Phnom Chhnork

Cave in Kampot

Phnom Chhnork is a short walk through a quilt of rice paddies from Wat Ang Sdok, where a monk collects the entry fee and a gaggle of friendly local kids offers their services as guides. From the bottom, a 203-step staircase leads up the hillside and down into a cavern as graceful as a Gothic cathedral. The view from up top is especially magical in the late afternoon, as is the walk to and from the wat.

Inside the cave you’ll be greeted by a stalactite elephant, with a second elephant outlined on the flat cliff face to the right. Tiny chirping bats live up near two natural chimneys that soar towards the blue sky, partly blocked by foliage of an impossibly green hue.

Within the main chamber stands a remarkable 7th-century (Funan-era) brick temple, dedicated to Shiva. The temple’s brickwork is in superb condition thanks to the protection afforded by the cave. Poke your head inside and check out the ancient stalactite that serves as a linga (phallic symbol). A slippery passage, flooded in the rainy season, leads through the hill.

To get to Phnom Chhnork turn left off NH33 about 5.5km east of Kampot. Look for the sign to 'Climbodia'. From the turn-off it’s 6km to the cave on a bumpy road. A return moto ride from Kampot costs about US$6 (tuk tuk US$12).