Spend a day observing elephants in their natural habitat with an active hike at the Elephant Valley Project – an initiative that puts elephants’ welfare and treatment first, rather than the tourist dollar. Experience a heart-warming feast at social enterprise Friends International’s Futures Factory and share a home-cooked meal with a local family in the Ratanakiri Province. Your active adventure gets you away from the tourist trail and to the most beautiful and natural sights of Cambodia’s eastern regions. Hike past waterfalls, swim in pristine lakes, and journey through the thickets of forest. Angkor what? You’ll have your own fascinating temple experience with a visit to the UNESCO World-heritage listed Preah Vihear temple site, ready to be explored without as many tourists
Cambodia has been largely in the tourist eye in past years, but don’t let that stop you exploring some of its lesser-known historical and natural wonders. Spend eight days wandering lush forests, swimming in remote lakes and waterfalls and traversing through countryside that is sure to delight and surprise you. Observe elephants in their natural habitat, enjoy delicious Khmer food with a local cooking demonstration, and visit the temples that are lesser known than Angkor, but no less fascinating. Your expedition through the outlying eastern haunts of the country will move you away from the usual tourist trail and into a more insightful Cambodian journey.
Breakfast Included: 7 Lunches Included: 3 Dinner Included: 2
Welcome to Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, situated at the junction of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. You will have an important welcome meeting at 6 pm, where you will meet your group leader and fellow travellers. After your important meeting, head with your group to the Futures Factory – a dining and creative space, dedicated to training vulnerable Cambodian youth to work in the hospitality industry. You'll enjoy a welcome dinner with your group here, perhaps with a live soundtrack from a local band.
This morning, head away from Phnom Penh and travel into the Mondulkiri Province, northeast of the city. You’ll travel by private vehicle for approximately 7-8 hours, with a couple of stops along the way. En route, stop by Skuon, a town which has a unique delicacy on the menu – spiders. If you’re up for it, why not take a bite of the crunchy critter, which has been fried and tossed in garlic and tastes like a cross between chicken and cod! If that hasn’t filled you up, do not fear, you have the option of stopping by a local house on the outskirts of Kampong Cham for a meal of traditional (and less furry) food. Sit cross-legged on the floor for an authentic Cambodian experience. Afterwards, continue on to Sen Monorom for the evening, where you’ll take a leader-led orientation walk to get your bearings. The evening is free for you to do as you please – keep an eye out to catch a spectacular sunset.
This morning, travel from Sen Monorom to the Elephant Valley Project to spend time in the company of an elephant herd. This experience is the first of its kind in Cambodia, enjoying a day with these ancient beasts, observing them as they play and wander in their natural habitat. While you hike through the thickets, you’ll learn about the species, the local indigenous culture and the conservation efforts of the surrounding forest. You'll shadow an elephant herd through the jungle in the morning, and in the afternoon you will take part in a jungle hike. A traditional buffet lunch is included, serving up Khmer favourites.
Salute the sun with a private sunrise yoga class in the hills this morning, focusing on awakening your senses for a day of exploring. The experienced local yogi will tailor each class to the group’s level of expertise. Continue north to Ratanakiri Province (approximately 4-5 hours), and on the way, stop by Bou Sra Waterfalls. The dramatic three-stage falls are a lovely natural landscape, and a perfect spot for a swim and a picnic. Continue to Banlung in a private minibus, and on arrival, be treated to an authentic cooking demonstration, where you’ll learn the tricks of the trade from a local family. Enjoy time to interact and share a meal with the family by sitting down to an included home-cooked dinner.
Strap your walking shoes on, as it’s time to get active. Begin with a stroll through the morning markets, observing the daily practice of farmers selling their produce in town. Then, transfer through fields and rubber plantations and head to the Okatieng waterfalls. Hike directly into the heart of the forest past towering trees and lush jungle, possibly passing an elephant on your way! Along the way, stop for a picnic lunch, and cool off with a swim at Boeng Yeak Laom – a sparkling clear lake lined with forest.
Continue on your eastern Cambodian expedition by taking a private minibus to the Preah Vihear Province (approximately 7-8 hours). You’ll stop by Preah Rumkel in Stueng Treng Province to visit the Sopheakmit Waterfall. These cascades are situated on the Cambodia-Laos border and offer a series of moving rapids through large rock formations. The sights and sounds of the falls crashing over limestone boulders is a wonderful example of nature’s raw force. A picnic lunch overlooking the falls is included today.
This morning, take a short drive from your accommodation to the Preah Vihear temples – a UNESCO World-heritage site atop a cliff with views overlooking the region. There’s 2442 steps to the top of the site, but is seriously worth the hike, with architecture and history akin to the more renowned suspects like Angkor Wat, but without the crowds. After you’ve explored Preah Vihear, continue on your journey towards Siem Reap, with the option of stopping by Beng Mealea jungle temple, if your group wants to. Once arrived in Siem Reap, take an orientation walk to get your bearings and introduce you to this city.
With no activities planned for today, you are free to leave the accommodation at any time. That doesn’t mean your adventure has to end! As this expedition spends little time in Siem Reap, the gateway to the Angkor complex, we highly recommend spending an extra day or two here to see the sights. Better yet, Urban Adventures offer a range of tours in and around Siem Reap, including Tonle Sap Secrets – a day spent out on the water and past the floating villages of South East Asia’s largest lake. See urbanadventures.com/destination/siem-reap-tours for more information.