Northeastern - Ratanakiri

Encounter the Hill Tribes of Ratanakiri

Floating river, Cambodia
Floating river, Cambodia

Located in Cambodia’s far northeast corner on the borders of Laos and Vietnam, this secluded province offers rare perspectives of Indigenous hill tribes. Local hill tribes, collectively known as the Chunchiet people, make up about 70% of this region’s population — while representing only about 1% of the country’s total makeup. Massive deforestation to make way for rubber plantations and other industries has displaced these ethnic tribes, and their traditional way of life is under constant threat.

While tourism isn’t well established in the Ratanakiri region, it is slowly developing around intrepid travellers in search of authentic experiences and natural wonders. Misty jungles still exist around the dwindling hill tribe communities, enhanced by tumbling waterfalls and meandering rivers. Begin your journey from the main town of Banlung, and connect with a local guide who knows how to navigate remote landscapes and understands village customs.

Khmer Apsara dance, Cambodia, Shutterstock

As you’re trekking through the jungle, floating along rivers and roaming around rice fields, every discovery is full of wonder. Your guide may point out the unique flora that surrounds you while foraging for edible plants, nuts and even insects. As you encounter local tribal villages such as Kachoun or Tumpoun, as well as small Lao and Chinese villages, learn more insights about the various communities that inhabit this part of the world.

Chunchiet cemeteries are sacred burial sites, and locals believe that spirits occupy the volcanic lakes, trees, mountains and other aspects of the physical world. Tread carefully on these grounds with a local guide (especially in the rainy season!), and be mindful of villagers’ wishes about being photographed.

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