Kratie (in Khmer ក្រចេះ = Kracheh) is one of the more sparsely populated provinces in Cambodia. Compared to the provinces of Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri, the region is rather flat. The lifeline in Kratie is the Mekong with its numerous tributaries and islands. It is therefore no coincidence that most tourists travel along the river through Kratie.

Kratie - Province in Cambodia
Map of Cambodia, Province Kratie

While Kratie used to be more of a transit point between Laos and Cambodia, the province with its 6 districts is increasingly attracting international tourists. The main attraction in Kratie are the Irrawaddy dolphins. The Mekong Discovery Trail allows you to explore the entire province between the south and north. If you want to go further north, you can also use the trail in the neighboring province of Stung Treng. In many places there are ecotourism projects.

Kratie: Provincial capital of Kratie

Kratie City has around 60,000 inhabitants. A tranquil place where life seems to just flow along. Here, travelers look forward above all to the guesthouses and restaurants on the banks of the Mekong. Watching the sunset is also THE nightlife program in Kratie. Doris talks about the “sunset de luxe”, which you simply have to experience. Anyone who travels to this place simply wants to slow down and relax from the stress of everyday life. Pretty to look at: Like almost everywhere in Cambodia, the buildings in Kratie bear witness to the colonial times of the French. If you want to store, you can visit what is probably the smallest department store in the world on the island of Koh Trong :-)

Photos: Doris Köhl | Sunset: Josef Bendick

Wat Sarsar Mouroy – the 100 pillar pagoda

The beautiful Wat Sarsar Mouroy pagoda, also known as the “100 Pillar Pagoda”, is located around 35 km north of the capital Kratie in the district of Sambor. The special thing about this pagoda is that it was built in the 16th century, stands on the site of the former royal palace of Sambhupura and, with 116 pillars, probably has the most in the kingdom.

Legend has it that one day the daughter Preah Neang Varakak of King Preah Ang Chan Reachea II fell ill. However, she was eaten by Nen Thum, who had turned into a crocodile. The misfortune happened because he thought the princess was to blame for the death of his master. Nen Thum was unable to turn back into a human and was attacked by another crocodile. To protect his master, who was sitting on his back, he swallowed him. However, the fight lasted several days and in the meantime his master died in Nen Thum’s crocodile belly. The legend of the crocodile and the princess is depicted on the murals of Wat Sarsar Mouroy.

Außenansicht Wat Sarsar Mouroy in Sambor, Provinz Kratie
Wat Vihear Sarsar Mouyroy | Photo Aloxey |

Wat Roka Kandal

The small wooden pagoda is located approx. 2 km south of Kratie. Although it was only built in the 18th and 19th centuries, it is one of the oldest in the country as it has retained its original structure. Renovated in 2002 in cooperation with the Koblenz Chamber of Crafts, the rather inconspicuous building from the outside still impresses on the inside with its beautiful paintings.

Speaking of “inside”: there is a small exhibition and you can buy traditional souvenirs made of clay, wickerwork and silk from various provinces.

Phnom Sambok

The pagoda of Phnom Sambok (also known as Phnom Sombok) is enthroned at the top of a 70-metre-high hill, around 10 km north of the capital Kratie. Translated, Sambok means “gold” – mountain of gold. According to tradition, a lot of gold was found in this place many years ago. In the 15th century, there are said to have been 2 famous monks who regularly went up the mountain to meditate. People soon followed them to learn from them. As a result, Phnom Sambok became sacred and is still considered a pilgrimage site today.

360 steps lined with life-size Buddha figures lead up to the pagoda, which – like the two monks – dates back to the 15th century. Monks live at the foot of the mountain. Further up there is a large reclining Buddha figure and at the top the pagoda with a great view of the Mekong.

Phnom Sambok | Photos: Rüdiger Brill

Reading tip: Rüdiger has written a fine article here at Visit Angkor about Buddhist monasteries in Cambodia and introduces many of them.

Irrawaddy Delphine in Mekong

The Irrawaddy dolphins are considered the most important tourist attraction in Kratie. The river dolphins owe their name to the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar, where their conspecifics also live. Around 20 animals live in the Kampi Pool (also known as Kampi Resort) in the village of Kampi, 15 km north of Kratie. A boat trip costs around USD 5. The best times are just before sunrise and sunset.

A total of less than 100 animals are said to live in several family groups in the Mekong in Cambodia. Before Pol Pot’s reign of terror, there were still over 1,000 animals. Thanks to the cooperation with the WWF, the number of dolphins has not declined in recent years. In 2019, the population is even said to have increased. There are now protected zones for the dolphins. Fishing is prohibited there.

