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25 Best Things to Do in Cambodia in 2023

25 best things to do cambodia

Just before to show you why Cambodia is known for some of the most amazing things to do and see in the world, let me give you some general information.

Cambodia is officially known as Preahreacheanacha Kampuchea (Kingdom of Cambodia) and it lies between important river trade routes linking China to India.

The capital is Phnom Penh, the major language is Khmer, most citizens practice Buddhism, and the currency is Riel. Cambodia is best known for its ancient religious monuments, pleasing scenery, and dark history.

See also: The Absolute 10 BEST Places to Visit in Southeast Asia

What Cambodia Is Known For

Natural Beauty

tropical-waterfall-phnom-kulen

Southern Cambodia is flavoured with several islands with unique characteristics and undisturbed scenery.

The most famous island is Kong Rong and Koh Rong Samloem. Cambodia is also crisscrossed with national parks where nature’s flora and fauna are fully preserved.

Cultural Heritage

Angkor Wat Cambodia

Cambodia is also known for its cultural richness and history preservation, no wonder some of its heritage made the UNESCO World Heritage list.

The historical past of the Khmer Empire is told to over two million tourists yearly in Siem Reap. You could also see Angkor Wat in one day, the largest religious monument in the world built in the 12th century

How To Get To Cambodia

train rail cambodia

It is easy to get a visa to Cambodia through its international airports, Phnom Penh (PNH) and Siem Reap (REP). You can save costs by flying to nearby international airports such as Singapore, Bangkok or Hong Kong before connecting to Cambodia.

There are quite a number of ways to get around Cambodia depending on how deep your pocket runs. Getting around by air is very safe, there is also train, buses, taxis, motorbike, bicycle, and boat.

When To Visit Cambodia

cambodia rainy day

There is really no wrong time to visit Cambodia because it is warm all year round. However, the monsoon splits the weather pattern into two seasons – dry and rainy.

The best time to visit Cambodia is between November and February.

Cambodia Travel Tips

BEST OF CAMBODIA TRAVEL TIPS

Travelling to Cambodia is easy, exciting and cheap. Here are a few useful tips to avoid running into any problem:

  • Plan in advance – Book hotels and engage transport services prior to arrival to save yourself from a whole lot of stress, money and trouble. Always write down your itinerary, write everything down! You never know when you’ll need them.
  • Have enough cash – Cambodia uses Cambodian riel (KHR) and u.s. dollars (1$ is about 4000 KHR).
  • Visit temples when it is less congested – It is good to get to the temples as early as possible to avoid overcrowding.
  • Dress decently to the temples – This especially applies to female tourists; you must wear clothes that cover your shoulder and knee otherwise you may not be able to enter the temple.
  • When visiting Angkor Wat, it is advisable to rent a private car or tuk-tuk. You can easily bargain to get a good price or your hotel can help with it. Only pay the tuk-tuk driver after you get to your destination.
  • Don’t drink the tap water, only the locals and foreigners who have stayed for long have adapted to the tap water. Buy your bottled water from popular stores, some local stores may recycle tap water in empty bottles for resale.
  • Get sunscreen and water holders when going outdoors in Cambodia because the temperatures can get very high.

Best Things to Do In Cambodia

The first thing that comes to the lips of many about Cambodia is the ancient temples, I was under the same spell in my first visit and I kept my travel plan around visiting the temples, ancient ruins and UNESCO cultural heritage sites.

It took a second visit for me to realize that Cambodia had it all! Here are other things to do in Cambodia if you want to visualize the country from another interesting scope.

See also: Top 10 CULTURAL Festivals in Southeast Asia

Visit World’s Renowned Ancient Wonders – Angkor Watangkor wat temple cambodia

Every tourist who comes to Cambodia visits the Angkor Archaeological Park. It is the capital city complex of the Khmer Empire that controlled most of Southeast Asia between the 9th and 15th century.

It seats on about 163 hectares of land, and it was built in the early 12th century by King Suryavarman II during the Khmer Empire rule. The park has magnificent temple ruins and old trees such as Temple of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm, Preah Khan and Bayon.

The most visited and biggest temple is Angkor Wat. There are many carvings that show the past history of the inhabitants such as the scene of wars, legends, heaven and hell, apsaras dancers, and many others.

Other things to do around the temples are:

  • take a bike tour of the temple
  • enjoy the park’s suspended zip line adventure
  • watch the sunrise over the temples
  • enjoy a jungle breakfast or lunch.

Explore The Floating Villages on Tonle Sap Lake

Tonle Sap Lake Floating Village Cambodia

Tonle Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. It has a thriving self-sustaining ecosystem with more than 300 aquatic species and about 90 varieties of water birds.

Tonle Sap Lake is the home of several floating villages. Chong Khneas is the most visited village by tourists because is not far from the shore.

Other floating villages are Kampong Khleang, Kampong Phluk, Prek Toal. It may take 2 – 7 hours to reach some of them and the farther you go, the more authentic and less touristic it gets.

