Phnom Penh, Cambodia Geography

By | October 23, 2023

Phnom Penh, the capital and largest city of Cambodia, is situated in the southern part of the country at the confluence of the Mekong, Tonle Sap, and Bassac Rivers. The geography of Phnom Penh is characterized by its riverside location, low-lying plains, and the nearby Cardamom Mountains. In this essay, we will explore the geography of Phnom Penh, focusing on its geographical features, the rivers, and the natural surroundings that contribute to the city’s unique environment.

Location and General Geography:

According to, Phnom Penh is located in the southern part of Cambodia, in the region known as the Mekong Lowlands. It serves as the country’s political, economic, and cultural center. The city’s strategic location along the confluence of major rivers has made it a vital hub for trade, transportation, and tourism.

Low-Lying Plains:

The most prominent geographical feature of Phnom Penh and its surroundings is its low-lying plains. The city is situated on a relatively flat, low-lying terrain, which is part of the extensive Mekong Delta that stretches across Southeast Asia. These plains are integral to the city’s development and agriculture.

Rivers and Waterways:

The geography of Phnom Penh is significantly influenced by the presence of three major rivers that converge near the city: the Mekong River, the Tonle Sap River, and the Bassac River.

Mekong River: The Mekong River, one of the longest rivers in the world, flows through Cambodia, passing near Phnom Penh. The Mekong is a critical waterway for transportation and plays a crucial role in agriculture and fisheries in the region.

Tonle Sap River: The Tonle Sap River, which connects the Mekong River to the Tonle Sap Lake, is a unique feature of the region. It is known for its annual reversal of flow, where it changes direction with the seasons. This natural phenomenon has a significant impact on the city and its surroundings.

Bassac River: The Bassac River, also known as the Hau River in Vietnam, flows through southern Cambodia, eventually joining the Mekong River. It contributes to the city’s water resources and transportation infrastructure.

Tonle Sap Lake: While the lake itself is located a bit further from Phnom Penh, its dynamics are closely linked to the geography of the city. The Tonle Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and serves as an essential source of fish and water resources for the region.

Natural Surroundings:

Phnom Penh’s geography also features its proximity to natural areas, including the Cardamom Mountains to the west.

Cardamom Mountains: The Cardamom Mountains, located to the west of Phnom Penh, are one of Cambodia’s primary mountain ranges. These mountains are known for their lush forests, diverse wildlife, and offer opportunities for hiking and nature exploration.


Phnom Penh experiences a tropical wet and dry climate influenced by its geography, proximity to the rivers, and location in the Mekong Delta.

Wet Season: The wet season in Phnom Penh typically runs from May to October, with the heaviest rainfall occurring from June to September. During this period, the rivers and waterways swell, contributing to the city’s lush greenery.

Dry Season: The dry season, from November to April, is characterized by lower humidity and minimal rainfall. This period is popular for outdoor activities, tourism, and cultural festivals.

The tropical climate, shaped by its geography and river systems, influences the city’s lifestyle, agriculture, and seasonal celebrations.

Environmental Challenges:

Phnom Penh and Cambodia face several environmental challenges, including those related to water pollution, deforestation, and conservation.

Water Pollution: Pollution of the rivers, including the Mekong and Tonle Sap, poses a significant environmental challenge. Water pollution can harm aquatic ecosystems and impact the health of communities dependent on the rivers for their livelihoods.

Deforestation: Cambodia, including areas near Phnom Penh, has experienced deforestation due to logging and land development. Forest conservation is essential to protect the environment, biodiversity, and natural resources.

Conservation: The region, including the Cardamom Mountains, is home to unique ecosystems and wildlife. Conservation efforts aim to safeguard these natural areas and protect endangered species.


Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, offers a unique geography characterized by its riverside location, low-lying plains, and proximity to the Cardamom Mountains. Understanding the geography of Phnom Penh is essential for appreciating the city’s cultural heritage, the challenges related to water pollution and deforestation, and the opportunities for outdoor activities and conservation efforts in this dynamic and river-rich environment. Phnom Penh’s commitment to preserving its natural surroundings and embracing sustainable development reflects its dedication to being a vibrant and ecologically responsible city at the confluence of the Mekong, Tonle Sap, and Bassac Rivers.