What to see in Cambodia? The Top 10 Things to Do in Cambodia

Cambodia is an amazing tourist destination in Southeast Asia. What to see in Cambodia? Set foot on this wonderful land, and you will get access to the splendid Angkor temple complex which is the largest religious monument in the world, the fierce collision between traditions and modern improvements in the capital city of Phnom Penh, and the picturesque beaches and islands in the southwest coastline. Except for that, there are more surprises to expect, keep reading the guide to know the top 10 scenic spots to see in Cambodia.

Top 1: Angkor Temple Complex - Adventure Jungle Temple

The top one attraction you can expect in Cambodia is the impressive Angkor Temple Complex, covering the ruins of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon Temple, Banteay Srei, etc. Deep in the forests of Siem Reap, your tour to Angkor seems to be a thrilling jungle temple adventure. You can stroll around the narrow meandering path in the jungle, touch the stones and listen to their whispers, and gaze at the sculptures to travel back to centuries ago for the glorious days.

To arrive there, you should first transfer from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. Bus, taxi, boat and flight are all available. Then you can get Angkor by tuk-tuk, bike or car. Most tourists choose a tuk-tuk and the prices are flexible, depending on the distance you go.

The peak months for visiting Angkor Wat are December and January in terms of the best weather condition, but the crowds might block your sight. We advise you to choose the months of February and October, which are good compromises between weather conditions and crowds. And to travel in October, the end of Cambodia rainy season, a morning exploration is more recommended.

Top 2: Koh Ker - Admire Spectacular Heritages

Located in the forests to the north of Siem Reap, Koh Ker was the capital of the Angkorian Empire from 928 to 944 CE, and the main attractions you can expect in this ancient city is Prasat Thom, a seven-tiered pyramid structure, Prasat Krahom, Prasat Bram, etc.

To get there, you can hire a private vehicle and it takes you around 2.5 hours drive from Siem Reap.

Prasat Thom in Koh Ker
Prasat Thom is a fabulous seven-tiered pyramid structure.

Large numbers of tourists are almost unlikely to be found in Koh Ker, even in the high season from November to February, so you can have a leisure stroll around the site. To climb up the tiers of Prasat Thom, you are suggested to have a morning visit. This can relieve you from the hot sun because the pyramid is not shaded by trees.

Top 3: Preah Vihear Temple - Tour "Mayan Ruins" in Cambodia

Preah Vihear Temple is an outstanding masterpiece of Khmer architecture, featured with four courtyards, each containing five entrance pavilions. The complex was built along the cliffs at about 700 meters above sea level in the province of Preah Vihear, facing the wide plains to the north in what is now Thailand. Therefore, you get access to not only the marvelous centuries-old heritage but also the beautiful overlooking plain scenery and attractive countryside.

Although situated close to the Cambodia-Thai border, the Preah Vihear Temple is not accessible from Thailand. To get there, you can take the GST Express Bus from Phnom Penh, or take the minivan from Siem Reap running by Rith Mony and Neak Krorhorm. Taxi is also available from Siem Reap.

Top 4: Kratie Town - Spot Irrawaddy Dolphins

Kratie is a small town on the banks of Mekong River, which is the home to the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins. The trip to this little town gives you an insight into the Cambodian way of rural life. You can wander around the lanes to watch the Cambodian’s daily life, take a ferry in Kampi to spot the Irrawaddy Dolphins, and pay a visit to Champey waterfall to relieve the hot while your stay in Cambodia.

The roads to Kratie are paved and in good condition, so it is your decision to take a bus, taxi or minivan to this town.

Irrawaddy Dolphins in Kratie Town
Kratie Town is the home to the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins.

Top 5: Tonle Sap Lake - Discover Floating Village

Tonle Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. The best way to explore the lake is to take a ferry to see the floating villages, where the Cambodian live in floating houses, kids go to floating schools for learning, and they even eat at floating restaurants.

The best time to tour Tonle Sap Lake for the floating villages is the rainy season from May to October when the lake turns to 5 times its size in the dry season. The surrounding forests overflow, creating a diverse ecosystem, where you can take a boat to enjoy the unique scenery.

The main open floating villages on the Tonle Sap Lake is convenient to get to from Siem Reap.

