Planning Your Trip to Cambodia
Cambodia is probably best known to travelers as the home of Angkor. This ancient UNESCO-listed city sprawls for miles in all directions, dotted with temples and ruins in varying states of upkeep. Angkor Wat is at the heart of Angkor and sees many visitors, but there's much more to Cambodia than this (albeit very impressive) complex.
With just a few days in Cambodia, it makes the most sense to fly into Siem Reap (the modern city near Angkor) and focus your sightseeing around the temples and ruins. There would also be time for sightseeing in the capital, Phnom Penh. With a week or more, you can add another destination—possibly Battambang or a village on the Mekong River or Tonlé Sap Lake. With two weeks to spend in Cambodia, you can fit all of these top attractions into your itinerary and possibly add wildlife spotting and other outdoor activities in the Cardamom Mountains and chill-out time on a beach.
Layering itineraries is an excellent approach to planning a trip to Cambodia. Start with a few days in Siem Reap/Angkor, and the more extra days you have at your disposal, the more destinations you can add on. But all first-time visitors to Cambodia should build an itinerary around Angkor.
Cambodia in 5 Days
With five days to spend in Cambodia, it's best to stick to just one or two destinations. The quality of the roads through the country and the availability (or lack) of domestic flights means trying to fit in any more than this would sacrifice quality time at your destinations.
Whether your flight gets into Siem Reap or Phnom Penh, stick to the Siem Reap/Angkor area or combine these must-see destinations with a day or two in the capital. In Siem Reap, there's plenty to do beyond the Angkor complex if/when you get "templed out," as some travelers report feeling. Many travelers like to see the memorable Phare Circus, a Cambodian version of Cirque du Soleil, which started in refugee camps but has become a leading example of responsible tourism in Cambodia. This itinerary includes time touring Angkor with a day in a rural village and an evening out to see the circus perform.
Active travelers might want to cycle around the ancient Angkor sites. Many of the most impressive temples are spread far apart over the countryside, and fewer travelers venture beyond Angkor Wat. Cycling is an ideal way of appreciating the Cambodian countryside. This biking and kayaking itinerary allows you to explore the area around Angkor and Siem Reap on two wheels. It then continues to the nearby Tonlé Sap lake to kayak through wetlands, visit floating villages, and spot some of this biosphere reserve's many colorful bird species.
Check out this article for more five-day itineraries.
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Cambodia in 1 Week
With seven or eight days in Cambodia, you can comfortably fit three destinations into your itinerary. As well as spending time in popular Phnom Penh and Siem Reap/Angkor, you can delve deeper into the countryside.
Battambang is a traveler's favorite and a great place to experience Cambodian life. This itinerary includes time in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Battambang. In and around Phnom Penh, explore the Art Deco Central Market, the sobering Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, and Choeung Ek Genocidal Center. En route to Battambang, stop at the stilt-house village of Andong Rossey, surrounded by rice paddies. Tour Battambang by bike and learn about local artisanal industries. Head to nearby Phnom Sampeau, a limestone outcrop with great views and many caves that have traditionally served as Buddhist temples.
Alternatively, head to southern Cambodia, where you'll find the town of Kampot, the evocatively named Cardamom Mountains, and Botum Sakor National Park. This seven-day itinerary is ideal for active travelers as it includes boat trips, stand-up paddle boarding, hiking, and kayaking. A highlight is staying in the Cardamom Tented Camp in the heart of the Cardamom Mountains. Here you can take hikes and look out for an abundance of wildlife, including Asiatic black bears, Asian wild dogs, clouded leopards, pileated gibbons, sun bears, and Cambodia's largest population of Asian elephants.
Check out this article for more week-long itineraries.
Cambodia in 10 Days
Ten days in Cambodia allows you to take your time, indulging in activities you might otherwise skip to save on time and therefore further enrichening your experience of the country.
This history and nature tour includes must-see destinations like Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Battambang but also spends time on an island in the mighty Mekong River, a major Southeast Asian waterway. Stay on the island of Koh Trong for two nights, where you can walk, cycle, kayak, and admire the beautiful sunsets. From Koh Trong, you will also embark on a kayaking tour through flooded forests in search of the Irrawaddy dolphin—sightings are common.
Travel from Siem Reap to the coast for an even wider-ranging ten-day itinerary, as well as visit Phnom Penh, Kampot, and Kep. You'll cover cultural highlights in the capital like the Royal Palace and Maitreya Buddha and later cycle the backroads of Kampot and visit a pepper farm. Lovers of seafood in general—and crabs in particular—will love ending this trip in Kep, a town that welcomes visitors with a giant blue swimmer crab statue on a stilted platform in the water. Visit Kep's Crab Market to see the real-life versions and a lot of other seafood. Enjoy a BBQ seafood lunch in an open-air seafront restaurant.
Check out this article for more 10-day itineraries.
Cambodia in 2 Weeks
Two weeks is the ideal amount of time to spend in Cambodia, a small but dense country. Aim to visit and experience most must-see sights, plus add time in one of Cambodia's national parks and at a white-sand beach.
This itinerary includes most of Cambodia's highlights and is so varied that it will appeal to travelers with a range of interests and priorities. Spend a night at a tented camp in the Botum Sakor National Park in the Cardamom Mountains, where you'll walk with local rangers along a network of abandoned poaching and logging trails through the dense forest. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. End your stay with a couple of days at Koh Rong, an island off the city of Sihanoukville. The powdery white sands, swaying palms, and turquoise waters invite you to do nothing but swim and relax—and perhaps indulge in some fresh local seafood.
Do good while you travel and witness the excellent work of locals helping to strengthen their communities with this responsible feel-good adventure around the country. In Phnom Penh, dine at a restaurant that employs former street children and provides training for careers in hospitality. Commune with monks in the Udong Hills while visiting the Vipassana Dhura Buddhist Meditation Centre. Visit renowned local potters in Andong Rossey near Battambang. Spot birds and crocodiles in the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary, within the Tonlé Sap Biosphere Reserve, and much more!
Check out this article for more two-week itineraries.
More Great Cambodia Itineraries
Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Cambodia? Check out these other Cambodian itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights.