Ratanakiri is a province located in the northeast region of Cambodia. It is a diverse region abundant in nature and is home to remote tribal communities including Jarai, Tompuon, Brau and Kreung. It is known for its unique terrain, which was affected by the active volcano at Yeak Laom lake, which has resulted in fertile soil.
Travellers visit this off the beat province to explore the wildlife sanctuaries, waterfalls and wildlife thriving in the deep lush jungles. It is a province worth exploring for tourists looking for some adventure and nature.
Ratanakiri was declared as a province of the Kingdom of Cambodia in 1960 under King Norodom Sihanouk's rule. Banlung is the capital city of this province. The original inhabitants of this region are highland Khmer Loeu people, who have been living here since the 4th century.
The people of this community were traded off for slave labour during the 19th century. The situation turned worse during the Khmer Rouge period, who established their presence in Ratanakiri province, thus signalling mass destruction of natural resources as well as population.
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Yeak Laom Volcanic Lake - It is a 700,000-year-old volcanic crater occupying a 4,000-year-old volcanic crater. This beautiful lake surrounded by lush green forests with clear turquoise water running 48-meters deep is the top attraction for tourists visiting Banlung. The surrounding forests are home to many wild birds which flock over the lake. It is considered as a sacred lake by the local hill tribes that offer prayers and conduct ceremonies from time to time here. There are options to hike around the lake on a marked trail. Travellers can also camp, swim and picnic close to the lake.
Waterfalls - Balung is famous for all of the waterfalls. The most visited of them all is Ka Tieng Waterfall, located about 7km from the city centre, surrounded by thick jungles. Ka Tieng got its name from the Kreung hill tribe living close by. This waterfall is suitable for swimming and enjoying small hikes. Cha Ong is another waterfall known for its big rock behind the waters. Kan Changis, Ou'Sean Lair and Ou'Sensranoh are the other waterfalls worth visiting.
Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary - Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary is a famous park known for rare wildlife including tigers, elephants and rare birds. Located about 37 km from Banlung, this ecotourism centre also showcases life in remote tribal villages.
Veal Rum Plan (stone field) - Veal Rum Plan or famously known as the Stone Field is one of the main attractions in Ratanakiri located about 14 km from Banlung. It is an open space consisting of lots of stones of various sizes and shapes surrounded by dense forests. The origin of these stones are not known precisely, but they are regarded to be remains of molten lava formed over many centuries.
Norng Kabat Forest - Located about 23 km from Banlung, it is a popular place for tourists to watch birds and animals. Also, there are ethnic villages open to travelers, where they can get to know about tribal culture and life.
Virachey National Park - A protected park offering jungle treks, it is known for the vibrant ecosystem and wildlife.
Wat Rahtanharahm - A giant reclining Buddha with a spectacular view of the surrounding Cambodian countryside. It is located in the Eisey Patamak Mountain in Ratanakiri, which is known for its natural beauty.
Day 1: Plan a trip to the volcanic lake. Then visit the stone field or Veal Rum Plan, followed by a visit to Wat Rahtanharahm for sunset views.
Day 2: Head to explore all the waterfalls this day, also include a visit to Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary. Alternatively, you could visit Norng Kabat Forest.
Day 3: Go on a day trip to Virachey National Park for hiking and wildlife tours. Stay there overnight or head back to Banlung.