Cambodia has a lot to offer. Its gorgeous natural environment and rich cultural heritage make it a must for anyone travelling in Southeast Asia.
Cambodia's diverse terrain offers everything: from beautiful islands in the south to wild nature in the north; from the magnificent architecture of the temples in Angkor Wat to traditional cities like Battambang.
Exploring Cambodia is a unique experience, one that might change forever the way you travel and approach remote cultures.
Built around a river, Siem Reap is in the northwest of the country. Its main attraction is of course Angkor Wat. Once the biggest pre-industrial city in the world, Angkor Wat still dazzles because of the magnificent Khmer architecture of its temples.
Temples of Angkor
Angkor Wat is the symbol of Cambodia. Its main site is 162 hectares in area, and it was built in the 12th century during the Khmer Empire. The characteristic mountain temples are an amazing sight, standing out against the luxurious jungle around.
It is easy to lose track of time while wandering around Angkor Wat. You can pace through the gardens, or walk inside the galleried temple to admire the rich carvings. Having a guide is a good way of getting the most out of the experience.
The site encompasses many different temples such as Bayon, Ta Prohm, and Banteay Srei; each with its own story and its characteristic architecture. It is an amazing scenic spot, perfect for taking pictures, especially in the morning or during the sunset.
Rent a tuk tuk for a day and explore the magnificent Buddhist temples in the jungle: admiring the gigantic Bayon faces, and the stunning forest which swallows Ta Prohm.
November to February is the best time to visit the temples. With its 2 million visitors per year, Angkor is like a magnet attracting many travelers.
Floating Villages on Tonle Sap Lake
Located just 15 km from Siem Reap, Tonle Sap is the biggest lake in Southeast Asia. Three million people live around its banks, making a living from fishing and agriculture. One of the most famous villages is Kamping Phluk.
A boat trip around the village usually takes two hours. During the tour, you will see different kinds of floating house, built in Khmer, Vietnamese or Muslim style. The village has everything: clinics, markets, schools, and basketball courts, all built on a floating platform.
From Kamping Phluk it is easy to reach Prek Toal, home to a beautiful bird sanctuary with many endangered species of water bird.
It is good to visit the villages during the monsoon season. You may never have seen anything quite like them before.
Cambodia is home to one of the most extensive mangrove forests in Southeast Asia.
The forest is near Koh Kong city, in the southwest of the country (500km from Siem Reap and 270km from Phnom Penh). It is home to a wide variety of wildlife such as birds, dolphins, and killer-whales. It is a unique opportunity to observe the fascinating natural environment that responsible ecotourism tries to preserve.
You can hike along a 25-km path that cuts through the forest, surrounded by mangrove trees all along the way. Or take a boat through the gorgeous forest and reach the lagoon, where you can visit a fishing village and buy fresh fish, swim, snorkel, and cook the fish you just bought.
The mangrove forest is part of Pream Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary: locals fight every day against the destruction of the forest and the extinction of the indigenous wildlife.
The capital of Cambodia has as its main attraction the Royal Palace. The palace, built in the 19th century, is a complex of buildings that serve as the home to the King of Cambodia. It is located where the Mekong River and Tonle Sap River meet.
The palace is an example of Khmer mixed with French architecture. It has four compounds:
- The Throne Hall: where coronations and royal weddings are convened. It has beautiful frescos of the Reamker and a statue of His Majesty Sisowath Monivong holding a sword.
- Moonlight Pavilion: an open-air pavilion where classical Khmer dances are performed. From this pavilion, the king often observes parades held around the city.
- Silver Pagoda: the main building of the pagoda hosts many different national treasures, the most impressive being the Buddha statue covered with over 9,000 diamonds.
- Khemarin Palace: this is the official residence of the king. It is behind a small wall and the main building is topped with a prang (a tall, richly-carved, tower-like spire).
To visit the Royal Palace is to understand and experience the grandeur of royal power in Cambodia. The Khmer architecture of the palace, evolved from that seen in Angkor Wat, is breathtaking.
Cruise on the Mekong River
You can explore Cambodia from the water: taking a cruise on the Mekong River, the 12th longest river in the world and the 2nd for biodiversity (after the Amazon), is a good option.
The cruise goes through the rich rainforests of the country and lasts around 8-10 days.
A typical itinerary starts from Ho Chi Minh City and goes up towards Siem Reap, passing through Phnom Penh and many different places like Vinh Long, Chau Doc and Kampong Chhnang.
This is maybe the best way to experience the Cambodian countryside with its Buddhist temples and charming villages, while also stopping in the major cities; all the while travelling on a boat with a luxurious room, excellent food and welcoming workers who supply you with everything you need.
There are plenty of options. Tell us your interests and we will find the cruise that best suits your needs.
Northern Cambodia: Battambang…
If you are spending more than a week in Cambodia, you might want to visit Battambang, near the border with Thailand. It is a good place to start, before heading to Siem Reap.
The impact of French colonial administration on the city has been huge, and its legacy can be seen in the many colonial buildings around the city and the remaining influence on local cuisine.
Among its most important attractions are:
- The Killing Caves of Phnom Sampeau: only 11km from the city, you can find witness to the Khmer Rouge atrocities. Here, during the 1970s, many victims were tossed into holes, that were skylights of the cave. To commemorate the victims, a memorial glass and a golden reclining Buddha are placed near the skulls
- Wat Banan: this site is 27km from the city. Five prasats (a Khmer term for “castle”), built in the 11th century, are located on top of a hill you can reach via a long staircase carved directly into the stone. The view from the top is breathtaking. The spot is not very touristy, and you might be the only person there.
- Countryside: the rural scenery around the city is truly beautiful, with hills, forests and rice fields. You can easily explore it with a tuk tuk or a bicycle.
…and Southern Cambodia: Sihanoukville
Sihanoukville on the Gulf of Thailand is a small city renowned for its beaches. We recommend heading to the amazing Ream National Park, just 10km from the city.
The park is a combination of rivers, forests, coral reefs, and beaches. It is vibrant with wildlife, including many animals, from pelicans to dolphins, to mouse-deer, dugongs, and more.
You can take a trekking tour with a private guide, that includes transportation, food, and an optional boat tour.
Some parts of the park are still untouched by tourism: a refreshing experience you cannot miss.
Visit Cambodia with Asia Highlights
At Asia Highlights we offer tailor-made tours through Asia, where you can enjoy all highlights as well as amazing cultural experiences. To get started, send us an email.