One of my favourite days in Cambodia was spent kayaking through the Green Cathedral in Kampot. A unique experience that really allowed us to surround ourselves with nature and appreciate the Cambodian jungle.
I know what you must be thinking, “You can kayak through a Cathedral?” and the answer is yes, but not the type of Cathedral you’re thinking of. It’s not a large stone building that is used as a house of worship, but instead a small river loop trail on the edge of a national park.
If you are not familiar with Kampot, it is a quiet countryside town on the south-west coast of Cambodia. Known for its pepper farms and salt fields, this is a small farming community.
The city is split into three sections connected by bridges due to the Preaek Tuek Chhu river that runs through the centre. The west side of the city overlaps the Preah Monivong Bokor National Park which is home to stunning waterfalls, thick jungles and wild gibbons.
Kampot is a less visited destination in Cambodia but maybe that is what gives it its charm. It is a place not overrun with tourists so it’s much easier to let go and relax here compared to a bustling city.
I was lucky enough to spend my birthday here and it’s quite possibly one of my most memorable birthdays to date.
The Green Cathedral river loop is located to the north of the city in a quiet, tropical region. Only 15 minutes by tuk-tuk from the downtown core (and Kampot Bridge) so you can get there and back easily. Now you have no excuse not to visit!
You can access the Green Cathedral river route from many of the riverside properties that line its banks.
The loop itself is simply a narrow waterway that branches off from the main Preaek Tuek Chhu river. Many locals use this area for fishing so don’t be alarmed if you see fishermen on the river with you.
Why is it called the Green Cathedral?
The river route has two names, Green Cathedral and Green loop.
The Green loop is the most literal name of the loop trail. The name “Green Cathedral” however, came about because of the way the plants and trees create a plant tunnel above a riverway. This is a phenomenon that happened over time as the foliage and greenery bloomed and grew upwards to produce this natural archway.
With jungle on both sides of this narrow river, it’s hard to forget that you’re actually only a short drive away from the centre of Kampot. It is so easy to get immersed into the secluded natural landscape.
This is slowly becoming less of a hidden gem as more tourists find out about kayaking here and is quickly becoming a Kampot favourite (are you ready to rent a kayak?).
Benefit of Kayaking
If you haven’t been in a kayak before, you should definitely give it a try in Kampot. It’s something that most people are able to do and doesn’t require much physical effort. It’s a great way to explore by water and go at your own pace. We are big fans of getting around by kayak and have done so in many parts of the world.
If you are travelling solo, a single kayak requires a little more effort than if you were to paddle with another person in a double kayak.
If there are no single kayaks available, you can still paddle in a double, but I’d highly recommend sitting at the back as it is much easier to steer compared to sitting at the front.
Tip: If you are not much of a swimmer, most Kampot guest houses have at least one life jacket available for visitors to use when renting a kayak.
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How you can experience the Green Cathedral
Since the route is just a small loop off of the main Preaek Tuek Chhu river, it is free to visit. However, unless you have a kayak of your own, you’ll probably need to rent one from one of the small accommodations that sprinkle the river bank in this area north of Kampot.
Because most of the tourist accommodations back onto the river, you can rent a kayak from pretty much any of the properties. However, we chose to rent ours from the Champa Lodge. What’s great about the Lodge is they’re right on the waterfront and they have 2 dogs that love making friends with visitors. The dogs alone were the reason we chose to rent from here rather than somewhere else.
Where to rent Kayak in Kampot
You can book your stay here.
|Rental Type||1 hour||Half Day||Full Day|
You can book your stay here.
|Rental Type||1 hour||Full Day||Entire Stay|
How to prepare
Although most of the river loop is covered over by plants, there are still plenty of areas uncovered which means you should prepare before you set out on the water. Kayaking, although fun, exposes you to the sun and Kampot has a hot, humid climate.
- Sunscreen – Using a high SPF in Cambodia will protect you from the harsh rays of their hot climate.
- Dry bag – A waterproof bag that keeps your belongings safe if you cannot leave them at your hotel.
- Sunglasses – We didn’t bring sunglasses and ended up squinting the entire time. I recommend bringing some.
- Water – You could be out on the water in high temperatures. Keep yourself hydrated.
Other experiences in the area
Due to the natural landscape in this area, there are other fun activities to do in this part of Kampot if you don’t wish to go kayaking.
Not only do you have the chance to go by kayak, but you can also enjoy the waterways on paddle boards, electric boats and river cruises too.
In this area there is an abundance of fireflies that you can usually see at night time. There are a few local river cruises that take you to the best firefly spots in the area.
This is also a fantastic area to go bird watching and the neighbouring Bokor National Park is home to 10 tropical bird species including the Wreathed & Great Hornbills, Blue-bearded bee-eater and the Black-crested Bulbul.
Accommodation in Kampot
If you would prefer just to visit the Green Cathedral for a day of kayaking but would prefer to stay closer to the centre of Kampot, I can recommend staying at the following:
- Kampot River Bungalow – an easy walking distance from the city centre. They have sustainable rooms built on the river bank and have the option for tree-house style or floating bungalow rooms. This is also budget friendly and suits backpackers who may want a quieter location instead of a party hostel
- Monkey Republic – A lively and sociable hostel in the heart of Kampot, Monkey Republic is a favourite amongst backpackers and young tourists. With a bar on site and a large common area it’s very easy to meet fellow travellers here.
- Onederz Kampot – If you want the best of both worlds of a sociable, yet quieter hostel, this is the place for you. Walking distance to most amenities in Kampot this is a hostel where you can soak up the rays in a pool!