Phnom Kulen means Mountain of Lychees and it’s a sacred mountain in Cambodia. You can get here by travelling 40 kilometres northeast from Siem Reap. With its small plateaus, this holy mountain sees its fair share of pilgrims and tourists, so let’s see why Phnom Kulen is such a huge attraction:
Phnom Kulen Waterfalls
The waterfalls here are a sight you can’t miss. Once you get to the mountaintop and finish your exploration, you can rest at the Phnom Kulen waterfalls.
These offer some well-deserved shade, cooler temperatures, and cold water you can dive in. This is also the perfect place for some scenic photos. If you’re hungry, enjoy one of its quaint picnic places or use the food stalls available.
Temples and the Reclining Buddha
Once you’ve reached the mountaintop, you can marvel at the Angkorian there. Made from volcanic rocks and bricks, these help instil a real feeling of spirituality too. Prasat Rong Chen is the most important of the smaller temples near the plateau because it’s the first pyramid built in Angkor.
There’s also this huge reclining Buddha statue right on top of the mountain. One of the tallest in Cambodia, this statue is made from sandstone.
You can get a glimpse of the local spirituality, as you see Cambodians come here to pray to Buddha or to leave offerings. You’ll get a deep sense of peace even if you’re not religious because the views around the Reclining Buddha are breathtaking.
Animal Statues and Moto Rides
Getting to Sra Damrei is not an easy job because you’ll need to take a 12 km moto ride through the jungle. You’ll pass through muddy tracks, you’ll have to hold your balance on rugged terrain or duck to avoid the branches.
The road is amazing, though. The clearings are peaceful and coloured, while the jungle vegetation is lush and green.
The Sra Damrei or the Elephant Pond will also amaze you. These guardians of the mountain are difficult to reach but well worth it. You’ll see lions, a cow, a frog and a huge elephant made from stone.
The River of A Thousand Lingas
This enchanting spot will marvel you through. The sacred rivers have left their carvings in unique sandstone formations.
The essence of the God Shiva is represented by these lingas, which are in fact phallic images. The carvings are thought to be here for a thousand years, blessing the waters. That’s why the locals splash themselves with water, to stay healthy and lucky.
A Chance for some History
Phnom Kulen is where the Khmer Empire came to life, with the coronation of King Jayavarman II as God-king. The structures you see here are more than 1200 years old, built when Phnom Kulen was the capital of the Angkor civilization.
There have recently been a lot of discoveries in Phnom Kulen regarding the Khmer era. This place was a huge religious centre, filled with temples and hydraulic structures. These hydraulic structures kept water flowing to the temples, but also to the nearby regions.
Secret Inscriptions and Spirituality
There are plenty of religious inscriptions discovered here in archaeological sites. Unfortunately, you can only see a small few of these rock shelters with their mysterious carvings and inscriptions.
There are also monks living in the jungle of Phnom Kulen. Their hermitages are mostly hidden away, but if you’re lucky, you can see a hermit lost in meditation in one of the caves here.
A Great Hike
Hiking through the Phnom Kulen National Park is an amazing experience. These remote paths are idyllic and treacherous at the same time. The lush tropical forest is filled with lychees as well as cashews, but the terrain is difficult to climb.
You’ll see traditional villages and rich grassy plains while heading up to the top. And all the way to there, you can enjoy seeing the high mountain plateau that guards these tracks and trails.
The sacred mountain of Phnom Kulen abounds with heart-throbbing landscapes, a rich historical past and a quiet spirituality. All these are important reasons to put it on your bucket list.
Grand Bayon Siem Reap Hotel can arrange taxis, bus tickets, and guided tours. Please speak to our reception who will be able to give the best advice.