There are so many things to do in Kampot, Cambodia. That’s probably why we decided to extend our stay twice! With its spacious streets, colourful French buildings and quiet riverfront setting, Kampot is by far our favourite spot in the whole of Cambodia.
Many people ask ‘is Kampot worth visiting?’, and the answer is a heartfelt YES. This small town is relatively unknown compared to larger cities like Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, and it really is a breath of fresh air.
Keep reading for our exclusively curated selection of the 14 best things to do in Kampot.
Take A Ride To Bokor National Park
Hire a bike and ride up the winding road to Bokor Hill Station. It took us about one hour to work our way up the hill, and the views along the way were breathtaking.
There is quite a bit of construction in the area, since the Cambodian government sold the entire mountain to a Chinese investment company. Yes that’s right, they sold an entire mountain’s worth of pristine virgin forest to a foreign investor intent on developing it…
Excuse us while we bang our heads against a brick wall.
Anyway… the bizarre thing is, virtually all of the developments we saw were empty and abandoned. The swirling mist, creepy ruins and empty buildings certainly make for an unusual experience.
There are various points of interest dotted all over the hill, including:
- Popkovil Waterfall
- Lok Yeay Mao ‒ A huge and imposing Buddhist monument overlooking the national park
- Damnak Sla Khmao ‒ The ruins of The Black Palace, formally a royal residence
- Wat Sampov Pram Pagoda
- Le Bokor Palace ‒ Former stronghold of the Khmer Rouge and then left to ruin, this is now a restored hotel and casino with gorgeous views
- Bokor Church
Visit A Kampot Pepper Factory
The quality of Kampot pepper is renowned throughout the world, so why not give it a try yourself and find out about the Kampot Pepper industry’s interesting history.
You can choose to visit La Plantation, an eco-friendly social project, and take a tour of the plantation, try some punchy Kampot pepper and perhaps have a nice lunch enjoying the stunning scenery. La Plantation is a 45-minute drive from town, and you can organise tours and trips online or head to the La Plantation Information Centre in Kampot.
For a Kampot Pepper experience without having to leave town, try visiting FarmLink. They offer free tours including a pepper tasting session.
See The Beautiful French Colonial Architecture
One of the best free things to do in Kampot is admire its stunning French colonial architecture.
Kampot was once an important administrative centre under its French colonial rulers, so unsurprisingly, there is a gorgeous collection of original and restored french buildings dotted around town.
Wander past the Red Cross and the National Bank of Cambodia buildings to see examples of beautiful restorations. Further into town, you’ll notice lots of crumbling facades ‒ it’s actually these that we loved the most!
Swim At The Old Cinema
Undoubtedly one of the most intriguing restoration projects you’ll find in town is Hotel Old Cinema. It opened as a working cinema after the Khmer Rouge period, but fell into disrepair until it was lovingly rescued by its French owners.
Now, you can visit the hotel restaurant throughout the day and the cute boutique shop that’s open in the foyer.
Non-guests can also pay $6 to visit the quaint swimming pool ‒ one of the more relaxing things to do in Kampot. We didn’t get the chance, but we would thoroughly recommend it. You’ll be able to escape from the oppressive heat and enjoy the stunning art deco building.
Enjoy Kampot’s Relaxed Cafe Culture
If you’re still wondering ‘is Kampot worth visiting?’, and you’re a self-confessed coffee junkie like us, then this might persuade you.
Adding to Kampot’s chilled-out vibe is the fact that it’s full to the brim with amazing cafes ‒ and with Khmer coffee being that good, it’s likely that you’ll spend a significant amount of time cafe hopping.
There is a great mix of Khmer social projects, nonprofits and gorgeous french boulangeries. Here are some of our favourites:
- Epic Arts
- Cafe Espresso Roastery
Feast On Cheap Street Food At Kampot Night Market
You’ll find the night market right in the centre of town. We stumbled across it on our first night and feasted on oodles of noodles after a long and tiring journey from Koh Rong.
As far as street food goes, this is pretty good. Expect plastic seating, crowds of locals, a diverse mix of food stalls and plenty of atmosphere.
