Cambodia is more than Angkor Wat. Other places to visit in Cambodia include Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Tonle Sap, Koh Kong, amazing islands, beaches and seaside towns, Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri. You can find hugely diverse wildlife, marvellous temples, museums, partying, floating villages and much more!
You can trek through a landscape of temples, jungle, beaches, rivers and lakes. Along the way, you will meet remarkable and kind people. Cambodia is the Land of Smiles and The Kingdom of Wonder.
Let us help you perfect your itinerary. It would be a regrettable mistake not to spend time visiting and experiencing the other attractions of Cambodia. Here we list eight great places to visit in Cambodia, each with three different unique activities. That’s 24 amazing experiences to choose from!
1. Siem Reap – Angkor Wat, Pub Street and Museums
Siem Reap is the epicentre of tourism in Cambodia. Famed for its close proximity to Angkor Wat temple complex, it has grown into an equally popular attraction. At the end of a day of temples, most visitors grab a tuk-tuk or pass-app downtown to the Pub Street area for some much-needed refreshments.
After two or three days marvelling at the truly amazing temples, it is possible to feel a little overwhelmed by it all. You may also feel a little achy and suntanned from walking up and down steps in the heat. This is known as being “Templed Out”.
Take a break and take a casual trip around the multitude of other attractions, intrigues and oddities that are hidden amongst the streets of Siem Reap. It’s time to check out the museums and get “Cultured Up”.
Angkor Wat is by far the number one tourist attraction in South East Asia for a reason! It’s one of the places to visit in Cambodia that cannot be missed. Steeped in mysticism, it’s an unfathomably amazing site, and a truly remarkable experience. The largest religious monument on the face of the planet sprawls over 500 acres and offers the visitor a glimpse into the long-lost ancient Khmer civilisation. The 12th-century burial temple for King Suryavarman II (1113 – 1150) invokes tomb-raideresque images of past monumental splendour. Wandering along the bas relief galleries, clambering up the steep limestone steps and around the elegantly carved towers is an experience everyone should indulge in.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site includes far more than just the Angkor Wat temple. The Angkor Archaeological Park contains over 70 individual temples including the magnificent Angkor Thom, The Bayon and Ta Prohm. Outside of the park lie several hundred smaller temples spread over more than 500 square kilometres.
Our advice is to take a tour with a local tuk-tuk driver and an expert guide. Both cost little and can be recommended by your hotel or guesthouse. The local knowledge is priceless, and the driver will help you avoid the hoards of people who now visit the site in peak season. The money you pay will go back into the local economy and make a real difference to people’s lives.
Be prepared to spend two to three days exploring, and try to fit in a sunrise and sunset. Your guide will know the best spots.
Get ready to party. The main street hosts pure craziness of side-by-side bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. It is frequented by backpackers young and old, tour groups and locals. Raucous pumping loud dance music, packed dance floors, push kart pop up bars and street food galore.
If this isn’t for you, then take a left or a right into more peaceful waters of the side roads and alleys to find a plethora of choice of theme bars, restaurants, and gift shops. Have a foot massage by fish, buy a snake in a bottle of whiskey and eat a scorpion (seriously, don’t do the last two for the sake of the wildlife, we are not sure about the fish either).
You really must try it, just once, just to say you have. It’s an as memorable experience as Angkor Wat. Don’t plan on a sunrise start the next day though!
Siem Reap is home to some extraordinary museums. Start with the Angkor National Museum to discover the remarkable local history of the Angkor Wat area. Contrast the ancient history with a trip to the War Remnants Museum to learn a little about the mid to late 20th Century. Progress through time via the Cambodia Landmine Museum and venture off the beaten path into the modern-day at the APOPO Visitors Centre. That’s right, these clever chaps have trained rats to sniff our landmines! Cambodia is truly The Kingdom of Wonder!
2. Tonle Sap – Floating Village, Wildlife and Boats
Tonle Sap is a huge freshwater lake (up to 10,000 square kilometres) in the central part of Cambodia, just a few miles from Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. It is the largest lake in South East Asia.
The Tonle Sap basin is home to over 3 million people. They live in stilted or floating houses in villages around the edge of the lake.
It is not uncommon to see floating pagodas, churches, shops, schools and even snooker halls and nightclubs in amongst the seemingly precarious houses.
In 1997 UNESCO classified Tonle Sap as an ecological hotspot and it became the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve. It is home to over 140 endangered species including angered species including the spot-billed pelican, greater adjutant, Bengal florican, Oriental darter, grey-headed fish eagle, and the Manchurian reed warbler. It is also home to the Mekong giant catfish that weighs in at around 500 pounds, the Siamese crocodile, and several species of water snake.
