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Best of Cambodia

By Wendy Updated Apr. 25, 2021

It is easy to get the best of Cambodia within 6 days: Spend 4 days in Siem Reap and 2 in Phnom Penh or the other way round. But, what is the best of Cambodia? Clearly, the answer will have to do with its history and culture. Angkor Wat is without a doubt the highlight of a Cambodia tour.

Beyond that, its history and struggle from the dark past of the Khmer Rouge is worth dwelling on. The ideas and the sample itinerary in this article will help first-timers or seasoned travelers to have a memorable time in Cambodia.

Top things to do in major destinations

Phnom Penh

City Tour: In what used to be a colonial pearl

Despite the fact of being the political seat during the colonial regime, today's Phnom Penh still strikes people as being a humble town rather than a capital city. Major sites are pretty much congregated around the landmarks of the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda.

An 8-hour visit in this city will include several highlights such as the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda, the National Museum, and the Independence Monument, and can be wrapped up with a peek into the bustling Russian Market. This tour is suitable for travelers in general.

S-21 Museum and Killing Fields: History that cannot be forgotten

Disturbing and saddening as it can be, the final journey of the victims of the Khmer Rouge leaves a bloody trail in the history of the country. This, however, is not for turning your head away. The visit will cover two parts: The S-21 Museum (also known as Tuol Sleng), a local school turned into torture chambers, and the Killing Fields that used to be the liquidation center (for the S-21 Museum??). The contents of the visit are more suitable for children above 12 years of age.

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Siem Reap

Angkor Wat: Epic temples

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, well deserving its reputation; the Angkor Wat complex is on so gigantic a scale that you need to plan at least two full days, only to get the best of it. Commonly-heard sites include Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon and Ta Prohm, which are all within the first big ring of the complex. Traveling further, you can reach Banteay Srei, Beng Meala, and Banteay Kdei, plus a beautiful sunset at Pre Rup on the second day.

This 2-day plan is good for travelers in general. Nevertheless, we would suggest an even more elaborate visit at the Angkor Wat with a Khmer scholar, for deeper appreciation. In summer, make your visit at Bayon and Ta Prohm in the afternoon, in order to get away from the heat.

Countryside: Quad bike, ox cart, zip-line, cycling or a boat trip to a floating village

Hop on a quad bike and roam out to the countryside, or take an ox-cart ride, whiff along the zip-line inside the Angkor Wat complex or do a half-day cycling trip in the woods; it can all be counted as good activities for adventurers or families with older children (above 12 years old).

If you are traveling in the wet season (April to October), don't miss a boat trip to the Prek Toal Floating Village, where you can observe life on rafts and have a chance to spot rare birds.

Sample tour itinerary

Here is a sample itinerary for a first-time trip to Cambodia:

Day Destination Activities Asia Highlights' Insider Scope
1 Phnom Penh Arrive in Phnom Penh and transfer to hotel. Time to relax over jetlag. If you arrive before the afternoon, we suggest you take a fun visit to the Central Market or enjoy afternoon tea chitchatting with your tour guide. Or, take a cyclo ride in the old streets and watch knock boxing (Khun Khmer) at a local ring.
2 Phnom Penh Morning visit at the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda as well as the National Museum. Afternoon visit at the Killing Fields and the S21 Museum outside the city. Get back to your hotel before the evening. Content of the Killing Fields and S21 Museum is more suitable for children above 12 years of age.
3 Phnom Penh to Siem Reap Take a noon flight to Siem Reap. Chill off at your hotel in the afternoon. You can venture out of Siem Reap by bike and go climbing up the Pre Rup Tower, if you like a sunset at a less crowded location.
4 Siem Reap Morning visit to Angkor Thom and then on to Angkor Wat. Take a 2-hour walking visit with a Khmer Scholar at Angkor Wat. Get back to the hotel for a noon break or go straight to Ta Prohm and Bayon, both of which are covered by trees, so as to stay away from the heat. If you are interested, we suggest you get to the Angkor Wat for a beautiful sunrise but leave after that; make your next stop at Angkor Thom and get back to Angkor Wat when the big crowds have faded before noon. Dedicate your evening to the Angkor Night Market or enjoy a foot massage, as you've walked so much today.
5 Siem Reap Go to Banteay Srei in the early morning and then to Beng Meala. Get back to Siem Reap with a stop at the Cambodia Landmine Museum on the way. Built by sandstone, Banteay Srei is best viewed in the first sun rays. Extra fun for family: ride on the gibbon zip-line across the Angkor Wat complex or roam through the countryside at sunset on a quad bike.
6 Siem Reap Departure Leisure time before departure  

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