When you think of Cambodia, the first thing that comes to mind is undoubtedly “Angkor.” The remnants of the powerful Khmer Kingdom transport you to a bygone era, leaving an indelible impression.
Angkor is not just a reason, but the definitive reason to visit Cambodia. Whether you have a few days or more, Siem Reap serves as the perfect base for exploring the Angkor Small Circle, encompassing several temples, and visiting the floating village at Tonle Sap Lake.
Why should you visit Cambodia?
Angkor is one of the most impressive of all the ancient cities
Though it may not be officially recognized as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, Angkor is no less awe-inspiring than the Great Wall of China, Petra, Taj Mahal, or Chichen Itza. To truly comprehend its magnificence, witness it firsthand with your own eyes.
The ancient temples of the Khmer Empire extend beyond Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Baphuon. Venturing further afield allows you to immerse yourself fully in their grandeur. Ending the day at one of the remote temples will stir new emotions within you. Even if you can only follow the popular route around Angkor, you will not be disappointed. Angkor is a marvel, regardless of the New7Wonders Foundation’s verdict.
Travelling around Cambodia by land has improved dramatically
In the past 5–7 years, Cambodia has made significant strides in improving its major roadways. While some highways, like Route 6 between Poipet and Phnom Penh, have new pavement, other sections remain as two-lane thoroughfares shared by various modes of transportation, from buffalo carts and motorbikes to buses and trucks.
Overtaking drivers often disregard oncoming traffic, making night-time driving particularly dangerous. It is advisable to avoid taking night buses if possible.
Although some roads still need improvement to match the standards of neighboring countries like Thailand, traveling comfortably between major tourist destinations in Cambodia by bus is now possible. International bus links connect Cambodia with Thailand (Phnom Penh to Bangkok or Siem Reap to Bangkok), Vietnam (Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City), and Laos (Siem Reap to Pakse). These bus routes facilitate travel within the region, allowing budget-conscious travelers to move easily between neighboring countries.
Additionally, a well-connected network of interprovincial buses and domestic flights linking major tourist destinations has made moving around Cambodia easier than ever before.
Cambodia offers very diverse experiences
Cambodia caters to a wide range of interests and preferences. Whether you seek ancient ruins, pristine beaches, jungle trekking, unique cultural experiences, or delectable cuisine, Cambodia has it all.
Explore the ancient ruins, bask in the beauty of pristine beaches surpassing expectations, embark on adventurous jungle trekking expeditions, witness the fascinating process of pepper cultivation or salt harvesting, indulge in flavorful Khmer cuisine without overwhelming spiciness, and even find your caffeine fix for coffee lovers.
With such diverse offerings, it’s hard to resist booking your tickets to Cambodia immediately.
Check our Weather in Cambodia and Visa to Cambodia pages to ensure you’re prepared for your trip.
Note: Cambodia is generally a safe place to visit, though violent crimes can occur. It’s important to be aware of potential bribery, cheap alcohol, and poor driving skills while traveling in Cambodia. Some immigration officers may request payment for a “quick lane” upon entering the country. Be cautious of inflated bus ticket prices charged by touts. Children in touristy areas, including Angkor, may beg for money under the guise of paying for school, although their circumstances may not align with their claims. Strict penalties are imposed for drug use in Cambodia, so it’s advisable to avoid drug-related activities. Exercise caution while consuming alcohol, as overdosing is not uncommon among travelers. Driving under the influence is strongly discouraged. Read our Safe Travel in Cambodia guide for more information on scams and potential dangers. Use your common sense and enjoy your trip!
Where to go in Cambodia
As mentioned earlier, Angkor is reason enough to visit Cambodia…
…but it only scratches the surface of this enchanting country, home to warm and genuine people, rich historical heritage, and tantalizing cuisine.
We highly recommend planning a two-week journey to Cambodia to fully experience its wonders. This itinerary will encompass more ancient ruins, hidden paradise islands, charming towns exuding old-fashioned colonial charm, and immersive encounters with nature in the Cardamom Mountains and the country’s national parks.
You haven’t truly experienced Cambodia until you’ve visited…
Angkor Archaeological Park
Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Angkor was once the capital city of the Khmer Empire. This expansive complex comprises a collection of significant archaeological sites, creating an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue that begs to be explored.
For easy access to the wonders of Angkor, Siem Reap serves as the most convenient base, offering a range of facilities and services tailored to the needs of travelers.
Tonle Sap Lake
Tonle Sap Lake, the largest lake in Southeast Asia, is a unique body of water boasting astonishing biodiversity. It serves as the heart and soul of Cambodia. Joining an organized tour allows you to visit famous floating villages, while a boat journey from Battambang to Siem Reap offers a more authentic experience.
As the capital city of Cambodia with a tumultuous past, Phnom Penh is rapidly transforming. Amidst the emergence of modern shopping malls and high-rises, the city still preserves its exquisite Buddhist temples and leafy boulevards that bear witness to the darkest chapters of its history.
Sihanoukville’s white sandy beaches cater to travelers of all styles. Young and adventurous visitors will find wild parties and an old-school backpacker atmosphere, while those seeking luxury can indulge in the comforts of upscale resorts.
Where to go if you like…
Koh Ker, the 10th-century capital of the Khmer Empire, presents a challenge to reach due to the lack of public transport. However, the rewards are immense as you explore the jungle-enveloped ruins, often having the entire place to yourself.
For those who appreciate the quiet charm of small towns and seek to witness spectacular ruins, Kampong Thom is a dream destination. Exploring the surrounding area provides glimpses into everyday life in rural Cambodia.
Perched atop a hill on the border between Cambodia and Thailand, Preah Vihear offers breathtaking views. Its stunning grandeur has long been a subject of contention between the two countries, and currently, it can only be visited from Cambodia.
Beaches and islands
When envisioning pristine tropical islands with ivory sands and crystal-clear waters embraced by lush jungles, Cambodia may not immediately spring to mind. However, Koh Rong is a hidden gem worth exploring before it becomes too popular.
Situated adjacent to Koh Rong, Koh Rong Sanloem is the epitome of an island paradise—an ultimate escape from the outside world.
For a tranquil alternative to Sihanoukville, Kep boasts great seafood and an atmosphere unspoiled by mass tourism. The nearby offshore islands and accessible border crossing with Vietnam add to its allure.
Trekking and nature
Stretching across eight provinces of Cambodia, the Cardamom and Elephant Mountains traverse from the Thai border through Central Cambodia, nearly reaching the Vietnamese border. Organized trekking or boat tours from Koh Kong provide the best means to explore this area.
Located in Ratanakiri province, the small town of Banlung offers a rare sense of seclusion. With its minority communities, rubber and oil palm plantations, beautiful waterfalls, and protected areas, Banlung is worth the effort to reach.
Kratie is a must-visit destination for dolphin enthusiasts. It is one of the few places in the world where you can encounter the gentle and endangered Irrawaddy dolphins.
Rustic charm of off-the-beaten-path destinations
Battambang, Cambodia’s second-largest city, remains relatively untouched by mainstream tourism. The city boasts charming colonial architecture, and the surrounding area is dotted with ancient temples worth exploring. The unique bamboo train, a one-of-a-kind experience, may cease to exist as plans to restore the railway system in Cambodia are underway.
Kampot offers a laid-back riverside ambiance combined with the breezy allure of the former French hill station, Bokor. The town’s vibrant restaurant and bar scene, along with the world’s best pepper plantations, add flavor to this rustic destination.