Phnom Kulen is a dense, green canvas of jungle that dresses a mountainous plateau that extends far out over the horizon. It’s about 50 kilometers north of Angkor Wat in Svay Leu District. The Phnom Kulen mountain range’s short, regular-shaped plateau protrudes from the terrain, nestled amid dense jungle. A day trip to Kulen Mountain from Siem Reap is a perfect way to get off the beaten path and see more of rural Cambodia, including its flora and fauna, as well as lesser-known historic sites.
Kulen Mountain Entrance Fee
The Kulen National Park is located within Phnom Kulen, which requires a different pass to the Angkor Archeological Park. It costs $20 per person to purchase tickets at the mountain’s entry gate, or you can purchase them online and get them mailed to your hotel. The park is open to Cambodians at no cost. If you’re driving and riding a motorcycle to the top of the mountain, get there before 11 a.m. The path is one-way only, and traffic going up comes to a halt early, so don’t be late!
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What to See and Do at Kulen Mountain
At Kulen Mountain, there are two waterfalls: a small one of 5 meters and a larger one of 20 meters further down. There are some elevated platforms to the side of the smaller waterfall where you can rest and order local food and beverages. People-watching opportunities abound here, especially on public holidays. Families from the neighborhood eat, drink, and enjoy a picnic on the platforms.
To reach the larger waterfall, there are a few rocks and a wooden swing covered with flowers at the bottom where you can relax and enjoy the view. You should still join the locals splashing around in the river for a cooling swim if you’re feeling courageous. There are also lockers (metal boxes with a padlock) available where you can store your possessions, which can be useful.
Another point to keep in mind is that, while not yet overrun by visitors, Phnom Kulen is a popular destination for locals during festivals and public holidays. If you don’t like crowds, you may want to come at a different time.
The Valley of a Thousand Lingas
Thousands of ‘lingas’ have been carved into the riverbed that runs across Kulen Mountain. Shiva, the Hindu deity, has phallic fertility symbols. They are a sandstone riverbed pattern of massive bumps, typically on a base of the female version, the ‘yoni.’ They are said to bless or fertilize the river as it passes through them on the way to Angkor, Siem Reap, and the Tonle Sap Lake.
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Preah Ang Thom and the Reclining Buddha
This is the largest temple site on Kulen Mountain, and entering the temple requires you to remove your shoes. There are ladies who can take excellent care of your shoes for a small price if you need to relinquish your footwear. While inside, you can climb to the top of the giant reclining Buddha statue, which is said to be Cambodia’s tallest, but there are many sitting Buddhas that dwarf it. Offering boxes run the length of the Buddha statue, and flowers and other tributes are strewn around the area.
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Srah Damrei, or Elephant Pond, is an area overflowing with stone-carved animals that can only be reached by foot and motorcycle. A pair of lions and the remains of other animals accompany this ancient Khmer sculpture. This is a spectacular sight that is well worth the journey off the beaten path. There will be guides milling about the Preah Ang Thom area; find one and they will lead you around.
Taking our jeep tour on a day trip to Kulen Mountain is still off the beaten path, we will take you to the road less traveled and get lost in the middle of nowhere. There is much to see and do, making it a worthwhile journey and a welcome diversion from the temples.