- Explore the temples of Angkor by "remork," including the "Tomb Raider" temple
- Cycle the Cambodian countryside and learn about traditional artisanal industries
- Hike the wildlife-rich jungle of Cardamom National Park
- Enjoy a sunset cruise on the Mekong River in Phnom Penh
|Day 1||Arrive in Siem Reap, Angkor Wat Sunset||Siem Reap|
|Day 2||Discover Lesser-Visited Angkor Temples, Countryside Walk||Siem Reap|
|Day 3||Explore Angkor Thom by Remork, HeroRATS & Phare Cambodian Circus||Siem Reap|
|Day 4||Siem Reap to Battambang||Battambang|
|Day 5||Cycle the Countryside, Bamboo Train Ride & Phnom Sampeau Sunset||Battambang|
|Day 6||Battambang to Phnom Penh via Andong Rossey||Phnom Penh|
|Day 7||Koh Kong Canvas & Orchids Retreat in Cardamom Mountains National Park||Koh Kong|
|Day 8||River Cruise and/or Wilderness Hike at Canvas & Orchids Retreat||Koh Kong|
|Day 9||Morning at Canvas & Orchids Retreat, Transfer to Kampot||Kampot|
|Day 10||Kampot Pepper Farm Visit, Transfer to Kep||Kep|
|Day 11||Kep Crab Market, Rabbit Island Excursion||Kep|
|Day 12||Morning at Leisure in Kep, Transfer to Phnom Penh||Phnom Penh|
|Day 13||Royal Palace & Central Market, Sunset cruise on the Mekong||Phnom Penh|
|Day 14||Depart Phnom Penh|
Day 1: Arrive in Siem Reap, Angkor Wat Sunset
Upon arrival at Siem Reap airport, you'll be met by your English-speaking tour guide and transferred to your hotel. You'll have time to freshen up before immediately launching into your exploration of the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Angkor Wat—the largest religious building in the world. You'll arrive with plenty of time to roam the staircases, courtyards, and causeways carved with magnificent bas-reliefs before watching the spectacular sunset. The golden light of late afternoon is the best time of day to observe and photograph the more than 3,000 carvings of apsaras (seductive heavenly maidens).
You'll enjoy a cold coconut juice to cool down after your exciting exploration and sunset experience before returning to Siem Reap for an evening at leisure. Either relax at your hotel 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.
Day 2: Discover Lesser-Visited Angkor Temples, Countryside Walk
Today, focus your sights on lesser-known temples scattered around the periphery of Angkor. Begin by traveling through the Cambodian countryside to the semi-ruined, moated hilltop temple complex of Chau Srei Vibol, where giant banyan trees have spread their tentacles through and around the many buildings. Then continue north to the recently restored Banteay Srei temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and made of pink sandstone adorned with elaborately and well-preserved decorative carvings. You'll then stop for a tasty Khmer lunch before heading back toward Siem Reap to visit Banteay Samre.
Among the most beautiful (yet overlooked) of the smaller ancient temple sites, the well-preserved Banteay Samre is approached via a raised balustraded causeway adorned with stone lions. In contrast, the interior four-winged temple complex hosts lavish carvings featuring characters from the Hindu pantheon and tales from the Ramayana. Before returning to Siem Reap, you'll walk village backroads for a more intimate taste of local rural life. Your evening is at leisure.
Day 3: Explore Angkor Thom by Remork, HeroRATS & Phare Cambodian Circus
Today, hop aboard a remork (like a tuk-tuk) and head to Angkor Thom, the last and largest ancient capital of the Khmer Empire and surrounded by walls 7.5 miles (12 km) long. Spend more time exploring a couple of the main temples, or try to tick as many off as possible. Be sure not to miss Bayon—the "Temple of the Faces"—along with the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King before a traditional Khmer lunch beside the former Royal Bathing Pool of Sra Srang. Then you'll visit root-riddled Ta Prohm, renowned as the "Tomb Raider" temple for having featured in the 2001 Angela Jolie movie.
Returning to Siem Reap, you'll visit the APOPO Visitor Centre to meet the giant Africa "HeroRATS," trained to detect landmines that still litter the Cambodian countryside. Here, you'll learn how the rats (which are too light to trigger an explosion) are trained to smell the explosive and warn their handler, including a demonstration of a "hero rat" in action. This evening, enjoy a Cambodian dinner and modern Khmer theatre performance by the Phare Cambodian Circus, which combines theatre, dance, music, and classic circus acts to regale uniquely Cambodian stories.
