This 6-day tour takes an in-depth look at the temples of Angkor, including Angkor Wat, the largest religious building in the world. Enjoy sunrise visits and tours of its entire complex, plus visit the other temples in the area, such as Bayon, Ta Phrom, Preah Khan, and Banteay Srei, as well as the ancient city of Angkor Thom and the temples of the Grand Circuit. Enjoy cultural elements of Cambodia, with typical dinners and dances, rides in Cambodian tuk-tuks, observations of daily life at Tonlé Sap Lake, and a traditional circus performance.

Highlights

  • Enjoy traditional cuisine and an Apsara dance performance in Siem Reap
  • Visit the temples of Roluos and observe local life on Tonlé Sap Lake
  • Capture Angkor Wat at sunrise and sunset, exploring its large complex
  • Discover the wonder of the Phare Circus with a traditional performance
  • Explore the many temples of the Grand Circuit, including the renovated Preah Khan

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Siem Reap - Enjoy a traditional Apsara dance performance Siem Reap
Day 2 Discover the temples of Roluos and Tonlé Sap Lake Siem Reap
Day 3 Experience Angkor Wat at sunrise - Explore the temple complex Siem Reap
Day 4 Visit the temples of the Grand Circuit - View Angkor Wat at sunset Siem Reap
Day 5 Explore the temple of Banteay Srei - Enjoy a Phare Circus performance Siem Reap
Day 6 Depart Siem Reap  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Siem Reap - Enjoy a traditional Apsara dance performance

Apsara Dancers in Angkor Wat
Apsara Dancers in Angkor Wat

Welcome to Cambodia!

Upon arrival at the airport in Siem Reap, your local, English-speaking guide will transfer you to your accommodation. After settling in, the rest of your day can be catered to your individual preferences, as discussed with your hosts. Depending on your arrival time, you can opt for a sunset visit to Angkor Wat or a trip to a local artisan market to learn about Cambodian arts and crafts.

In the evening, you'll enjoy a welcome dinner featuring typical Khmer cuisine. Your meal will include a traditional Apsara dance performance, which was first debuted in the court of kings at Angkor.

Day 2: Discover the temples of Roluos and Tonlé Sap Lake

View of Preah Ko Temple from the Front
View of Preah Ko Temple from the Front

Your trip focuses on the exploration of the Angkorian temples. Today you'll start with some of the oldest temples in the area at Roluos, which is the former site of the royal city of Hariharalaya. Here you can visit the temples of Preah Ko and Lolei, which feature ancient Sanskrit carvings.

You can also explore the temple of Bakong, which is the largest and most interesting of the Roluos Three. It's dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva and represents Mt. Meru, the first state temple of the Angkor period. The five-tiered temple dominates the complex, surrounded by a moat and historic walls.

In the afternoon, head to Tonlé Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. Officially a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the lake and its waters are the lifeblood of the country with millions of people depending on it.

One of the best ways to see the lake is by boat, specifically the traditional wooden boats used by the locals. You'll visit Kompong Phluck, one of the most interesting villages on the lake, where you can observe the daily life of the lake communities. The houses at Kompong Phluck are stilted, so they don't move with the water levels as floating homes do. When the water is high, the life of the villagers is concentrated on fishing. During the dry season, when the water level tends to drop several feet, the land is exposed and the locals take the opportunity to plant seasonal crops and ferment fish.

In the evening, you'll return to Siem Reap in time to enjoy dinner and meander one of the night markets.

Day 3: Experience Angkor Wat at sunrise - Explore the temple complex

Gate of Bayon Wat in Angkor Thom Temple
Gate of Bayon Wat in Angkor Thom Temple

This morning, you'll rise at about 5 am to catch the sunrise at the largest religious building in the world, Angkor Wat. Upon arriving at the temple, you'll join the crowds in front of the pond, as the best photos include the sun's reflection as it rises behind the towers.

