Cambodia is full of diversity and offers a variety of activities for visitors to quickly fill up their agendas with. From its array of glorious temples and religious structures, rich heritage and culture to the rare wildlife and stunning eco-tourism spots, the country has it all.
Home to world-famous Angkor Wat, this UNESCO heritage site stretches across more than 400 kilometers squared and contains hundreds of temples and structures dating back to the Khmer Empire era. The most popular are Angkor Wat, Bayon and its multiple faces and root-riddled Ta Prohm, which was the location for parts of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie.
The National Museum is home to the world’s greatest collection of Khmer artifacts and is well worth a visit ahead of a trip to the temples of Angkor Wat. A stroll through the attraction takes in a range of sculptures, ceramics, and other ancient objects dating back to the prehistoric, pre-Angkorian, and post-Angkorian periods, offering an intriguing insight into the country’s rich history.
Unmissable thanks to its glittering golden roofs, the Royal Palace serves as the official royal residence of King Sihamoni, meaning parts of the sprawling palace grounds are closed to the public. However, the Throne Hall and surrounding buildings, as well as neighboring Silver Pagoda, can be visited, and you can take in intricately decorated temples and buildings, among manicured tropical gardens.
Phnom Kulen, or Kulen Mountain in Siem Reap province, offers a great day trip away from Angkor. The sacred site doubles up as a national park and is especially popular with Khmers during religious holidays, when offerings are left at the hilltop temple. The area is also home to two waterfalls for swimming, picnic areas, and Kbal Spean, an archaeological spot where The River of a Thousand Lingas is located.
As a country rich in arts and culture, a trip to see Cambodian Living Arts’ live shows in the capital is a must. Fusing traditional Cambodian dance, theatre, music, and song, the one-hour performances take place at a dedicated space in the back of The National Museum in Phnom Penh, from Monday to Saturday at 7 p.m.
More than 30 species of Cambodian butterflies flutter around Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre in Siem Reap province, making it one of the largest fully enclosed butterfly centers in southeast Asia. Visitors can also learn, and see first-hand, the insects’ journey from egg to caterpillar, pupa, and finally, adult butterfly.
Cambodia Landmine Museum is the result of tireless work from landmine victim Aki Ra, who has contributed towards the huge operations to rid the country of explosives left over from the war. The museum, which is close to the Butterfly Centre, houses a collection of mines, mortars, and other weapons, as well as tells the stories of some of the country’s countless victims.
Standing as the capital’s only hill, this well-manicured park offers welcome respite from the capital’s heat. Wat Phnom pagoda and its intricately-detailed temple sits atop and welcomes visitors, with foreigners paying a $1 fee. Steer clear of the mischievous, and often vicious, monkeys.
Nature lovers will be in their element at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center, where animals rescued from the clutches of poachers and illegal traders are nursed back to health by Wildlife Alliance. Animals include elephants, monkeys, tigers, and sun bears. A behind-the-scenes tour is also available.
This collection of 50 pre-Angkorian temples, which sit between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in Kampong Thom province, recently received the coveted title of Cambodia’s third UNESCO World Heritage site. The ancient capital of Sambor Prei Kuk pays testament to some of the country’s earliest architecture and, for now, remains away from the crowds.
Dubbed Cambodia’s alternative to Cirque du Soliel, jaw-dropping performances blend theatrics, music, dance, acrobatics, and modern circus art to retell Khmer folktales with a modern take. Daily Phare performances take place in Siem Reap, with two or three shows a week in Battambang, depending on the season.
The 42-mile drive from Kampot town to Bokor’s peak is a bikers’ dream, with it only accessible to motorbikes and cars. It is home to the Popokvil waterfall, a giant Buddhist statue, an abandoned Bokor Hill Station, a giant casino, derelict church, unparalleled views, and a refreshingly cool climate.
The famous Cambodian dish of Kampot pepper and crab was born in this stylish seaside town, and a visit to the Crab Market serves up an authentic taste. Watch women wade into the sea to haul in the crab baskets ahead of being served the freshest dish in the Kingdom. There are several neighboring shacks to enjoy an accompanying beer.
Nestled a short ferry ride from Phnom Penh, this small island sits a million miles away from the capital’s hustle and bustle. Perfect to explore on the back of a bike, Koh Dach, also known as Silk Island, is renowned for its silk weaving, with a center dedicated to ancient techniques open to the public.
This pretty hilltop pagoda and surrounding area offers stunning views across the province’s pristine paddies. The sobering Killing Caves pay tribute to the lives lost there during the Khmer Rouge reign while spending sunset at the base of the site—the bat caves—has a seemingly endless stream of bats spiraling to the sky for a night of hunting.
Rumors have been circulating for the last few years about the famed bamboo train’s demise. However, it was recently confirmed it will be rebuilt to pave way for a train line. This unique trip sees passengers transported seven kilometers on a bamboo train, or norry, which is a wooden frame connected to an engine. Hitting speeds of 15 kilometers per hour, this is a fun way to watch the scenery whizz by.
Cambodia’s lesser known UNESCO site is well worth getting off the beaten track to visit. The stunning temple complex, which sits on the border of Thailand, boasts fewer crowds and a more authentic taste of the Khmer kingdom. Breath-taking views from its summit can be enjoyed.
A trip to this remote eastern province brings with it a wealth of wildlife opportunities. This includes rare Irrawaddy dolphins spotted swimming in stretches of the Mekong River and Cantor’s giant softshell turtles can be seen at the Mekong Turtle Conservation Centre. A taste of local life can be sampled at eco-tourism project Le Tonle.
Phnom Penh comes to life after hours and Bassac Lane is the place to be for drinks, live music, and bites. The almost-hidden alley is packed with a collection of boutique bars, restaurants, and stores, with the energy spilling into the early hours.
Stalls flogging everything from souvenirs, art, clothes, and jewelry to fruit and vegetables, household goods, and bike parts, a morning or afternoon can easily be spent wandering around the rabbit’s warren inside, with bargains waiting to be snagged if the haggling is right.