Kbal Spean literally means “Bridge Head” in Khmer and is an ancient Angkorian site, part of Phnom Kulen National Park. It is located in Banteay Srei district, Siem Reap Province. Its name comes from a natural sandstone rock bridge over the Kbal Spean River.
The interest in this site is a series of stone carvings in the river bed of yonis and lingas, as tributes to the Hindu god, Shiva. Because of this, Kbal Spean is frequently referred to as the Valley of a 1000 Lingas or the River of a Thousand Lingas. The lingas are most visible after the rainy season finishes, when the water level in the river is lower.
Kbal Spean is a visit that goes hand in hand with seeing other attractions in the area. The closest and most popular place to visit with a trip to Kbal Spean is Phnom Kulen, (Kulen Mountain), they’re both in the Phnom Kulen National Park.
Nearby and within the Banteay Srei region are numerous great attractions worth seeing, such as Banteay Srei Butterfly Centre, Cambodia Landmine Museum, Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB) and temples Banteay Srei, Banteay Samre and Beng Mealea.
Getting There and Around
There are two options to visit Kbal Spean:
42km northeast of Siem Reap town, which is about an hour or so drive by tuk tuk is ACCB (Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity). Travel by tuk tuk is a nice way to experience the countryside whilst passing rural villages and rice fields.
To reach the archaeological site, a 45min up-hill walk is required, starting at ACCB. The walk is along a jungle trail with lots of shade, some climbing is needed though so make sure you bring water to replenish yourself. Going this route, you will need a valid Angkor Pass to access the trail to Kbal Spean.
Via Phnom Kulen National Park
Take a car or van to Phnom Kulen National Park, you will need a ticket for the park which is $20 at the gate or if obtained in advance from Angkor City Hotel, a bit cheaper.
The van ride will take you all the way into the park and takes around 1.5-2 hours. Ask your driver to stop at Kbal Spean and allow you to walk around and explore a little and then carry on to the Phnom Kulen waterfalls.
This way is only accessible by car, van or motorbike, it’s not possible to visit by tuk tuk.
Best Time to Visit
Any season is nice to visit, there are a lot of trees and this makes the area around Kbal Spean cool. During the wet season the jungle is lush and abundant, though the water will be running strongly and it may be hard to see the lingas. Just following wet season is probably the best time, the water will have receded enough to get a clear look at the lingas and the jungle will still be lush and fresh from all of the rain.
You probably want to avoid going in hot season, temperatures are scorching and it’s not best for bush walking.
Visit in the morning to get the most out of your day (and avoid the heat), especially if you plan a visit to ACCB, the nearby wildlife sanctuary located on the same site as Kbal Spean. Guided tours at ACCB run from Monday to Saturday at 9am and 1pm sharp, a minimum donation of US$ 3 is requested.
The 1,000 lingas, are attributed to a minister of Suryavarman I during the 11th century (1006-1050), and these were carved by hermits who lived in the area. Inscriptions at the site testify to the fact that most of the sculpting was actually done during the reign of Udayadityavarman II (1050-1066). It is also mentioned that King Udayadityavarman II consecrated a golden linga here in 1059 AD. It is believed that the Siem Reap River flowing into Angkor is blessed by the sacred lingas over which the water flows.