Bokor Hill Station was built by the French in the 1920s to be used as a retreat from the heat of the plains, a pre-air conditioning strategy long-established throughout Asia.
The station deteriorated over time, becoming a ghost town popular for its quiet historic buildings and jungle. Beginning in the 2010s, it is being reconstructed into a luxury resort town.
Hilly with interesting boulders here and there.
Flora and fauna
Wild elephants and tigers, but don't expect to see them on your visit.
Nice cool mountain air during the day but it can get cold at night so bring warm clothes when staying overnight.
The turn off to the park is located 8 km from Kampot and 95 km from Sihanoukville on Hwy 3. The main entrance and park headquarters are about 1 km from the main road. From there it is another 32 km uphill to reach the summit.
The road up the hill is now completely smooth (except for bumping on and off a bridge), having been rebuilt for new hotels being constructed on the top of the hill.
On a tour
Tours for US$13-15 per person (January 2020; make sure to haggle) can be booked in Kampot, including a simple lunch. Might be a bit more expensive from Sihanoukville. "Trekking" tours are also available including a 1-hour, one-way trek upwards.
From Kampot, the entire tour might take about six hours, the majority of which is spent in the car.
The agent selling the tour may claim it includes a sunset boat tour, but don't count on it. This seems to be a scam, where the tour guide says that the boat tour isn't included and makes an excuse about how the mistake is the responsibility of the agent for not informing you. If this happens and you're interested in the boat tour, ask for a receipt and you can go back to the agent and see what they can do.
It is possible to do the trip on a 125cc scooter but this will be rather back-breaking. Large dirt bikes are also available for rent in Kampot which would be the better option, providing you have experience riding them.
Alternatively rent a car or scooter with a driver. The locals know the road very well and will manage the trip to the top in not more than 1½ hr.
Fees and permits
The park has no entrance fee, so the tours claiming that the entrance fee is "included" in the tour price aren't lying, exactly, they're just not quite telling the truth either.
Most visitors just use whatever vehicle they used to get into the park. Hiking trails also exist.
The typical tour involves several historic and scenic stops:
- 1 Black Palace. King Sihanouk's holiday residence, built in 1936, now a complex of abandoned buildings including a concubine house and a small swimming pool.
- 2 Lok Yeay Mao Statue. A 29-meter-tall statue of a Cambodian Buddhist heroine.
- 3 A complex of colonial-era temples.
- 4 Old Catholic Church. A small church built in the early 1920s, now ruins. The cliff above it is a good place for a meal or to watch the sunset.
- 5 Bokor Hill Station. This area became famous as a ghost town, but it's not much of a ghost town anymore, with crowds of tourists and development beginning in the late 2010s. The old casino has been renovated into a fancy hotel called Le Bokor Palace. They don't seem to have many guests (maybe because the rooms are so expensive), but the hilltop still has nice views. The hotel also has free, clean restrooms open to the public.
- Waterfall. Only in the rainy season.
On a clear day Bokor Hill has fantastic views of the surrounding area. On a cloudy day you likely won't be able to see much besides mist.
There are several walking tracks ranging in duration from 2-8 hr. None of the tracks are maintained, so it is best to hire a ranger for your own safety.
There is the visit to the Popokvil Waterfalls. You can get there by car, followed by a short walk. While generally they tend not to have much water, this is remedied after monsoon rains.
You can buy fresh coconuts, soft drinks, mineral water and beers along the road.
Near the big statue there are various snacks for sale, including coconut, steamed buns, sugar cane juice, fruit, vegetables, and packaged junk food. Simple meals are also available.
Up above the old church is a nice area for eating a picnic lunch.
Behind the Bokor Palace Hotel there is a stall that offers basic snacks and cold drinks during the day.
Inside the ranger station, you are allowed to cook simple meals as long as you pay for the US$5 lodging. Bring your own food as the ranger store is a limited and expensive option.
Most people visit as a day trip, but sleeping in the park is possible.
The Ranger Station offers some simple dorm rooms for US$5 per person. There is one double available.
- Le Bokor Palace. Luxury hotel in the park's historic casino.
Camping is possible.
The top of the hill has twice been cleared of landmines, but it is still advisable to stay on pathways.
Tigers are rare, but nevertheless avoid hiking into the bush at dusk and at night when they are most active.
Poachers hunt deep in the park. Hire a ranger when hiking in these areas.
The park is huge with many trails which are not marked or maintained. Hire a ranger if you have any doubt about your route.
- Kampot - There is only one way out: the same road you used going up.