One of the best ways to see Tonle Sap is to take a boat tour. For the most luxurious experience, take a sunset tour with Tara River Boat Tours. Visit the lotus fields, floating villages, and crocodile farm. Then relax on Queen Tara for free flow sunset drinks and fantastic food.
3. Koh Kong Province – Mountains, Rivers and Wildlife
Koh Kong and Siem Reap are at completely different ends of the spectrum. Koh Kong is all about relaxing and appreciating the stunning diverse Cambodian environment. Activities include treks through the jungle, kayaking, mountain biking, cookery classes and swimming in waterfalls.
The Cardamom Mountains are all about ancient relics shrouded in dense rainforest. They are home to a plethora of wildlife species and remote indigenous peoples. Wildlife includes sun bears, Siamese crocodiles, gibbons, and clouded leopards.
Follow the Preat River from its origins in the Cardamom mountains.
It meanders through stunning natural forests full of wildlife to finally spill out into the Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea.
Along its way it cascades over glorious waterfalls, the most spectacular being the Tatai Falls. Just after the Tatai Falls, the river widens and deepens. It slows down and matures. Fringed in bamboo and palm, it is a scrumptious place spend the days with some casual kayaking, wildlife spotting, hammock swinging and relaxing. An evening boat trip reveals fireflies and phosphorescence before an evening iced beverage near the floating tented lodge.
Tempted? Check out Canvas & Orchids Retreat for a magical experience.
4. Islands – Relaxing, Wildlife and Party Time!
The Khmer (Cambodian language) word for Island is “Koh”. Cambodia has 61 of them spread along the south coast on the South China Sea. The sea is warm, the weather fantastic and the hospitality often great. There is an island for every occasion. Here are three of the best.
Koh Rong Sanloem – Relaxing
Koh Rong Sanloem offers tropical beach island paradise experiences suitable for every pocket. The island includes two local villages, a massive horseshoe-shaped sandy beached Saracen Bay and some tropical jungle. There is not much to do there! And that is the point.
It is the place to escape everyday life, unwind, chill out, snooze in a hammock, have a sunset cocktail and get your head into a great book. This year has been busy and hectic. You deserve it! Our recommendation is to escape the crowds and stay at “Lazy Beach“
Koh Thmei – Wildlife
Koh Thmei is in the Ream National Park. It is home to monkeys, civets, lizards, the fishing cat, and more than 150 different species of birds. There are few local inhabitants and little in the way of development. Accommodation on the island comprises simple wooden eco-friendly beach huts. It is fairly easy to get to being only a short distance from the mainland.
Koh Rong – Party time!
You cannot escape hearing about Koh Rong. Koh Rong is the party-goers dream island. From the minute you get off the boat (no airport on Koh Rong) you will be offered tickets for the “Police Beach Party”. After which you’ll be inundated with things like “Hip Hop Friday”, “Reggae Midweeker” and the ubiquitous “Sunset Booze Cruise”. Young backpackers mix with old “Heads” and party through the night (and day) before collapsing on a beach sunbed to recover.
If partying isn’t your thing, not to worry as there are also plenty of beautiful relaxed, quieter beaches and places to stay to enjoy away from the livelier areas.
The islands have accommodation for every budget and travel style, but book in advance as it gets busy in high season!
5. Mainland Beaches – Relaxing, Snorkelling and Party
Whilst the islands are unique experiences, the mainland also offers some great places to relax, snorkel, dive and party. The beach resorts range from party central Sihanoukville to the elegant post-colonial Kep.
Kep – Relaxing
Find yourself a hammock, order your food and drink and unwind at one of the 50 or so hotels, guesthouses and eco-resorts scattered amongst the beaches, hills, and rainforest around Kep.
Once fully vegetated and almost taking root, have a walk down to the beach to the crab market for the best seafood extravaganza in the country. Kep is famous for its crabs and fish. When you are sufficiently stuffed, take a trip out to one of the paradise tropical islands that lay just of the shore. Find another hammock. Repeat. It’s a hard life but someone has to do it!
Snorkelling and Diving
The Cambodian coast has some of the best snorkelling and diving in south-east Asia. The warm tropical waters are a delight to be in. Most dive sites are around the coral reefs surrounding the islands. Most dive and snorkel operators are based on the mainland in Sihanoukville, Kampot and Kep. In recent years there has been a major infrastructure project in Sihanoukville and some of the dive centres have chosen to escape the construction and relocate to other areas.
Kampot – Party
Don’t miss out Kampot. By day, Kampot is a delightful French colonial riverside town just made for sightseeing and exploring. Shortly after dusk, it transforms into the coolest nightlife in the country. Dotted around the town are over two dozen hip and cool venues offering everything from subtle jazz cocktails to banging all-night rave-style club nights.
6. Phnom Penh – Royal Palace, Museums and Shopping
Even the words Phnom Penh invoke a sense of oriental mysticism and exotic faraway lands. Today’s Phnom Penh still delivers all of that but is also a hub of culture and commerce. Our preferred accommodation of choice in Phnom Penh is “The Pavilion”, why not give it a try?
