Discover the wilderness of Ratanakiri
On this tour we experience the mystical natural beauty of Cambodia’s northeast, witness the village live of ethnic minorities and travel on remote rivers through pristine jungle on the way to exploring hidden cultural sites. The tour includes a number of soft adventure components, including an elephant ride, a homestay in a minority village as well as boat and cycling tours.
- Day 1 Phnom Penh to Kratie; cycling tour on a Mekong island
- Day 2 Journey to Ratanakiri, elephant jungle trek
- Day 3 Yak Lom Lake; visit of minority villages and homestay with a local family
- Day 4 Boat trip to the burial grounds of the Tumpoun
- Day 5 Return journey via Kratie to Kampong Cham, ongoing programme the following day or return journey to Phnom Penh
Day 1: We leave Phnom Penh early in the morning. Our first stop on the way to Kratie is Kampong Cham, where we visit the sacred hills of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei (men’s and women’s hill). We continue our road journey north and pass through some of Cambodia’s largest rubber tree plantations, originally established by the French, and along the Mekong before we arrive in Kratie.
After lunch we take a ferry to the scenic Mekong island of Koh Trong., a peaceful retreat where rural Cambodian life can be explored. We rent bicycles for this purpose, and our local guide will take us along small paths as we pass traditional wooden Khmer houses and pagodas. On the way we make several stops to taste some of the local produce and fruit. Late in the afternoon we head back to Kratie town by boat and enjoy the magnificent sunset over the Mekong.
Day 2: On the way to Ratanakiri we make a stop at O Russey Kandal, a scenic community based ecotourism site on a river with an opportunity to have a refreshing swim. We continue to Banlung, the capital of Ratanakiri, for lunch. In the afternoon we transfer to a nearby elephant camp where a caravan is waiting for us to take us for a ride through the forest to Katieng Waterfall, where we have the opportunity to wash and feed the elephants and swim in the natural pool below the fall.
Late in the afternoon we head back to town.
Day 3: After breakfast we transfer to Yaklom Lake. Yaklom is a natural lake formed in a volcanic crater, forming a formidable natural swimming pool. We drive back through Banlung and continue to Ta Veng district. On the way we pass ancient lava fields where we make a quick stop and learn more about their origin. After some 2 hours we arrive at the first tribal village of La Ork. We learn more about the traditional lifestyle of the hill tribe people of Ratanakiri. Two other villages of Kala and Kress are located nearby. In each village we discover the traditional weaving techniques, customs and habits as well as other traditional activities and ceremonies.
Towards the evening we head back to Ta Veng where our host family is waiting for us. We have the opportunity to learn more about their life as we enjoy dinner together.
Day 4: This morning we have breakfast with our hosts, before we take a boat that brings us up the pristine riverscape to the Tompuon village of Kachon. We visit the traditional burial ground and learn more about the villagers’ traditions. We return to Banlung by road.
We go back to our boat and travel down the river to an ethnic Chinese and Lao village. We stroll through the villages and find out more about the life of these two minority groups. We head back to Voen Sai where we have lunch, before our 4×4 brings us back to Banlung. Next, we visit Chaong waterfall which is located 7km west of Banlung town. This waterfall is the largest and most beautiful around Banlung, and it is possible to go behind the waterfall on a narrow path. During the dry season it is also possible to swim in the large pool below the fall. Towards the evening we head back to Banlung for dinner.
Day 5: After an early breakfast we leave for Kratie, where we have lunch at a restaurant on the riverside, before we drive on to Kampong Cham. On the way we visit Phnom Hanchey and Wat Nokor. Wat Hanchey is a beautifully situated hilltop pagoda that overlooks the Mekong River, affording magnificent views of the mighty river. The brick structures of Wat Hanchey date back to the 8th century. It was an important religious centre during the period of the pre-Angkorian Chenla Empire. 11th century Wat Nokor is a temple within a temple. The original complex is a Buddhist shrine made of sandstone and laterite which has been extended with a contemporary Theravada wat. We continue to our hotel in Kampong Cham and enjoy the evening in this lively provincial capital.
On the following day there are two options to continue the tour:
Option 1: Return to Phnom Penh
Option 2: Continue to Kampong Thom and Siem Reap
The above tours are therefore sample itineraries.
Cambodia’s bustling capital is situated at the confluence of the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap rivers. Legend has it that Phnom Penh was founded when a woman by the name of Penh found Buddha images washed up on the bank of the Mekong River. In 1373, a temple, Wat Phnom, was built on a hill to house them. With Phnom in Khmer meaning hill, Phnom Penh literally translates as Hill of Penh. Officially the city was founded in 1434 by King Ponhea Yat, following the fall of Angkor.
Today, Phnom Penh is a city of more than 1.5 million people. With continuing urban development it is fast developing into an economic hub of the region, at the same time retaining its distinct atmosphere with its wide tree-lined boulevards, French colonial buildings and an abundance of chic bistros dotted along the riverfront, bustling markets, intriguing boutiques and stylish hotels.
Places of interest include the royal palace including the Silver Pagoda with its spectacular floor made up of 5,000 silver tiles, the National Museum housing treasures from the world’s finest collection of sculptures from the Angkor period, Wat Phnom, the city’s landmark and the notorious Toul Sleng Genocide Museum.
Phnom Penh is also ideal gateway for daytrips to the surrounding countryside. Particularly attractive are boat trips on the Mekong and Tonle Sap combined with a visit to the picturesque Silk Island or a visit of Udong, once the Capital of Cambodia, and the floating villages of Kampong Chhnang.
The picturesque town of Kratie (pronounced Krachay) is situated on the banks of the Mekong, which dictates every aspect of life in and around town.
Kratie’s main attraction are the Irrawaddy Dolphins which live a few kilometres upriver and can be observed from small boats throughout the year. Kratie also offers many boating and cycling opportunities, for example on and around one of the idyllic Mekong islands.
Another rewarding experience is a homestay with a Khmer family on one of the islands.
The remote North Eastern province of Rattanakiri is the home of several ethnic minorities who still live according to their age old traditions.
With its thick mountain jungles it is also home to much of Cambodia’s endangered wildlife. Centrally located, the provincial capital of Ban Lung is an ideal base for exploring the remoter parts of the province.
One of the main points of interest is Yak Lom lake, a fresh water lake in a volcanic crater which makes a spectacular natural swimming pool.
With its many rivers Rattanakiri is also ideal for jungle boat trips on the way to visiting secluded tribal communities, combined with a village homestay.
Phnom Pro and Phnom Srei
Kampong Cham is Cambodia’s most populous province and famous for its vast rubber plantations.
For travellers the provincial capital mainly serves as stopover on the way to the Northeastern provinces. Attractions include Wat Nokor, an 11 century Buddhist shrine and the hills of Phnom Pro and Phnom Srei (man and woman hill) offering great views over the surrounding countryside.
A visit of a rubber plantation is likewise an interesting activity.
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