- Explore the temples of Angkor by Cambodia tuk-tuk, "remork"
- Kayak to the floating villages of Tonlé Sap
- Trek to waterfalls & cycle through the Cambodian countryside
- Enjoy a mesmerizing performance of the Phare, The Cambodian Circus
|Day 1||Arrive in Siem Reap||Siem Reap|
|Day 2||Explore the Temples of Angkor by Remork||Siem Reap|
|Day 3||Cycle to Angkor's Hidden Temples||Siem Reap|
|Day 4||Kayaking Excursion to Tonlé Sap||Siem Reap|
|Day 5||Trekking & Waterfalls at Phnom Kulen||Siem Reap|
|Day 6||Countryside Cycling Excursion: Pagodas, Villages & Rice Fields||Siem Reap|
|Day 7||Boat Journey to Battambang||Battambang|
|Day 8||Countryside Cycling Tour: Local Businesses & Buddhist Temples||Battambang|
|Day 9||Battambang Tour, Bamboo Train, Phnom Sampeau & Dinner at Jaan Bai||Battambang|
|Day 10||Explore Banteay Chhmar & Ta Prohm Temples||Banteay Chhmar|
|Day 11||Discover the Banteay Chhmar Way of Life||Banteay Chhmar|
|Day 12||Transfer to Siem Reap via Banteay Toap||Siem Reap|
|Day 13||Countryside Cooking Class, Phare Ponleu Selpak Cambodian Circus Show||Siem Reap|
|Day 14||Depart Siem Reap|
Day 1: Arrive in Siem Reap
Welcome to Cambodia! Upon arrival at Siem Reap Airport, you’ll be met by your English-speaking guide and transferred to your hotel for check-in. The rest of your day is at leisure to relax. Or feel free to explore this charming gateway town to the temples of Angkor, perhaps by joining the locals for a walk along the riverside promenade followed by happy hour at FCC Angkor (in the former Foreign Correspondents’ Club) and then the bohemian cafés and livelier bars of Pub Street.
Day 2: Explore the Temples of Angkor by Remork
Spend your first day exploring the amazing temples of Angkor the fun way, by remork, starting early to take in as many of the UNESCO World Heritage Site temples as possible. Begin with 12th-century Angkor Wat, the biggest single religious monument in the world, adorned with exquisite bas-relief carvings of more than 3,000 apsaras (mythical heavenly maidens). Next, head to the adjacent ancient city of Angkor Thom, the last and longest-reigning capital of the Khmer Empire. Start here with the pyramidal Bayon Temple, where 54 towers are each adorned with massive enigmatically smiling faces.
You’ll also explore the Terrace of the Leper King and Terrace of the Elephants before exiting Angkor Thom via the extraordinary Victory Gate for a traditional Khmer lunch beside the former Royal Bathing Pool of Sra Srang. You’ll then head to the iconic, photogenic, and root-riddled Ta Prohm—colloquially nicknamed the “Tomb Raider” temple for having featured in the eponymous 2001 Angela Jolie movie. Return to your hotel to relax, or linger to watch the sunset over Angkor from a preferential location atop a temple before returning to Seam Riep to enjoy your evening at leisure.
Day 3: Cycle to Angkor's Hidden Temples
Today you’ll mount a bicycle to explore the temples of Angkor’s "Grand Circle," escaping the crowds and busy well-worn tourist trail in favor of country backroads and villages. Head first to the 10th-century Kravan Hindu temple, with its impressive bas-reliefs of Vishnu and his consort, Lakshmi. Then pedal to nearby Banteay Kdei, decorated with garudas; and the Hall of the Dancers, so-named for its exquisite carvings of apsaras. Continue along the sandy trails to Ta Nei temple, one of the complex's hidden and thereby little-visited gems, entangled by giant banyan tree roots.
After crossing the Siem Reap river, you’ll arrive at Preah Khan, another lesser-visited yet large complex that’s a veritable maze of courtyards and corridors connecting towered temples dedicated to 515 Hindu divinities. You’ll then enjoy a memorable lunch of Khmer noodles in a nearby village before continuing your exploration of the temples; of hop in the minivan and head back to Siem Reap for the balance of the day and evening at leisure.
Day 4: Kayaking Excursion to Tonlé Sap
Spend today on the water, as you first board a boat to reach the famous “floating villages” of Tonlé Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. Upon arrival, you'll switch into a kayak to paddle your way between the floating wooden houses, fish pens, and animal cages (built atop bamboo platforms) of Mechrey and which rise and fall with the seasonal water levels. Your kayak provides an intimate insight into the daily lifestyle of the lake’s Cham Vietnamese-Cambodian inhabitants, who depend on fishing and aquaculture for their livelihoods.