Floating Village on Tonle Sap Lake
Take a ferry to explore the floating village on Tonle Sap Lake.

Top 6: Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda - Experience Exotic Atmosphere

In the capital city of Phnom Penh, you can expect the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. With the modernization process, such as the increasing cafe culture, bustling bars and world-class food scene, every busy city is facing the collision between modern improvements and traditions. You can step close to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda to witness the adherence to Cambodia’s traditional Buddhism culture.

Cambodia’s dry season runs from November to April. And to avoid the hottest months from March to May, you are advised to visit Phnom Penh from November to February.

Top 7: Choeung Ek Killing Field - Witness the Reminder of Violence

Cambodia is a nation with a rich and heavy history. To discover the dark years of this country, you can pay a visit to Choeung Ek Killing Field, a reminder of the violence that humans can commit. It is hard to imagine how the optimistic Khmers struggle through the years of bloodshed. Perhaps, the existence of this site is to teach people to be tough and tenacious. Besides, you can also tour the S21 Museum, also called the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, which was a prison during the Khmer Rouge regime.

To get there, most visitors choose a tuk-tuk to Tuol Sleng from Phnom Penh. Also, you can take a taxi or bus to arrive.

Top 8: Sihanoukville Beaches - Reward yourself a Leisure Break

After the harrowing exploration of S21 Museum and Choeung Ek Killing Field, you can have a leisure trip to the coastal city Sihanoukville, with several beaches, small offshore islands, and casinos. Compared with Thailand’s crowded beaches, Sihanoukville provides a more peaceful environment. For example, Otres Beach, especially the Otres 2 is a quiet one, offering golden sand and calm waters ideal for swimming, scuba diving, and windsurfing can be found.

Otres 2 Beach in Sihanoukville
Go to the Otres 2 Beach in Sihanoukville to have a leisure journey.

If you travel to Sihanoukville from Siem Reap, a flight is the easiest way, taking less than an hour. A car or bus is also accessible, and that usually takes 10 to 14 hours. From Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, a private taxis is recommended, taking about 4 hours. Bus, express vans, train and flight are all available, requiring a longer time.

The best time months for good weather in Sihanoukville are January, February and December, with less humidity and not very hot temperature.

Top 9: Bokor Hill Station - Hike to Enjoy Stunning Natural Scenery

Atop Bokor Mountain in Preah Monivong National Park, the Bokor Hill Station was a summer retreat for French colonial residents. Instead of simple sightseeing, hiking up to this site is a better choice. Along the way, you hike through the fresh jungle forests, enjoy the beautiful Popokvil Waterfalls and a French church, and finally, you stop at the Bokor Hill Station to appreciate the French colonial building.

You can drive to Bokor Hill Station from the near major town of Kampot or the 95km away Sihanoukville. Or you can rent motorbikes in Kampot. Except for that, Phnom Penh runs a direct bus to Bokor Hill Station.

Influenced by the monsoons from the Gulf of Thailand, the best time to visit the Bokor Hill Station and the national park is from December to April, which is the dry season of Cambodia.

Top 10: Battambang Bamboo Train - Explore Less-visited Serene City

Battambang Bamboo Train is located in Battambang, the second most populous city. What you can expect here includes its blend of the modern city, small-town friendliness and some well-preserved colonial architecture. Plenty of tourists travel here for the bamboo train, offering excellent views of the natural landscapes along the trail.

To get to Battambang, you can take a bus, taxi or mini van from both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. And daily boats run across the Tonle Sap between Battambang and Siem Reap. Along the way, you can enjoy the fantastic scenery.

Summary

As mentioned above, there are plentiful wonderful attractions to see in Cambodia, from marvelous temple complex in Angkor to French colonial architecture atop Bokor Mountain, from tranquil rural scenery in Kratie Town to busy modern city atmosphere in Phnom Penh, and from floating villages on the Tonle Sap Lake to golden beach along the southwest coastline.

When touring Cambodia, in addition to simple sightseeing, you can also ride a bike or motorbike, or catch a ferry to deeply explore the streets and lanes of Cambodia. Hiking is also available, and it is a nice way to discover this country's natural beauty. Furthermore, in the remote forests in northeast Cambodia, various and rich wildlife is waiting for you to spot.

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