Phnom Kulen (ភ្នំគូលែន) is considered by Khmers to be the most sacred mountain in Cambodia and is a popular place of pilgrimage during weekends and festivals.
Phnom Kulen is in Svay Leu and Varin district, about 60 kilometers from Siem Reap provincial town and 25 kilometers from Banteay Srei. Phnom Kulen, originally called Mount Mahendraparvata, is the mountain where, when King Jayavarman II (AD 802-850) proclaimed independence from Java in 802, the Angkorian Empire was born.
This mountain plateau served as the capital of the first Khmer Empire for more than half a century before it relocated south minor temples are found around the plateau, including Rorng Chen temple, the first pyramid built by an Angkorian King, but many of them are difficult to reach. Numerous important sites lie scattered across the mountaintop, which is accessible by foot or by car. They include:
Chub Preah ( ជប់ព្រះ)
Chub Preah is a plain on the flank of the mountain. The cool water that flows between the rocks can refresh weary travelers before they continue their journey. Nearby is a large, rare Champa tree, 0.7 meters in diameter and 15 meters tall. The site also has a large Buddha statue and many small statues built in the 16th century.
1,000 Lingams (ស្ទឹងលឹង្គ ១០០០)
One thousand lingams are located on the top of the mountain, along Stung Siem Reap. The site features impressive riverbed rock carvings include innumerable scores of yoni and lingam that sit on the bottom of a stream from which water flows year round.
Srah Damrey (ស្រះដំរី)
Srah Damrey or the Elephant Pond is a collection of giant stone animals guarding this sacred mountain.
Terrace of the Leper King (ព្រះលានស្តេចគំលង់)
Terrance of the Leper King or Preah Learn Sdech Kunlung is a smooth, volcanic terrace. At the center of the terrace is a small brick temple that has been smashed to pieces. Based on the rocks they were found, scientists believe the site might have been a volcano millions of years ago.
Preah Ang Thom (ព្រះអង្គធំ)
Preah Ang Thom is located on the mountaintop and attracts Khmer pilgrims during religious festivals. Built in the 16th century, it features a large statue of the reclining Buddha reaching nirvana. The statue is 7.5 meters tall and 8 meters long, carved into a huge sandstone boulder. The site also offers spectacular views across lush jungle. There are two Champa trees at the site, and local people worship there because they believe the site holds great power. Preah Ang Thom is close to Chhat Ruot, a multilayered umbrella; Preah Bat Coan Tuk, footprints of Buddha; and Peung Chhat, Peung Eyso and Peung Eysey, overhanging rocks.
Phnom Kulen waterfall farther downstream, is a good spot to cool off after explorations. It has two levels. The first level is 4 to 6 meters high and 10 to 15 meters wide, depending on whether it is the dry or rainy season. The second level is 15 to 20 meters high and 6 to 8 meters wide, depending on the season. Near the waterfall is a small jungle-covered laterite temple called Kraol Remeas temple.