Irrawaddy Delphin im Mekong bei Kratie, Foto: Manuela
Irrawaddy dolphin | Photo: Manuela

Irrawaddy dolphins can live up to 30 years. Their appearance is characteristic. Instead of a pointed snout like the well-known “flipper”, they have a snub nose and humped forehead. They tend not to jump high and are usually comparatively leisurely. They usually live in groups of 6 to 10 animals. Photographing them is a bit of a challenge, as they don’t stay at the surface for long. It is worth taking a series of pictures or recording a video.

Mekong Discovery Trail

The Mekong Discovery Trail is a project that was launched in 2006 in collaboration with the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and a Dutch development organization. The trail leads from Kratie northwards into the province of Stung Treng all the way to Laos. The aim of the Mekong Discovery Trail is for tourists to experience the beauty along the Mekong River and the Khmer way of life through various activities. At the same time, sustainable tourism should provide the locals with an additional source of income and sensitize them to take care of nature. Although the funding ran out in 2012, there are still local guides for the tours. The highlights:

  • Irrawaddy dolphins on the Mekong: Along the trail, there are various opportunities to observe the endangered Mekong dolphins.
  • Horse-drawn carriages in the town of Kratie: The provincial capital is known for its horse-drawn carriages. The trail project has contributed to the existence of a local association of horse-drawn carriage operators. They offer tours through the town to the Kampi Dolphin Pool in the north.
  • Riding mountain bikes: Mountain bike fans will get their money’s worth along the Mekong Discovery Trail. However, the route is aimed at experienced bikers who are prepared for possible experiences off the beaten track. A special highlight is the overnight stays in guest houses and host families in rural villages. Eddy and Uwe from Six Traveler have ridden along the trail. In their blog, they write in detail and with lots of pictures about their experiences on this tour.
  • Trekking: Hiking trails invite you to wander through the forests and enjoy the view of the Mekong with its labyrinth of islands.
  • Kayaking: There are several kayaking options along the trail. More on this below in the section “Tour offers in Kratie”.
karte mekong discovery trail
Trail – Karte mit Highlight | Source: Cambodia Mekong Trail

Tours on the Mekong Discovery Trail

You can either conquer the trail on your own or choose from these options:

  1. Architectur & Alms Trail: runs along the entire route and takes about 7 days by bike.
  2. Dolphin & Krolan Discovery Trail: The shortest tour in terms of distance. Watch dolphins at the Kampi Pool and try delicious krolan (rice wrapped in banana leaves with beans).
  3. Koh Trong Island Idyl Trail: Circular trail along the tranquil island of Koh Trong in Kratie with overnight accommodation.
  4. River Life Explorer Trail: Between Wat Damnak in the north and Prek Prolung in the south. This trail is mainly about flora and fauna.
  5. Wat Sarsar Mouy Roy and Koh Phdao Homestay Trail: This trail includes a visit to Wat Sarsar Mouy Roy and an overnight stay on the island of Koh Phdao.

Further information and booking options can be found on the Cambodia Mekong Trail website.

Mekong Turtle Conservation Center

After climbing Wat Sarsar Mouroy, it is worth paying a visit to the nearby Mekong Turtle Consercation Center MTCC. Admission costs between 2 and 4 USD. In this rather inconspicuous building, visitors can find out about the protection of turtles in Cambodia. In particular, the Cantor giant softshell turtle, of which only 3 individuals were found in the Mekong in 2007. These rare turtles are named after their soft, rather leathery shell. They spend most of their lives lying on the river bed without moving. However, if a fish comes within reach, they snap like lightning.

For the locals, the turtle project offers a welcome source of income. At the same time, they learn how to treat their environment sustainably. School classes also regularly visit the turtle station. There, the children learn how they too can help to protect the environment.

Koh Trong

The island in the Mekong is committed to community-based ecotourism. By definition, ecotourism is leisure travel that aims to enjoy the natural environment in a way that minimizes the negative impact on the environment. In this respect, the program also includes opportunities to participate in activities of the communities living on the island. For example, planting trees, community rice and the like.

After a 15-minute ferry ride, visitors walk straight to the information center at the island’s only landing stage. The staff provide information and coordinate with the relevant tourism companies to meet the needs of visitors. Nevertheless, here and there you can also hear the tuk tuk drivers shouting “Wanna Homestay”?

kratie 2 von 2
Information center on Koh Trong | Photo: Doris Köhl

Depending on your preference, you can explore the island by bike, tuk tuk, ox or horse-drawn cart along the 7 km trail.

Hundreds of flying foxes greet visitors at the northern end of the island. Further to the north-eastern tip of the island is a 30 m high Asian kapok tree. It is considered sacred by the locals. Koh Trong is famous for its pomelos. They are said to be the best in the whole of Cambodia. This video gives you a first impression. You can find more information about ecotourism on Koh Trong at River Wetlands.


