Best Places to Visit in Cambodia

From the monumental Angkor Wat to the irresistable lustre of the countryside, the best places to visit in Cambodia are a wonder.

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A City Built In the Glorious Days of the Khmer

It was only a few centuries ago that Phnom Penh was one of the principal cities of Asia. Today, it stands at the vanguard of tourism as one of the best places to visit in Cambodia. Caught dramatically where the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers kiss, its diverse land has all it takes to cure your wanderlust in a day. Khmer-style pagodas and eclectic temple complexes pepper the city from end to end. And, the phenomenal Silver Pagoda takes the lead. Pay a visit to the picture-perfect shrine, and you will also get to see the adjacent Royal Palace and National Museum in full glory. But, wait until the darkness falls to see Phnom Penh find its mojo. The city’s cosmopolitan swagger takes over the historic scene at night, painting the streets in a carnival of colors and sounds.

The Spiritual Center of Theravada Buddhism

In the holy city of Siem Reap, there is an exquisite temple in the place of a building and a Khmer treasure wherever you step foot on its land. The crown jewel is the one of a kind Angkor Wat, defining the city’s skyline with its matchless silhouette. It is the sole reason why many visitors flock to Cambodia. But once you become satisfied, see beyond the marvelous temple complex and give its surroundings a chance. There are several other temples delivering what many hail as Cambodian architectural flair. They are at the top of the list when it comes to the best places to visit in Cambodia. Siem Reap is also the place to be for the culturally-inclined and intellectually curious travelers. This is where the local tastes and entertainment concentrate.

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best places to visit in Cambodia

Cambodia’s Heart Beats in Its Countryside

The true character of Cambodia lies somewhere between its richly varied countryside and its treasure trove of ancient imperial relics. Battambang is the best place to experience it, set amidst the rice fields of the country’s verdant north. It boasts a handful of mountains and caves that will immediately mark your trip. If you have time, riding the Bamboo Train through the luminos rice fields is the highlight activity in any Cambodia itinerary. The juxtaposition of nature and culture is beyond imagination in the vibrant villages of the countryside. It is also home to some of the most valued monuments like Phnom Banan, a beckoning temple complex charming visitors with its old-world vibes.

Must-See Sights in Cambodia

Here is everything you need to know about the best places to visit in Cambodia.

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Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is an enormous Buddhist temple complex located in northern Cambodia. It was originally built in the first half of the 12th century as a Hindu temple.

Why You Should Visit:

Explore the ancient wonder of Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s largest temple complex, and immerse yourself in a rich history of culture, religion, and artistry.

Don’t Miss:

-Witnessing the sunrise over Angkor Wat is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that should not be missed. You’ll see the temple complex bathed in golden light.

-Take your time to explore the Angkor Wat temple complex and marvel at the intricate carvings and architecture. Make sure to visit the central sanctuary and climb to the top for a panoramic view.

-The Ta Prohm temple is a must-visit when you’re at Angkor Wat.

Keep in Mind:

-Dress appropriately by covering your shoulders and knees as it is a religious site.

-Bring plenty of water and sunscreen as it can get hot and there is limited shade.

-Hire a guide or download a mobile app to learn about the history and significance of the temple.

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Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia. It is situated at the confluence of three rivers, the mighty Mekong, the Bassac and Tonle Sap, what was once considered the ‘Gem’ of Indochina.

Why You Should Visit:

Discover the vibrant capital city of Phnom Penh, where bustling markets, colorful pagodas, and fascinating museums showcase Cambodia’s past and present.

Don’t Miss:

The Royal Palace is a stunning complex that houses the royal family and features beautiful gardens and architecture. Don’t miss the Silver Pagoda, which houses a famous Emerald Buddha statue.

-While it’s a somber experience, visiting the Killing Fields is an important part of understanding Cambodia’s history.

-Phnom Penh has an amazing food scene, so make sure to try some local dishes.

Keep in Mind:

-Be mindful of your belongings and surroundings, as pickpocketing can be common in busy areas.

-Visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields to learn about the country’s dark past and pay respect to those who lost their lives.

-Sample some of the local cuisine such as fish amok and num banh chok (rice noodle soup).

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Siem Reap

Siem Reap province is located in northwest Cambodia. It is the major tourist hub in Cambodia, as it is the closest city to the world famous temples of Angkor.

