Home Cambodia Travel GuideWhere is Cambodia

Where is Cambodia

Cambodia is a country in the southern part of Southeast Asia, bordering with three other countries: Thailand (to the northwest), Laos (to the northeast) and Vietnam (to the east and south). Two rivers: the Tonle Sap and the Mekong cross the whole country from north to south, and meet in the capital city, Phnom Penh.

The three neighboring countries have had complicated relationships with Cambodia during different periods of history. Due to Cambodia’s geographical location and scarcity of international inbound flights, most tourists start their trip in Thailand or Vietnam, before extending to Cambodia.

Quick facts about Cambodia

Name of the Country Kingdom of Cambodia Abbreviation Cambodia
Capital Phnom Penh Continent Asia (Southeast Asia)
Population 15.8 million (2016) Area 181,035 sq km (69,898 sq miles)
Major Language Khmer Major Religion Buddhism
Major Cities Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang Currency Riel (approx. USD$1=KHR4,025, December, 2017)
Prime Minister Hun Sen Famous Figure Norodom Sihamoni (Monarch)
Time Zone UTC +7:00 International Call Code +855

Shape of Cambodia

Cambodia is shaped like a bowl, with highlands at the perimeter and a plain in the center. It is 181,035 square kilometers in area, comparable with North Dakota in the USA. With a long history and well-endowed environment, it has various World Heritage sites, historic, cultural, and natural places of interest, along with beaches for relaxation.

The Mekong River is the longest river in Southeast Asia, beginning from the Tibetan Plateau and flowing southeast, through Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. In Cambodia, it passes through Stung Treng, Kratie, Kompong Cham, Phnom Penh and then goes into Vietnam. There is a cross-border cruise available between these two countries.

Located in the west of Cambodia, Tonle Sap Lake is an important water resource for all natural life in the area. Optional nature tours are possible from Tonle Sap to places near Siem Reap (distinct from Angkor Wat), such as a trip to the floating village in Kompong Phluk, a boat trip to a mangrove forest, or a bird-watching tour.

Phnom Aural is further to the southwest, the tallest peak in the country and part of the Cardamom Mountains. There are national parks to the south, in Kampot Province. Continuing west, you’ll meet the coastline, where Sihanoukville is the most popular location for backpackers.

The main cities in Cambodia

The main cities are fairly developed for tourism. Phnom Penh the capital is in the southern region, Siem Reap is north of Tonle Sap Lake and Battambang is east. Sihanoukville is northeast of the gulf of Thailand.

Siem Reap

Siem Reap used to be a small village, but it has been growing as a gateway to Angkor Wat since the temple complex opened to the world. It already has a large number of hotels, restaurants and other businesses related to tourism. It is the most popular tourist destination in Cambodia.

Normally people stay in Siem Reap at least two days to see its highlights. One day is devoted to the must-see temples: Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, Ta Prohm and Banteay Srei. Another day can be spent transferring to Kompong Phluk and exploring the floating village, which thrives on fishing.

You can have some special experiences at Siem Reap: Cycling or watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat; seeing the sunset on Bakheng Hill; enjoying the unique Apsara dance show over dinner; attending a cooking class; visiting the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary, riding a quad bike in the countryside, and zip-lining ]over the tree-tops.

Phnom Penh

As the capital, Phnom Penh is the political and cultural center. It was founded in 1434 and was given the nickname “Pearl of Asia” because of its French-style buildings from the 1920s. But its own traditional and historical architecture still remains. It has about 1.5 million inhabitants.

Discover the history and Khmer-style architecture of Cambodia by going on a one-day city tour, including the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda, the National Museum and the Central Market. The Toul Sleng Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek Memorial are outside the city.

Battambang

Battambang is the leading rice-producing province in Cambodia and the second largest city of the country. It is home to some of the best-preserved French colonial architecture and temples, similar to the ones in Siem Reap.

