The laidback riverside town of Kampot in southern Cambodia is the perfect place to unwind after a long trip in Asia. It has international influences which add to the charm, while still maintaining its authentic culture. This affordable area and surroundings have plenty of things to do and a diverse selection of restaurants. We found Kampot to be one of the best places in Cambodia, and the type of town you won’t want to leave.
Why Is Kampot Great?
Kampot is set along the Praek Tuek Chhu River and southeast of the Elephant Mountains, creating a beautiful setting. The town moves at a slow pace and is compact enough to be walk or bike friendly. It attracts travelers wanting to get away from the main tourist hubs in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville without losing the amenities and ease of travel.
Compared to many parts of Cambodia, Kampot is clean and tidy. Residents are friendly and welcoming, always willing to offer assistance. Several NGOs have initiated great development projects, providing ways to help the local community which you can feel good about.
Restaurants are numerous and offer a wide selection of local and international cuisine. Pizza is a local favorite, but you can also find charming coffee shops, vegetarian restaurants, seafood and burger joints.
While Kampot is an oasis away from typical Southeast Asia, most people don’t travel to feel like they are back home. A couple of kilometers outside of town, rural Cambodia is untouched and easily reachable on bike. People can be seen farming, harvesting salt or selling fruit, and are always quick to offer a friendly smile.
Things To Do Around Kampot
Salt Fields – Kampot and nearby Kep are famous for harvesting sea salt. There are extensive salt fields outside of the towns which are flooded with sea water and then left to evaporate, leaving the salt to be collected. There is no cost unless you take an unnecessary guided tour from town. They are located around 5k east of town, searchable on Google Maps as Salt Fields Kampot. We explored on bikes which was a perfect early morning trip with beautiful sunrise reflections.
Pepper Plantation – Kampot is well known as a pepper growing region and produces a very good and organic product. There are a handful of pepper farms around the area which give free tours and tastings. Various types of pepper and related products are sold at steep Asian prices but are fairly cheap by Western standards. We visited La Plantation and had a fascinating tour.
Bokor National Park – This park sits high in the hilltops a little outside of Kampot. There are some trails and viewpoints, along with long abandoned colonial buildings to explore. We took a scooter up but returned early due to the cloud cover, so can’t say much about the park itself. We hear that casino development has caused the park to lose some of its appeal. With the elevation, the air gets quite cool and tends to get cloudy so make sure to bring a jacket and go on a sunny day. Travel agents can arrange group or private trips if you want to avoid the steep and winding road on scooter. There is no longer a fee for entry.
Take a Yoga Class – Morning and evening classes are offered most days for $5. One location, Banteay Srey, is an NGO with a mission to empower local women coming from difficult backgrounds. They offer female only classes every evening, but morning classes are open to all. The studio has a jungle setting just outside of town, creating a serene yoga experience. Simple Things has a studio above their restaurant which offers daily classes and occasional free meditation. It is an enjoyable class but tends to get noisy from the street and restaurant below.
Sunset Cruise – Several river boats have daily sunset and dinner cruises. Departure is dependent on sunset timing, but typically between 5:00-5:45pm. The rides are two hours and may include a stop to see fireflies or for river swimming. The cost is $3-$5 and some tickets include free beer. Cruises also offer reasonably priced dinner for purchase. Advanced reservations are not necessary. Just show up on the boardwalk a few minutes early and choose from one of they many companies.
Watch a Movie – Ecran Movie House is close to the river and offers a fairly nice selection of movies. Tickets are $2.50 for the scheduled showings, or you can rent a private room with your movie of choice for $3.50 per person.
Sunset on the Riverbank – Grab a happy hour drink and watch the amazing colors each night. Unlike so many towns, there are only a handful of people who sit by the river in the evening. If you could ignore the noises of dozens of motorbikes, it would be very peaceful.
Take a Cooking Class – Cooking classes are available from Khmer Roots Cafe, allowing you to add a few local Khmer style dishes to your kitchen repertoire. Classes are around $20 and located out of town near Secret Lake.
Rent a Bicycle – Tour the salt fields, ride to a yoga class or simply cruise through the countryside. Available for $1-2/day around town.
Rent a Motorbike or Hire a Tuk Tuk – A great way to see the rural countryside. Tuk-tuks offer a day trip to Secret Lake, Phnom Chhngok Cave Temple and a pepper farm for $15-20. We did all of this on scooter for $5, but did have a little trouble with muddy road conditions after a flash rainstorm. You could also add a cooking class onto this trip and make a day of it.
