Ratanakiri

1. Introduction
Ratanakiri province (also popular under name Banlung – its main town), located about 600km to the North-East from Phnom Penh capital, in a remote area, sharing border with Laos in the North and Vietnam in the East, with more than 70% of its population ethnic minority. This land is well-known for its richness of natural resources and beautiful natural beauty.
In Ratanakiri, you can find various forms of topographic, including hills and mountains, plateau, crater lakes, rivers and waterfalls in this province. The vegetation
n here is also very rich, from the dense forests in the northern part, where inhabited wildlife, to the drier and sparser forest, in the southwest. All these conditions offer great opportunities for ecotourism in Cambodia in general and Banlung in particular. This fascinating land is considered one of the must-visit destinations for nature lovers.
 
2. Best time to go
Like other parts of the country, Ratanakiri province has 3 distingue seasons: the rainy season lasts from June to October, the cool season lasts from November to February and hot season from March to May.
The best time to go and explore Ratanakiri is no doubt in the cool season, from November to February of next year. However, you can visit this place in hot season due to the high altitude from seawater level, it is a little cooler than in other provinces in the country.

Ratanakiri - Banlung

3. Things to see and do
 
3.1. Yeak Loam Lake
Yak Loam is a popular tourist destination, situated at 5 km toward the Southeast of Banlung – center of Ratanikiri province. You can reach this beautiful lake after only 10 minutes by car or tuk-tuk from Banlung town.
The lake is a crater formed about 4000 years ago with a diameter of 800m and a walking path of 3000m surrounding the lake. With its clear emerald blue water, Yak Loam Lake is now used for swimming.
There is also a small museum next to the lake offering insight into Tampuan culture of Khmer Loeu ("Upper Khmer" - Khmer people who live surroundings this high mountainous area). Coming here, visitors can rent ethnic costumes to take photos and experience. You can also explore the handicraft products made by the hill tribes at small stores.
 
3.2. Eisey Patamak Mountain or Phnom Svay
Known as one of the popular attractive destination in Ratanakiri, Eisey Patamak Mountain (also called Phnom Svay) is located about 2km West of Ban Lung town. The highlight of this mountain is the famous status of the reclining Buddha reaching nirvana - Wat Rah-Tahn-Ah-Rahm locating on the top. Coming here, you can also visit and worship Wat Isana Rattanaram at the foot of the mountain.
The Eisey Patamak Mountain, with its hilly terrain, is a favorite choice of adventure lovers as well as trekkers. From the top of mountain, you can enjoy the picturesque lanscape of peaceful countryside, Banlung town just below, and further, Laos in the north and Vietnam in the east.
 
3.3. System of numerous waterfalls
In Ratanikiri, there is a large number of falls for visitors to explore and enjoy. Located 6km toward the North-West of Banlung, Kachang Waterfall is in the Kontung stream and flows into the Sre Pok River with a height 12 m.
Located about 7km northwest of Banlung and also in Kontung stream, Katieng waterfall with a height of 10m is another attraction. Besides, we can mention Chaung waterfall locating 8km west or Ou'Sensranoh waterfall locating 9km south of Banlung. Ou'Sean Lair Waterfall - the furthest from Banlung, 26 km toward the South, having 4 floors and each floor is 4 m high.
Coming to these natural waterfalls, you can admire the magnificent and stunning landscape, especially a mist covering the waterfall makes a magical space. This is great places for visitors to enjoy the fresh air, relax or swim.

Kachang fall - Ratanakiri

3.4. Virachay National Park
Located about 50km from Banlung, this national park covers an area of 3325 square kilometers in both Ratakirini and Stung Treng provinces. From Banlung, it takes about 1 or 1,5 hour driving in the dry season. However, it is much more challenging in rainy season, about 4 to 5 hours due to the bad road conditions.
This is the largest national park in Cambodia, was established in 2004. Explore this national park, you will see something special about the diversity of Cambodian wilderness and wildlife. The park is a great place for nature lovers, it's also a favorite one for hikers and trekkers, with various optional choices of trekking trips including outdoor camping at night.
 
3.5. Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary
As one of the most popular attractions in Ratanakiri, Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary is located 37km south of Banlung with an area of 250,000 hectares. This is home to a variety of special kinds of animals and birds. The highlight of the sanctuary is the combination of the natural beauty and the unique sounds of the animals creating a very lively destination.
 
3.6. Norng Kabat Forest
Located about 23km north of Banlung, Norng Kabat forest offers visitors opportunities to visit both nature and people here. The forest includes a beautiful pond, which is home to many birds and animals, becomes great spots for bird watching.
This place also gives visitors the chance to explore the town's ethnic villages. You can observe the daily lives of local people to learn their cultural traditions and beliefs.
 
3.7.  Banlung market
Although people arrive in Banlung mostly for doing the trek, it is also very nice to take time at the local market to see how is authentic local life here. 
Banlung Market will give you an insight into a typical Cambodian market with bustling activities in the early morning. You can see the women gathering around outside of the market, smoking cigars made from tobacco rolled up in leaves. Many Khmer Loeu people come to the market wearing traditional "belt" baskets filled with vegetables, fruits, and forest products they sell at the market. Besides, many items can be found in stalls such as gems, wood carvings, accessories for women,... Everything can make an interesting scene.

Banlung market

4. Travelling to Ratanakiri
By plane – Forgotten airport:
Ratanikiri has an airfield, but all scheduled airlines have stopped serving it after an accident in the pass. There are plans to extend it and build a concrete runway, which would make it more likely to attract more tourists and make less cancellations/ disconnections with other provinces in the wet season.
Domestic routes:
- From Phnom Penh: Normaly we travel from Phnom Penh to Ratanikiri via Stung Treng province.
- From Kratie: Kratie – Ratanikiri: 270km ~ 4hrs30mn transfer
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Popular itinerary when visiting Ratanakiri should be:
Day 1: Phnom Penh – Kratie
Stunning drive to Kratie with stops at Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei, Kampong Cham & Chup. Wander through Kratie, Cycle Koh Trong Island & enjoy spectacular sunset over the Mekong.
Day 2: Kratie – Banlung
Visit Kampi village, watch the rare Irrawaddy Dolphins in their natural habitat. Transfer to Banlung. Wander to explore the town and retreat in an eco lodge.
Days 3-4: Banlung & Surroundings
Discover the breath taking natural landscapes and authentic local culture. Visit local minority villages of Kroeung, Tampoun, the vocanic lava field Veyrum Plang, the lake of Yeak Loam & enjoy fresh air of tropical forest.
Day 5: Banlung – Phnom Penh
Wander through the Banlung market, enjoy shopping local products of handicraft & so on before heading back to Phnom Penh. Trip finishes in Phnom Penh.

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