The Natural Northern Highland – Hill Tribes & Ecotourism

Yak Loam Lake in Ratanakiri

“Northern highland frontier with loads to explore & enjoy – deep in the jungle” – An area noted as ecotourism sites for its rugged beauty, remote hills and intriguing diversity of cultures. This region rewards those that travel here with extraordinary scenery of rolling hills, cascading waterfalls and life played out along the Mekong.

An excellent location to immerse in the culture by trekking between local communities. From indigenous hilltribe villages to faded colonial towns and horse drawn carts, a relaxed atmosphere prevails where interaction with local cultures and the chance to participate in community-based tourism projects are plentiful.

North of the Cambodian capital is the town of Kratie. This typical Khmer small town is located on the banks of the Mekong River and the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins are frequently spotted. Kratie makes a great stop on the way to Stung Treng, another rural town located on the Laos border. This beautiful riverside town does not have much in terms of sightseeing, but the town provides a relaxing atmosphere and chance to experience the local culture.

To the northeast, two provinces are worth exploring. Although the roads are not in the best conditions, the scenery is fantastic and the trip is rewarding. Ratanakiri province is located near the Vietnam and Laos borders and is home to a variety of Cambodia’s ethnic minorities. An endless amount of trekking opportunities, dozens of waterfalls, and great wildlife spotting can be done in Ratanakari. Also, the area is home to the beautiful Yeak Loam Lake, a volcanic crater whose clear waters are perfect for swimming. Mondulkiri province is further east and also showcases Cambodia’s natural beauty. Although the largest province in the country, it is one of the least populated and hill tribe trekking is the most popular activity for visitors.

Key Destinations in the northern highland area of Cambodia:

Kratie – Located on the east bank of the Mekong River, attracts a fair share of visitors, many of whom wish to catch a glimpse of the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins in Kampi Village, it is estimated there are only about 60 living in this stretch of the river. The town of Kratie offers an authentic rural ambience, and therefore serves as the perfect place to spend a peaceful night or two. It is a nice relief from some of the country’s more trafficked areas.

Steung Treng – Often described as an outpost destination, sleepy Stung Treng is usually a stop off en-route to Kratie or the Laos border. Stretching along the Mekong River, the main activities here include a visit to the Mekong Blue weaving center – the hospitality school of Tourism for Help and scenic boat trips through to the flooded forest and to Sophamit Waterfall. Use the ecotourism villages of Svay and Preah Rumkel as your base for trekking, cycling, kayaking and dolphin-watching.

Ratanakiri – Lies in the northeast of the country (8-9 hour drive from Phnom Penh), bordered by Vietnam to the east and Laos to the north. Whilst a journey here by car is nine hours from Phnom Penh, helicopters can be chartered to reduce the journey time. Its distance from the regular sites of Cambodia means it is rarely included on itineraries, which adds to its charm. Perfect for those looking for nature and wildlife, the diverse geographical area encompasses rolling hills, cascading waterfalls, indigenous hill tribes, crater lakes and dense rainforest teeming with exotic flora and fauna. It offers great opportunities for the adventurous to enjoy eco-tourism. Activities include excursions/treks to remote Khmer Loeu villages and jungle areas, waterfalls, gem mines, and visit the tranquil volcanic lake of Yeak Laom near the town of Banlung, here you can swim in the clean, turquoise waters.

Mondulkiri – It is the largest province of Cambodia but is sparsely populated with about 40,000 people. Located on the eastern highlands, Mondulkiri has scenery and a climate quite unlike anywhere else in the country. There are rolling grassy hills, serene rivers, powerful waterfalls, and forested mountains. At an average elevation of 800m, it can get quite chilly at night. Mondulkiri has numerous tourist attractions such as waterfalls, indigenous hill tribes, national parks and the only place for elephant trekking in Cambodia. Sen Monorom, the provincial capital, is a quiet town with a frontier feel, although it has potential to develop into an eco-tourism center. Note: It is 370 km (6 hours) by road from Phnom Penh to Sen Monorom. Most of the road is in good.

Elephants at Elephant Valley Project

Natural & Indigenous Immerse at Mondulkiri

HIGHLIGHTS Travel to the heartland of the Mondulkiri province, home
Mondulkiri
4 Days

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