Founded by the French in the 1920s for the colonial administration, Kep was Cambodia's first fashionable seaside destination. Often referred to as ‘Kep-sur-Mer’ or the St. Tropez of Southeast Asia, its tropical beaches tempted many elite Frenchmen and well-heeled Cambodians to escape the cities every weekend to bask in the sun on its pure white sandy shores under its shady palms and swim in its aquamarine waters.
Today it has a sleepy, slightly abandoned air to it, but the fishing village is rich in atmosphere and its rustic charm still draws crowds of Khmers at the end of the working week. Kep is also much-loved for its culinary speciality – blue crab – which is best enjoyed either within the main hot spot of this coastal town, the renowned crab market, or along the shore in the colourful restaurant bars. Tasting the delicacies here is unmissable as Kep’s fresh seafood has won it its reputation as the go-to foodie destination in Cambodia.
Another cultural highlight is the mixture of French and Khmer architecture dotted around the peaceful town. Once the holiday homes of Cambodia’s finest crowd, these renaissance villas are sadly not all intact today due to the Khmer Rouge’s devastation. However, a handful of forward-thinking luxury and boutique hotel brands have recently revived some of the buildings into glamorous properties. Their presence dotted around this peaceful town give it more of a high-brow feel than its neighbouring coastlines and islands.
A short scenic boat ride away lies the island of Koh Tonsay, otherwise known as Rabbit Island, which makes for an ideal daytrip for families and couples. Providing a real taste of rustic island life, this is the place for you if you are tempted by snorkelling, sunbathing and beach barbecues. The jungle-like Kep National Park is also nearby, home to flurries of butterflies, as is Kampot, which is famed around the world for its pepper.
Our favourite hotel here is without a doubt the sophisticated Knai Bang Chatt, with its killer combination of understated aesthetic and luxurious amenities. Its beautifully designed pool is a case in point as its sleek, infinity design offers views far into the horizon. During a stay here, we recommend watching the golden sun go down from the long jetty, from which wonderful sunsets can be enjoyed in all their glory – sure to be a memorable experience.
Kep is a great beachfront destination to relax and rejuvenate, particularly after an action-packed itinerary touring Cambodia’s cultural gem – the renowned Angkor Wat complex.
Features in the following itineraries
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
- Susan Ford, India
- Leslie Siben, India
- Jaime Benitez, South India
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
- Mr David Wallace, North India
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka