Dig into the nature, history, and fascinating culture of Cambodia on this two-week trip that takes you from temples to tropical beaches, a lush national park, and the bustling capital city.  Start in the gateway to the temples of Angkor, Siem Reap, where you'll take a cooking class and see the amazing Phare Circus. Spend a few days relaxing in an island paradise, take a boat trip to a secluded resort deep in the Cardamom Mountains, and end your trip with a food tour in Phnom Penh.

Highlights

  • Visit the big 3 temples of Angkor: Angkor Wat, Bayon & Ta Phrom
  • Be wowed by the phenomenal Phare Circus in Siem Reap
  • Relax on the picture-perfect white sand beaches of Koh Rong
  • Enjoy the pristine rainforest & wildlife of Botum Sakor National Park
  • Learn about Cambodian cuisine on a cooking class and foodie tour

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Siem Reap Siem Reap
Day 2 Visit the Temples of Angkor Siem Reap
Day 3 Siem Reap Temple, Floating Village & Countryside Cultural Tour Siem Reap
Day 4 Siem Reap Cooking Class, Circus Visit Siem Reap
Day 5 Siem Reap to Koh Kong via Sihanoukville Koh Rong
Day 6 Koh Rong Koh Rong
Day 7 Koh Rong Koh Rong
Day 8 Koh Rong Koh Rong
Day 9 Koh Rong to Botum Sakor National Park via Sihanoukville Botum Sakor National Park
Day 10 Botum Sakor National Park Botum Sakor National Park
Day 11 Botum Sakor National Park to Phnom Penh Phnom Penh
Day 12 Phnom Penh Sightseeing & Food Tour Phnom Penh
Day 13 Departure from Phnom Penh  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Siem Reap

Learn about traditional arts from a local artisan and visit the Old Market
Learn about traditional arts from a local artisan and visit the Old Market

Welcome to Siem Reap! Upon arrival at the airport, you will be met by our local English speaking Tour Guide and transferred to your accommodation in the heart of the city, close to the Old Market, Riverside, and the French Quarter with its famous French colonial architecture.

The gateway to the Angkor Temples, Siem Reap has plenty to offer. Depending on your arrival time, we can schedule in a visit to Angkor Wat for sunset, visit the Old Market, or learn about traditional Cambodian arts from a local artisan. Spend your first night relaxing in the hotel before we head out to the temples first thing in the morning!

Day 2: Visit the Temples of Angkor

One of the five ancient gateways to Angkor Thom city
One of the five ancient gateways to Angkor Thom city

Spend the day on a tuk-tuk tour through the amazing temples of the Angkor complex, a little way outside of Siem Reap. One of the new Seven Wonders of the World, Angkor Wat—derived from the Sanskrit words for City and Temple—was the ancient capital of the Khmer Empire for over 500 years, from 802 CE when it was founded by the self-proclaimed 'God King' Jayarvaman II, to the late 14th century, when it fell to Siamese invaders from nearby Ayutthaya.

With plenty of temples to see and one day nowhere near enough time to see them all, we'll tailor our itinerary of the temples to suit your needs. Get the full temple experience with an early start to see the sun rise over the temples, or head out a little later, the choice is yours. We can also spend more time exploring a couple of the main temples and different cities in the complex, or try to tick as many off as we can, it's up to you.

Our recommended itinerary starts at Angkor Wat. This 12th-century temple was built by Suryavarman II and is the biggest single religious monument in the world.  Featuring over 3,000 individual Aspara or heavenly maidens carved into the bas-reliefs in the stone, the attention to detail here is exquisite, rivaling the Taj Mahal in grandeur and the Pyramids in scale.

After that, we'll head to the ancient city of Angkor Thom, the last and longest-reigning capital of the Khmer Empire, which was built by King Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century. Surrounded by walls over 26" (8m) high and 7.5 miles (12 km) long, five huge gates with stone faces provide access to this historic city which houses the famed Bayon—the Temple of the Faces—along with the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King

At midday take a break at the former Royal Bathing Pool of Sra Srang. Enjoy some Khmer food at a local restaurant, before rounding out the day with a visit to Ta Prohm. Also known as the Tombraider temple, here the ruins of the ancient stone structure have been allowed to be reclaimed by the jungle, with vines and towering banyan trees slowly encroaching upon the intricately carved stone blocks.

After that, we can head to our favorite spot for sunset, or return to the hotel where you can spend the evening relaxing after your temple adventures!

Day 3: Siem Reap Temple, Floating Village & Countryside Cultural Tour

See the heroic landmine-hunting rats of Apopo!
See the heroic landmine-hunting rats of Apopo!

After breakfast, we'll set off into the countryside around Siem Reap. Starting off our cultural tour with a visit to Banteay Srei—the Citadel of Women—a beautiful temple dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva that dates back to 967 CE. Located 16 miles (25 km) outside of the main Angkor complex, this red-sandstone temple features some of the most beautiful and intricate carvings and examples of skilled Angkorian artisanship.