Feel The Pulse of Khmer Cultural Performance – Apsaras Dance

asparas dance cambodia

Apsaras dance is a ballet performance rooted in Cambodian history from the 7th century. The dancers are dressed in tightly fitted beautiful costumes that represent the paragon of feminine beauty, elegance, and refinement.

There are several places where the dance is performed in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap – Angkor Village Resort’s Apsara Theatre, The Fou-Nan, hotels and cafes.

Learn From Cambodia’s Dark History at Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek

Cambodia Ek Killing Fields

You’ve got to have the hearts for this exhibition. It is no place to jump up and down in excitement but to have a sober reflection on the dark history of genocide that Cambodians went through in the hands of their own people.

Tuol Sleng was formerly a high school and it has been turned into a detention center by the dictator Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1980.

In a dream of creating an ideal Cambodian race, the dictator ordered the detention and gruesome killing of about 2 million Cambodians.

One of the popular exhibits in the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is the S-21 detention center with photographs of inmates executed on the walls.

The prisoners in Tuol Sleng were driven out at night in trucks to Choeung Ek for execution and some of them were forced to dig their own graves.

Choeung Ek Killing Fields shows the burial and execution site where thousands of exhumed skulls are put on display.

A remembrance service is held on May 9th of every year in honor of those who lost their lives during the genocide.

Go Backpacking on Cambodian Islands – Koh Rong

koh rong island cambodia

There are five islands off the Cambodian coast wearing the look of an undefiled paradise,  but three of the islands are uninhabited. The lush greenery, white sands, soothing sun, waterfalls, and cerulean sea view of Koh Rong Island have put Cambodia on the map.

Koh Rong is now a popular tourist destination where many backpackers throw parties, enjoy watersports, diving, snorkeling, and explore the unspoiled paradise.

If you want a quiet time away from the noise, beach parties and sports, there are other nearby islands like Koh Rong Samloem and Koh Ta Kiev.

Get Inspired By 19th Century Architecture – Royal Palace of Cambodia

Royal Palace Phnom Penh Cambodia

In the mid-1800s, Cambodia’s capital city was moved from Oudong to Phnom Penh. The best architects of the time came to build an adorable palace for the King of Cambodia and his family. This monumental structure overshadows the sky-view of the city.

There are many royal buildings seated inside the magnificent royal palace garden. Famous among the buildings is the Silver Pagoda which draws a crowd for its unique arrangement of about 5,300 solid silver floor tiles and insulated walls.

I was fascinated by a Buddha statue within the palace, which later I found out that it has been made of 90-kg of gold and adorned with over 9,000 diamonds. Highly recommended for you anytime you visit Cambodia.

Other Things to Do In Cambodia

If you have a strict time budget, make sure you visit the things listed above. However, if you have some more days to spend in Cambodia, there are other things you can do to enjoy your stay:

    • Challenge Your Taste Buds – Sample Street Foods
      cambodia vendors street foodOne of the peculiar things about Cambodians is the pride in their delicacies. The food vendors litter the streets of Cambodia and sell a large variety of local food.
    • Visit Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue CenterPhnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center
  • Mekong River Cruise
mekong river map
mekong river map

You can sail from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap on a Cambodian traditional boat. If you are lucky, you might see the river dolphins in their natural habitat.

The Mekong River is iconic in Southeast Asia because it crosses six different countries, starting from Tibet and spilling into the South China Sea.

Revive Your Body And Soul in a Cambodian Spa

There are many certified spa centers in Cambodia but I recommend using the most popular: Khmer Traditional Herbal Spa, Hot Stone Spa, Aroma Spa, Hot Oil Massage, and Deep Tissue Massage.

5 Things To Do In Phnom Penh

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Being the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh has no shortage of activities to make your stay a memorable one. Among the best things to do in Phnom Penh are:

  • Visit the Royal Palace – The city’s main attraction.
  • Learn Cambodian History at the National Museum of Cambodia.
  • Learn of Cambodian Dark History at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.
  • Spend your evening cruising Mekong River or Tonle Sap Lake or river.
  • Go for a night out in Phnom Penh’s Walking Street

10 Things To Do In Siem Reap

Phnom Kulen Waterfall in National Park
Phnom Kulen Waterfall in National Park

Siem Reap is mostly visited by tourists to explore Cambodia’s most famous temple, Angkor Wat. Apart from the ancient ruins, there are some other exciting things to do while you are in Siem Reap. To mention a few, you can:

    • Go shopping in the Psah Chas – Siem Reap Old Market – The old market is a shopping paradise.
    • Visit the night market.
    • Get a cheap full-body Khmer massage for as low as $6.
    • Visit the floating villages.
    • Visit the APOPO Visitor Center, the organization which use sniffing rats to detect landmines.
    • Try the Angkor Zipline.
    • Take a trip to Phnom Kulen National park.
    • Choose the 1, 2, 3 or 4 days trekking through the tropical forest, bamboo forest and ancient sandstone quarries.
    • Cycling tour from Siem Reap to the countryside.
    • Drink and party on Pub Street.

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