10 Best Things to Do in Cambodia
Nestled in the heart of Southeast Asia, Cambodia is a country that beckons travelers with its rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture. From awe-inspiring ancient temples to bustling local markets, serene beaches, and lush jungles, Cambodia offers a diverse range of experiences that cater to every traveler’s interests. If you’re planning a trip to this enchanting nation, here are the 10 best things to do in Cambodia, each explored in greater detail:
Top Things to do in Cambodia You Can’t Miss
1. Explore the Angkor Wat Complex
A visit to Cambodia would be incomplete without immersing yourself in the grandeur of the Angkor Wat complex. This UNESCO World Heritage Site stands as a testament to the architectural prowess of the Khmer Empire. As you step into the vast complex, you’ll be greeted by the iconic silhouette of Angkor Wat itself. The sunrise over Angkor Wat is a sight to behold, casting an ethereal glow on the intricate carvings that adorn its walls. Marvel at the celestial dancers carved into the stone, the ornate bas-reliefs that narrate tales of Hindu epics, and the imposing towers that rise toward the heavens.
Angkor Wat Temples
2. Discover the Temples of Siem Reap
Siem Reap, the charming gateway town to the Angkor Wat complex, offers a treasure trove of captivating temples waiting to be explored. The enigmatic Bayon Temple, with its stone faces that seem to gaze in all directions, creates an atmosphere of mystery and wonder. As you stroll through its corridors, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into another realm. Ta Prohm, often referred to as the “Tomb Raider Temple,” is a mesmerizing sight where towering tree roots have woven themselves intricately into the ruins, creating a harmonious blend of nature and history.
Bayon Temple – Siem Reap
3. Immerse Yourself in Phnom Penh
The capital city, Phnom Penh, is a dynamic blend of historical landmarks and modern energy. Start your exploration at the dazzling Royal Palace, where you can marvel at the ornate Khmer architecture and visit the Silver Pagoda, home to the Emerald Buddha. To gain a deeper understanding of Cambodia’s tragic past, visit the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, a somber but essential memorial, and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, which was once a Khmer Rouge prison. These sites offer poignant insights into Cambodia’s recent history and the resilience of its people.
Phnom Penh Royal Palace
4. Relax at Sihanoukville’s Beaches
For those seeking relaxation and tropical beauty, the beaches of Sihanoukville beckon. Whether you choose the lively atmosphere of Ochheuteal Beach or the more tranquil shores of Otres Beach, you’re in for a treat. Indulge in water sports, enjoy beachside dining with freshly caught seafood, or simply unwind under the sun with a good book. For a quieter and more pristine experience, consider visiting nearby islands like Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem, where crystal-clear waters and powdery white sands await.
5. Cruise the Mekong River
Embark on a serene cruise along the legendary Mekong River, a journey that offers a glimpse into the soul of Cambodia’s rural life. As you glide along the water, you’ll encounter floating villages where houses, schools, and even markets are built on boats. Explore the bustling markets that line the riverbanks, and witness the daily activities of the local communities. The Mekong is not only a source of livelihood but also a cultural and social hub that has shaped the lives of Cambodians for generations.
Luxury Mekong Cruises
6. Engage with Local Life in Battambang
Battambang, a charming town in western Cambodia, offers an authentic and immersive experience. The unique bamboo train, known locally as the “norry,” is a creative mode of transportation that allows you to traverse the lush countryside on a makeshift bamboo platform. Engage with the town’s vibrant art scene by visiting local galleries and studios, where you can witness the creative expressions of Cambodian artists. Attending a performance by Phare, the Cambodian Circus, is another highlight. This social enterprise provides disadvantaged youth with opportunities to showcase their talents through awe-inspiring acrobatics, theater, and dance.
Battambang – Cambodia
7. Indulge in Khmer Cuisine
Cambodian cuisine, often overshadowed by the fame of its neighboring cuisines, has a distinct and flavorful character. Make sure to sample signature dishes like fish amok, a fragrant fish curry steamed in banana leaves, and lok lak, a mouthwatering dish of marinated beef served with a tangy dipping sauce. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a “num pang,” a delicious Cambodian sandwich filled with a variety of ingredients, often including grilled meats, fresh vegetables, and flavorful sauces. Exploring local markets offers an authentic culinary adventure, where you can savor the rich flavors and aromas that define Khmer cooking.
A traditionnal cooking class
8. Enjoy the Phare Cambodian Circus
Incorporating entertainment and social impact, the Phare Cambodian Circus offers a unique and memorable experience. This innovative circus troupe is composed of talented performers who have overcome adversity and challenging backgrounds. Through their incredible acrobatics, theater, and music, they tell the stories of Cambodian life and history with energy and passion. By attending a Phare performance, you not only witness a spectacular show but also contribute to the empowerment of these artists and the continuation of Cambodia’s artistic traditions.
Phare Cambodian Circus
9. Enjoy the Apsara Dance Performance with Dinner
Immerse yourself in Cambodia’s cultural heritage by attending an Apsara dance performance accompanied by a traditional dinner. The Apsara dance, characterized by intricate hand movements and elegant postures, is a captivating art form that depicts ancient myths and legends. As you savor a delectable Khmer meal, the graceful dancers will transport you to a world of history and fantasy, offering a unique glimpse into Cambodia’s artistic and cultural traditions.
Apsara Dance Performance with Dinner
Watching an Apsara show is among the top things to do in Cambodia. There are many hotels, theaters and restaurants that offer this show.
10. Discover Tonle Lake
Tonle Sap Lake, often referred to as the “Great Lake,” is a natural wonder that should not be missed. This massive freshwater lake is renowned for its rich biodiversity and unique seasonal phenomenon. During the rainy season, the lake’s water volume increases significantly, leading to the reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap River. This creates a flourishing ecosystem and sustains the livelihoods of numerous communities residing on floating villages. Exploring the lake by boat offers a fascinating insight into the traditional way of life and the remarkable adaptability of the people who call this environment home.
Life on the Tonle Lake
In conclusion, Cambodia is a destination that captivates the senses and stirs the soul. We list our suggested 10 best things to do in Cambodia from the awe-inspiring temples of Angkor to the tranquil beauty of its beaches and the warmth of its people. Cambodia offers a tapestry of experiences that leave a lasting impression. Whether you’re tracing the footsteps of ancient civilizations, embracing the vibrant life of its modern cities, or immersing yourself in its cultural heritage, Cambodia promises a journey filled with unforgettable memories and a deeper appreciation for the rich tapestry of human history and culture.