Road trip from Kampot to Kampong Trach

No matter how much you love Kampot, sometimes it’s nice to get away for a day and go explore some caves. Kampong Trach is an easy 26 miles (43 km) road trip down National Road 33 past Kep, and is easily accessible from either Kampot or Kep. There, you’ll find the most well-known cave system at the Kampong Trach Mountain Resort, plus the Kampong Trach Water Cave and the Sankar Sana Cave.

Road trip to Kampong Trach

From Kampot, it’s an easy road trip to Kampong Trach.

If you’re traveling by moto, finding the caves on your own can prove a bit of a challenge as there is no signage coming into Kampong Trach town on NR33, for either the caves or the town itself! Just follow the green road signs towards Phnom Penh and Chhuk (neither of which you will pass on the way to the caves). However, if you keep a keen eye, you will notice roughly 25 miles (41 km) out of Kampot town that you are entering Kampong Trach, because the traffic will seem to move a bit more slowly and be more tightly packed. Slow down and watch for the Kirisela Guesthouse on your left, a multi-story building easily recognized by the orange siding and True Money sign. Turn left [here’s the map location of where to turn], and a few meters down the road you’ll see a dentist sign on the left. This is also a great time to check any mapping app on your phone if you happen to be traveling with one, because you probably won’t have phone reception for the entire journey.

On the right, roughly 2.6km down the red road, past the railroad tracks (turn around if you pass a pagoda arch on the right), turn right down a small unsealed red road [here] and get ready to have your breath taken away. You will see the Limestone Mountains reaching into the sky as you cross a set of railroad tracks and approach a T-junction. To the left is the Water Cave, and the Mountain Resort is to the right.

Kampong Trach

This is where the second turn off the main road is to head to Kampong Trach.

Adventurers wanting to do a bit of climbing should turn left and drive the 700 meters to the small entrance of the Water Cave located on the right side of the road. A few stalls selling drinks and snacks line the entrance which makes it obvious where to turn, even though the welcome sign is barely legible from the road. The parking area does not designate where motos park. Just be mindful of where you stop and the vendors will let you know if you need to move.

The layout of the climbing and caves can be divided into the large cave in the center, a small staircase to the right, and two staircases on the left. It is a real life ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ scenario, but my advice is to head straight into the center cave, which is deep enough to climb down into, yet still comfortable for the beginning spelunker. The center cave also boasts several medium and smaller size boulders to scramble over. There is no climbing up to this cave; however, just to the left of the entrance of the center cave is a set of steps that tend to disappear in places, but if you are brave enough to scramble up them, the reward is worth it.

The cave at the top of the steps has a cathedral-like feel with shafts of lights scattering magical beams throughout the circular cave. Bats can be heard in the distance, but have no interest in making an appearance during the day. In case they are disturbed, there is no reason to be frightened; they will make a hasty retreat upon sensing human presence. Be sure to take a few moments to soak in the beautiful scenery laid out before you.

Kampong Trach water caves

The view from Kampong Trach is stunning!

This adventure would not be complete without exploring the staircase on the right and the staircase on the far left. Take a break for some water and a rest outside, and once you are recharged, take the small staircase to the right. Immediately, the large boulder in the center of the cave confronts you with the option of scrambling up it or simply walking around the cave and enjoying the stalactite formations. My recommendation is to study the boulder (and possible have the lovely yeay who seems to preside over the caves direct you) before making the quick climb up it.

With the exhilaration of conquering a mountain and a boulder, the small set of steps on the far left of the complex with a meandering incline seems like a piece of cake. Reaching the top, you will find a small shrine and cave with walls that look like they have been chewed on by giants. It is quite a contrast to the smooth walls of the other caves.

Kampong Trach water cave

Inside the cave to the left.

A morning of exploring means stomachs are rumbling. Once you leave the Water Caves and turn left to head to the Mountain Retreat, you will see roadside eateries offering Khmer cuisine at reasonable prices. Don’t be shy about picking one and stopping in for a meal. After lunch, continue down the unsealed road that has a few blind curves which give you the opportunity to beep your horn without guilt to warn any oncoming vehicles or dogs that have happily made the road a stopping point. A sealed road will appear before you with a split to the left and right. Follow the left and the Mountain Retreat will appear before you. Once again the parking area is a bit chaotic so choose your spot and you will be told to move if necessary.

The caves here are much friendlier for those with a preference for gentle exploration. In this complex you will also find food and drink vendors, but more importantly there are also toilets. At the entrance to the main cave, there will be a collection of children offering their services as cave guides. It is up to you as to whether or not you would like to hire them, but it is not recommended to explore the deeper parts of the caves without them. Be sure to bring a headlamp with you for deeper cave exploration.

Kampong Trach caves

Shrines have been built in and around the caves at Kampong Trach.

From the outside, the sheer size of the main cave is unimaginable. There is a reclining Buddha statue on the right as you enter. Continuing into what feels more like an open-air atrium rather than a cave-turned-mini-jungle brings you face-to-face with the entrance to a simple passage. Following the different twists and turns in the passage brings you to shrines of varying sizes, for different deities and purposes. One passage leads you out the opposite side of the mountain to a beautiful display of flowers that is maintained by the people living in the area.

Inside the now roofless cave, you will see a steep staircase that is unfortunately roped off from exploration. There is, however, a staircase in the vendor area that leads to a small grotto with interesting painted walls and a small shrine. The set of stairs are quite short despite looking daunting from the bottom, so tell your tired legs this is the end of the adventure and take some time to venture upwards.

The end of a long morning deserves a cold coconut, and good-natured chat with the vendors before heading off. Once you ride back to the entrance of the Mountain Retreat, it is your choice to go left down the sealed road which will put you on NR33 much farther down from where you would come out if you back tracked down the unsealed road on the right. Either way will get you back to Kampot, but heading down the sealed road to NR33 means you will drive through much more crowded road through Kampong Trach (but it will be an easier ride). Just remember to turn right when you get to NR33 and enjoy the ride back to Kampot knowing you just completed an amazing day trip that not many do!

Of course, if you don’t want to drive you can also just take a tuk tuk!

Kampong Trach Water Cave

Open daily, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (free entry)
Kampong Trach, Kampot Province [map]

Kampong Trach Mountain Resort

Open daily, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (free entry)
Kampong Trach, Kampot Province [map]

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