On our way to the temple, we'll make a quick stop by the roadside to see the local sugar palm industries. The villagers use this tree in so many ways—making palm sugar, extracting palm beer, and eating and making medicine from the palm fruit, as well as using the palm fronds as thatching on their houses.

Then we'll make our way to the Apopo Visitor Center to learn about how these famous rodents are saving lives. After three decades of war, leftover landmines are still a huge problem for farmers and local people in the Cambodian countryside. Whilst the use of humans with metal detectors and mine-detecting dogs have made a major impact, there is still plenty to do. Luckily, there is a solution, giant 'hero rats'.

Used in Angola and Mozambique, these rats have been sniffing out landmines in Cambodia since 2015. Not weighing enough to trigger a landmine when they walk across it, the rats are smart enough to smell the explosive and give a warning note to their handler. The mines can then be isolated and removed. We'll take a short tour through the Apopo Visitor Center to learn about their work, including a short demonstration by a mine detecting ‘hero rat’.

In the afternoon, we'll make our way to the Tonle Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. The lake and its waters are the lifeblood of the country and millions of people depend on it. Officially a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, observing life on the lake makes for an interesting half-day visit.

Board a traditional wooden boat to visit the stilted village of Kompong Phluck, one of the most interesting villages on the lake. When the water levels are high, the life of the villagers rotates around fishing, and, during the dry season when the water levels drop, the locals take the opportunity to plant seasonal crops, and ferment fish. Follow the river to the point where it reaches the great lake, where we will change to a smaller wooden boat and the village ladies will row us through a seasonally flooded freshwater swamp forest. Float through the maze of trunks and branches and look up to see the sky peeking through the canopy.


(Note - a visit to Kompong Phluck is usually possible from Jun-Mar when there is sufficient water for a boat trip. This can vary according to annual rains. Should a visit not be possible we will arrange instead to an alternative floating village elsewhere on the lake)

Day 4: Siem Reap Cooking Class, Circus Visit

Learn about traditional Cambodian ingredients on a Food Tour in Siem Reap
Learn about traditional Cambodian ingredients on a Food Tour in Siem Reap

This morning, we'll pick you up and take you to the Old Market in the center of the old town for a food tour with a local chef. Learn all about the different vegetables, herbs, spices, and ingredients and how they are used in traditional Cambodian cooking.

From the market, we'll head to a micro-farm a few miles outside of town where we will pick our own fresh ingredients from the garden and use them in a cooking class, where we will learn how to prepare a four-course lunch, before sitting down to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Spend the afternoon relaxing at the hotel before heading out in the evening to see an amazing performance of Phare, the Cambodian Circus, by professional artists from the Cambodian NGO, Phare Ponleu Selpak. Set up by Cambodians raised in refugee camps as a way to encourage young people to express themselves through art, Phare is a great example of how successful community projects and responsible tourism can be. The circus has toured all over the world and many performers have gone on to join Cirque du Soleil. The show is a wonderful example of the modern Cambodia theater, mixing dance, music, contortionism, and juggling.

Day 5: Siem Reap to Koh Kong via Sihanoukville

Relax on the beautiful Soksan Beach on Koh Rong Island
Relax on the beautiful white sand beaches of Koh Rong Island

Today, we'll fly from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville, where we will then head to the port to board the shared speedboat to Koh Rong island. After a 45-minute journey, we will arrive at the resort where we will be spending the next few days.

Spend the afternoon relaxing in the resort and enjoying the beautiful white sand beaches of this tropical island paradise. Take a dip, relax by the pool, or sit in a hammock sipping on a cocktail before enjoying a beautiful sunset over the ocean.

Travel Time: 1 hour flight + 1 hour boat trip
Travel Distance: 330 miles (530 km)

Day 6: Koh Rong

Take a tour to floating villages on Koh Rong
Organize a boat trip to visit floating villages on the island

Spend the day relaxing on this beachy paradise in the Gulf of Thailand. Take a dip in the ocean, swim in the pool, enjoy the beautiful beaches, take a walk through the lush jungle, go snorkeling in the crystal clear water, or organize activities like boat trips to floating villages through your hotel.

Don't miss the opportunity to swim with bioluminescent plankton! Take a night-time dip in the ocean and see the sparkly plankton light up the waves beneath you while you enjoy the beautiful starry dark skies overhead.

Day 7: Koh Rong

Take a sunset boat trip around Koh Rong island
Watch a beautiful sunset and then take a swim with the plankton

Spend another day enjoying the beautiful tropical beaches on Koh Rong. Swim in the ocean or the pool, relax in a hammock, enjoy cocktails and delicious meals in your resort, go for a walk through the jungle to the waterfall or the village, explore the island, or speak to the resort about organizing optional activities.

Day 8: Koh Rong

Enjoy your last day on Koh Rong island
The beautiful beaches and jungle of Koh Rong

Enjoy one last day chilling out in paradise before we head back to the mainland in the morning. Soak up the sand, sun, and sea, stroll through the lush jungly interior of the island, or just relax in a hammock strung between palm trees before taking in another epic ocean sunset.

