Whilst the iconic silhouette of Angkor Wat is the first image that springs to mind when talking about Cambodia, there’s so much more to this beguiling country. We’ve picked out some of our favourite sights, plus things to do and foods to try, so you can ensure you get the most out of your holiday. Whether it’s watching the Cambodian equivalent of the royal ballet, sampling the delights of local street food, learning about the history or having a pint on Pub Street, this list of things to do in Cambodia will keep you busy.
1. Explore the Angkor temple complex
Number one on everyone’s list that comes to Cambodia has to be the famous temple complex of Angkor. And, more specifically, the iconic Angkor Wat itself. With countless ruins to explore, you could quite easily spend day after day discovering all it has to offer. But our favourite time to visit is sunrise or sunset, when the temple complex takes on a golden hue.
2. Visit the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh
If you’re travelling to Cambodia then chances are you’ll have set aside some time in the capital of Phnom Penh. While there is plenty to see and discover here, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to visit the glimmering Royal Palace. Built over a century ago in classic Khmer-style, this stunning piece of architecture remains home to the royal family today.
3. Try the local food
What can we say, we just love sampling different foods from around the world and Khmer cuisine has to be one of our favourites. While it does have some Southeast Asian staple attributes, it also has a flavour all of its own. Try Amok and let your taste buds dabble with hints of lemongrass, chilli and coconut paired with baked fish, or sample street snacks like noodles and congee.
4. Head to Battambang
In a content state of disrepair, the compact city of Battambang in northwestern Cambodia has something of an unexpected charm making it a favourite with travellers. Small enough to explore on foot, discover fading colonial buildings, quirky street side cafes and a laid back attitude. On the outskirts there’s scenic vistas and pretty temple ruins dotting the hill tops.
5. Discovering floating villages
If you happen to find yourself in Siem Reap (which let’s face it, you most definitely will), then you won’t want to leave without first checking out the floating villages of Tonle Sap Lake. This large body of freshwater has been home to many of the country’s fishermen for decades, who still rely on the lake for their livelihoods today. Learn about their way of life and how you can help them sustain it.
6. Learn the history
While you’re bound to leave Cambodia with innumerable happy memories, unfortunately every country has as past. Whether you are a history buff, or simply want to gain a better understanding of the local culture, a visit to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum won’t go amiss. A poignant reminder of the hardships under the Khmer Rouge regime, your time here certainly will be eyeopening.
7. Uncover ancient temples
While Cambodia is a predominantly Buddhist nation, you’ll find plenty of Hindu temples scattered around the country too – including those in the famous temple complex of Angkor! While the temples of Angkor are an obvious must-see, the ancient ruins of Preah Vihear Temple perched on a cliff in the Dangrek Mountains on the border with Thailand are simply stunning too.
8. Have a pint on Pub Street
After a long day of sightseeing, there’s nothing more appealing than some cheesy tunes and a chilled pint – well that’s our opinion anyway. While it may be something of a tourist trap, the neon-lit stretch of Pub Street in Siem Reap is a great place to let your hair down for the night – have a drink, have a dance and worry about the hangover in the morning.
9. Watch a traditional dance performance
Tick that culture box with a Khmer classical dance performance, also known as Apsaras Dance, the Cambodian equivalent of the royal ballet. In Buddhist and Hindu mythology, Apsaras are female spirits that live in the clouds or in water, a resemblance that the dance aims to recreate. Dancers in elaborate outfits take to the stage and perform slow entrancing gestures and poses to music.
10. Relax on an island beach
As much as we all love a little culture and sightseeing, we equally enjoy a nice relaxing few days on the beach too. After taking in the sights of Cambodia consider heading offshore for a little R&R in the sun on the sandy palm-fringed shores of Paradise Beach on Rabbit Island, known locally as Koh Thonsay, situated off the southwestern coast of Cambodia.
Is Cambodia still on your bucket list? Take a look at our range of group tours.