Day 4: Transfer to Battambang
This morning, board a boat (July-December) to cruise downriver to Tonlé Sap Lake, then up the Sangker River to Battambang. On this long, scenic journey, you'll pass many "floating" villages populated by Cham Vietnamese-Cambodians along the riverbanks—a chance to witness traditional rural life close up as fishers pull in their nets and canoes paddled by women act as mobile markets. Here, everything from the mosque to fish farms and homes floats with the seasonal water level. You'll journey through the wildlife-rich wetlands of Tonlé Sap Biosphere Reserve, offering sightings of crocodiles and birds.
From January-June, you'll visit Tonlé Sap Lake's floating villages, then transfer to Battambang by road. You'll pass through Cambodia's most important rice-producing area, with rice paddies to each side as you skirt the Tonlé Sap Biosphere Reserve. Arriving in charming and laid-back Battambang, you'll have time to explore its streets lined with early 20th-century French colonial buildings. The evening is yours to explore Battambang's dining and nightlife.
Day 5: Cycle the Countryside, Bamboo Train Ride & Phnom Sampeau Sunset
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Spend the morning cycling to discover Cambodian local artisanal industries in the countryside villages surrounding Battambang. Along the way, you'll learn about (and try your hand at) traditional livelihoods, such as rice paper making and distilling of rice wine, plus you'll get to snack on Battambang's famous bamboo rice cakes. After time for an early afternoon siesta, you'll head back to the countryside for a fun "Bamboo Train" ride on a nori—a bamboo platform with straw-mat seats placed atop wheels, powered by a motorcycle engine! Enjoy a brief adrenalin rush as you whiz down the line for four miles (7 km).
Next, you'll head to Phnom Sampeau, a limestone outcrop with a spectacular view, plus numerous caves traditionally serving as Buddhist temples. One cave with a reclining Buddha serves as a memorial to the many Cambodians murdered here by the Khmer Rouge, who threw victims to their deaths in the caverns. At dusk, witness the spectacle of thousands of bats exiting the cave to feed. Close your day with dinner at the Jaan Bai Restaurant, a social enterprise initiative of the Cambodian Children's Trust, which employs underprivileged youth who also benefit from a profit-share arrangement.
Day 6: Battambang to Phnom Penh via Andong Rossey
Leave Battambang after an early breakfast for the drive to Phnom Penh. Stop first en route in the stilt-house village of Andong Rossey, surrounded by rice paddies and where you'll witness families making traditional red-earth pottery beneath their homes for delivery via ox cart to markets across the country. Then, continue to Udong, the former Cambodian capital from the 17th century until 1866. Here, get some exercise as you climb the 509 steps to visit Udong's famous hilltop stupas and temples before continuing the short distance to Phnom Penh, arriving in the late afternoon.
You'll have the evening to explore Cambodia's vibrant capital city at leisure. Perhaps join the locals for a walk along the Sisowath Quay Riverwalk, along the Mekong River or visit the vibrant and colorful Night Market. Here you can enjoy a Femme Fatale house cocktail at the Elephant Bar in Raffles Royal Royal Hotel. Alternatively, you might consider heading to the riverside FCC Hotel & Restaurant, in the former Foreign Correspondents Club, for happy hour.
Day 7: Koh Kong Canvas & Orchids Retreat in Cardamom Mountains National Park
This morning, depart Phnom Penh and head west for the Cardamom Mountains National Park, protecting a wide range of ecosystems, from pygmy cloud forest atop Phnom Aural (5,948 feet/1,813 m), the highest peak, to coastal wetlands. The park shelters Cambodia's endangered mammals, including the Asiatic black bear, Asian wild dog (dhole), clouded leopard, pileated gibbon, and sun bear, as well as one of Cambodia's largest populations of Asian elephants.
After a brief boat ride mid-afternoon, you'll arrive at the luxury Canvas & Orchids Retreat for two nights of luxury glamping at this tented camp surrounded by rainforest on the banks of the pristine Tatai River. Upon arrival, you're free to relax by lazing on your sundeck or swimming in the calm river. Or paddle a kayak in search of wildlife and even take an optional sunset cruise. Then marvel at the fireflies sparkling like stars in the sky.
Day 8: River Cruise and/or Wilderness Hike at Canvas & Orchids Retreat
Today's activity will be a boat cruise or a hike through the lush, lowland ecosystems of the Cardamom Mountains. Either option provides an excellent opportunity to spot some of the country's endangered species, including Asian elephants, Indochinese tigers, Malayan sun bears, pileated gibbons, and (in the water) Siamese crocodiles and Irrawaddy dolphin.
Your boat cruise glides upriver to the spectacular Tatai Waterfall—a broad cascade, thunderous in winter with the rains running down from the Cardamom Mountains; in summer, when the flow ebbs, you can swim in the pools at the base of the photogenic cascade. You may be lucky to spot Irrawaddy dolphins swimming alongside your boat. On the hike, you'll meet fishing families and hope to sight some of the region's many rare animal and bird species. You'll return to your ecolodge in the afternoon and spend the rest of your day at leisure.
