Most travelers visit Cambodia for the impressive temples, undisturbed beaches, timeless ruins and its rich cultural heritage. Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, is often overshadowed as a tourist destination by the far more enchanting city of Siem Reap in the northwest which hosts the ruins of the famous Angkor Wat temple. But there’s more to Cambodia than Angkor Wat.
Here’s our pick of the top things to do in Cambodia
Watch the Sunrise at Angkor Wat
Yes a completely touristy thing to do but it’s the Angkor Wat and it’s incredible so it still tops the list and is perhaps the no1 attraction to visit while here. Leave early in the morning so you can get in when the gates open at 5am and find yourself the perfect spot to admire the sunrise. If you’re not a morning person catch the sunset instead which is equally as magical.
Angkor Archaeological Park
After watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat which was our No1 thing to do in Cambodia, you must take a walk around the temple complex known as the Angkor Archaelogical Park. The largest religious monument in the world, Angkor Wat is truly amazing and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Angkor was once the heart of the Khmer civilization and the Angkor Wat temple is the best representation of Khmer art and culture. Visiting other less well known temples such as Ta Phrom, Bayon and Angkor Thom is well worth it too. Choose a 1 day pass to fully explore the place, if you get a 3 day pass instead be careful not to get ‘temple overload’ which is easy to do in Cambodia.
Snack on Tarantula
You will find street vendors selling deep fried Tarantulas in Cambodia and in some restaurants in Phnom Penh. Cambodian women believe that eating tarantulas makes them more beautiful and works wonders for their skin and hair. If you’re an adventurous foodie or you want to switch out your face cream for an eight legged snack order a “a-ping” also know as deep fried tarantula. Yum!
Hang out at Kampot or Kep
A few hours away from Phnom Penh you will find a sweet little town called Kampot. If you want cute shops, western restaurants and riverboat cruises but with less crowds that the bigger cities, you’ll love this place. While here, if you fancy a break from chilling out in Kampot take a trip to the nearby seaside town called Kep, if only to sample their freshly cooked crabs. Kampot and Kep are really great places to simply relax and unwind!
Visit the Killing Fields
If you can muster the emotional strength to visit the Killing Fields you will find thousands of skulls and bones which were unearthed from the many Cambodian Killing fields located in Phnom Penh. The Killing Fields stand as a historical monument to showcase Cambodia’s horrific history when many were murdered by their fellow Cambodians the Khmer Rouge. The audio guide is worth using because it will help you to understand this truly heartbreaking and gruesome time in Cambodia.
Take A Boat Trip
Considering all the beautiful lakes that run through the heart of Cambodia a boat trip while here makes great sense. Boat trips are unsurprisingly extremely popular with visitors to Cambodia considering how many lakes and rivers run through the country. Travel along the Sangker River from Siem Reap to Battambang or travel up the Tonle Sap River by boat from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. The rivers are in full flow during Cambodia’s wet season so this is a great time of year to take advantage of all that torrential rain.
Experience Microlight Flight
You must have visited all the spectacular Cambodian temples from the ground but to experience them from above is something else. Take to the air for an ultimate flying experience. This way you can see not only the temples but the whole of Cambodia from above. The lush jungles, forests, pristine beaches and the bustling markets all look surreal when seen from a Micro Aircraft.
Go Cycling In Cambodia
Adventurous cyclists have a lot of opportunities to explore Cambodia by bike. Although the country roads are infamous for their potholes, a mountain bike should be enough to get you from A to B safely. Go slow so that you can interact with the locals at various stops along the way. Cycling around Angkor is the perfect way to explore the temple complex to the fullest. Hotels and guest houses all around Cambodia will rent you a bicycle for around 2 USD a day.
Dance in Phnom Penh
One of the most memorable things for art lovers in Cambodia is to enjoy the Apsara show which is a traditional Khmer performance. The roots of this cultural dance are from the mythological courts of Gods and Kings and with time it has evolved into a modern and unique dance enjoyed by many travelers to Cambodia today. The Aspara dance is usually based on a story which is narrated through dance movements. Prepare to be dazzled by the dancer’s attire.
Cambodia Water Sports
Diving and snorkeling are two major tourist attractions available off the coast of Sihanoukville. Get the best diving bargains at remote dive sites such as Koh Prins and Koh Tang and stay overnight on a boat. Stand-up paddle boarding is another way to appreciate the river’s panorama in Kampot. There are many more water sports like boating, kite surfing and wind surfing off the Cambodian coast so sign up for whatever you fancy most.
Spot Cambodia’s Wildlife
Big and small cats, primates, elephants and many other exotic animals inhabit Cambodia’s Mondulkiri jungle. A one-hour drive away from the capital, Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre is also well worth visiting. Home to more than 1200 animals, this wildlife centre allows visitors to see many of Southeast Asia’s most colorful creatures, from bears to crocodiles.
Ziplining has recently gained exponential popularity in Cambodia, the longest zip line being the Angkor Zipline which has 10 lines. If you’re lucky, you can also spot some gibbons while you zip through the air. Koh Rong also has a zip line and if you’re interested in an affordable canopy tour, opt for BeTreed Adventures near Preah Khan. Ziplining in Cambodia doesn’t come cheap and costs about USD 99 per person at Angkor Zipline and USD 69 at Mayura Zipline.
See Plankton Glow at Night
If you’re looking for a magical experience, Koh Rong is the right place, also known as the sleepy island. Here you can see magical plankton lighting up in the darkness of the night. Wade into the water around 1 meter deep to see the plankton. The experience is incredible and truly worth spending a day at Koh Rong for. If you are brave enough try snorkeling at night with the world illuminating around you while you glide silently through in the water.
Shop ’til you drop in Cambodia
With an extensive range of affordable handicraft products, shopping lovers can shop to their heart’s content in Cambodia. The best buys here are the precious gems and stones, silver trinkets, betel nut boxes, checkered Krama scarves, carved wooden items and weaving silk. Great quality handicrafts can be found at Angkor Night market, Angkor Handicraft Association, Old market and also the Russian market in Phnom Penh too.
Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks
Cambodia has a number of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks that boast rare species of flora and fauna. If you intend to explore a little more of nature, pay a visit to some of these destinations. The Virachey National Park houses elephants, tigers, sun bears, clouded leopards and different species of birds. The Ream Park is known across the globe for it’s endangered birds of prey like the white-bellied eagle, Brahminy kite and grey-headed fish eagle.
Although trekking is not always recommended in Cambodia due to the possibility of stumbling upon a landmine, there are plenty of places that are considered safe should you wish to give it a go. Mondulkiri province and Ratanakiri province are two places in Cambodia where you can trek amongst wild scenery with waterfalls and witness local people and ethnic minorities going about their daily rituals.
Cambodian Spa Day
The spas in Cambodia are quite different to the regular southeastern spa experiences. The traditional Khmer Spa has an unusual assortment of spa treatments and therapies that focus mainly on relaxation and health. Apart from the traditional spa, you can also indulge in massage therapies such as aroma spa, slimming oil massage, hot oil massage, hot stone, tickling fish spa and other scrubs and facials to rejuvenate and restore.
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Other than these top things to do in Cambodia, there is so more to see and experience in this amazing country. Plan ahead so that you can take your time exploring and be prepared to be flexible because sometimes travelers you meet along the way will have the best suggestions for undiscovered gems and awesome things to to do in Cambodia.
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