The magnificent temple of Angkor Wat is one of the key highlights of any trip to Cambodia but there is so much more to see and do in this unspoiled and genuinely friendly country, formerly known as Kampuchea. The Kingdom of Cambodia has a very rich cultural heritage and a very tragic and bloody recent history from which it has begun to emerge.
Angkor Wat dates back to the first half of the 12th century and covers an area of 500 acres, 4 miles north of Siem Reap. It is the largest and best preserved of the Angkor group, regarded as an architectural masterpiece in terms of symmetry, balance, proportions and sculpture with impressive reliefs and exquisitely carved panels depicting legends and battles from Khmer history, triumphant victories and processions and the interventions of the gods in the wars against demon kings. Angkor Wat is generally accepted to have been constructed as a funerary temple for King Suryavarman II.
Phnom Penh is located at the confluence of three rivers, the Mekong, the Bassac and Tonle Sap. We recommend a couple of days in this vibrant city, to visit the Royal Palace, the National Museum, the pagoda of Wat Phnom and to venture into the darker side of Cambodian history by visiting the Toul Sleng Museum, a reminder of the atrocities under the Pol Pot regime. On a happier note, enjoy a sunset cruise on the Tonle Sap River, a cycling tour to explore the countryside and the islands of the great Mekong or visit the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre. The riverside is a true hotspot in the evenings with a great choice of bars and restaurants. The night market is open at weekends (Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays).
Siem Reap is the gateway for visiting the ancient Khmer temple complex of Angkor Wat and we recommend a stay of at least three nights to explore the attractions here, including the Bayon, Baphoun, Phimean Akas, The Royal Enclosure, Terrace of Elephants & Leper King and to Ta Phrom. Other popular day tours include visiting the floating villages on Tonlesap Lake. Siem Reap has a very lively night market. If you are looking for night out, Pub Street is a good place to start.
Sihanoukville is the beach destination in Cambodia and a good place for a few days of relaxation after exploring Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor Wat. During your stay we recommend a boat trip to Ream National Park which is home to a number of rare birds and animals. We also suggest visits to Bamboo Island, Chalus Island and Ta Kiev Island, fishing trips with local fishermen. For ultimate relaxation and a high-end resort, we recommend Song Saa, a private island reached in 40 minutes by boat from Sihanoukville.
Kampot is a hidden gem, rather overlooked by the more prominent destinations in Cambodia. It is a picturesque town with a scenic coastline, offshore islands, mountains and a national park. Nearby is the small seaside town of Kep, surrounded by tree-covered hills and famed for its delicious seafood. Popular day trips include a visit to Kep’s Crab Market, a boat trip to Koh Tongsay (Rabbit Island), Bokor National Park and a day tour to the Phnom Kampong Trach Cave, east of Kampot. You can also hire a bike and explore the coastline yourself.
Chi Phat is mainland South East Asia’s largest remaining tract of rainforest located in the heart of the Cardamom Mountains (Koh Kong Province). Popular day tours around this area include a boat trip and bird watching on the Stoeng Prat River, biking to Ancient Jar site with visits to caves and waterfalls, and exploring Pre Chi Paht by kayak.
Battambang is a great destination for travellers who like to get away from the main tourism spots. It is home to some spectacular rural scenery, impressive wetlands, Angkor-period temples, bike trails and mountain vantage points. A short trip on an improvised bamboo train on a poorly maintained railway is not everybody’s cup of tea (especially if you have a bad back) but makes for an unforgettable experience for the more adventurous.
The provinces of Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri in eastern Cambodia are places of natural beauty with thickly forested hills and jungle waterfalls offering great trekking. Near Ratanakiri there are remote hill tribal villages and we recommend a visit to the Gem Mountains. Elephant jungle treks can be arranged in Mondulkiri.
Other Destinations in South-East Asia and beyond
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