Why You Should Visit:

Experience the gateway to Angkor at Siem Reap, where enchanting temples, delicious cuisine, and warm hospitality await you in the heart of Cambodia.

Don’t Miss:

-Before you visit the temples at Angkor Wat, stop by the Angkor National Museum to learn more about the history and culture of the Khmer Empire.

-The Apsara dance is a traditional Cambodian dance that tells stories from Hindu mythology. You can catch a performance at many of the restaurants in Siem Reap.

-Siem Reap has a bustling night market scene where you can shop for souvenirs, try street food, and mingle with locals and tourists alike.

Keep in Mind:

-Purchase a multi-day pass to explore the Angkor Archaeological Park at your own pace.

-Take a break from temple hopping and visit the night market to shop for souvenirs and try street food.

-Support the local community by visiting social enterprises and ethical businesses, such as artisan workshops and fair trade markets.

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Phnom Banan

The 11th-century Angkorian ruin is the best preserved of the Khmer temples around Battambang. Its towers point skyward and stand as the ultimate allure in the region.

Why You Should Visit:

Climb to the top of Phnom Banan, a hilltop temple offering stunning views of the surrounding countryside, and witness the beauty of ancient Khmer architecture.

Don’t Miss:

-The main attraction at Phnom Banan is climbing the hill to visit the ancient temple at the top. It’s a bit of a hike, but the views from the top are worth it.

-There’s a bat cave at the base of the hill that’s worth checking out. In the evening, thousands of bats fly out of the cave, which is quite a sight.

-Phnom Banan is located in a beautiful rural area, so take some time to explore the countryside and meet some locals.

Keep in Mind:

-Wear comfortable shoes as there are steep stairs to climb to reach the top of the temple.

-Visit during the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat and crowds.

-Enjoy the scenic views of the surrounding countryside from the top of the temple.

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Terrace of the Elephants

The Terrace of the Elephants is one of the most visited sites in the Angkor Park. It is a 2.5m tall, 300m long platform and was used by King Jayavarman VII.

Why You Should Visit:

Marvel at the Terrace of the Elephants, an intricate stone platform adorned with exquisite carvings of elephants and other mythical creatures, a testament to the artistic prowess of the Khmer Empire.

Don’t Miss:

-The Terrace of the Elephants is a platform that was used for public ceremonies during the Khmer Empire. It’s adorned with intricate carvings of elephants, warriors, and gods.

-The Terrace of the Elephants is an important historical site, so take some time to learn about its significance and the role it played in the Khmer Empire.

-If you want to learn even more about the Terrace of the Elephants and the surrounding area, consider taking a guided tour with a knowledgeable guide.

Keep in Mind:

-Visit during sunrise or sunset to see the intricate carvings and reliefs in the best light.

-Hire a guide to learn about the significance of the site, which was used for royal ceremonies and processions.

-Combine your visit with nearby sites such as the Baphuon temple and the Royal Palace.

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Wat Phnom

Wat Phnom is a Buddhist temple located in Phnom Penh. It was built in 1372, and stands 27 metres above the ground. It is the tallest religious structure in the city.

Why You Should Visit:

Ascend the steps of Wat Phnom, a serene temple perched atop a hill in the heart of Phnom Penh, and discover a peaceful sanctuary amidst the bustle of the city.

Don’t Miss:

-Wat Phnom is a beautiful temple that’s worth a visit. You’ll see locals coming to pray and make offerings, and you can also explore the surrounding gardens.

-There are many monkeys that live in the trees around the temple, and visitors are often seen feeding them.

Learn about the history. According to legend, the temple was built on the site where Lady Penh found four Buddha statues washed ashore on the Mekong River.

Keep in Mind:

-Be respectful of worshippers and avoid taking photos during prayer times.

-Enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and observe the local customs such as offering incense and flowers.

-Explore the surrounding park and see the statues and sculptures depicting Cambodian folklore and history.

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Cambodia FAQ

How many days do I need to explore Siem Reap and visit Angkor Wat?

To explore Siem Reap and visit Angkor Wat, it is recommended to spend at least 3-4 days in the area. This will give you enough time to see the major temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park, including Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm, as well as some of the lesser-known temples and other attractions in Siem Reap. However, if you are on a tight schedule, you could still see the highlights of Angkor Wat in just one or two days, but you would need to prioritize which temples to visit and may need to hire a private guide to help you make the most of your time.

