While the decaying structures and overgrown temples of Angkor Wat remain among the most popular destinations in Siem Reap, the rare collection of stone carvings along the Stung Kbal Spean River, typically known as simply Kbal Spean, continues to bring art and archaeology lovers outside the city and beyond Angkor.
The impressive carvings that line the riverbed, also known as the "River of a Thousand Lingas", pay homage to the Hindu god Shiva. During the 11th and 12th centuries, artisans chipped away at delicate sandstone leaving intricate phallic symbols, mythological creatures and religious images along the shores. Visitors must trek two kilometers up rocky, uneven terrain to spy the hand-carved statues. Some argue the hike is more trouble than it’s worth, but most agree that travelers seeking to connect with nature and explore Cambodia’s rich and colorful history will appreciate a trip to Kbal Spean.
Kbal Spean lies in the Kulen Hills to the northeast of Angkor in Siem Reap. It’s about 25 kilometers from the most popular group of Angkor ruins.