What to do in Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri's raging waterfalls, elephant sanctuaries, and numerous treks offer plenty of things for the adventurous traveller to do.
Trekking in Mondulkiri Province Cambodia
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Welcome to Mondulkiri, Cambodia’s wild east.  Mondulkiri is the Cambodia’s most sparsely populated province and home to dusty red roads, raging waterfalls, elephant sanctuaries, and just the right dose of adventure. It’s also refreshingly cooler than the rest of Cambodia, dipping down to 20°C some nights – perfect for hammock stargazing from under a blanket.

If you have a bit of extra time in the country and are craving off-the-beaten-path adventure, Mondulkiri needs to be on your Cambodia Itinerary.

While its relaxing atmosphere and incredible nature may fool you, Mondulkiri is no stranger to struggle. The province was heavily impacted by the bombing of US forces during the Vietnam War and an estimated half of the population was killed during forced relocation under the Khmer Rouge regime. In the 1980s people returned to Mondulkiri, including the province’s Bunong population, the largest indigenous highland ethnic group in Cambodia.

While peaceful today, Mondulkiri’s incredible forest cover faces significant threat from illegal logging. You can help make a positive impact by supporting tourism in the area and encouraging the preservation of its beautiful scenery.

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Waterfall in Mondulkiri

Things to do in Mondulkiri

Bousra Waterfall in Mondulkiri Cambodia

Zipline or picnic at Bousra Waterfall

Bousra is one of (if not the) most impressive of Cambodia’s waterfalls. It’s located under 50km outside of the province’s main town, Sen Monorom, which doesn’t stop the local crowds from gathering here. It’s a popular picnic spot for Cambodian families, and rightfully so. Have a lunch packed up in Sen Monorom town and take it along to Bousra to join them for your own picnic. Then leave your shoes behind and explore the pools beneath the upper waterfall. The spray from the waterfall is a great way to cool down on a hot day.

 

If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can also go on a zipline adventure from Bousra. The Mayura Zipline is a bit more expensive by Cambodia standards, but the reviews are great, especially for the course’s safety standards. 

 

To get here, rent a motorbike in Sen Monorom ($7 for the day). Mind the construction in parts of the road along the way. 

Dak Dam in Mondulkiri

Motorbike the road to Dak Dam

The road from Sen Monorom to Dak Dam is easily the most beautiful road I’ve been on in Cambodia. Apparently it used to be even more beautiful, but deforestation has increasingly taken place here over the past years. It’s still a stunning motorbike ride on a thankfully well paved road. Take a detour off the highway onto the side roads to smell the pine trees or up a small hill called “Build Love” (or something equally cute and kitsch) to watch the sun set.

Trek through the jungle to hidden waterfalls

Seeing Cambodia’s incredible jungle is best experienced by trekking. A number of companies offer an 18km day hike led by a local Bunong guide. The trail takes you past three incredible waterfalls, hidden in the jungle. You’ll likely spot some wildlife along the way. I saw monkeys, a giant viper, and even an elephant (from one of the sanctuaries). Your guide will cook up vegetables and some fish or meat at camp to eat. 

 

Forest in Mondulkiri

Visit the elephants ethically

There are a number of organizations in Mondulkiri that are working hard to protect elephants in the area and allow travellers to visit them in an ethical way. However, not all of these are created equal. Doing your own due diligence is important here. One traveller I met had been to one of the supposed sanctuaries and ended up sitting on an elephant there. Elephant Valley Project is arguably the most ethical choice in the area – allowing you to visit and watch the elephants, but not ride, touch, bathe or feed them, which can cause them undue stress. Ultimately, I had too much trouble deciding on the ethics of visiting any of the organizations, so I chose to only trek instead. This thorough article is a great starting place to do your homework on the organizations and make your own decision. 
Sea Forest lookout in Mondulkirir Cambodia

Visit the kitsch Sea Forest lookout

Like the road to Dak Dam, the Sea Forest isn’t as much of a forest as it used to be. That said, it still serves as a beautiful viewpoint over the surrounding area and offers some kitsch photo opportunities. With small pedestals that include a “stairway to heaven”, bird’s nest and butterfly wings, it’s a popular place for Cambodian crowds to snap photos. It’s certainly an experience to visit.

How to get to Mondulkiri

From Phnom Penh, it will take you 5.5 – 6 hours on a bumpy bus ride to get to Mondulkiri’s main town, Sen Monorom. Departure times are in the morning, afternoon or evening. You can book your ticket on the BookMeBus website.

Where to stay in Mondulkiri

Once you arrive, settle into one of the town’s guesthouses. Tree Lodge and Nature Lodge are the two most popular options to stay at, offering rustic but scenic accommodation in the countryside.

Where to eat in Mondulkiri

For coffee and breakfast/lunch head over to Hefalump or Bamboo Cafes in town. Both have relaxed gardens to eat in and fairly cheap eats. For dinner, Pizza Mondulkiri and Banong Kitchen are great options with lovely staff. 

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