In culinary circles, Kampot is famous for producing world-class pepper. In traveller circles, it's known for laid-back vibes, a lush mountainous backdrop and serene setting on the Kampot River. Add it to your travel itinerary to spend time paddle boarding under the hot Cambodian sun, café-hopping in town and unwinding with massages in traditional spas.
Hostels in Kampot are certainly diverse. You can choose a place with a rooftop patio with enviable views over the mountains or go for a spot featuring a wood-decked waterpark complete with rope swing, slide and zip line. There's a spa hostel where you can enjoy the hot tub, steam room and sauna or relax with a treatment. Or you can head to an eco-friendly guesthouse with a natural swimming pool and organic veg garden. You'll also find a Kampot hostel with a cinema room, sunrise yoga area and slacklines. Hostels with bustling bars and spacious sundecks are top choices if you like to socialise.
Travellers tend to spend much of their time beside the river, but most of the local businesses – including non-profit restaurants and shops giving back to the community – are clustered in the middle of town about a 10-minute drive away. The centre is marked by a roundabout that’s crowned with an offbeat Durian-shaped monument, right next to the vibrant night market. Around 7km to the west is the intriguing Trapeang Sangkae community, a fishing village accessible via boat, where you can experience rural life in Cambodia.
Relaxing is your top choice when in Kampot. But on days when you do feel like easing out of your riverside hammock, you can cycle out to the salt fields, take tours around the pepper plantations or motorbike to the abandoned casino hotel and Catholic church on Bokor Mountain. Hopping in a kayak and paddling along the main river artery and the smaller frond-covered waterways leading off it is a mellow way to spend some time.
Rent a motorbike or bike from your guesthouse or local shop to see Kampot at your own pace, especially if you're staying out of town beside the water. You can also hail taxis and moto-taxis in town. To get to the centre, a journey by bus from Phnom Penh can take 3-5 hours. If you avoid the route that goes via Kep the trip should be speedier.