The shores of Yeak Laom Lake form an almost perfect circle. And though the lake has a small circumference, it’s just shy of 160 feet (about 48 meters) deep. Its shape and depth are due to its volcanic origin.
It’s believed that 4,000 years ago, a volcanic eruption created a crater that, over time, filled with water. The lake was once surrounded by thick forest on all sides, but today only a thin layer remains, with most of the land having been farmed.
The waters of Yeak Laom are crystal clear, and they stand in stark contrast with the bright green in the background—if you visit during or shortly after the rainy season. Exotic birds and butterflies are common sights, and wild pigs may also come around.
Although the lake is considered sacred by the local people, swimming or playing in the water is common for both locals and tourists. Wooden docks with steps have been built to facilitate access. In 2018, bureaucratic procedures were started to register Yeak Laom and the land around it as state land to better protect the environment. Other measures to protect the lake forbid people from using detergents, gambling, or having arguments while in the lake.
Five villages are located around the lake. A combination of trails and wooden planks encircles the 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) of the lake’s shores. Along the way is a small visitor center with information about the lake and handicrafts for sale.
Know Before You Go
Yeak Laom is located roughly three miles (five kilometers) from the Ratanakiri provincial capital Banlung, which is ideal for a bike ride. This site can also be reached easily by taxis or motorbikes. Ratanakiri was heavily bombed during the Second Indochina War, and unexploded ordnance is occasionally found in the region. Going off the (literal) beaten path may not be your better option here.