Day 9: Morning at Canvas & Orchids Retreat, Transfer to Kampot
Enjoy your last few hours relaxing at Canvas & Orchids Retreat, with a last chance to swim in the river or to take an early morning rainforest hike before departing by boat, then road, for Kampot, on the Gulf of Thailand. You'll arrive mid-afternoon in this laid-back town, which boasts some of the best (albeit time-worn) examples of French colonial architecture in Cambodia today.
After freshening up and relaxing at your hotel, you're at leisure to stroll the riverside promenade, find a café at which to soak up the atmosphere, or perhaps take a remork for the short ride to the Gulf of Thailand to watch the fishing boats heading out to fish overnight, or to visit the salt ponds for which Kampot is famous.
Day 10: Kampot Pepper Farm Visit, Transfer to Kep
This morning, you'll pass durian plantations and rice fields as you drive inland to La Plantation—a spice farm that grows aromatic plants, ginger, turmeric, chilies, and green, black, white, and red peppercorns, for which Kampot is renowned. During your fascinating visit, you'll stroll the plantation's Five Senses Garden and learn to discern the difference between various peppers. Your local guide will also explain rice cultivation and other local farming activities, including the foul-smelling durian fruit (Kampot is considered Cambodia's capital of durian), much beloved by locals for its delicious taste.
Later, enjoy a ride in a buffalo-drawn cart through the local countryside around scenic Secret Lake—an artificial reservoir built by slave labor during the Khmer Rouge regime. The buffaloes love to stop at the Secret Lake, with the opportunity to cool off in the water! After enjoying lunch at the plantation, you'll continue south to the coastal resort of Kep for the night. Once favored by the Cambodian elite and French colonialists, Kep suffered greatly under the Khmer Rouge regime but has recently bounced back in popularity as a laid-back resort renowned for delicious seafood—especially locally caught crab.
Day 11: Kep Crab Market, Rabbit Island Excursion
After breakfast, head to Kep's famous and colorful Crab Market, teeming with vendors selling live blue-legged crabs kept in wooden baskets in the shallow waters along the shore, along with prawns, squid, flapping fish, and other fresh-caught seafood. Then head to the pier to catch a local boat for an excursion to Koh Tonsai—Rabbit Island, a serene beach-rimmed isle where you can laze a few hours away sunning, snorkeling, or simply swinging from the palms in a hammock. You also might like to walk around the island perimeter along a narrow hiking trail.
Then, enjoy a seafood BBQ lunch and more time to relax before a mid-afternoon return by boat to Kep. The balance of the day and evening are at leisure. If you haven't yet done so, here's your chance to try the local signature dish of crab and seafood seasoned with spicy Kampot hot pepper at the seafront crab market's open-air restaurants.
Day 12: Morning at leisure in Kep, Transfer to Phnom Penh
You'll have all morning at leisure in Kep—an opportunity to relax at the hotel pool, visit Kep Butterfly Garden, or hike one of the clearly labeled trails in Kep National Park. You'll then transfer by road to Phnom Penh, arriving mid-afternoon in time to partake at leisure in more of the capital city's evening highlights and nightlife.
You may want to visit one of the hospitality training restaurants that help a good cause, such as Friends or Romdeng. Then catch the sublime performance of Cambodian classical and folk dances held nightly (7-8 pm) at the National Museum. Or head to the rooftop Sora Bar of Rosewood Phnom Penh (reservations required), or one of the other more casual rooftop bars, such as Le Moon at Amanjaya or Juniper Gin Bar, for the panoramic view over the city at night.
Day 13: Phnom Penh Royal Palace & Central Market, Sunset cruise on the Mekong
Today explore the vibrant "Pearl of Asia," beginning with a guided visit to the Royal Palace, built in 1866 and where the ornate pagoda-style buildings include the Silver Pagoda, with its floor or more than 5,000 silver tiles and the life-sized gold Maitreya Buddha, decorated with more than 2,000 diamonds. Then head to the iconic and bustling Psar Thmei, or Central Market, designed in 1937 in art deco fashion with a massive domed roof and four wings of shops and stalls.
You'll have the mid-afternoon at leisure before heading to the harbor to board a traditional wooden boat for a memorable and scenic sunset cruise on the Mekong River. You'll pass local fishermen's boats and floating riverside villages as you cruise upstream, with fabulous views of Phnom Penh's pagodas against a backdrop of modern commercial buildings. The rest of the evening is at leisure to enjoy Phnom Penh's nightlife as you desire.
Day 14: Depart Phnom Penh
You'll be transferred to Phnom Penh International Airport in time for your departure flight.
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