Cambodia Gravel Roads
Exploring Rural Kampuchea
With a predominantly agricultural population, and an economy still faltering following a tragic recent history, Cambodia’s road infrastructure remains predominantly unsealed and rural. Whilst this may not be an ideal situation for many people, foreign and Khmer alike, for those amongst us who like to explore a country on traffic-free gravel roads, Cambodia offers an increasingly rare opportunity.
Cambodia’s relatively diminutive size also means that, despite being able to explore the land and meet the people far from the tourist hordes, we are never far from a town boasting accommodation usually exceeding the comfort one may expect of a nation lacking in the material luxury of the West.
And as we cycle through the beautiful flatlands of Kampuchea, meeting Khmer people, it is the cheery nature, ever-present smiles, waves, and shouted greetings that will likely leave an even more profound impression that the dramatic Angkorian era architecture. It is, however, this architecture that is, with good reason, Cambodia’s number one tourist draw and is the starting point of our adventure. And as if all of this is not enough, the French colonial legacy of fine dining and drinking, along with the local cuisine, make Cambodia perhaps the best nation in the region for hungry cyclists.
At a Glance
Total Days: 13
Cycling Days: 9
Daily Average: 77km
Max. Alt.: 70m
2019: 06 Oct - 18 Oct: $2695.00
2020: 01 Nov - 13 Nov: $2695.00
Another in PaintedRoads' growing portfolio of gravel rides, this off the beaten track journey on dusty byways and hard packed lanes is a classic Asian adventure seeing a country from a seldom viewed perspective. In between and beyond Southeast Asia's tourist highlight at Siem Reap, and the nation's capital Phnom Penh, we will be exploring a rural land of oxen-drawn carts where buffalo wallow in the shallow waters of the riverbank. We pass through villages of wooden stilted houses, beneath which shelter white cattle so tall as to look alien, and on through scenes of white egrets fishing in emerald paddies stretching to a distant horizon, and on to the Gulf of Thailand.
We begin the tour in one of SE Asia’s most prominent attractions - the temples of Siem Reap, including Angkor Wat. We move on to the nation’s capital, Phnom Penh. From the there we head to the Gulf of Thailand, and end the trip at the characterful town of Kampot.
As with all PaintedRoads cycling tours, the real highlight is cycling through a beautiful land, and getting a real glimpse, beyond the usual tourist trail, by travelling the path less travelled - in this case, gravel.
Included In This Tour
All accommodation, local guide, meals on cycling days*, snacks during cycling days, drinking water whilst cycling, entrance to Siem Reap temples.
We will be accompanied by one or two support vehicles capable of carrying bikes, luggage, and those who need a break from pedalling.
As with all PaintedRoads tour, this ride will be accompanied by David, along with an English speaking Khmer cycling guide.
*Please note that with the abundance and variety of restaurants in Siem Reap, dinner on Days 2 & 3 is not included as people may wish to wander off for Indian, French, Thai, Mexican, pizza, or burger and craft beer, to name but a few options.
All accommodation has A/C rooms, wifi (a little slow and unreliable at times), en-suite bathroom, and in several cases a swimming pool. In Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, we use good quality 3 or 4-star hotels, elsewhere we use the best in town.
The tour begins in the town of Siem Reap (airport code REP). You will be met at the airport on arrival and taken to our joining hotel where you will be met by your tour leader.
The tour ends in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh (airport code PNH) on day 13 of the tour. You will be driven to the airport in time for your flight.
There are few if any long haul flights to and from Cambodia, however, nearby Bangkok is the transport hub of South East Asia, and most trans-continental flights will be through Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport. For those already in Asia, Air Asia offers many regional flights via Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport.
Perhaps the best place to begin looking for long haul flights is Thai Airways. As an example, they have return flights from London Heathrow to Siem Reap, and back from Phnom Penh, via Bangkok, for around US$850. This includes 30KG of check-in luggage plus carry-on which is plenty for a bike and all you need for a two-week tour)
Otherwise, a search https://www.skyscanner.netof Skyscanner will bring up a variety of flight options.