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Koh Phdao

It is also said to be possible to watch the Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong on the lesser-known island of Koh Phdao. In the evening, beautiful sunsets with their reflections over the river beckon. Visitors also have the opportunity to take part in community activities here. For example, digging fish and frog ponds, building chicken and duck coops and farming. If you like, you can spend the night in one of the simple homestays. These are rented out on a rotational basis so that all families “get their turn” at the same time.

Koh Phdao Island is about 40 km north of Kratie Town. The journey from Kratie town takes 45 minutes by cab or motor cab and a further 20 to 30 minutes by slow boat on the Mekong.

More spots in Kratie

Wat Po Han Chey in the south of Kratie in the district of Chhlong on street No. 308 directly on the riverbank. The Historical Museum in the north of Kratie town. The 100 Pillar House, also in Chhlong District. Several hundred years old, the building was bought and renovated by the Cambodian Ministry of Culture. Nature lovers can observe the endemic Mekong wagtail. Discovered in 2001, the bird species bears its Latin name Motacilla Samveasnae in honor of the Cambodian ornithologist Sam Veasna, who died in 2003. Basket-weaving villages approx. 30 km south of Kratie town. The harbor in Kratie town. Lotus fields line the highway along National Road No. 7. The best photos are taken in the early morning when the light is still soft. In addition, the heat of the sun is not yet so strong and the delicate leaves of the plants glow in fresh green.

Tour offers in Kratie

Most of the offers are located along the Mekong Discovery Trail. Here is a selection:

Hotels & Guesthouses


Both the Sorya Guesthouse (from 12 USD per night) and the Le Tonlé Guesthouse (from 7 USD per night) are among the most popular in Kratie.

Medium price range

The Rajabori Villas Resort on the island of Koh Trong. If you don’t want to stay in a homestay on the island, you’re in good hands here. Overnight stay from 51 USD.

Upscale price range

Le Relais de Chhlong is more than just a hotel. Entire pages can be filled with the history of the hotel and the region. Originally inhabited as the manor house of the operators of the former Chhlong sawmill, the villa built on the banks of the Mekong in 1916 and completely renovated in 2017 now boasts 10 suites, a swimming pool, bar and restaurant. Overnight stay from 103 USD.

le relais de chhlong hotel kratie kambodscha
Photo: Le Relais de Chhlong

Food and drink

Kratie is particularly famous for its excellent pomelo and krolan. In the home stays, the families are happy to serve their guests home-made delicacies. The hotels, guesthouses and restaurants on the banks of the Mekong offer a fantastic view of the vast landscape. It is particularly beautiful in the evening at sunset.

Tokae Restaurant: In the immediate vicinity of the central market on Street No. 10. The menu offers a variety of Khmer and Western dishes. Due to Corona, however, it is currently closed.

Le Tonlé Training Restaurant: Ranked number 1 on Tripadvisor among the restaurants in Kratie. Similar to Haven Cambodia in Siem Reap, disadvantaged young people receive gastronomic training. More information on the website and on Facebook.

Sorya Café: Right on the riverbank between Street No. 1 and 1, perfect for enjoying the sunset. Many visitors come for the pizza and the bar on the roof. The Sorya Café also includes the guesthouse of the same name mentioned above and the tour operator Sorya Kayak Adventures, which offers half-day tours on the Mekong and the opportunity to see Irrawaddy dolphins.


As far as malaria is concerned, Kratie, like other provinces in Cambodia, is one of the high-risk areas in the country. It is therefore important to think about mosquito protection. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts or shirts as well as sturdy shoes are an absolute must, especially on trekking tours, in order to protect your health. There is also a risk of infection with schistosomiasis. Avoiding skin contact with fresh water helps here. There are several health centers in Kratie town and a local hospital in the south called Kratie Referral Hospital.

There are also still landmines in this region. When trekking, always stay on the paths and follow the instructions of the tour guide.

Journey to Kratie

Kratie can be reached by bus, minibus or cab via the two national roads No. 6 and 7. The approximately 5-hour bus ride from Phnom Penh costs USD 7.50. Bookable online via BookMeBus or Phnom Penh Sorya (Edit 03.10.2021: Currently no connections between Kratie and Phnom Penh are bookable, but other routes are).

You can also travel from Kampong Cham by boat. The trip departs early in the morning at 7 a.m. from the pier directly in front of the Mekong Hotel. The trip takes around 3 hours and costs USD 7. Due to improved road conditions, the regular boat service between Kratie and Phnom Penh has been suspended.

Cover photo: Doris Köhl

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