Get a Massage – Massages are widely available around town. An hour runs around $6, or you can get a higher quality spa treatment from Banteay Srey for a little more.
Take a Day Trip to Kep
Kep is situated waterfront on the Gulf of Thailand just 30 minutes outside of Kampot. It is reachable via motorbike or shared vans which leave throughout the day. The town is much smaller with less on offer, but is well worth a visit to experience its unique charm.
Crab Market – Kep is most famous for its crabs and seafood. There is an outdoor market on the north side of town where crabs and other catch are served and sold. Vendors cook up fresh crab with local grown pepper, grilled squid, fish and other mouthwatering dishes. Unfortunately, the overfishing of the crab is causing serious issues to the ecosystem so we do not recommend eating any, but it is still worth a visit for the atmosphere. There are also many other more sustainable options available. Several covered restaurants are nearby which have a wide range of great food and a wonderful view.
Kep National Park – The park entrance is near the Crab Market, and offers some great hiking opportunities. While there aren’t many animals to view, the jungle is serene and trail network relatively well marked and kept. Entry is $1, and the most up-to-date maps and info are available at the small Led Zeppelin Cafe located just inside the park. Be sure to check out sunset rock view point which has a nice panoramic view if you can find it. Maps.me tends to be pretty unreliable for this park.
Where to Eat in Kampot
Epic Arts Cafe – A very tasty cafe offering food, coffee and desserts. The cafe was started by an NGO and provides employment for the primarily hearing impaired staff. Ordering is done on paper checklist which includes some Cambodian sign language tips. Mid range prices.
Simple Things – A nice vegetarian spot offering large portions. The food is tasty and arrives quick. Mid range prices.
Ecran Noodle House – Offers a simple menu with a few dishes made from their fresh pulled noodles. It is located near the river with a nice view and very reasonable prices.
Marcello – Brick oven pizza made street side by a real Italian. Located across the street from the east side of the Entanou pedestrian bridge heading away from the river on the right. This shack is not shown on Google or TripAdvisor, but was quite a find. We were the only diners that evening, in contrast to our visit to the very popular Ciao where we waited for 1.5 hours for a less tasty pie. Very reasonably priced.
Ellie’s – A superb Western style cafe and bakery with the best breakfast in town. They have a range of baked goods on offer, along with crowd favorites like avocado toast, homemade granola, banana french toast, and their vegetarian breakfast platter. Mid range prices.
La Plantation – Delicious food made with products from their farm. Great to add after a tour of the plantation to taste all of the fresh ingredients. Try the green curry! Upper range prices.
Where to Stay
Marany Guesthouse – Positioned a couple of blocks behind the main restaurant and hotel area, this guesthouse is a more peaceful option but still well located. Our room was very clean and had everything necessary including a comfy bed and A/C, but cost about 1/3 less than most comparable hotels by the river at only $13. Bikes and scooters are available for rent at market price, and they can arrange bus or van transport between cities.
Three Day Itinerary in Kampot
Day 1 – After breakfast, hire a tuk-tuk or rent a scooter to go to Secret Lake and the Cave Temple, followed by a trip to a pepper plantation for a tour and lunch. On the way back, explore the rural countryside outside of Kampot. You should be back in time for a sunset cruise and dinner.
Day 2 – Take an early transfer to Kep and hike the National Park. Afterwards, grab lunch at the Crab Market before heading back to Kampot. Join an evening yoga class or get a massage before dinner.
Day 3 – Take a sunrise bike ride to the salt fields. Return for breakfast before heading to Bokor National Park to explore as part of a tour or in a rented vehicle Afterwards, take another yoga class, watch a movie or grab a happy hour drink while watching sunset on the riverbank.
And there you have it! A great three day itinerary in Kampot. We hope you enjoy Kampot as much as we did!
Make sure to read our previous post, 6 Non-Touristy Things to Do in Cambodia, for some great ideas to add to your next trip. If you are traveling overland from Thailand, see about our experience crossing the Aranyaprathet / PoiPet border.
Do you need long term travel in your future? Go to our Trip Planning posts, where you can learn how to prepare for a lengthy trip, see how to never check your bags on planes, find out about travel security and make sense of travel insurance, amongst others. And as always, feel free to Contact Us if you have any questions about our trips, we would love to hear from you!