You’ll also get a chance to spot many of the waterbirds that flock to the lake and its wetland ecosystems as you paddle through the seasonally flooded swamp forest at the edge of the lake. With luck, you may spy such endangered species as freshwater terrapin, smooth-coated otter, Siamese crocodile, Greater Adjutant, Painted storks, and fish eagles. After lunch at a floating restaurant, you'll return to Siem Reap, where the rest of your day is at leisure.
Day 5: Trekking & Waterfalls at Phnom Kulen
This morning you’ll drive 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Siem Reap to Phnom Kulen, considered the most sacred peak in Cambodia, as it was here that Jayavarman II is said to have proclaimed himself a Devarajan (god-king), marking the start of the Khmer empire. Upon arriving, you'll take a gentle trek to the top of the mountain, stopping en route to visit a pagoda, a bat cave, and Srah Damrei (Elephant Pond), where a life-size stone elephant and smaller statues of lions and other animals, were carved to guard the mountain. From here, you can enjoy sublime views over the plains below as you eat a packed lunch.
Then hike back down the mountain, stopping at Phnom Kulen Waterfall for a refreshing swim in the pools at the base of this lovely cascade. You’ll then return to Siem Reap for the balance of the afternoon, plus the evening, at leisure.
Day 6: Countryside Cycling Excursion: Pagodas, Villages & Rice Fields
This morning you'll explore more of the beautiful countryside surrounding Siem Reap by bicycle. Head down off-the-beaten-track country lanes, passing pagodas and rice and stopping to engage with farmers, weavers, and other artisans, offering insights of the local Khmer rural lifestyle. You’ll stop for a traditional lunch of fresh-made noodles before returning to Siem Reap in the afternoon.
The balance of the day is at leisure: A chance to relax by your hotel pool, or perhaps head to the teeming Psar Chaa (Old Market), whose dim alleyways are packed with locals haggling over everything from household goods to fresh produce. Or enjoy a rejuvenating spa treatment at one of Siem Reap’s pampering professional spa centers, such as Lemongrass Garden, then enjoy the nightlife of Pub Street.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 7: Boat Journey to Battambang
This morning head to Siem Reap's wharf to board a private wooden boat that will whisk you across Tonlé Sap Lake and up the Sangker River. The full-day journey is long but scenic and fascinating, as you pass floating villages and other riverside communities along the banks of the Tonlé Sap Biosphere Reserve, with its extensive mangrove and swamp forests. The reserve is a haven for millions of waterbirds, as well as Siamese crocodile, smooth-coated otter, and river turtles. Due to fluctuating water levels, this route is only passable July through December (January through June you'll travel by road).
Arriving late afternoon far upriver at the wharf of Phum Bak Prea, you’ll be met by vehicle and transferred to Battambang, a small, slow-paced town lent charm by its extensive, if somewhat faded, early 20th-century French colonial architecture. Enjoy settling into your hotel and relaxing in anticipation of another exciting and busy day tomorrow.
Day 8: Countryside Cycling Tour: Local Businesses & Buddhist Temples
Enjoy another day cycling today as you pedal a relaxed 20-mile (33 km) route into the countryside around Battambang to discover Cambodia's traditional artisanal industries that have often remained unchanged throughout generations. You’ll be accompanied by a local student from Soksabike, a social enterprise initiative set up to provide visitors with a personal, interactive insight into rural Cambodia, and local communities with an economic stimulus and a sense of cultural pride.
You’ll stop to meet local families and try your hand at such local craft industries as rice paper making, rice wine-making, and making Battambang’s famous bamboo rice cakes, which you’ll then snack on. After a delicious Cambodian lunch at a family home, you'll visit a local Buddhist temple to gain an understanding of the principles and practices of religion central to Cambodian life. Arriving back in Battambang, you’ll round out your education by learning about Cambodian history as you visit some of the city's French colonial architectural sites.
Day 9: Battambang Tour, Bamboo Train, Phnom Sampeau & Dinner at Jaan Bai
Begin today with a brief walking tour through some of photogenic Battambang's old, narrow streets, including its best-preserved historic buildings, and a visit to its central Psar Nat Market. You’ll then take a short drive out to the countryside for a fun ride on Battambang's famous nori, or “Bamboo Train”—a bamboo platform secured atop two railway axles and powered by a motorcycle engine. You’ll forever fondly remember the adrenalin rush of whizzing down the line on your short 5-mile (8 km) trip.
