Nestling in the southern extension of the Dangrek Mountains in the Svay Leu District, 48 kilometres away from Siem Reap rests the Phnom Kulen National Park. One of the most scenic and historically significant locations in the area, the park falls along the journey to Prasat Banteay Srei, making a beautiful natural complement to the intricate manmade wonders of the ancient citadel.
Phnom Kulen is believed to be the birthplace of the Khmer Empire where King Jayavarman II was crowned as ‘God-king’. At present, Kulen Mountain is a favorite spot among Cambodian families for weekend getaways and special holidays. This is where families usually gather together and the place where visitors go for outdoor activities.
Khmers can get through Phnom Kulen for free while foreign visitors have to pay US$20 to enter. The tickets can be purchased at the site before entering the park. Please do take note that the US$20 entrance fee to Phnom Kulen is different from the standard Angkor temple pass, and is valid only on the same day.
How to get there
Phnom Kulen is about two hour drive from Siem Reap town and the most convenient way to get there is by car or by van. Taking a motorcycle can also be an option, on the other hand, the roads to the mountain are just too difficult. Taking a car or van comes handy as it can easily make its way to the mountain. Taking a tuk tuk should never be an option as it is impossible for it to make its way on top of the mountain. Kulen Mountain is open to visitors any day of the week from 7am til 12nn.
What to see
Phnom Kulen Waterfalls
The waterfalls of Phnom Kulen are a must-see sight. After climbing up to the mountain and exploring around, the waterfalls in Phnom Kulen are a perfect spot to cool off. Plunge into the cold refreshing water that flows through the falls and do not miss to take photos as the falls can be a perfect backdrop. There are also places nearby where you can have a picnic lunch. Food stalls are also available at the site or you can bring your own food just like what most locals do.
On top of the mountain you can have a look at a massive reclining Buddha. The Buddha statue is made of sandstone and is one of the biggest of its kind in Cambodia. Locals usually come and visit the pagoda to pray and do some offerings. The views from the top will not disappoint you as you can cast an eye on Cambodia’s lush forests and jungles. Also, the hilltop houses 56 Angkorian temples which are made of bricks and volcanic stones.
The river of thousand lingas
Another attraction is The River of A Thousand Lingas. This attraction is in the western part of the Kulen mountain within the Phnom Kulen National Park. It features carvings of sacred lingas in sandstone formations on the river bed and banks. A linga is a stylized image of a phallus representing the essence of the God Shiva. The carvings are visible when the water is at its lowest level. It is believed that they have been carved into the river for nearly a thousand years and are meant to bless the water that goes through them. Cambodians usually splash some water on their hands and faces as they believe that the water which flows through these sacred carvings gives good luck and good health.
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