WHAT TO DO IN CAMBODIA?
Wedged between Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia was once the center of the Khmer Empire, one of the largest civilizations in Asia. He was also deeply affected by the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime, which was in power from 1975 to 1979.
It is now one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia and its roads and infrastructure are in very bad conditions (making transport difficult), but it is also one of the cheapest countries in the world.
- Before you go, don’t forget to book your hotel in Cambodia on Booking.com
- Buy the Rough Guide to Cambodia on Amazon.com
Here are 15 things to see and do absolutely during a trip to Cambodia:
1 – ANGKOR WAT
The ruins of the ancient capital of the Khmer Empire, accessible from Siem Reap. Do not miss the temples of Angkor Thom, Ta Promh and Bayon. A visit to the Angkor National Museum in Siem Reap can also be interesting (the entrance costs a bit).
2 – SIEM REAP
The city serving as the entry point to the site of Angkor Wat is very lively at night: there are plenty of restaurants and nice bars, especially on the aptly named ‘Pub Street’. Also worth seeing: the night markets and a traditional Apsara dance show, several restaurants and hotels offer performances.
- Don’t forget to book your hotel in Siem Reap on Booking.com
3 – TONLE SAP LAKE
The Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. Take a boat trip to see the floating fishing villages but beware of tourist catches (some places are to be avoided). The best way to discover it is to go by boat Batambang => Siem Reap or Siem Reap => Phnom Penh.
4 – SEE IRRAWADDY DOLPHINS IN KRATIE
Kratie is a city along the Mekong River with well-preserved colonial architecture, but it is mainly from here that one can try to see a dolphin of the Irrawaddy, a species of river dolphin unfortunately on the way ‘extinction.
5 – WALK WITH ELEPHANTS IN MONDULKIRI
Mondulkiri Project is an NGO that offers tourists to walk in the forest with elephants in order to protect it from deforestation but also to support local communities. A unique experience if you want to see these giants closely (more info here).
6 – SIHANOUKVILLE
The seaside resort of Cambodia, the ideal place to spend a few days relaxing after the fatigue of traveling on Cambodian roads. Otres Beach, a bit out of the way, is the prettiest beach in Sihanoukville.
- Don’t forget to book your hotel in Sihanoukville on Booking.com
7 – PHNOM PENH
Several interesting things to see in the capital of Cambodia: the royal palace and the silver pagoda, as well as the interrogation center Tuol Sleng (also called S-21). Also visit the National Museum of Phnom Penh, which presents a collection of 14,000 pieces of Khmer art.
- Don’t forget to book your hotel in Phnom Penh on Booking.com
8 – DO TREKKING IN CHI PHAT
Forest treks from the village of Chi Phat (in the south-west of the country) are originally an eco-tourism project launched by an NGO to protect the Cardamom forest from deforestation and poaching, in collaboration with the inhabitants of the village. You can also go mountain biking, kayaking and sleeping in the forest (see official website).
9 – … OR DO TREKKING IN RATTANAKIRI
Located in northeastern Cambodia, the mountainous province of Ratanakiri (or Rotanah Kiri) is one of the most remote and beautiful in the country. On the program: excursions through the jungle, see waterfalls and wild animals and spend the night in villages. If you are looking for adventure, this is where you have to go.
10 – PREAH VIHEAR TEMPLE
Preah Vihear is a well-preserved Khmer temple perched on top of a 525-meter cliff in the Dangrek Mountains, to the Thai border (the two countries are arguing). Of all Khmer temples in Cambodia, it is the one with the most impressive location because it dominates the plain of Cambodia.
11 – KOH KER
Former Khmer capital of Cambodia from 928 to 944 and competitor Angkor, Koh Ker is located 100 km northeast of it and hosts much less tourists. You can see several temples including the Prasat Thom, 30 meters high (see photo below). Most of the large statues of the National Museum of Phnom Penh come from this site.
12 – BOKOR HILL STATION
Once known for its pepper production, Kampot is a relaxed city from where you can visit the Bokor Hill Station, an old colonial villa built by the French in 1920, which was used to escape the sweltering heat of Phnom Penh in summer ( she is on top of a hill). Now abandoned, it has a side ‘ghost house’ and exudes a special atmosphere.
13 – BATTAMBANG
Located in western Cambodia, the second largest city in the country has a French colonial architecture very well preserved. To see and do: explore the city and its market, the cave with bats, walk in the surrounding countryside by bike or motorbike and for the most athletic, Wat Banan temple.
14 – BANTEAY SREI TEMPLE
The Banteay Srei Temple is located on the site of the ancient city of Isvarapura 25 km north-east of Angkor (about an hour drive). Although officially part of the Angkor site, it is considered a special attraction. Built in pink sandstone, it is surrounded by moats and has beautiful sculptures and bas-reliefs.
15 – EXPLORE THE ISLANDS
There are several inhabited islands off Cambodia where it is possible to spend a day or even rent a bungalow for several nights and wake up in the morning with the sound of the waves. The best known are Koh Rani (Bamboo island), Koh Rong Samloem and Koh Rong where it is possible to dive.
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