Visit Phnom Chhnork Cave Temple
Take a 30-minute drive outside of the city centre to find Phnom Chhnork cave temple nestled in the heart of rural Cambodia.
From the car park, wander through the rice paddies to a steep staircase that takes you up to the mouth of the cave. You’ll see spectacular views from the top. Step inside the cave to see the incredible stalactites and the 7th-century temple dedicated to Shiva.
Be warned, there are lots of young local children who offer tours of the cave for a small donation. While they might offer fantastic historical and cultural insight and guide you through secret hidden passageways, ultimately, these children should be in school.
Take A Sunset Boat Ride
Part of what makes Kampot so alluring is its riverfront setting, so what better place to take a sunset river cruise?
You’ll notice lots of boats lit up with fairy lights moored by the water’s edge, selling tickets to sunset seekers. Many have a bar and play music, so it’s a real experience. Bear in mind that several boats stay moored as floating restaurants, so there’s that option as well.
Watch The Sunset And Have A Drink At The Old Fish Market
Situated in an idyllic spot right on the river, the Old Fish Market is a beautifully renovated upmarket restaurant, bursting with history.
The restaurant features a large open-plan bar and riverfront terrace, making it the perfect spot to enjoy a sundowner after a long day of exploring. Watching the sun dip below the horizon, cocktail in hand, is a simply magical experience.
Find Some Peace And Quiet At The Lotus Pond
The Kampot Lotus Pond is a tranquil spot away from the crowds. Set just back from the busy riverfront, the pond is a nice place to relax and enjoy a peaceful moment. The large, lily-pad laden pond is best enjoyed in the early morning while the temperatures are still fairly cool, or in the afternoon where there is slightly more shade to be found.
You may even be lucky enough to see locals wading waist-deep to harvest the lily-pads to sell at the market!
Light Up The Night With A Bioluminescent Boat Trip
Another of the river-based things to do in Kampot is taking an evening cruise where you can spot the glistening bioluminescent plankton and fireflies that adorn the mangroves lining the river.
The boat ride will take you kilometres down-river where you can see pockets of glittering lights both above and below the water. It’s an utterly magical experience that will make your time in Kampot just that much brighter.
Our boat trip was organised through our accommodation – Fish Island Bungalows – a gorgeous, family-run guesthouse that we thoroughly recommend. The trip was an absolute bargain at just $5 each.
Dine Out At L’Osteria ‒ Kampot’s Best Italian Restaurant
We know – you’re in Cambodia, so why on Earth are we recommending Italian restaurants? Well, the answer, simply put, is because it’s just that darn good!
We’re not ashamed to say that every now and again we needed a break from the noodles and rice of Asian cuisine, so when we found a restaurant that offered authentic Italian recipes at a decent price, we thought we would give it a go. And Mama Mia are we glad we did.
WMJG Tip: Make sure you try the puttanesca!
Take A Day Trip To Kep
Just 45 minutes by tuk tuk down the south-Cambodian coast lies the sleepy town of Kep. It’s ideal for a day trip from Kampot and it’s easy to find organised tours.
Kep is famous for its bustling crab market, packed with hawkers selling the local speciality, but it’s not just food that will keep you busy here. Kep National Park provides a spectacularly scenic backdrop to this quiet seaside town and is a great place to do some hiking to build up an appetite!
One of Kep’s highlights is the Sailing Club. This is an atmospheric and relatively upmarket restaurant and bar with a great menu. Head here to watch a sunset that’s just as exquisite as the negroni you’re sipping.
If you’ve run out of things to do in Kampot and you fancy a change of scenery, staying in Kep for a few nights is a great idea. We can’t recommend a stay at Casa Kep enough! Relax in its tranquil garden setting right on the edge of the national park and enjoy a freshly-made artisan breakfast in the morning.
Explore The Artwork At Kampot Art Gallery
If you’re into art or simply fancy an activity that’s a bit different, then Kampot Art Gallery is an absolute must-do while you’re in town. Set over three floors, the gallery features works by local Khmer artists.
This gallery can surprise and amaze even the most uncultured traveller. Spend some time wandering the exhibits and learn about Cambodia’s complex social and political landscape through the lens of uber-talented local artists.