Phnom Kulen, also known as Kulen Mountain, is a plateau which is approximately 40 km long rising to 487 metres above sea level located on the northern edge of the Angkor Archaeological Park about a 1 hour drive from Siem Reap.
- Entrance Fee: $20 USD
- Opening Hours: Daylight hours
About Phnom Kulen
Phnom Kulen is generally considered Cambodia’s most sacred mountain. This small mountain range is the birthplace of the Angkor Kingdom. Before Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom were established, Phnom Kulen was the capital city of the Khmer people with a town comparable in size to modern day Phnom Penh. In 802 King Jayavarman II declared the independence of the Khmer people from Java at Phnom Kulen and this gives the location its special significance to Cambodian people. This mountain range was also the last hold out of the Khmer Rouge. What remains of the more than 1,000 year old kingdom is around 50 ruins scattered over the mountain top and some submerged carvings that remain surprisingly intact. Phnom Kulen doesn’t draw big crowds of visitors in the same way as the Angkor Archaeological Park, however, it’s certainly worth visiting particularly if you combine your visit with a visit to one of the temples in the northern section of the Angkor Archaeological Park, particularly Banteay Srei.
Getting to Phnom Kulen involves renting your own vehicle or hiring a taxi or motorbike taxi. The road up is too steep to travel up in a local tuk-tuk. Expect to pay $20 or motorbike taxi and $50 for a normal taxi. There is a one way system in operation on the road after the entrance gate to Phnom Kulen, which means you can only go up before 11:00 and down after 13:00. Phnom Kulen is a large site to explore and there are a number of walking trails which go on where the road stops, which is close to the three main attraction of Phnom Kulen:
- Kbal Spean: There is a stretch of river with 1,000 carvings of linga etched into the sandstone riverbed. These carvings were created during the reign of Jayavarman II, with the water being temporarily diverted to undertake the task.
- Kulen Waterfall: There are two waterfalls. The larger of the two is 20 metres high and 10 metres wide with a large pool underneath which is a popular place to swim. Entrance to Phnom Kulen is free for Cambodian nationals and this waterfall attracts large numbers of local tourists particularly at the weekends and on public holidays.
- Preah Ang Thom Pagoda: This 16th Century temple contains Cambodia’s largest statue of the Lord Buddha in a reclining position.
Location of Phnom Kulen
Phnom Kulen is 59.6 km by road from Siem Reap.