Cambodia was a dream come true for us. It was a place that we had wanted to visit for a long time and the most compelling reason was Angkor Wat. Probably Angkor Wat is what draws most people to Cambodia but the country was nothing less than a revelation offering a vast range of experiences that went well beyond Angkor Wat. We were surprised at how many amazing things to do in Cambodia there were.
We came back with lots of memories to cherish for a lifetime.
Out of our travels and experiences emerges this list of 15 things to do in Cambodia, the kingdom of wonder.
- 15 incredible things to do in Cambodia
- 1- Lose yourself in the grandeur of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh
- 2- Visit The Genocide Museum And Talk To A Survivor
- 3- Get a Glimpse of The History of the Khmer Civilization at The National Museum
- 4- Gaze in Wonder At the Historic Phnom Da Temple
- 5- Learn How Phnom Penh Got Its Name At Wat Phnom Historical Site
- 6- Getaway To Koh Rong Island in Sihanoukville
- 7- Dine in a Floating Bamboo Cottage At Tonle Bati
- 8- Go Beach Hopping At Sihanoukville
- 9- Experience the serenity of Phnom Chisor
- 10- Watch The Sunrise At Angkor Wat
- 11- Be Mesmerized At Bayon Temple
- 12- Enter The Realms Of Imagination At Ta Prohm Temple
- 13- Watch a High Tech Colourful Musical in Siem Reap
- 14- Explore the Floating Village At Tonle Sap
- 15- Immerse In The Serenity of the Prasat Neak Pean
15 incredible things to do in Cambodia
1- Lose yourself in the grandeur of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh
Cambodia has a rich heritage and its cultural roots can be traced to the early 10th century and beyond.
The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh is an ideal place to start your exploration of the country.
It stands in magnificent defiance, a silent testimony to the country’s resilience in the face of a traumatic, recent history.
The Royal Palace is a sprawling complex of residential and other buildings.
The Palace was built in the 19th century and is an enchanting mix of Khmer, Hindu, and French architecture.
2- Visit The Genocide Museum And Talk To A Survivor
To understand a country like Cambodia and appreciate its culture, it is necessary to understand its history.
A visit to the Genocide Museum that chronicles the harrowing period when the country was in the grip of the dreaded Khmer Rouge is a must.
As you get numbed at the sheer and inhuman brutality of the Khmer Rouge.
You are also inspired by tales of valour, struggle, and grit.
A few survivors still can be found who can relive the horrible past.
One can talk to them and probably buy one of their books which they sell in the premises of the Genocide Museum.
3- Get a Glimpse of The History of the Khmer Civilization at The National Museum
The National Museum in Phnom Penh is a treasure trove.
It houses artifacts of ancient Khmer art and architecture that date back centuries.
These are from excavations around the country including Siem Reap.
We recommend a visit to this museum before visiting the ancient temples of Siem Reap as many of the exhibits here can be related to the different temples.
Seeing them here gives the right perspective when visiting the temples.
The museum weaves the story of Cambodia right from the beginning of the Pre-Angkor era through its fascinating exhibits.
4- Gaze in Wonder At the Historic Phnom Da Temple
At a distance of about 102km from the capital city of Phnom Penh stands the ruins of a big temple.
Only the four towering walls stand today.
The roof has collapsed and the structure is open to the sky.
This is an ancient temple that is older than Angkor Wat.
The temple dates back to the days of the Funan kingdom in the 4th century, and the region has been dubbed as the cradle of the Khmer civilization.
The temple stands atop a hill and can be reached by a steep flight of steps.
The place is usually bereft of visitors but is a very vital link in understanding the history and origins of the Khmer civilization.
5- Learn How Phnom Penh Got Its Name At Wat Phnom Historical Site
In the heart of the city of Phnom Penh, on a small hillock is an innocuous looking little temple but this temple is inextricably linked with the history of the city.
Inside the temple, there is a statue of a sitting Buddha surrounded multiple other statues.
One of these is the statue of a woman called Penh.
The city is named after her.
Legend has it that this woman found the idols of Buddha and Vishnu near this place and had the temple built.
This was the precursor to the formation of the city of Phnom Penh.
6- Getaway To Koh Rong Island in Sihanoukville
The city of Sihanoukville is the capital of a province by the same name about 220 km from Phnom Penh.
The city is burgeoning with casinos and has some lovely beaches and a bit like Pattaya or Macau.
One of the best things to do in Sihanoukville is to take a speedboat and get away to the exotic island of Koh Rong, a place with spotless white sands washed by gentle turquoise waters.