Day 9: Koh Rong to Botum Sakor National Park via Sihanoukville

Explore the lush jungle around our luxury camp in Botum Sakor NP
Explore the lush jungle around our luxury camp in Botum Sakor NP

After breakfast, leave the sandy shores of Koh Rong on a shared speedboat transfer back to the mainland on the outskirts of Sihanoukville. At the port, you'll be met by your driver who will drive you to the starting point for your adventure into Botum Sakor National Park. The journey should take around 3.5 hours by road, and then another hour in a shared boat ride down the Preak Tachan River to your luxury safari tent-style accommodation in the jungle.

When we arrive, you'll have a couple of hours free to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery before we head off on an exploratory hike in the jungle. Return in time to relax at the riverside restaurant as the sun sets over Botum Sakor and freshen up before enjoying dinner at the camp and retiring for your first night in this peaceful nature resort.

Travel Time: 1 hour boat + 3.5 hour drive + 1 hour boat
Travel Distance: 121 miles (196 km)

Day 10: Botum Sakor National Park

Go for a kayaking trip along the river through the jungle
Go on a kayaking trip along the river

After an early breakfast with beautiful views over the jungle, we'll meet the Wildlife Alliance Rangers and an English speaking guide and embark on a patrol over a network of abandoned poaching and logging trails through the dense forest. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife like macaques, gibbons, and tropical hornbills. Choose to kayak back along the river or hike through the jungle to the camp. 

Spend the afternoon relaxing and enjoying the beautiful views over the river and watching the animals from your balcony before dinner.

Day 11: Botum Sakor National Park to Phnom Penh

Go on an early morning boat ride to see animals like the pileated female gibbon
Go on an early morning boat ride to see animals like the pileated female gibbon

Enjoy one last morning in the lush jungle before we head back to civilization. If you're an early riser, you might choose to go on a self-guided hike on the trails through the camp or join one of our other activities like the early morning boat ride before having a leisurely breakfast and boarding the shared boat back to Trapeang Rung.

Travel back to Phnom Penh by road. The journey to the capital should take around five hours including a short break. When we arrive in the city, check into your hotel, explore the neighborhood, or just relax.

Day 12: Phnom Penh Sightseeing & Food Tour

Enjoy a sightseeing tour of Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh
Enjoy a sightseeing tour of Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh

Once known as the 'Pearl of Asia', the capital of Cambodia is a unique and interesting city.  Up until the early seventies, Phnom Penh was a vibrant and bustling metropolis, however, during the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979 the capital was evacuated and the population forced to the countryside. In recent years the city has been developing rapidly, but it is still decades behind neighboring Vietnam and Thailand, although this just adds to its charm.

We'll begin our Phnom Penh tour with a visit to the Royal Palace. Built in 1866, the palace is home to King Norodom Sihamoni who has ruled Cambodia since October 2004. With its pagoda-style, ornate buildings and lush manicured gardens, the palace is an oasis of calm in a busy city. Our guided visit includes a trip to the Silver Pagoda, with its shiny silver floor and huge collection of Buddha statues including one which is decorated with 9.584 diamonds.

After exploring the royal complex, we'll make our way to one of the most beautiful buildings in Cambodia, if not Asia. Phnom Penh's iconic Central Market or Psar Thmei was originally constructed in 1937 following plans of the French architect, Louis Chauchon. In recent years the market's domed roof and four wings of shops have undergone a restoration project. There is something for everyone here, including souvenirs, clothes and food.

In the late afternoon, we'll head back out into the city to enjoy a foodie safari. As the sun sets the city comes to life, with food stalls popping up on every street corner and all the locals coming out to eat. We'll start our food tour back at the Central Market (Phsar Thmei) where your guide will explain the different snacks on offer including yellow bean cake and Khmer rice cake. You can also try some fresh tropical fruit which is brought from the countryside to the city markets every day. The most famous/infamous of fruits is the mighty durian, which is known for its spiky exterior and creamy interior, which some people say smells like hell and tastes like heaven.

Your guide will also take you on a tour through the food stalls of the Old Market (Phsar Chas) where you will learn about the different traditional ingredients and spices that are used in cooking and medicines. We then head to a rooftop bar to watch the sun setting over the river.

As dark descends upon the city, we'll make our way to Independence Monument which is nicely lit in the evenings and a popular place for locals to hang out before going for dinner in a local restaurant rarely visited by tourists. On the way home, stop at a street stall to try a traditional dessert of fruits mixed with condensed milk and ice.

Opt to visit a bar for a few drinks or make your way back to the hotel after a fun night time exploration of vibrant Phnom Penh.

Day 13: Departure from Phnom Penh

Wat Ounalom in Phnom Penh, headquarter of Cambodian Buddhism

 

Spend your last day in Cambodia relaxing before your onward journey. Depending on the time of your flight, you might want to go shopping for some last-minute gifts and souvenirs, explore the city, or just relax by the pool before we drop you off at the airport ready for your departure from the Kingdom of Wonder.

Map

Map of Best of Cambodia: Temples, Beaches, & Nature - 13 Days
Map of Best of Cambodia: Temples, Beaches, & Nature - 13 Days