This tour is flat as a two-week tour can be. The highest elevation is just 70 metres, and there are just a few undulating sections. The average daily distance is 77 kilometres, with the longest day being 110kms and the shortest just 35kms. With nearly 70% of the ride on unsealed roads, this is the factor that will add an extra element of challenge. However, it is not rough mountain bike terrain, it is for the most part reasonably well maintained, and fairly smooth gravel roads.
At PaintedRoads we hold firmly to the opinion that using your own bike, the bike upon which you feel at home and comfortable, is the finest way to enjoy a cycling adventure. PaintedRoads tours have always been explored on and designed around what are now known as adventure and gravel bikes, and such bikes are absolutely ideal for this tour. Cross country mountain bikes and touring bikes are also suitable. With so much riding on unsealed roads, we do not recommend tyres any less than 35mm on 700c wheels, 45mm on 650b wheels, and 2" on 26" wheels. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch.
ESSENTIAL! Please be sure that your bicycle is in perfect condition before you leave home. Please be sure to bring bike specific spares such as a few spokes, a couple of inner tubes, a spare tyre, brake pads, and derailleur hanger. If in any doubt please consult your local bike shop.
If you wish to hire a bicycle we can provide Cannondale hardtail mountain-bikes. Although our hire bikes come equipped with a saddle and flat pedals, if you have a saddle you use and are happy with it is strongly recommended that you use it on tour. If you use SPD type shoes please bring your own matching pedals. We are happy to fit these for you.
E-bikes PaintedRoads tours are not designed with the use of e-bikes in mind. Indeed, an e-bike in the wrong hands when on tour with regular bikes may present unwanted issues, and so, as a rule, they are not encouraged. However, we do have regular guests who, as the years pass, may find their knees are not up to scratch, or they may need a helping hand at times, and in such circumstances, we are able to provide an e-bike in Cambodia. If you feel such a machine is suitable for you, then please get in touch to discuss the merits and use of e-bikes.
(meals key: B = breakfast; L = lunch; D = dinner)
Day 1: Siem Reap
A driver will great you at Siem Reap international airport and drive you to our joining hotel where your tour leader will be waiting for you in the lobby. This evening the group will meet up for a tour briefing, before heading into town for our first meal together.
Day 2: Siem Reap. Angkor Temple Tour
One of Southeast Asia’s premier attractions is the archaeological zone of ancient temples around Siem Reap, often simply referred to by the name of the most famous temple, Angkor Wat. Our journey through Cambodia begins today with a tour of some of the more impressive of these temples including, but by no means limited to, the dramatic Ta Phrom, which remains entangled in jungle undergrowth, the richly decorated Bayon with its intricate stone carvings, and of course Angkor Wat itself.
Day 3: Siem Reap to Tonle Sap Lake Loop Ride
A longer ride out today introduces us to rural Cambodia as we cycle on unsealed paths and tracks to Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, Tonle Sap. Along the way we pass through small villages, where are excited children greet us with enthusiastic waves and cheer. Arriving at Tonle Sap we have time to explore a floating village, complete with school and fish farm, before completing a circuitous route back to our resort at Siem Reap.
Day 4: Siem Reap to Kampong Thom. Cycle and Transfer
Today we leave Siem Reap and set out on our adventure, exploring rural Cambodia. Our route will introduce us to the unsealed roads and lanes that are to make up a large proportion of our journey ahead. We ride today will end at the 12th century Sambor Prei Kyle bridge at Kampong Kdei.
Due to the unavoidable 80kms of straight and busy national highway ahead, at the 12th century Sambor Prei Kyle bridge at Kampong Kdei we will pack our bikes into our support vehicle and transfer for 80kms to a quiet and characterful resort, where one can relax on their bungalow’s veranda, take a dip in the pool, or enjoy a drink at the poolside bar.
Day 5: Kampong Thom to Kampong Thma
Our ride today is 80% red gravel roads, with the lions share being smooth and fast flowing. The views are at times of open land dotted with palm trees and grazing cattle, and elsewhere we follow tree-lined boulevards. Our first break is the pre-Angkorian Sambor Prek Kul temple, where our guide will give us a brief history of the area. Back on the bikes, we pass homesteads and rural communities, as we make our way east through beautiful countryside. The final stretch of the day is on wide, super smooth, red gravel roads following some of the huge irrigation canals that water the nation’s rice fields.