This ornate example of classic Khmer architecture stands close to the banks of the Mighty Mekong.
Wander around the lavish palace in awe and marvel at the ornate details. Be respectful and cover your knees and shoulders or they may not let you in. It is still a working royal palace!
The rich (and sometimes disturbing) Khmer history and culture are displayed at several museums. For ancient and medieval periods visit the National Museum to see artefacts from the Angkor period and before.
S21 and the Killing Fields show a darker period of Cambodian history. S21 (Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum) used to be the detention and interrogation centre for the Khmer Rouge. The Killing Fields (Choeung Ek) is the site of the mass graves of thousands of people executed after interrogation at S21. You need to be prepared for these, as they are harrowing and not for everyone, however, they do tell an important part of Cambodia’s history so are well worth a visit.
The capital has always been the biggest bazaar in the country. With new malls sprouting up everywhere faster than next seasons rice seed, there is ample opportunity to grab some bargains. The new malls are juxtaposed with the old traditional markets. Worthy of mention are Aeon Mall for a new pair of jeans, Central Market for authentic Khmer shopping experience and The Russian Market for ornaments, gifts, and keepsakes.
7. Mondulkiri – Elephants, Dolphins and Primates
Mondulkiri is in the east of Cambodia and forms part of the border with Vietnam. It is another epicentre for wildlife and includes the Phnom Prech and Phnom Namlear Wildlife Sanctuaries.
Take a couple of days to volunteer at the Elephant Valley Project. Deep in the middle of the jungle, the project rehabilitates and rehomes elephants rescued from industry and agriculture.
You can stay overnight and eat communal meals with the staff and other volunteers. Night times are typically low key relaxed and spent chatting.
At the time of writing only 89 Irrawaddy Dolphins remain in the Mekong. Hunting, fishing, dam building and loss of habitat have drastically reduced numbers. Conservation efforts are turning this around and the population is slowly making a comeback. You can help this by visiting the area and spending a little money. This creates an alternative income stream from the fishing and other detrimental industries. The most ecological way is to take a kayak and paddle your way as part of a guided tour. We also recommend using the French Colonial Themed Hotel “Le Relais de Chhlong” as a base while you are in the region.
Estimated at around 1000, the population of yellow-cheeked crested gibbons in Seima Protected Forest is the largest concentration in the region. The forest is also home to a vast number of birds, black shanked doucs, bears, gaur, and elephants. Stay the night in the jungle camp and get ready for a pre-dawn start to trek out to get a glimpse of these rare, beautiful animals.
8. Ratanakiri – Lakes, Wildlife and Waterfalls
Ratanakiri is definitely off the beaten path. Until recently it was unvisited by tourists. In the past few years, the roads have improved, accommodation has been created and adventurous tourists have returned with stories of undiscovered lakes, waterfalls, and abundant wildlife. Banlung is the capital of the province. We recommend staying at “Lodge Des Terres Rouges” for a great experience.
Just outside the province capital Banlung is the Yeak Laom Volcanic Lake. Get your accommodation tuk-tuk driver to run you out to the lake. Be prepared to have an hour walk around the lake, chill out on one of the simple wooden jetties, have a swim, relax, and spot wildlife. There are some facilities, food, and gift stalls but they are incredibly low key and allow for a tranquil eco-experience.
Take a trek out into this incredibly biodiverse jungle area. The local wildlife includes Sambar deer, sun bears, boar, Bengal slow loris, muntjac deer, banteng, Asian elephant and if you are incredibly lucky tigers! Head to Banlung and find your trekking tour company. Get ready for sleeping in hammocks in the jungle so you can wake up at sunrise with nature all around you. Take more than one night out to get the whole experience.
Ratanakiri is the capital of Cambodia when it comes to spectacular waterfall treks. The whole experience is amazing for adventure travellers of all ages.
Immerse yourself in the local culture, landscape, and wildlife by taking a trek out to the waterfalls. Start in Banlung and find your tour company. Be prepared for some serious jungle trekking. It is hot and sweaty work which makes that cool waterfall water even more refreshing.
There’s More to Cambodia Than Just Temples!
Okay, Angkor Wat is impressive, it really is, BUT there is so much more to Cambodia.
It is an epicentre of wildlife, much of it rare but now protected. The people are ultra-friendly and ready to make travellers feel truly welcome. There is everything from hardcore jungle trekking, sleeping in hammocks to the finest wines in the lap of luxury on a paradise island.
Whatever your style of travel, your budget, or your demographic, make sure you allow enough time to explore these other must-do-in-life experiences.
Cambodia really is The Kingdom of Wonder. Which of these places in Cambodia would you like to visit the most?