Exploring by bicycle, boat, and "bamboo train" are a few of the ways you'll experience the enchantment of Cambodia on this week-long adventure focusing on history, architecture, culture, and cuisine. Start in Phnom Penh, with the markets, "killing fields," and a sunset Mekong River cruise. Then head to Tonlé Sap Lake and Battambang for insights into local life. Finish with two nights in Siem Reap, where you’ll explore the Angkor temples and watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat.

Highlights

  • Enjoy a sunset cruise on the Mekong River
  • Cycle the countryside around Battambang for an artisanal industry experience
  • Witness a traditional "Apsara" dance performance
  • Take in the sunrise over the temples of famed Angkor Wat

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Phnom Penh, Afternoon City Tour Phnom Penh
Day 2 Tuol Sleng & Killing Fields, National Museum & Royal Palace, Sunset Cruise Phnom Penh
Day 3 Phnom Penh to Battambang via Andong Rossey & Floating Villages Battambang
Day 4 Cycle the Countryside, Bamboo Train Ride & Phnom Sampeau Sunset Battambang
Day 5 Siem Reap, Angkor Thom & Traditional Dance Performance Siem Reap
Day 6 Angkor Wat Sunrise, Ta Phrom Temple by Tuk-Tuk & Phare Cambodian Circus Siem Reap
Day 7 Depart Siem Reap  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Phnom Penh, Afternoon City Tour

Central Market or Psar Thmei

After arriving at Phnom Penh airport and transferring to your hotel, you'll begin exploring the Cambodian capital this afternoon on a guided introductory city tour by cyclo—a three-wheeled pedal rickshaw. Your quintessentially Cambodian form of exploring the city offers a fun way to begin your week-long adventure. Visits will include the huge, domed, art deco, and bustling Psar Thmei (Central Market), a landmark structure where vendors sell everything from food and clothes to souvenirs. End at the small hill of Wat Phnom to visit the gardens and hilltop pagoda, a popular spot for Cambodians to pray for good luck.

This evening head to one of Phnom Penh's most renowned and stylishly contemporary restaurants: Kroeung Garden. You'll experience a Signature Menu of nouvelle Cambodian dishes from Master Chef Luu Meng, using quality local aromatic spices at the peak of freshness.

Day 2: Tuol Sleng & Killing Fields, National Museum & Royal Palace, Sunset Cruise

The memorial stupa of Choeung Ek Killing Fields, containing some of the Khmer Rouge victims remains
The memorial stupa of Choeung Ek Killing Fields, containing some of the Khmer Rouge victim's remains

This morning, explore the sobering, darker side of Cambodian history during the Khmer Rouge regime. You'll visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former high school that became a torture center, and Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, where an audio guide leads you through the infamous "Killing Fields," including a Buddhist stupa filled with human skulls. Then lift your spirits at the National Museum, offering a millennium's-worth of Khmer history dating back to pre-Angkorian times, and the ornate, pagoda-style Royal Palace complex, with its Silver Pagoda boasting a floor of glittering silver tiles.

In the late afternoon, you'll enjoy a relaxing cruise on the Mekong River and Tonlé Sap River, marveling at the lifestyle of the "floating villages" and the view over the Phnom Penh skyline at sunset. The evening is yours to check out Phnom Penh's developing foodie scene.

Day 3: Phnom Penh to Battambang via Andong Rossey & Floating Villages

Water dictates life in the floating villages of Tonlé Sap

Wake up early for a six-hour drive to the sleepy provincial capital of Battambang. You'll stop en route in the stilt-house village of Andong Rossey, surrounded by rice paddies and where you'll witness families making traditional red-earth pottery beneath their homes for delivery via ox cart to markets across the country.