Can I visit Angkor Wat at sunrise or sunset?

Yes, visiting Angkor Wat at sunrise or sunset is a popular activity for tourists. The temple complex is open from 5:00 AM to 6:00 PM every day, and many visitors choose to visit during sunrise or sunset to experience the stunning views and capture some memorable photographs. The sunrise and sunset views at Angkor Wat are particularly spectacular, as the sun illuminates the intricate carvings and architecture of the temple, creating a magical and ethereal atmosphere.

What are some must-see temples in Angkor Archaeological Park?

Angkor Archaeological Park, located in Siem Reap, Cambodia, is home to several magnificent temples built during the Khmer Empire. Among the must-see temples are Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site; Bayon Temple, known for its smiling stone faces; Ta Prohm, which features towering trees growing through the ruins; and Banteay Srei, a smaller but exquisitely carved temple made of pink sandstone. Each temple offers a unique and awe-inspiring experience, making a visit to Angkor Archaeological Park an unforgettable trip.

What are the best things to do in Battambang?

Battambang, located in northwestern Cambodia, offers a range of activities for visitors. One of the best things to do is to take a bamboo train ride, which takes you on a scenic journey through the countryside. Another popular activity is to visit the bat caves, where millions of bats emerge at sunset to hunt for food. The town also has a rich history and architecture, with beautiful French colonial buildings and ancient temples such as Wat Banan and Phnom Sampeau. For a cultural experience, visitors can watch a traditional Khmer dance performance or visit a local market to try Cambodian street food.

Can I visit the Tonle Sap Lake from Siem Reap?

Yes, you can visit Tonle Sap Lake from Siem Reap. Tonle Sap Lake is located about 15 kilometers south of Siem Reap, and there are several ways to get there.
One popular way to visit the lake is to take a boat tour, which will allow you to see the floating villages and fishing communities that are situated on the lake. There are several tour operators in Siem Reap that offer these tours, and they typically include transportation to and from the lake as well as a guided tour of the lake itself.

What are the best places to experience Cambodian culture?

Cambodia has a rich and unique culture, and there are many places where you can experience it firsthand. Some of the best places to experience Cambodian culture include the Angkor Archaeological Park, Phnom Penh, Battambang, Tonle Sap Lake, and Kampot. These destinations offer a mix of history, architecture, art, cuisine, and everyday life, and provide visitors with an immersive experience of Cambodian culture. Be sure to take the time to talk to locals and learn about their way of life for a truly authentic experience.

What are the best places to go shopping in Cambodia?

Cambodia offers a diverse range of shopping options, from traditional markets to modern shopping centers. Some of the best places to go shopping in Cambodia include the Russian Market and Central Market in Phnom Penh, the Angkor Night Market and Old Market in Siem Reap, and the Aeon Mall in Phnom Penh. These shopping destinations offer a variety of goods, including clothing, handicrafts, jewelry, souvenirs, and international brands. It is customary to bargain and negotiate prices in Cambodian markets, so be prepared to haggle for the best deals.

What are the best places to visit in Cambodia off the beaten track?

Cambodia has many hidden gems for those who want to explore beyond the popular tourist destinations. Some of the best off-the-beaten-path places to visit in Cambodia include Koh Ker, a remote temple complex; Preah Vihear, an ancient temple on a mountaintop; Kep, a laid-back seaside town; Mondulkiri, a rural province with stunning natural beauty; and the Battambang countryside, known for its traditional villages and rice paddies. These destinations offer a chance to experience Cambodia’s rich cultural heritage and natural beauty away from the crowds. Whether you’re interested in ancient history, natural wonders, or rural life, there is something to discover in Cambodia.

What are the best temples to visit in Siem Reap?

Siem Reap is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in ancient temples and history. The most famous temple in the area is Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. Another must-see temple is Bayon, known for its distinctive towers with faces carved into them. Other notable temples in Siem Reap include Ta Prohm, famous for its jungle setting and ancient trees, and Banteay Srei, known for its intricate carvings and pink sandstone architecture. With so many incredible temples to choose from, a visit to Siem Reap is sure to be an unforgettable experience.

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