Post-sunrise is the best time to explore the complex, as it's extremely quiet. Built by Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as a state temple and later mausoleum, Angkor Wat was originally a Hindu complex to honor the god Vishnu. After a walk around the outer part of the temple, you'll head back to the hotel for a late breakfast. You'll return to the complex later to enjoy a full tour, once you've had time to rest.

You'll enter Angkor Wat from its South Gate and head toward Bayon Temple, where you can view the 54 towers decorated with faces looking at every angle. Your next stop will be Phimeanakas inside the enclosure of the Royal Palace, where you'll climb the temple for views of Angkor Thom. Then follow the forest trail through Preah Palilay and end at the Terrace of the Leper Kings and the Terrace of Elephants. Keep an eye out for hidden passageways at both terraces.

The last stop of the day is at Ta Prohm, a unique temple that has surrendered to nature with trees and vines growing amongst its structures. This is one of the most photogenic temples in the Angkor area, gaining fame after being featured in the Angelina Jolie film, Tomb Raider. Enjoy walking along the sandy paths and under huge banyan trees as you explore this 12th-century temple. Then return to your hotel in the evening to enjoy dinner in Siem Reap.

Day 4: Visit the temples of the Grand Circuit - View Angkor Wat at sunset

Stone Rock at the Ruins of Ta Som Temple
Stone Rock at the Ruins of Ta Som Temple

Today's exploration is reserved for the temples of Grand Circuit, which you'll discover while riding a traditional remork, the Cambodian version of a tuk-tuk. Begin in Sra Srang, the former royal bathing pool, and head first to the temple of Pre Rup. Ascend its lion-guarded staircase for views over the surrounding forest. Then visit the 10th-century Eastern Mebon, a temple built for the King’s parents and dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, where you can enjoy the life-sized elephants at each corner of the two levels.  

Next, you'll enjoy Ta Som, which features a sacred fig tree overtaking one of the entrance gates. The temple is unfinished, though many believe it would've become one of the most spectacular of the Grand Circuit. Nearby is Neak Poan, which is unlike the other temples as it's only accessible by a long wooden walkway over the artificial Lake Jayatataka.

End your tour of the Grand Circuit with Preah Khan, which was built by King Jayavarman VII as a monastic and teaching complex. Unlike its neighbor Ta Prohm, much of the temple has been restored. Meander through the corridors and take time to appreciate the delicate carvings.

You can spend the rest of the afternoon in the temple area, viewing Angkor Wat for sunset if you didn't manage to see it on the first night. Enjoy dinner back in Siem Reap.

Day 5: Explore the temple of Banteay Srei - Enjoy a Phare Circus performance

Banteay Samre Temple
Banteay Samre Temple

This morning, you'll travel into the Cambodian countryside to the temple of Banteay Srei, which means "Citadel of the Women". As one of the best-preserved temples in the country, you can enjoy the detailed carvings and Angkorian artisanship, all within the glow of the morning sun.

Although it dates back to the same period as Angkor Wat and was also built by Suryavarman II, Banteay Srei is different from the other temples as it is constructed out of pink sandstone. The temple is enclosed by a high wall, accessible by a long causeway. Recent renovation work has left the temple in an impressive condition, with its four wings, a well-preserved library, and carvings depicting stories from the Ramayana legends.

In the late morning, head to the village of Pre Dak, which is the perfect place for lunch, as it's famous for its noodles. Before returning to Siem Reap, peruse the historic streets of Pre Dak, popping into shops selling local, handmade products.

In the evening, you'll enjoy modern Khmer theatre with a performance of Phare, which is the Cambodian Circus featuring professional artists from Phare Ponleu Selpak. Originally an expressive-arts project established in refugee camps to encourage young people, the Phare Circus is slowly becoming a worldwide name, establishing itself as a positive example of responsible tourism. You'll enjoy a mix of theatre, dance, music, juggling, and contortion.

Day 6: Depart Siem Reap

Wat Bo Temple in the City of Siem Reap
Wat Bo Temple in the City of Siem Reap

Enjoy today at your leisure, with breakfast at your hotel and a slow morning in Siem Reap before you catch your flight home.