After lunch, head to Tonlé Sap Lake, where you'll board a wooden longboat in the floating village of Kompong Luong, populated by a mix of Cham Muslim Vietnamese-Cambodians. Here, everything from the mosque to fish farms and homes floats with the varying seasonal water level. Then, continue to Battambang, arriving in time to see the setting sun gild the old French-style colonial-era buildings of this laid-back city. The evening is at leisure for you to explore Battambang's dining and nightlife.

Day 4: Cycle the Countryside, Bamboo Train Ride & Phnom Sampeau Sunset

Golden Buddhas at Phnom Sampeau

Spend the morning cycling to discover Cambodian local artisanal industries in the countryside villages surrounding Battambang. Along the way, you'll learn about (and try your hand at) traditional livelihoods, such as rice paper making and distilling of rice wine, plus you'll get to snack on Battambang's famous bamboo rice cakes. After time for an early afternoon siesta, you'll head back to the countryside for a fun "train ride" on a nori—a simple bamboo platform with straw-mat seats placed atop wheels, powered by a motorcycle engine. Enjoy a brief adrenalin rush as you whiz down the line for 4 miles (7 km).

Next, you'll head to Phnom Sampeau, a limestone outcrop with a spectacular view, plus numerous caves traditionally serving as Buddhist temples. One cave with a reclining Buddha serves as a memorial to the many Cambodians murdered here by the Khmer Rouge, who threw victims to their deaths in the caverns. At dusk, witness the spectacle of thousands of bats exiting the cave to feed. Close your day with dinner at the Jaan Bai Restaurant, a social enterprise initiative of the Cambodian Children's Trust that employs underprivileged youth.

Day 5: Siem Reap, Angkor Thom & Traditional Dance Performance

The Bayon Gate at Angkor Thom

This morning depart Battambang, skirting the wildlife-rich wetlands of Tonlé Sap Biosphere Reserve en route to Siem Reap, the gateway to the great temple complex of Angkor. After lunch, you'll head to the Angkor UNESCO World Heritage Site, focusing on Angkor Thom—surrounded by colossal rampart walls measuring 7.5 miles (12 km) square. This was the most extensive and last capital of the Khmer empire. Explore the most important and impressive temples, the central Bayon Temple, adorned with massive stone faces, the Terrace of the Elephants, and the stepped-pyramid Baphoun Temple.

Return to your hotel to freshen up and relax before heading to a dinner of delicious Khmer cuisine. The highlight will be a show of classic Apsara dancing, as performed a millennium ago in the court of kings at Angkor by women representing apsaras—seductive heavenly nymphs.

Day 6: Angkor Wat Sunrise, Ta Phrom Temple by Tuk-Tuk & Phare Cambodian Circus

Get an early start to take in the sun rising over Angkor Wat

Rise early today to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat, the largest religious building in the world. You'll proceed into the temple and settle by the reflecting pond for the perfect vista as the sun rises behind the five temple towers. You'll then have time to explore the massive temple complex, carved with more than 3,000 bas-relief apsara, before returning to your hotel for a late breakfast and relaxation.

This afternoon, hop aboard a tuk-tuk to explore the crumbling and photogenic Ta Prohm temple, or "Tomb Raider" temple, so-named after featuring in the eponymous 2001 Angelina Jolie movie. The most famous of the many temples in Angkor Thom, its maze of tumbled corridors and courtyards surround a huge, elevated stone face of Prajnaparamita (the personification of wisdom) and seems held together solely by the snaking roots of centuries-old banyan trees. This evening, enjoy a performance of Phare Cambodian Circus, telling uniquely Cambodian tales using theater, music, dance, and traditional circus acts. 

Day 7: Depart Siem Reap

"Leahaey samreab pelnih!" Goodbye for now!
Depending on your departure details, you might like to squeeze in some last-minute souvenir shopping before transferring to the airport for your return flight.

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Map

Map of Cambodia Culture & History: Phnom Penh, Battambang & Siem Reap - 7 Days
Map of Cambodia Culture & History: Phnom Penh, Battambang & Siem Reap - 7 Days