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Top Destinations in Cambodia

Cambodia is a country that is full of fantastic vacation destinations. From incredible national parks to beautiful tropical beaches, Cambodia has wonderful places to experience nature. From the striking Buddhist temples to the remains of ancient civilization, this country is the perfect place to experience a new culture. Infamously, with the killing fields left as a reminder of a brutal regime, Cambodia is a good place to learn about history and the terrible effects of genocide.

This article will describe many places in Cambodia, starting with the two biggest cities, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, and then moving through the country from north to south, introducing our top picks of destinations.

Quick Facts

  • In Siem Reap, travelers can visit Angkor Wat and the floating villages, and they can explore the surrounding jungle.
  • In Phnom Penh, some of the top activities include going to the Tuol Selang Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek.
  • In Phnom Penh, many visitors visit the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda as well as the famous markets.
  • In Nothern Cambodia, some of the best places to go to include Battambang, Prasat Preah Vihear, and Sambor Prei Kuk.
  • In Southern Cambodia, some of the best places to go to include Sihanoukville, Ream National Park, and Kirirom National Park.

Siem Reap

This vibrant city is a major tourist destination in Cambodia, due to its closeness to some of the most famous and incredible locations that the country has to offer. From Siem Reap, visitors have easy access to ancient temples, jungles, and rural villages.

Angkor Wat

The most popular site to visit in Siem Reap is Angkor Wat, which is an incredible temple complex that was built in the 12th century and covers 162 hectares. Angkor Wat includes hundreds of well-preserved structures, the most famous being Angkor Wat itself, Angkor Thom, Bayon, and Ta Prohm as well as many others.

Exploring the site of these ancient architectural wonders will bring travelers back in time and leave them with a sense of awe. The temples are also surrounded by a beautiful tropical jungle that can be explored by hiking.

Location: About 3.5 miles north of Siem Reap

Travel Information:  Visiting hours for the parks are from 5 a.m. – 6 p.m. and it is best to go early in order to avoid the crowds. There are many different ticket options for viewing the site. One-day tickets are US$37, three-day tickets cost US$62, and seven-day tickets cost US$72.

Floating Villages

The picturesque floating villages of Siem Reap are an absolute must-see. These villages are located on the outskirts of the city. Visitors can experience a remote lifestyle, take some amazing photographs of the villages against the glinting waters, and try their hand at fishing.

Location: There are multiple villages to choose from. All of them are located on the outskirts of the city.

Travel Information: There are many options for tours of the floating villages. Some villages are better to see and more picturesque than others, so it is important to research the villages beforehand. The most common types of tours are by boat and often take around 2 hours.

Phnom Penh

Now the capital and the most populated city in Cambodia, Phnom Penh was once known as the "Pearl of Asia". Although wars and revolutions have changed the city, it is now thriving more than ever. The streets are bustling and full of life, and the international food and cafe culture have grown a lot in recent years.

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek

One incredibly sad yet important place to visit in Phnom Penh is the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. During the years of the Khmer Rouge Regime, 17,000 men, women, and children were tortured and many killed at the S-21 Prison, which is now the Tuol Sleng Museum.  The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek is a mass grave where more than 17,000 were killed and buried.

Location: Both of these important locations are in Phnom Penh, whereby the Killing Fields are located just outside the city.

Travel Information: The Tuol Sleng Museum is open daily from 7:00 - 11:30 a.m. and from 2:00 - 5:30 p.m. and tickets only cost US$2. The cost to enter the Killing Fields for a tour is US$3. Tour guides can be hired at both locations, and there are self-guided audio tours available as well.

The Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda

Two other popular destination in the city are the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda which have served as the home of the King of Cambodia since they were built in the 1860s. The Royal Palace is absolutely stunning with its golden spires and classic Cambodian style. On the palace grounds is the Silver Pagoda which got its name from the shining silver tiled floor. It is where the kings met with monks for ceremonies.

Location: The Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda are located on Street 240 (Preah Ang Phanu Vong) in Chey Chumneas Commune, Daun Penh District

Travel Information:  The best time to visit this location is in the early morning, when the light will make for stunning photos. 

Travelers can enter daily from 8 - 11 a.m. and 2:30 - 5:00 p.m. The entrance fee is US$ 3 per person. It is important to dress modestly, as bare shoulders and knees are seen as disrespectful.

Central Market and Russian Market

Phnom Penh is the perfect place to find souvenirs – at the Central and Russian markets. The Central Market was established in 1937 and it is a great place for those looking to buy gold, jewelry, food, and souvenirs. The Russian Market received its name due to its popularity amongst Russian expats and it is the best place to buy handmade goods such as woodcarvings, silk, statues, and musical instruments.

