In a nutshell
A day trip to Bokor National Park is absolutely essential when visiting Kampot, and it’s much better to go under your own steam rather than as part of a tour.
We hired our own motorbike to take us from Kampot to the park, and then up to the top of hill. The adventure starts as soon as you arrive, as you begin your winding journey up to the old colonial hill station at the very top.
Tip Make sure to go on a clear day, because the views along the way are spectacular! There are a couple of good places to stop for excellent panoramas of the surrounding countryside and coastline, so take a camera.
The road itself is also really fun to navigate on a motorbike, but just be careful on corners as the road is open to cars and other vehicles.
Why go to Bokor National park
Despite some development here, the park is still home to lots of wildlife, including leopard cats, gibbons, hornbills, civets, and sun bears. If you are very lucky, you may even hear gibbons calling to one another in the distance. Visiting in the morning will probably give you more of a chance of hearing or seeing some wildlife, and the roads will be a lot quieter.
The Black Palace
The first stop along the way is the Black Palace, which was formerly the holiday home of King Sihanouk. Nearby, there is a large Buddha statue and a café selling refreshments. This is probably the best place to stop for food, as at the top there is only a drinks stand, and a snack shop by the waterfall.
The Bokor Hill Station
After a quick stop at the Palace, head straight to the top for the highlight of the trip – the Bokor Hill Station. This is a collection of French colonial buildings that were abandoned after World War II, and again after the Khmer Rouge period. Exploring the buildings, especially the old casino, was quite the spooky adventure – especially as a thick mist rolled in halfway through our visit. The mist really added another layer of atmosphere, and we managed to take some incredible photos.
If you happen to be visiting in rainy season, make a slight detour from the main road on your way back down, and check out the Popokvil waterfall (should be signposted). The entrance is just 2,000 riel, and the ticket can be redeemed for a bottle of water. The waterfall is quite impressive at the right time of the year, and you can also go for a lovely hike in the surrounding forest (there is an official trail nearby to the waterfall).
Accommodation in Bokor National Park
Whilst a day trip to the park should be plenty of time to see everything, if you do want to stay a bit longer, the only accommodation is Thansur Bokor Highland Resort. However, it’s quite expensive and not that great, so it would be better to just stay in Kampot and visit again the next day. That said, if you do decide to stay at the resort, you will be rewarded with some spectacular sunset views!
We truly enjoyed our visit to Bokor National Park, and it really made a difference that we visited on a clear, sunny day.
However, even on a sunny day, it gets quite chilly at the top – so make sure to take a jumper!
The best and easiest way to explore Bokor is by motorbike (rental costs around USD5), either self-driven or hiring a driver. It takes about an hour and a half to reach the top, and you should make sure you have enough gas before setting off. The roads are quite steep and it’s a long way, so it would only be achievable by bicycle if you are an experienced cyclist. As mentioned before, organized tours are not advisable, as part of the adventure is the journey itself!