This relaxed yet active 5-day itinerary explores the area around Angkor and Siem Reap. Basing yourself in Siem Reap for four nights, you'll experience the many fascinating Hindu and Buddhist temples of Angkor Wat and neighboring temple complexes by "remork" and bicycle. Then take to the waters of Tonlé Sap lake and kayak the wetlands to visit the floating villages and spot some of this biosphere reserve's many colorful bird species.

Highlights

  • Marvel at a traditional Apsara dance performance
  • Explore the top temples of Angkor by remork
  • Cycle to some of the lesser-visited yet fascinating Angkor temples
  • Paddle Tonlé Sap lake, visiting the floating villages and spotting rare waterfowl

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Siem Reap, Dinner & Traditional Dance Performance Siem Reap
Day 2 Angkor Temple Exploration by Remork (Full Day) Siem Reap
Day 3 Cycle to Hidden Temples (Full Day)  Siem Reap
Day 4 Explore Tonlé Sap Fishing Villages by Kayak Siem Reap
Day 5 Depart Siem Reap  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Siem Reap, Dinner & Traditional Dance Performance

Pub Street is alluring at night

Welcome to Siem Reap! Upon arrival at the airport, you'll be met by an English-speaking tour guide and transferred the short distance to your hotel. Depending on your arrival time, you may want to relax by your hotel pool. Or, if you prefer to begin exploring immediately, you might take a walk along the languid Siem Reap River and the adjacent Royal Independence Gardens. Then perhaps you'd like to visit the Made in Cambodia Market (open daily from noon to 8 pm) to browse some of the most compelling examples of craftsmanship in Cambodia today. 

Enjoy a classical Cambodian dinner this evening while watching a memorable Apsara dance performance. The traditional dance—first performed in the 7th century for the Khmer kings at Angkor—is based on the Hindu myth of beautiful female creatures (apsaras) that descend from heaven to entice men with their enchanting dance. Then pop in for Happy Hour at the outdoor Scribe bar at FCC Angkor, in the former Foreign Correspondents Club, before exploring Pub Street and its quiet side alleys, replete with boutique shops, plentiful restaurants, and bars.

Day 2: Angkor Temple Exploration by Remork (Full Day)

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Exploring Angkor by remork combines fun with awe

Spend the day exploring the Angkor complex on a remork (motorcycle rickshaw) tour. Angkor Wat (the main temple after which the entire site is named) was founded in 802 CE by the self-proclaimed "God-King" Jayarvaman II and served as the capital of the Khmer Empire for more than 500 years. The vast UNESCO World Heritage Site complex (the world's most significant single religious monument) covers 494 acres (2 sq km). It comprises more than 1,000 buildings, including scores of temples carved with thousands of bas-relief apsara, or heavenly maidens. Get an early start for the full experience.

Begin at the visitor center and moated Angkor Wat Hindu temple complex. Then head to the adjoining Angkor Thom complex, where top sites at the last Khmer Empire capital include the Bayon temple (Temple of the Faces), the Terrace of the Leper King, and the Terrace of the Elephants. Then it's on to the stepped pyramid of Ta Keo (one of the biggest temples), followed by the former Royal Bathing Pool of Sra Srang and the iconic Pre Rup crematorium temple. You're now ready to return to your hotel or select your preferred temple for a sunset photo before returning to Siem Reap.

Day 3: Cycle to Hidden Temples (Full Day)

Monk entering Ta Prohm, the "Tomb Raider" temple

With so many temples to discover, you'll be keen to return to Angkor today by bicycle! Combine the fun of cycling with the pleasure of escaping the crowds as you explore away from the well-worn tourist trails and, instead, cycle the small tracks and minor roads that lead through the pretty countryside to some of the lesser-visited but no less fascinating sites. Begin by visiting 10th-century Kravan Temple (dedicated to Vishnu); the overgrown Banteay Kdei ("Citadel of Chambers") Buddhist temple; and the atmospheric Ta Prohm, nicknamed "Tomb Raider Temple" for its overgrown banyan trees.

Continue north to the equally overgrown Ta Nei temple, built in the 12th century during the reign of King Jayavarman VII. Cross over the river to emerge at Preah Khan, a large complex with its "Hall of the Dancers" featuring exquisite carvings of seductive apsaras, plus a protective moat and fortified walls adorned by monumental carved stone garudas (eagle-like divine beings). You'll lunch at a local village before returning to Siem Reap, where the balance of the afternoon and the evening are at leisure.

Day 4: Explore Tonlé Sap Fishing Villages by Kayak

A village on Tonlé Sap

This morning head south through rice fields a short distance to Tonlé Sap—Southeast Asia's largest freshwater lake for a day of kayaking and visiting the famous "floating villages." Since the level of the water here rises and falls with the seasonal monsoons, some villages are built atop tall stilts; others, such as at Mechrey, are built on floating platforms of bamboo, complete with fish pens and animal cages. You'll spend half a day paddling the lake tributaries, stopping to visit local families to learn about their lifestyle living on the lake.

The lake lies within the Tonlé Sap Biosphere Reserve. Paddling among the seasonally flooded forest at the edge of the lake provides an excellent opportunity to spot cormorants, darters, whistling ducks, purple heron, and such rare waterbirds as the comb duck and purple swamphen. You'll enjoy a traditional Cambodian lunch on the veranda of a stilted house and visit the small hilltop Mechrey Buddhist pagoda before returning to Siem Reap, where the balance of the day is at leisure.

Day 5: Depart Siem Reap

Angkor Wat
Sunrise over Angkor Wat

Transfer to the airport for your departure flight.

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Map

Map of Siem Reap: Bike Angkor & Kayak Tonlé Sap - 5 Days
Map of Siem Reap: Bike Angkor & Kayak Tonlé Sap - 5 Days