Tonle Sap and the floating villages

September 20, 2019

This network of rivers and lakes, declared a biosphere reserve by Unesco, has a characteristic: the villages, schools and hospitals are all built on stilts.

Tonle Sap, Cambodia

Tonle Sap is a great tourist attraction in Cambodia, that should be included in your itinerary to discover this fascinating country, especially since it allows to get a direct contact with local populations.

It is a system of lakes and rivers which make up the largest saltwater tank in South East Asia, declared biospehere reserve by UNESCO.

Floating houses in Tonle Sap, Cambodia
Floating houses

The lake

Tonle Sap, whose name means "Great river with fresh waters" is located in central Cambodia, between Dangrek Mountains and Cardamom Mountains. It is interesting because many floating villages develop along its shores.

It is fed by several rivers and flows into the Mekong through Tonle Sap river. Rice cultivation and fishing prosper on the lake.

Excursions and tours in Tonle Sap lake

The most popular excursion in Tonle Sap lake is the boat trip among the floating villages. The most famous village is Chonh Khneas, about 15 km from Siem Reap. You can visit it embarking from a pier where boats are always awaiting visitors. A two-hour boat trip allows to explore the stilted houses of the floating village, meeting people of Vietnamese and Cambodian Khmer ethnic group. The stilted houses are not just households but also markets, hospitals, schools and even sports centers!

A stilt house on water in Tonle Sap
Tonle Sap is famous for its floating villages

During the rainy seasn, when the lake becomes bigger, the stilted houses seem to float directly on the water. The inhabitants of Tonle Sap make a living out of fishing, boat construction and breeding of shrimps.

Tonle Sap is also an interesting destination for bird watching tours. Birds that can be viewed here include storks, pelicans, ibises and many other species, especially during the dry season, from November to May.

When to go

Tonle Sap is interesting to be visited all year round. But if you worry about the heat, we suggest the months from November to March, with temperatures around 25 degrees and less humidity. This is also the best period for bird watching lovers.

The rainy season is also good, even if due to frequent rainfalls and higher humidity levels sightseeing can be more tiring.

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