Top places to visit in Cambodia

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While Cambodia might not be the first destination to spring to mind when considering a Southeast Asian adventure, it certainly holds its own in terms of rich history, cultural heritage, and natural beauty. With the number of tourists only a fraction of those flocking to neighboring Thailand and Vietnam, it offers an authentic experience untouched by excessive commercialization. Despite its tragic past, the nation has emerged with a renewed spirit, showcased by its resilient and hospitable people.

A wealth of attractions awaits the discerning traveler in Cambodia. Phnom Penh, the capital city, offers a blend of French colonial charm and bustling local markets. Siem Reap serves as a gateway to the ancient wonders of Angkor, where thousand-year-old temples stand testament to the architectural mastery of the Khmer Empire. Battambang provides a glimpse into rural life with its serene rice fields and timeless village scenes. The island of Koh Rong offers pristine beaches and crystal clear waters, while Preah Vihear, home to a majestic mountaintop temple, promises breathtaking views.

Culinary enthusiasts can explore the unique flavors of Cambodian cuisine, with its subtle spices and distinctive sour notes. The country's artistic traditions are equally captivating, be it the graceful Apsara dance or the intricate designs of Khmer crafts.

In this guide, we will delve into these remarkable cities and sights, introducing you to the heart and soul of Cambodia. Through its pages, you will gain an understanding of what makes this country earn its reputation as The Kingdom Of Wonder.

Phnom Penh

City inπŸ‡°πŸ‡­ Cambodiarated
3.9

Contrary to perceptions of being little more than a stopping point en route to the world-renowned Angkor Wat, Phnom Penh holds its own with an array of compelling attractions and an authentic culture that is very much alive.

Phnom Penh sits at the confluence of three rivers and boasts a waterfront lined with parks and restaurants. You can witness the splendor of the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda, a testament to Cambodia's rich history, or explore modern-day Cambodian life in the city's markets where local artisans sell their wares.

Cambodian cuisine is a draw in itself, with Phnom Penh providing ample opportunity to savor local delicacies. Fish amok, a curry dish steamed in banana leaves, is a must-try, as is kuy teav, a noodle soup commonly eaten for breakfast.

While Phnom Penh's charm is evident, it's essential for visitors to be aware of its tumultuous past. The Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum serve as stark reminders of the atrocities committed during the Khmer Rouge era. These sites provide a sobering insight into Cambodia's history but are crucial for understanding the resilience and spirit of its people today.

Explore Phnom Penh

Siem Reap

City inπŸ‡°πŸ‡­ Cambodiarated
4.4

Siem Reap is largely recognized as the gateway to the world-famous Angkor temples. Siem Reap is pretty much a city in its own right, with a lively night market, energetic street scenes, and a thriving cafe culture.

Despite its recent surge in popularity, Siem Reap retains an old-world charm with its French colonial buildings and leafy boulevards. The main attraction here is, of course, the Angkor Archaeological Park. Spanning over 400 square kilometers, it contains hundreds of temple ruins dating back to the Khmer Empire. The most famous of these is Angkor Wat, a colossal temple complex that is both a national symbol and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Siem Reap, due to its over-tourism, can take its toll on the city's infrastructure and environment. The heat can be intense and visitors should be prepared for this. Also, while generally safe, petty crimes such as pickpocketing can occur in crowded areas.

If you only have time for one destination in Cambodia, Siem Reap is the must-visit, not just in Cambodia but in Southeast Asia in general.

Explore Siem Reap

Battambang

City inπŸ‡°πŸ‡­ Cambodiarated
4.2

Battambang is a city in the northwest of Cambodia; while it may not have the grand temples of Angkor or the white sand beaches of Sihanoukville, it offers its own unique charm and a slower pace of life. It’s a place where bicycles and rickshaws rule the streets instead of cars and buses, offering a glimpse into a simpler way of life.

One of the prime attractions is the bamboo train, an ingenious local solution to rural transportation needs. These simple bamboo platforms, powered by small motors, offer an unusual and memorable journey through the Cambodian countryside.

Visitors should be aware that while Battambang is generally safe, it's essential to remain vigilant, especially after dark, as petty theft can be a problem.

In terms of cuisine, Battambang offers a chance to try authentic Khmer food, often overlooked by international visitors. Don't miss the opportunity to sample the local delicacy Lort Cha, a delicious stir-fried noodle dish.

Lastly, despite its quiet demeanor, Battambang is also home to Cambodia's largest bat population. Every evening at dusk, thousands of bats pour out of a cave just outside the city in a spectacle that never fails to impress.

Explore Battambang

Koh Rong

Island inπŸ‡°πŸ‡­ Cambodiarated
4.4

Cambodia harbors a captivating island gem - Koh Rong. Its allure extends beyond its palm-fringed beaches and azure waters. Koh Rong is the second largest island of Cambodia, with an area that spans about 78 square kilometers, offering ample space for exploration.

The island is divided into a number of small villages, each with its own unique character. The southernmost village of Koh Touch is a hub of activity, with an array of beach bars and guesthouses catering to the younger crowd. A short walk away lies the quieter Sok San village, where you can witness the daily lives of local fishermen.

The island's interior is largely untouched, making it a sanctuary for nature enthusiasts. Dense jungle, hidden waterfalls and quiet freshwater streams form the backdrop to a myriad of walking trails. For the adventurous, there's an option to hike across the island – a rewarding six-hour trek from the eastern to the western coast.

Food on the island is largely seafood-based. Fresh catches from the surrounding waters are often barbecued on open fires, accompanied by locally grown rice and vegetables.

Despite its allure, Koh Rong is not without its downsides. With limited medical facilities, it's essential to take precautions against common tropical illnesses.

Explore Koh Rong

Preah Vihear

City inπŸ‡°πŸ‡­ Cambodiarated
5

Overlooking the Cambodian plains from atop a 525-metre cliff in the Dangrek Mountains, Preah Vihear is a sight to behold. The temple is a testimony to the grand Khmer architecture that predates Angkor Wat by 100 years.

Preah Vihear's defining characteristic is its breathtaking setting. The temple complex comprises a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases, ascending from the edge of the Cambodian plain up to the peak of the cliff.

However, the remote location means that reaching it requires some planning. The road leading up to the temple is steep and winding and can be quite treacherous during the rainy season.

If you're a history enthusiast or simply someone seeking a unique experience, consider making the trek to Preah Vihear. It offers an unmatched window into Cambodia's past, along with views that you'll remember long after your journey home. While there, make sure to try the local delicacy 'Bai Sach Chrouk' - pork and rice - for a complete cultural experience.

Explore Preah Vihear

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