The afternoon is at leisure until the evening when you’ll experience an unforgettable sunset over Phnom Sampeau--a limestone outcrop topped by small temples and offering stunning views over rice fields. The crag is riddled with caverns known as the “Killing Caves,” as here the Khmer Rouge tossed innocent prisoners to their deaths. Linger until dusk to view thousands of bats exiting the caves. Then head back to town for a delicious dinner combining Southeast Asia and Western flavors at Jaan Bai, a training restaurant run by the Cambodian Children’s Trust, which works to empower underprivileged children.
Day 10: Transfer to Banteay Chhmar, Explore Banteay Chhmar & Ta Prohm Temples
Bid Battambang farewell, as you set out for Banteay Chhmar, a small town in northwest Cambodia. On arrival, you'll have lunch at the local community center before checking into your homestay accommodation to freshen up before joining a local guide for a visit to the magnificent temples for which Banteay Chhmar is famous. Begin at the main Banteay Chhmar Temple of a 10-temple complex built by Jayavarman VII and featuring astonishingly intricate bas-reliefs, plus several towers carved with four-faced Avalokiteshvara deities (embodying Buddhist compassion) wearing enigmatic smiles.
You’ll continue Ta Prohm Temple (not to be confused with the iconic “Tomb Raider” temple in Siem Reap), a freestanding tower also adorned with a massive four-sided representation of Avalokiteshvara. A special treat awaits this evening as you enjoy dinner under the stars, picnic-style on straw mats, while local villagers play traditional mahori music played by the flickering light of wooden torches.
Day 11: Discover the Banteay Chhmar Way of Life
After breakfast, stroll to the local market to see the bountiful local produce being sold. Then enjoy an evocative tour by ox-cart to discover the "Banteay Chhmar way of life," including stops at the Silk Center, a scenic journey through rice fields, and a stop at a local farm. Next, you'll hitch a ride on a popular form of local transport known as a kuyon (tractor) to reach the beautiful Banteay Chhmar Baray lake, once an ancient reservoir surrounding the ruined Mebon Temple, reached by a boardwalk. Here you'll savor lunch on a wooden platform over the lake, and have free time for a snooze in a lakeside hammock.
As you make your way back toward town, you’ll stop to visit a cassava farm and rice fields, then sit down to dinner with your homestay family and enjoy a rice flattening show and tasting afterward. This unique dish, called dalambok, is specially prepared at the beginning of the rice harvest to be eaten on special family gatherings and during certain Khmer ceremonies, such as the Sampeas Preah Khe (Moon salutation) held in November every year.
Day 12: Transfer to Siem Reap via Banteay Toap
Depart Banteay Chhmar this morning by kuyon to travel past picturesque rice fields in local fashion. Your destination is Banteay Toap, an ancient military-temple complex (Banteay Torp means "the Citadel of the Army") believed to have been built as a military garrison, or in tribute to a Khmer army victory. Most of the complex is ruined, but three precarious chimney-like stone towers remain and are one of few locations in Cambodia where you can see carved wooden panels of the Khmer empire in situ. The most photogenic tower has a tree growing out of the top, and a nearby pagoda boasts fabulous murals.
After exploring this fascinating site, it's time to meet your driver for the three-hour drive back to Siem Reap, where you'll settle into your hotel and enjoy the remainder of the afternoon and evening at leisure—a chance, perhaps, to visit a market in search of carvings, paintings, or other souvenirs.
Day 13: Countryside Cooking Class, Phare Ponleu Selpak Cambodian Circus Show
Want to learn how to cook delicious Khmer cuisine? Then head to a village outside Siem Reap town today to join a hands-on, interactive group cookery class. After meeting your chef for the morning, you’ll visit a local family and see many of vegetables, spices, and other ingredients being grown. Then, return to a purpose-built venue surrounded by coconut and bamboo trees and with individual workstations where you’ll learn to prepare a three-course meal before sitting down to enjoy savoring your own cooking.
As evening falls, you'll celebrate your final night in Cambodia with dinner and a performance of modern Khmer theatre by professional artists from Phare Ponleu Selpak—originally a training project established in refugee camps to empower young people through art. You’ll enjoy an hour-long show that mixes theatre, dance, music, acrobatics, and other classic circus acts.
Day 14: Depart Siem Reap
Say chum reap lear (goodbye) to the "Kingdom of Wonder" as you transfer to the airport to catch your departing flight. Safe travels!
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