This 5-day itinerary is the perfect introduction to Siem Reap—the gateway to the world-famous Angkor UNESCO World Heritage Site. The lively city will be your base for excursions to Angkor by "remork" and bicycle, and into the countryside to live like a local for a day. Plus, you'll get to meet Cambodia's landmine-sniffing HeroRATS and witness an exciting Cambodian circus.

Highlights

  • Cycle the backroads of Angkor to explore its lesser-visited temples
  • Enjoy a colorful show by Phare Cambodian Circus
  • Stroll atop the ancient perimeter walls of Angkor Thom 
  • Experience the rural lifestyle as you help villagers with daily chores

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Siem Reap, At Leisure Siem Reap
Day 2 Cycle Angkor's Back Roads (Full Day) Siem Reap
Day 3 Trek Angkor Thom Walls, HeroRATS & Phare Cambodian Circus Siem Reap
Day 4 Experience Rural Life Siem Reap
Day 5 Free Morning, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Siem Reap, At Leisure

Pub Street is night-owl heaven

Welcome to Siem Reap! Upon arrival at the airport, you'll be met by your English-speaking Tour Guide and transferred to your accommodation. Depending on your arrival time, you may want to relax at your hotel and adjust to local time.

If you want to immediately delve into exploring Siem Reap, head to the teeming Psar Chaa (Old Market). Its dim alleyways are packed with locals haggling over everything from household goods to fresh produce. Alternatively, you might like to enjoy a rejuvenating spa treatment at one of Siem Reap's spa centers, such as Lemongrass Garden. Or try a fish pedicure (where you stick your feet in an aquarium and fish flock to nibble away the dead skin) at one of the "fish spas" around the Old Market. Then explore the quiet side alleys next to Pub Street with boutique shops, plentiful restaurants, and bars.

Day 2: Cycle Angkor's Back Roads (Full Day)

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216 giant heads adorn Bayon Temple

The vast UNESCO World Heritage complex of Angkor is a short distance north of Siem Reap—perfect for exploring by bicycle. Today, pedal out of town and escape the crowds by taking backroads and small tracks to reach some lesser-visited but no less spectacular temples on your full-day tour. Your route takes you through countryside paddies and villages to the 10th-century Hindu Prasat Kravan temple, concealing stunning carvings within its five brick towers. Then continue north to iconic, photogenic, root-riddled Ta Prohm, nicknamed the "Tomb Raider" temple after featuring in the 2001 Angelina Jolie movie.

Next comes Preah Kahn, an off-the-beaten-track temple that sees relatively few tourists despite its imposing size and majesty, lending a sense of being the first to explore its hidden chambers and courtyards. Now turn south to enter the vast Angkor Thom complex to explore the Bayon Temple at its heart. Known as the "Face Temple" for its 216 giant smiling bas-relief faces, its 54 towers are adorned with more than 11,000 carved figures. After lunch at a local restaurant, you'll continue to the Angkor Wat complex—the world's largest religious monument adorned with beguiling apsaras (heavenly nymphs).

Day 3: Trek Angkor Thom Walls, HeroRATS & Phare Cambodian Circus

HeroRATS truly are heroes!

Spend this morning hiking the perimeter of Angkor Thom ("Great City"), immediately north of better-known Angkor Wat, and the last, most enduring, and largest of the Khmer capital cities. Walking its towering perimeter walls—flanked by a moat and 7 miles (12 km) long—gives you an entirely different perspective of the ancient city, now overgrown with forest alive with the chatter of monkeys. You'll arrive by remork (motorized rickshaw), which will follow your progress as you hike as little or as far as you want atop the ramparts (which feature five gateways plus small temples at each of the four corners).

After lunch, head to the APOPO Visitor Centre to meet and learn about the African giant pouched rats (here nicknamed HeroRATs), who are trained to find landmines that still litter the Cambodian countryside. You'll even witness a demonstration by a HeroRAT, which can sniff out explosives and signal its handler yet is too light to trigger the landmines. Then, this evening, enjoy a performance of Phare Cambodian Circus. Established as vocational training for refugees, Phare today combines theatre, dance, music, and classical circus acts to tell uniquely Cambodian stories.

Day 4: Experience Rural Life

You, too, can try your hand (and help out) planting rice

An experiential interaction with farmers, fishers, and villagers could be the highlight of your visit to Cambodia. Live like a local for a brief period on a full-day rural life experience in an authentic village outside of Siem Reap, where you'll learn first-hand about traditional village customs and culture. You'll hop aboard a remork for your exploration through the Cambodian countryside. On arrival at the village, you'll take an ox-cart ride to the family home, where you'll help in activities such as thatching, weaving wall panels, transplanting rice, or making fish paste, depending on the season and family needs.

You won't be required to do back-breaking labor! Instead, this will be an enriching and fun experience, followed by a delicious Khmer lunch with fresh ingredients. You'll then take a short walk to see more of the village, stopping at a community environmental project that uses waste plastic bottles filled with such throwaway items as straws and plastic bags to create "eco-bricks" for building. Marvel at the medical center, school, and other facilities made from plastic bottles (a donation will be made on your behalf). Return to Siem Reap mid-afternoon to relax by the hotel pool or explore more of town on your own.

Day 5: Free Morning, Depart

Royal Independence Garden, Siem Reap

Depending on your flight details, you may have free time before being transferred to the airport for your departure flight. If so, you can make the most of your final hours in Siem Reap by exploring the Royal Independence Garden or visiting the Made in Cambodia Market to shop for authentic crafts or clothing. Alternately, discover Siem Reap's rising arts culture precinct of Kandal Village, home to a vibrant and eclectic mix of cafés, galleries, arty homewares shops, and cool fashion stores.

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Map

Map of Siem Reap: Bike Angkor, HeroRATS & Rural Life - 5 Days
Map of Siem Reap: Bike Angkor, HeroRATS & Rural Life - 5 Days