Cambodia experiences two main seasons (nevertheless with some monthly and geographic variation therein), and January is right in the middle of the cool, dry season. Cool is relative, however, as Cambodia is a tropical country and experiences warm-to-hot temperatures year-round.
Cambodia is not a massive country, so there's not much latitudinal variation between north and south, but there is variation between the mountains and the lowlands and coast. Temperatures in the highlands of the Cardamom Mountains or the Dangrek Mountains are cooler than on the lower-lying plains, where most of Cambodia's towns and cities are, including the capital, Phnom Penh. Average January temperatures in Phnom Penh are around 79°F (26°C).
There is little rain throughout the country as January is the driest month. While there is always a chance of precipitation throughout the year, you're unlikely to encounter more than a light sprinkling in January.
Crowds & Costs
January is the middle of the peak season in Cambodia, thanks to the cooler conditions, which make being outdoors quite pleasant. The temples of Angkor are a top-rated attraction and can get quite crowded. Book accommodation in nearby Siem Reap well in advance as well as in many other parts of the country, including the coastal beach resorts, in Battambang, Kampot, and Phnom Penh.
Prices will also generally be higher in January than in the low season, but it's worth remembering that Cambodia is a very affordable destination. While it has its share of upmarket hotels with hefty price tags, many locally run hotels and guesthouses will remain good value even in the high season. Just be sure to book your first choice well in advance if you're visiting in this month. And although Cambodia has its own New Year, celebrated in April, it can still get busy during the Lunar New Year, celebrated by Cambodians of Chinese or Vietnamese ancestry, in late January or early February.
Where to Go
There's a reason why so many people flock to Angkor in January: the dry, cooler weather is ideal for walking or cycling around the series of complexes without getting overheated or wet. However, you'll have to contend with the throngs of like-minded travelers.
Other perfect destinations in January are the coast around the islands off Sihanoukville. Cambodia's coast is very similar in appearance to neighbouring Thailand's better-known beaches, but generally less developed. And though it's not the hottest month, many visitors will still find temperatures comfortable for a beach vacation, not to mention the skies will be clear. The beaches near Sihanoukville are under threat from rampant development, but the white sands and clear seas of nearby islands Koh Rong, Koh Rong Samloem, Koh Ta Kiev, and Koh Russey (Bamboo Island) are worth a detour.
What to Do
January is a great month to rent a bicycle in Cambodia and pedal around the countryside. Renting a bike in Siem Reap is a popular way of covering the large distances between temples at Angkor Wat, and this is quite comfortable in the cooler January weather. The land is generally flat, and traffic not too heavy within the ancient city's boundaries.
If you're a keen cyclist and are up for a bigger challenge, January is an excellent time to embark on a cycle tour around more of Cambodia. Guided tours can include a couple of days around Siem Reap and Angkor before continuing to the countryside bordering Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam and possibly even crossing the borders into these neighboring countries.
Events in January
Liberation Day, nationwide. On January 7, Liberation Day marks the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979 and honors the lives lost during their rule of Cambodia. It's a public holiday, with some business closures.
Lunar New Year, nationwide. Cambodians with Chinese or Vietnamese ancestry celebrate Lunar New Year in late January or early February. People gather with their families to eat, drink, and play games. It's not an official public holiday in Cambodia, though.
Traveling to Cambodia in January? Check out these great itineraries
Cycle Through Cambodia & Vietnam - 12 Days. Cycle through the heart of the old Khmer Empire to the ancient trading port of Hoi An, weaving through the Cambodian and Vietnamese countryside and visiting Angkor's temples and remote areas near the Laotian border along the way.
Best of Cambodia: Temples, Beaches & Nature - 13 Days. Taking you from temples to tropical beaches, a lush national park, and the bustling capital city, you'll cover the nature, history, and the fascinating culture of Cambodia.