Day 6: Kampong Thmor To Kampong Cham
Today’s ride is 85% unsealed on primarily red gravel roads which at first across take is across open grassland and rice fields. Following lunch, despite being to all intent and purpose a flat ride, we undulate a little with views of distant low hills. The agriculture now is more fruit and nut, with many orchards of mango, and cashew, as well as tapioca plantations. We end the day in the riverside town of Kampong Cham where we overnight on the bank of the Mekong.
Day 7: Kampong Cham to Phnom Penh
Our ride today follows the course of the Mekong River, on byways that are for the most part sealed, as we head towards Cambodia’s capital. There are however some unsealed sections passing through small villages of wooden houses on stilts, beneath which the giant white cattle of the region often shade from the tropical sun. Despite our close proximity to the nation’s capital, our rural route means that foreigners on bicycles remain a rarity in these parts, and our presence always assures a warm welcome from the locals.
The day’s ride ends with a ferry across the Mekong, where a two-kilometre ride along Phnom Penh’s Mekong boulevard takes us to our well-located rest-day hotel.
Day 8: Phnom Penh free day
Today is free to explore Phnom Penh, or simply relax by the hotel pool or at one of the city’s many cafés. For those wishing to explore a little, such attractions as the bustling Central Market, the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda are all within walking distance. A tuk-tuk ride is part of Phnom Penh life, and a light-hearted way to travel to, and from, the harrowing Tuol Sleng museum. To mingle with Phnom Penh folk relaxing and socialising, a wander along the Tonle Sap promenade is a pleasant walk, or chill out and observe life and the river from above from the open air café of the historic Foreign Corespondent’s Club.
Day 9: Phnom Penh To Takeo
Avoiding the hectic traffic of Phnom Penh can never be seen as a bad thing, so this morning we will transfer 12 kilometres to Choeung Ek, better know in the West as the Killing Fields. Here our cycling trip will recommence, but first, we have time to look around the site and to learn a little of the history of this venue of appalling genocide.
Back on the bikes, we have before us a lovely day cycling through small villages and crossing rural Cambodia on a route of around 70% unsealed roads. We lunch beside Tonle Bati lake and end the day at the small lakeside town of Takeo.
Day 10: Cycle Takeo to Kep
The final full day on the road, and arguably the toughest with nearly 110 kilometres ahead or riding, 85% of which is on red gravel, white dust, and some stony surfaces. The route takes us through small villages, past rice fields and palm trees, ponds and rivers where water buffaloes wallow, and rough grassland where cattle graze.
Come day’s end we can relax with a cold beer at our hotel’s poolside bar, and watch the sun dip down behind the horizon of the Gulf of Thailand. Dinner tonight will be with a sea view, and the sound of waves lapping upon the shore.
Day 11: Cycle Kep To Kampot
A shorter day on the bikes today as we ride to the characterful riverside town of Kampot, just 35 kilometres away. Our route is once again rural, as a fifty-fifty mix of sealed byways and unsealed lanes lead us past the lovely blue waters of Brateak Krola Lake, and along the Prek Kampong River to Kampot, where we have an afternoon free to wander the town and relax at one of the numerous French-style cafés, with an espresso or pastis.
Day 12: Transfer to Phnom Penh
This morning we return to Phnom Penh in our support vehicle. A four-hour journey we will be back in town in time for lunch and a final wander around town, dip in the pool, or a spot of people watching in a café before our final evening meal.
Day 13: Tour Ends.
The tour ends today after breakfast. A shuttle to the airport will be provided in time for your onward flight.
Markers below are clickable as are the markers on the map itself.
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£ Pound Sterling Payment Option
Our prices are all in US dollars but we can offer you the option of paying in GBP (£) based on the exchange rate at the time of booking. You can choose on the booking form, adjusted prices will be shown there.
2019: 06 Oct - 18 Oct
2020: 01 Nov - 13 Nov
If you wish to hire a bicycle we can arrange for the hire of good quality cycles from our in-country agent. Typically these bikes are Cannondale hardtail mountain bikes.
Rental fee is US$250
Please contact us if you are interested in using an e-bike.
The prices quoted above are for a twin room share basis. If you are travelling alone you will be paired up with another lone traveler of the same gender to share with. Single room occupancy can be arranged, the single supplement rate shown is per person.