A place to spend some serene moments in an exotic locale, Koh Rong is an island where some episodes of the French edition of the Television series Survivor was shot in.
7- Dine in a Floating Bamboo Cottage At Tonle Bati
A nice getaway from the bustling city of Phnom Penh is a place situated on the banks of a lake called Tonle Bati.
There are nice bamboo cottages that are on the fringe of the lake accessed by narrow bamboo ladders.
These cottages are an ideal place to enjoy some local food while watching the sunset over the lake. The place is a favourite among locals and visitors alike.
8- Go Beach Hopping At Sihanoukville
Sihanoukville is an enchanting resort city surrounded on three sides by water and blessed with some lovely beaches.
Many little islands clustered in the vicinity are also a source of attraction apart from the casinos.
One of the best things to do in Sihanoukville is his hopping beach to beach, lazing on the sand or getting a thrill while trying out various water sports.
Some of the beaches to visit are Sokha beach, Otres beach and Victory beach.
9- Experience the serenity of Phnom Chisor
About 60km from Phnom Penh is the ruins of a temple complex called Phnom Chisor.
A fairly tough climb across a steep flight of steps takes you to the ruins.
The 11th-century ruins provide a taste of what Angkor Wat and the temples of Siem Reap have in store.
When we visited, we were the only visitors and the ruins had a serene aura.
The place also offers some breathtaking views of the valley stretching out below.
10- Watch The Sunrise At Angkor Wat
The experience must be the most hyped one as visitors throng the place when it is still dark to get a vantage point.
It is an experience that is de rigueur when in Cambodia.
As the first light of the sun casts its glow, the magnificence of the temple of Angkor Wat and its massive structure stands revealed.
Apart from the sunrise, the huge crowds around the temple is a sight in itself too.
11- Be Mesmerized At Bayon Temple
Apart from Angkor Wat, one of the most recognised visuals of Siem Reap are the smiling stone faces that grace the Bayon Temple.
As you stand in front of the enigmatic stone faces, you are at a loss for words.
The hundreds of stone faces mesmerize and leave you with a feeling of awe and wonder.
The faces stand as a stony tribute to the skills and genius of the people who have long since been lost in annals of history.
12- Enter The Realms Of Imagination At Ta Prohm Temple
The famous ruins of temples overrun by trees, visually brought alive by the Tomb Raider makes the temple of Ta Prohm in Siem Reap one of the most popular.
As you enter the ruins of the temples, you seem to have entered a land of make-believe.
Huge branches of trees emerge from within temple walls and roofs. And yet the beauty of the original temple comes through, strangely enhanced by the overgrown trees.
It’s an experience that is definitely beyond the surreal.
13- Watch a High Tech Colourful Musical in Siem Reap
A show called Smile of Angkor transports one to almost the beginning of time through exquisite music, costumes, and magical effects.
Traditional Apsara dancers dazzle on the stage as the history and culture of the Khmer civilisation weaves a spell around you.
This is a great experience and one not to be missed at Siem Reap.
The venue is the Smile of Angkor Grand Theatre.
14- Explore the Floating Village At Tonle Sap
Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and connects to the Tonle Sap river.
The lake floods the area seasonally and one can see an entire village on stilts floating on the water.
As you cruise on the lake past colourful wooden houses, you’ll see fishermen rowing to get their catch, mangroves in the vicinity, one gets a feeling of being in paradise.
15- Immerse In The Serenity of the Prasat Neak Pean
A walk on a long path that bisects an ethereal looking lake takes you to a small temple called Neak Pean temple in Siem Reap.
Lotuses bloom on either side and if you get their early the tranquillity of the place is enchanting.
It is a small temple amid a lake on a circular island.
It is interesting to note that the temple was supposed to be a hospital, where bathing in the waters of the lake was considered a cure for many ailments.
The temple dates back to the 12th century is an enchanting place to see in Siem Reap.
These are some glimpses of the seemingly endless treasures that Cambodia is blessed with. A journey to Cambodia in more ways than one is an experience of a lifetime. It is an opportunity to travel beyond the ordinary into the realms of surreal imagination.
Sandy & Vyjay are a travel blogger couple based out of Bangalore, India. They follow their twin passions of travel and writing full time and share their travel stories and tips on their blog Voyager. They also write travel features for various print and online publications. They are keenly interested in exploring places with reference to culture and history apart from places brimming with natural beauty. Their niche encompasses Luxury, Family and Adventure travel. They are recognized as one of the top couple travel bloggers from India.