Kampot is the name of a province in Southeast Cambodia. It is not far from the Vietnamese border. Kep is small village on the coast within Kampot province. You may have heard of the famous Kampot pepper (which trust me we will tell you about!) but beyond that most people would wonder why you should go to Kampot and Kep. Should it be part of your Cambodia itinerary? Read on to discover the best reasons why you should go to Kampot and Kep.
Visiting Kampot Province
The province of Kampot is bordered by the Gulf of Thailand and Vietnam. If the Gulf of Thailand makes you think of crystal clear water and white sand beaches- you’ve got the picture.
Add to it the fact Cambodia is a very inexpensive travel destination and the fact most visitors to Cambodia never make it beyond Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat or Phnom Penh, the frenetic capital of Cambodia. Kampot and Kep are two great places to spend some time relaxing without the usual hustle and bustle of Southeast Asia which is one of the best reasons why you should go to Kampot and Kep.
The economy of Kampot Province is largely based around salt and pepper production and a bit of fishing. That translates into some fantastic food on offer as well.
What to Do in Kampot
Kampot is inland, about 25 km from Kep the small village on the sea. Since you pass through Kampot to travel to Kep, we will start with what to do in Kampot.
Kampot is a town. It is located along the Teuk Chhou River. There is a bit of French influence around which is evident in both the architecture and the cuisine.
The two most popular activities are a trip to the nearby Bokor National Park in the misty Elephant Mountains and a sunset river cruise along the Teuk Chhou River.
Bokor National Park
The highlight of a trip to Bokor National Park is checking out Bokor Hill Station, which could be described as a ghost town from the 1920’s. It was a settled by the French and was only used briefly and then abandoned. More recently, developers built an enormous casino smack in the middle of Bokor National Park. This has meant an upgrade to the road, but also a downgrade to the serenity and wildlife. It is an interesting place to have a walk around. The day tour is cheap, it is an interesting perspective on history, and the views from the top of the mountain are fantastic.
A Sunset River Cruise in Kampot
There are a variety of sunset river cruises around, and it ranges from large boats to those offering a smaller, more intimate affair.
The sunsets are spectacular. The purples, pinks and oranges don’t disappoint. There are an amazing number of fishing boats heading out at sunset to spend the night fishing. So it is a good chance to experience the working aspect of the river as well.
Where to Stay in Kampot
There are a number of surprisingly good and cheap hotels along the riverfront. There are also a number of cocktail bars and restaurants. It all has a VERY relaxed vibe and it is easy to forget about the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh.
We stayed at the Riki Tavi Guesthouse and were pleased with both the rooms and the food in the restaurant.
And if you’ve made it Kampot, we suggest you keep going and visit Kep as well, especially if you are looking for some serenity.
What to Do in Kep
Be aware that Kep is sleepy! It makes Kampot look like a bustling city! Kep is right on the coast and it is a place to seriously chill down.
There is not much going on in this small village and that is the beauty of it. Again, a great place to enjoy some inexpensive and much deserved downtime if you have been traveling through Southeast Asia for any length of time.
I can only think of a couple of things to do in Kep; lay at the beach or pool, swim, and eat seafood. And the highlight for an excursion is a trip to the Kampot pepper plantations or the salt fields. If you are heading to the Vietnamese border over land (you are close from Kep) you will pass the salt fields on the way.
One of the culinary highlights of Cambodia is fresh seafood with fresh green Kampot peppercorns. Both Kampot and Kep are great places to try it if you haven’t tasted it elsewhere in your travels in Cambodia.
How to Travel to Kampot
There is bus service from Phnom Penh, a shuttle from Sihanoukville, or a private taxi. Cambodia has an amazingly cheap, modern, tourist bus service, Giant Ibis. We, however, took the private taxi option because it too was amazingly cheap. We came from Sihanoukville and the cost difference between two of us in a shared taxi or shuttle versus a private taxi was quite small.
The same driver that drove us from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville returned and took us to Kep. Sihanoukville to Kep is about 1 hour 45 minutes. Sihanoukville is in the south east of Cambodia along the coast.
How to Travel from Kampot to Kep
The good news is, in 2015 this once dirt road was paved! So it is much more comfortable now. There is a shared shuttle, tuk tuks, or travel via a private taxi.
We used the same tuk tuk driver for our entire stay in Kep. We met him as our driver and guide to visit the Kampot pepper plantations. As he spoke English, he also drove us around Kep and took us up to Kampot and returned to pick us up. He was a very dependable, honest and friendly young man.
Since our visit, a boat shuttle has also been introduced between Kampot and Kep. You can find details of it and how to book on the link above for the Riki Tavi Guesthouse.
Rome2Rio which I have mentioned before is a good site to find travel information about how to travel from point A to point B, i.e. in this case Kampot to Kep.
When to Visit Kampot and Kep
The weather in Cambodia has a dry and a wet season. The temperature is pretty consistent all year round, and Cambodia is hot and humid. The driest time of year to visit Kampot and Kep is January to March. December to April is the peak time for tourists with January being the peak in visitor numbers.
Kep and Kampot are developing tourism infrastructure rapidly and new hotels and guesthouses are opening all the time. It is a very affordable and relaxing destination, with access to the beach and great food. Have we convinced you? Because those are the best reasons why you should go to Kampot and Kep.