If you plan to stay in Cambodia for a week or so, you can go to Battambang, about 3.5 hours by car from Siem Reap. It is worth exploring the colonial villas and shopping malls left by the French Colonial administration.

Sihanoukville

This city was named after the former king Norodom Sihanouk. There are various seaside resorts built for tourists. Some of them have a private beach, like Sokha Beach or Independence Beach, so named by the resorts. Victory Beach on the other side is full of budget travelers.

For a beach holiday, there are better choices in Thailand and Vietnam. The facilities in Sihanoukville are just basic, as well as the beaches. There are not many optional for special activities on the beaches.

The most popular places to visit in Cambodia

We would like to introduce some of the most popular places for you to visit, according to your own personal interests.

The Royal Palace

This is the palace in Phnom Penh where royalty lives and works. It was built in the 1860s in traditional Khmer architectural style. Only some parts of it are open to tourists, as other parts are still in use. The Throne Hall, Moonlight Pavilion, Silver Pagoda, and Khemarin Palace are open for viewing.

The Silver Pagoda is worth a longer visit; it has some precious royal collections of jewelry and Buddharupa. You can learn more about history from visiting it.

The Toul Sleng Genocide Museum and The Choeung Ek Memorial

These are about 1.5 hours’ drive from Phnom Penh city center.

In 1975 the Khmer Rouge turned a high school – Toul Sleng – into the S-21 Prison. People were tortured there to force confessions, and then were executed at the killing fields of Choeung Ek. Now S-21 Prison has become a museum for exhibiting and remembering this dark history.

Choeung Ek was a Khmer Rouge place of execution from 1975 to 1979. It is best known as the Killing Fields. In 1988, the government built a Buddhist stupa there, where there are more than 5,000 human skulls, as a memorial to the poor and innocent souls.

This is the dark side of Cambodia’s history, a reminder of much innocent blood that was spilled.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is near Siem Reap and was the palace complex for royalty in ancient times. It’s the largest such complex still remaining in the world, retaining some must-see temples.

Outer section:

Bantey Srei, built with pink sandstone, 25 km from the main temples. It is known for its magnificent and exquisite architecture, exhibiting the excellent building skills of that time.

Beng Mealea has been open for visits since the 1990s. Not many people know about it and it has fewer visitors. You can take your time to admire the incredible masterpiece, only part of which is properly preserved.

Inner section:

Angkor Thom, the former royal city;

Bayon Temple, the mysterious smile of Angkor;

Elephant Terrace, a platform from which the king inspected his people; and Ta Prohm, a jungle temple.

At dusk, you can climb up to Bakheng Hill, which has the best view for sunsets.

Tonle Sap Lake

You can go on a boat tour on the lake to explore the lives of the locals, who live in floating villages not far from Siem Reap city. They still practise traditional customs. Schools, shops and even a hospital are built on the lake.

If you are a bird-lover, we have a bird-watching tour with a bird expert at Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary, also near Siem Reap. The lake offers a good environment for various water birds. On a small boat, you will have chance to see the birds’ nests up close.

Getting to Cambodia

The most popular gateway city for Cambodia is Siem Reap, as it holds the largest religious monument in the world — Angkor Wat. Siem Reap International Airport operates flights from Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

To travelers coming from United States, Europe or Australia, we suggest you transit via Hong Kong, Singapore or other Asian International hubs.

Flight times from the main cities of the world to Cambodia

Departure City Flight Time
New York 20 h
Los Angeles 17 h
Sydney/Perth 12 h
London 16 h

Visit Cambodia with Asia Highlights

Get to know our tour packages and let us do the work for you. Our experienced Asia Highlights staff will help you design your vacation in Cambodia. We take care of all the details so you can just relax and have fun during your holiday.

Visit the links below today, to learn more about our tour packages and start planning your visit to Cambodia.

12-Day Cambodia and Vietnam Highlights

14-Day Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos Tour

5-Day Siem Reap Tour at Depth

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