom National Park, which offers some excellent trekking opportunities within close proximity to Cambodia’s capital. With its unique high elevation pine forests, spectacular waterfalls, serene lakes, and abundant wild plants, Kirirom National Park is the perfect weekend getaway for those seeking a break from the chaos of Phnom Penh. With plenty of hiking trails to choose from you’ll have your pick of some of the country’s best routes including the Southern Cardamoms, Elephant Mountains and Cambodia’s highest peak, Phnom Aoral.
Kirirom is also considered to be one of Cambodia’s best bird-watching destinations as well as a great place to hear the calls of pleated gibbons in the wild. It’s no wonder that this national park, Cambodia’s first, was named “Kirirom” which means “Happiness Mountain” in Khmer!
Kep National Park
If you’re visiting Kep and looking for an activity that doesn’t involve laying by the beach or indulging in the local seaside delicacies, then make sure to include the Kep National Park in your itinerary. While the trails at Kep National Park are not particularly challenging, this jungle excursion offers breathtaking natural scenery and enchanting pagodas along the way, without the need of a local guide. But if you’re looking to make your trek a little more challenging, make sure to take the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ which offers some of Kep National Park’s best views, as well as sightings of Cambodia’s Bokor Mountain range. Other notable sites to visit on the trail include the Little Buddha, Phnom Kep, and Sunset Rock.
Ream National Park
Located just a short 18 kilometers away from Sihanoukville, Ream National Park stands out for its stunning natural beauty which includes coastal mangrove forests, lush evergreen forests, estuaries, freshwater marshes as well as islands, unspoiled beaches, and off-shore coral reefs. This maritime park is rich with wildlife and also home to several endangered bird species which are unique to the area such as the white-bellied sea eagle, grey-headed fish eagle, brahminy kite, milky stork and painted stork. If you’re lucky, you can also spot Irrawaddy and bottle-nosed dolphins, as well as dugongs swimming through the estuaries.
While Ream National Park is considered to be one of the easier places to trek on this list, you’ll be greatly rewarded with spectacular ocean views, rare wildlife sightings, world-class birdwatching opportunities and some of Cambodia’s most unique tropical scenery!