Location: Central Market: Kampuchea Krom, Street 128, Phnom Penh 55555, Cambodia Russian Market: St 444, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Travel Information:  The Russian Market is typically open from 6 a.m. - 5 p.m. and the Central Market is open from 7 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Northern Cambodia

Northern Cambodia and its underdeveloped provinces are probably some of the least explored areas in the country, but for those who take the time to travel there, the north offers many rewards like riverside towns, ancient temples, and incredible experiences. Some of our favorite stops in Northern Cambodia include Battambang, Prasat Preah Vihear, and Sambor Prei Kuk.

Battambang

This city is popular with tourists, due to its mix of modern city style and well-preserved colonial architecture. The attractive colonial-style buildings in the city remind travelers of the history, while adding to the beauty of the streets. Battambang is located next to a beautiful river and has many laid-back cafes spread throughout the city. Battambang is also close to ancient temples and Buddhist shrines.

Location: In Battambang Province in the far Northeast of Cambodia.

Travel Information: You can get to Battambang by road, boat, or rail. From Siem Reap, visitors can take the public bus to Battambang for US$4.50 or arrange a private car. Traveling by boat can take anything from 4-12 hours, depending on the time of year.

Prasat Preah Vihear

This incredible 800 meter-long ancient temple is situated on top of a steep slope in the Dangrek Mountains. Located at an elevation of 625 meters, Prasat Preah Vihear offers stunning views over the surrounding lowlands. This temple is Cambodia's second World Heritage site and predates Angkor Wat by around 100 years. The temple is known to have been dedicated to the god Shiva and is thought to have been built around the year 1000.

Location: About 2 1/2 hours by car from Siem Reap.

Travel Information: The price of entry into the complex ranges from US$7-12. 

Although beautiful, this temple was at the center of a land dispute between Cambodia and Thailand from 2008-2011. The temple is currently surrounded by heavily armed police, so it is important to check the political situation before traveling here.

Sambor Prei Kuk

This archaeological site dates back to the late 6th to 9th century period and was built during the time of the pre-Angkorian Chenla Kingdom time period. The Sambor Prei Kuk complex contains more than 100 temples that are spread throughout the forest. This complex contains some of the oldest known structures in the country and is said to have influenced the later styles of the Angkor architecture period.

Location:  About 19 miles north of Kampong Thom, which is the provincial capital.

Travel Information: The entrance fee for this temple is US$3.

The best time to visit the temple is in the early morning. Most trips to this site are very long so it is a good idea to spend the night in Kampong Thom while visiting.

Southern Cambodia

Southern Cambodia is the true tropical paradise of the country and is full of beautiful beaches and incredible rainforests. Traveling in the south is a pleasure for those who love plenty of options when it comes to good beaches, islands, and national parks. Our picks for Southern Cambodia include Sihanoukville, Ream National Park, and Kirirom National Park.

Sihanoukville

This party beach town is located on a hill that overlooks long white sand beaches and incredible turquoise waters that are spotted by islands. Downtown Sihanoukville is where visitors can find markets, banks, and internet cafes but there aren't too many attractions there.

Victory Beach used to be the popular backpacker party beach and still has a similar atmosphere and is full of young people. However, Occheuteal Beach has taken its place as the busiest beach in the area today. Independence Beach is the perfect place to relax on its glistening sand surrounded by nature, as it is one of the quieter and calmer beaches in the area. Lastly, Sokha Beach might be Sihanoukville's nicest beach as it is always clean and beautiful.

Location:  Sihanoukville is a coastal city and the capital of Sihanoukville province. It is located in the Southwest on the Gulf of Thailand.

Travel Information: Sihanoukville is the perfect stop-off point to reach many famous beaches and popular islands. Travelers often stop here before catching a boat to another area.

Ream National Park

This park offers great trekking opportunities and boat trips through the coastal mangroves. The well-preserved forest in the center of the park contains many species of endangered birds including two species of eagle. The park is also said to contain deer, and claims sightings of leopards and sun bears.

Location: The park is located only about 15 kilometers east of Sihanoukville.

Travel Information: There is no entrance fee for this park. However, if you want to hike, you need to hire a ranger for US$2-3. Boat trips around the area typically cost US$6-7 per person.

Kirirom National Park

Kirirom National Park is a well-preserved area that is great to visit and contains many winding trails through the pine forests. During the rainy season, the rivers get higher and the rushing waterfalls are a beautiful sight. Many of the trails in this park are great for mountain biking, and there are also some areas for bouldering.

Location: This park is only 15 kilometers east of Sihanoukville.

Travel Information: The park entrance fee is US$5.

If you are traveling here from Phnom Penh, you may need to book accommodation near the park. There are two resorts and one restaurant near the park for those who want to stay in the area.

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